Physical Symptoms of Spiritual Awakening: What Happens to the Body After Enlightenment?

Who knew spiritual enlightenment would be so physical?

In my experience, the body is not some lump of matter that remains unaffected by enlightenment. Quite the contrary…it is inextricably involved in the process and goes through all manner of changes, from subtle to extraordinary.

Most of the discussion focuses on how our perception of life and reality changes. But the body can also go through massive changes and when that happens, you can experience some really weird, unexpected symptoms that can disrupt your life and cause a great deal of anxiety to anyone living with you or close family and friends who witness them.


Changes in sleep patterns.

I was always a very regular sleeper, but suddenly my sleep cycles were all over the place. I didn’t sleep at all. I slept for two days straight. I fell into polyphasic sleeping. I just never knew what it would be from day to day. 

Luckily, I owned my own company, had employees and didn’t have the kind of work life that required me to adhere to a regular daily schedule. I’m not really sure how this would have played out if I had a regular job. My husband and I also had separate bedrooms, so I didn’t have to be concerned about disturbing him during my odd hours of wakefulness, especially since I tended to be in trance states during those times. 

Changes in appetite.

Well, this could be its own book! My body stopped wanting or needing food. I didn’t realize this at first because if I was awake during a regular meal time, I would eat. And eating was okay, it’s not like it made me sick or anything. But one evening I was alone and about to prepare dinner for myself, when I simply checked in with my body and asked it if it was hungry. 

I realized then that I did want something, but it wasn’t food. So I asked, what do you want? And the answer was: I want to go on a brisk walk. 

I put the food away, threw on my trainers and took a two mile walk around my neighborhood. What I realized is this: my body was wanting movement and the regular, deep breathing that came with it. So every night I would take a walk instead of dinner. I can’t explain it, but it felt like I was eating the air. And it had to be night air! For some reason I couldn’t “eat” the air when the sun was out. So in the summer, it was a bit difficult because where I lived, the days became very long. I had to adjust my walk schedule to make sure the sun was fully and completely gone.

After that, my body stopped being able to accept any food or drink (other than water) before noon and after 2pm. I had a two hour window every day in which I could eat and digest food. If I tried outside of that, even a tiny morsel, I became immediately and violently ill. 

Spontaneous shaking, trance states, catatonic states.

Sometimes my entire body would vibrate, and that vibrating occasionally turned into trembling and shaking. This wasn’t exactly painful, but it wasn’t a good feeling either. I felt like every pathway and every sinew was being lit up and forced to carry an unusually intense energy. It was very important not to impede this flow, not even slightly. I felt there could be damage otherwise, so I was always ready to just give myself over to it entirely. 

Other times I would go into trance states, just any old time. I had no control over this, and usually the states wouldn’t last more than ten minutes, but during those ten minutes I was not conscious of my environment, couldn’t speak or interact with people and sometimes I’d start rocking back and forth and it might look like I was mouthing words, but no sound came out. I was pretty much no longer “in the room”. Sometimes I would be deeply engrossed in a vision or sometimes everything would just go blank while I took in a download. 

I started observing very carefully and began to recognize the warning signs that a trance was about to happen. There were subtle clues a minute or so before it came on, and once I learned to recognize them, sometimes this helped me to make adjustments: stopping what I was doing, sitting down, excusing myself to the toilet if I was around other people, and so on. 

Once in a while I would get such an overwhelming download that I became pretty much catatonic. I also learned to recognize when this was coming on and make whatever adjustments were available. 

Spontaneous physical movement, postures, vocalization, mantra.

When I was alone this was fine, but spontaneously chanting or going into some full body posture is…well, awkward, when people are around. 

I kept a pretty light social schedule immediately after awakening, for obvious reasons! 

When the spontaneous movement or chanting happens, it’s because a very powerful energy needs to move through the body, and these are the postures and sounds that facilitate that. You really don’t want to stand in the way of that powerful flow, either. Something could get damaged, or if the process is interrupted, the reworking, clearing and rewiring that was supposed to take place doesn’t complete and you end up feeling kind of sick and wrung out. 

My hands and feet became (and remain) highly activated — a lot of energy is moving through these centers. I’ve integrated this now and I can keep it from looking really weird to people, but if anyone saw me when I was alone and not “managing” this, it would look really weird. I also make sounds when I’m alone, which are not always chanting, but they are spontaneous vocalizations that just move energy through. This seems like a pressure valve to help my body handle moving the increased energy.

I went through, and continue to have phases of being very mobile — lots of energy is moving through me and it shows. Or I’m dead still. My breath becomes almost imperceptible, I stop moving and stop blinking. It’s not a frozen state so much as dropping several levels down into a deeper, lower octave, so to speak. It’s kind of like being a tree for a while. 

Changes in sensory perception: taste, vision, temperature.

All kinds of foods started tasting weird. Metallic. Rancid. On the other hand, regular old tap water took on the quality of nectar, like some kind of thick, sweet ambrosia. Drinking a glass of water brought on a kind of rapturous, blissful, full body pleasure. 

My eyes became very light sensitive. There were periods of weeks when I pretty much lost my peripheral vision. Other times when my peripheral vision became very acute and to see something clearly, I had to move it into the periphery. 

There were periods where I lost the feeling of being cold or hot. Cold and hot just felt like the same thing, like just a very slight prickling sensation that I couldn’t label anymore. 

The body temporarily stops working the way it used to.

Even though most of the dramatic changes occur right after awakening, sometimes physical symptoms appear years later. I went through a period of several months where I would suddenly feel like I was about to pass out. I would just be going about my day, and everything was normal, when suddenly I would feel like I was about to lose consciousness. I would sit down, take some deep breaths and very quickly return to normal. 

One day I was gardening and this happened. It was then that I discovered why. Normally, you breathe without actually having to think about it or direct it. Your autonomic nervous system breathes for you. Mine went partially “offline”, and I would exhale and then not inhale again. 

Normally you would only do this if you were consciously holding your breath and even then you could only do this for a while before your body would force you to breathe. But I had no sensation of holding my breath at all. I just got to a point where I ran out of oxygen and was ready to pass out from it. 

Once I realized I was randomly failing to inhale, I started checking it throughout the day and reminding myself to inhale. And if I ever felt I was about to pass out, I knew immediately why and forced an inhale. After a month or two this stopped happening. 

After having gone through so many extreme changes early on, I knew this would also pass. I wasn’t alarmed by it, I just found a way to deal with it until it went away on its own. 

This is as big a deal as you make it.

The best advice I can give anyone going through this is to adjust as quickly as possible. At first this is a Big Deal. But how long it stays that way is up to you. The hardest part about all this is that it is unpredictable and there isn’t a comfortable framework to help you and others transition through this. If you had just suffered a stroke, or had a limb amputated, you would kind of know what to expect, and have some resources for how to adapt…and very importantly, your friends, family and employer would also have a way to put what’s going on with you into context. In my experience, this is the hardest part.

The part you do have control over is how you frame this and how you adapt. It’s tempting to make this a Spiritual Problem, when really these are physical issues that have a spiritual cause. Why is this significant? When you make something a Spiritual Problem, you are handicapped by the tendency to not immediately seek out pragmatic, realistic solutions or strategies to get through it.

For instance, when I was first falling into spontaneous trance states, I would notice it was about to happen, realize I had about 30-60 seconds to position myself, and then I would take some kind of action. If I was sitting in my living room with my family, I would grab a cooking magazine, open it and stick it in front of my face. Everyone thought I was reading. Every time I  was able to do this was one more time I was able to get through the experience without anyone knowing about it, which meant that I was not making myself and my “spiritual problem” the center of attention. No one was made uncomfortable or worried on my account, and that gave me space to feel more at ease. It’s really not fun having people project their discomfort and fears onto you, even when they are doing all they can to be loving, supportive and accepting — it’s still unsettling.

This is one example of just getting on with life and not getting all tripped up over the “weird” factor of why these things are taking place, not making this My Big Fat Spiritual Problem. It’s weird, for sure, but it’s ultimately just stuff you’ve got to navigate and work around the best you can until it settles. And it does.

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