By: Georgina Berbari

When we talk about enlightenment or spiritual awakening, we might imagine some white-bearded fellow sitting cross-legged in a high, Himalayan mountain cave. He sits there serenely, maybe even aloof. He’s figured out the meaning of life and has all the answers.

Even if we average folks were somehow able to get to such a place, it would probably still be hard for us to relate to that person.

Fortunately, according to Chris Lemig, CHT, a hypnotherapist, meditation teacher, former Buddhist monk and writer & author of The Narrow Way: A Memoir of Coming Out, Getting Clean, and Finding Buddha, we don’t have to go to such lengths to begin to taste spiritual awakening for ourselves. 

“That’s because enlightenment is a process not a destination or Herculean achievement,” Lemig tells Luminary. “It is the gradual waking up to the experience of our true nature—and the true nature of everything.”

Essentially, we are no longer in denial of the truth in front of us—we are awakening out of the trance of ignorance.

True nature & spiritual awakening

So what is true nature? Different sages, cultures, and traditions have described it in different ways. According to Lemig, it’s the miracle of the simple and profound fact that we are alive and aware. It’s the interconnectedness and interdependence of all things. It’s the recognition that you and I are not separate from each other or from anything else. 

“It’s the mature realization that every phenomena in the universe is impermanent and that all we have to do to be truly happy is to let go,” Lemig says.

As nice as all that sounds, we can’t just say those kinds of things and suddenly call ourselves “enlightened”. Remember the process part? We have to put some effort in so that we have an experience of awakening, rather than just an intellectual understanding.

Here are some of the ways that Lemig says ‘ordinary folks’ can begin to have that kind of experience in our normal, everyday lives.


  • Meditation is indispensable on any kind of spiritual journey. One reason spiritual awakening is so elusive to most of us is that our minds are wild. Thoughts and emotions spin through our heads and, for the most part, they run the show. A regular meditation practice gets us on more familiar terms with our minds and helps us to begin to get those unruly thoughts and emotions under control.
  • Distraction is a mortal enemy of awakening. And oh, how we do love a good distraction! It’s hard to recognize the very subtle and profound truths of impermanence and interdependence when we’re glued to our screens from morning until night. Making time where we are free from distraction is essential if we want to begin to wake up.
  • Kindness and compassion-both for ourselves and others-could be called the fuel that we need to take our spiritual journey. Meditation and quiet are great but they can become quite dry and dull by themselves. Compassion, on the other hand, is juicy, warm, and nourishing. Compassion, or the wish that ourselves and others be free from suffering, gives meaning to our practice. It can sustain us when we feel lonely, or bored, or just want to give up.”