The purpose for viewing any crisis occurring within a person’s life as potential for spiritual awakening is to help an individual use the crisis to maximize its usefulness in his/her own personal development. To help someone reframe what is often experienced as devastating emotionally and psychologically, into something which can fill his/her life with meaning and purpose is to provide a lifeline in a sea of darkness. Above all else, crisis is a confrontation with our humanness, a time to come into contact with the Self, the core of being in direct connection with the Godhead, the fountain of life within us. This is a time when there is the increased potential to surrender to spiritual guidance. Indeed, this guidance is sometimes the only possible choice for a person facing such crisis.


Sometimes people do not realize they are in a crisis and so do not see the need to help themselves deal with their situation as a crisis. Seeing if some or all of the following symptoms fit for you can help in finding an appropriate response:

  1. Tremendous stress in specific or all aspects of the person’s life.
  2. Loss of meaning. May be brought on by loss of loved ones, disaster, divorce, body changes, physical illness, or some other primarily external event.
  3. The complaint that “nothing seems to work anymore, the way it did.” Feeling like life is over without this person, this job, this way of life, this body.
  4. Old beliefs that formerly provided the basis for life are being questioned. It doesn’t matter if the beliefs were “spiritual” or not. Sometimes a person who has been very religious will begin to question the reality of God. Or someone who has always believed there is no such thing as God begins to wonder…
  5. Motivations change. What used to motivate (usually ego-gratifying behaviors) no longer does. Sometimes it is difficult to find motivations or new motivations arise.
  6. Relationships may be in chaos. Old ways of relating no longer work. Something different is wanted.
  7. There is often a feeling of not wanting to do anything, or topics which previously seemed “bad” or “wrong” become the current, often obsessive, interest. This frequently causes distress and guilt.
  8. Guilt may be a strong motivating factor for coming into therapy: “What’s wrong with me? I don’t seem to want to do the things I should do.” Many women come into therapy saying they no longer want to take care of others, that they have been doing it all their lives and no longer have the desire to nurture others in the same ways they have always done. They need something for themselves now, and a different way of serving.
  9. There may be disturbing perceptual shifts, such as seeing things that aren’t objectively there but are grasped on an intuitive level. These are not hallucinations. Sometimes Kundalini-type physical phenomena are present. Spiritual “emergencies” can arise for some. This can include opening to other levels of reality which can cause tremendous fears about sanity itself and what it all means.
  10. Deep depression, despair, sometimes suicidal thoughts, rage or lethargy, all come to the surface.
  11. There is deep grief, knowing that something is “off,” but not knowing what that “something” is; this often manifests as sorrow and confusion.
  12. Experiencing feelings like “the bottom has dropped out,” as if there is no longer a foundation upon which to rest.
  13. Desires for space, solitude, simplicity arise.
  14. Desire for “something else” out of relationship or out of life which may not yet be defined. Deep longings and yearnings, sometimes specific, sometimes not, surface. Or there may be desires for very specific things which seem unattainable or taboo.
  15. There may exist an awareness of a spiritual crisis, but sometimes there is no awareness of this and even discomfort at the thought.

Tasks Of The Awakening:

Tasks to be considered to help shift the crisis and use the potential for spiritual awakening.

1. To adopt a positive conceptual framework.

Framing the crisis as a healthy one, to see it not necessarily as meaning something is wrong, but rather that the psyche is attempting to self-regulate, and to bring the system to a greater level of health than was known before. To acknowledge that there may be clean-up work to do, and that the crisis is basically a spiritual emergence – something greater, more aware of its wholeness, is emerging.

2. To be confronted with opposites (both personal and transpersonal shadow material) and with the need to integrate them into the psyche.

Confrontation with personal, hidden identities which have been projected out onto family, friends, associates, etc., including both inflated and deflated images of ourselves. Confrontation with transpersonal projections onto politicians, countries, ethnic groups, authorities, archetypes, deities and devils. These projections can now be more easily seen as part of the Self. This can be a very difficult process, shattering to our “ideal” images of ourselves. Great courage is needed here, and such courage is shown in people willing to undergo the process of this confrontation. Remember that support from personal friends, family, and from professionals is often needed in this confrontation process.

3. To examine all of one’s personal identities.

This examination is a stripping of oneself to the very core, a laying bare of “who we really are.” People involved with this task often have dreams and fantasies containing alchemical images of disintegration or mutilation. An example of this comes from a woman I worked with who was in the throes of crisis and dreamed that she was walking down steps and when she reached the bottom of what seemed to be some sort of well, she found a whole pile of pieces and parts of (what she knew to be) herself like parts of a puzzle. She knew within the dream that she had to put the puzzle together in a new way. We must examine who we identify ourselves to be before we can choose to identify differently.

4. To face illusions, to realize that the world as we see it is as we created it through our own perceptions.

It is to challenge the thinking that we create everything that happens to us as simplistic and guilt provoking. It is more correct to say that through our choices and our work on ourselves that we create our perception of reality by our response to what happens to us.

The realization that comes from facing the illusion that we are in control, and that the world is not what it seems, can ultimately mean accepting that the world is a reflection of our own perceptions; beyond and behind what we think we see, beyond our thoughts about it, lies the real world. It is an experience that can be shattering for the ego. It can make us feel as if our lives are in pieces all around us, and that there is no foundation under us.

However, as we face our illusions, we can come to a new sense of wholeness, and with this, our spirit is renewed and strengthened. Sometimes this involves facing how disillusioned we feel because so many of our dreams and hopes have been shattered or remain unrealized. Another way to look at our disillusionment is to re-spell it this way: dis-illusions. In other words, finally loosening our hold on an illusionary world. Such healing can take place here, preparing us for a sense of a deep humility, which can come from surrendering to our true spiritual nature hidden within.

5. To confront and accept one’s ordinariness, to let go of specialness.

In this task we confront images of ourselves which are either inflated or deflated ones, and find ourselves to be just ordinary human beings, dealing with the same issues as everyone else. It is in confronting this ‘ordinariness’ that we find our uniqueness, find that we are not special – either better-than or less-than – but that we are each unique individuals, with gifts and faults like all other humans. This can be both liberating and shattering, especially if ego-identity is strongly attached to either the deflated or inflated position (which is usually the case). We also eventually discover that our individual uniqueness is ours alone to develop and offer to ourselves and the world. There is a potential here for a great sense of freedom. This freedom can enable and empower us to follow deep inner guidance rather than the inflated or deflated images and beliefs we have here-to-fore allowed to dominate our lives.

6. To confront humanness, to come into fuller incarnation.

Coming into our “humanness,” that is, what we share with all other humans on the planet, involves a unity that becomes a spiritual awakening in the highest sense. Going deeply into our own suffering means that we touch the suffering of the world, our hearts open to all suffering. And when we’re deeply enough into it, our hearts open us to service – not out of sacrifice, but because we want to be of service…it seems there is nothing else to do, or perhaps nothing else left to do.

As we touch the essence of what makes us human, we naturally come to union with God, with Divinity, because this experience of union with God seems to be the very heart of what it is to be a human being, not just a human “becoming.” It is not something separate from the human experience; it is the core of it. This heals the split between the human and the divine mirrored in all polarities.

7. To take responsibility for caring for our physical needs.

No matter if the crisis is physical in nature or not, we must learn to honor our bodies in new and deeper ways. We need to learn to care for them and this means – in this time of ever growing costs of insurance and diminishing availability of medical treatment for millions – that we take growing responsibility for learning how they function best. Our needs for exercise (if we are able) and good nutrition become a priority if we wish to stay as healthy as possible for ourselves and for our loved ones.

Crisis can often herald a time when the individual feels less like caring for themselves physically, when indeed this can be at the very core of what is needed.

On a spiritual level, and depending on one’s beliefs, this focus on the physical level can take one all the way to “cellular” transformation, with the need and desire to look into systems (such as hatha yoga, Qi Goung, Tai Chi and other body-based systems) which teach the mechanics of such transformation.

There is a wonderful possibility which can be the outcome of all this seeming insanity around insurance and such, and that is the coming together of Eastern and Western medicine. There are many “alternative” systems being born and old ones explored which can provide the necessary answers our society and what the world seeks.

8. To be able to ‘dis-identify’ from the physical body.

The paradox of fully coming into the human form is, that when we can do this, we can also dis-identify with the physical body and with its desires and attachments. Then we can begin to see the body as a beautiful instrument of communication. As we dis-identify in this way, we can then inhabit the body and learn to control more aspects of it’s functioning. This process often involves dealing with addictions of all kinds, from obvious to very subtle.

9. To work through unresolved issues of adolescence.

In crisis, we often feel like adolescents again. We face the same issues: separating from parents, no longer blaming or clinging to them but releasing them finally and learning to see them as people. Parents as well as we the children, need forgiveness here. Forgiveness helps us to separate from conditioned beliefs, and helps the healing of old wounds that we no longer need to keep us imprisoned.

10. To accept that this planet is a school and the work can be difficult.

Accepting this frees us. It is easier to see situations as various manifestations of life energy, rather than just as conflicts and problems confronting our ego selves. Acceptance makes life less of a burden. This framework also helps us realize that no matter what the outer circumstance is, we have a lesson to learn from it, rather than believing that we are being punished when we feel very violated, harmed or betrayed. We are, instead, being given lessons in order to help us become aware of the presence of God in our lives and to learn that the love of God will sustain us.

Sometimes, when disaster and really horrible events happen to us, this lesson is very hard to learn and we may lose sight of it completely for a time. It is at these times we can most benefit from the support and guidance of those we respect and who can help us back to this knowing.

11. To enter into present moment awareness.

Although past, unresolved issues come into the present to be healed, the focus of the work is now, the present moment. We begin to accept, not just resign to, life the way it is. From here we can begin to align ourselves with the metaphysical truth that the way it is is the best way it can be to teach us. We are gaining the greatest amount of growth right now from “the way it is.” Even though painful or difficult, it is the perfect situation from which we can learn all we need to learn. It is the perfect situation from which to “wake-up” and come to a greater awareness of God’s presence and teaching in our lives.

At the darkest, most desolate moments of our lives, when there is nothing other than pain all around us, there is absolutely nowhere else to go, except to God. At least there is the potential of opening to Spirit at these moments; there is also the potential of becoming embittered and bereft of compassion. The difference lies in our attitude about what we are experiencing, and whether or not we take up the challenge facing us.

12. To be willing to take full responsibility for our lives the way they are now, rather than constantly wishing things were different.

We begin to take a very deep level of responsibility for all of our thoughts, emotions, actions, choices – including our gifts and faults.

It is often true that real responsibility and maturity only comes from deep soul-searching. A suggestion for a definition of the word responsibility that moves us away from duty is to define it as, “the ability to respond from the very core of our being.” Seen this way, taking full responsibility means to be willing to respond to life from our depths.

Our lives can become filled with meaning and purpose when these more fulfilling levels of responsibility are achieved.

13. To allow the necessary grief work to surface so that healing can continue.

This unexpressed grief comes from many sources: from recognizing how separate we are from ourselves and each other, and from God; from loss of “dreams” and how we thought we “should” be; from letting go of old self images, images of who we thought we were; from experiences of loss (i.e. of relationships, goals, etc); from touching the collective suffering on this earth.

This grief is deep and primal and can release us from the past if we allow it to move through us. Sometimes I liken this to having a deep, puncture wound that has sealed over with skin on the surface. The only way to get the wound to heal fully is to lance it so that the debris of dead tissue, abscessing and such, can be washed out until clean bleeding occurs. This lancing to full depth is the only sure way to full healing. However, ripping the skin away is not always the best means of healing. Sometimes, the wound needs to be soaked in warm water for a long while. This warm water is akin to unconditional, positive regard and respect for the individual’s timing in removing the scab and getting to the deeper wounding beneath. Each individual needs to be fully respected around his/her own grieving process.

14. To deal with longing.

What emerges from the chaos and despair is a longing we previously thought could only be satisfied by relationships or work. The longing now becomes one which can only be filled by direct connection with Spirit. It is a longing for union with something greater, a longing for wholeness, for self-actualization and self-transcendence. It is what the soul longs for that is at the core of all addictive “longing” which we experience as craving, both emotionally and physically.

15. To study our own personal myths and symbol systems.

We sometimes have interest in studying what our own myths may be, which myths attract us, and exploring whatever symbols are our personal ones, the ones with which we work. This, of course, is an extensive area of study, and only mentioned here as a possible task to be undertaken. Those interested in this will know what I mean.

16. To own our gifts and creativity.

We begin to discover, after all the shakedown of who we thought we were, who we really are after removing all the false identities and trappings. In what creative channels does the natural flow of our lives take us? What brings us joy and pleasure, by ourselves? To truly “…follow our bliss” (as the anthropologist Joseph Campbell says) is, I am convinced, the fastest and certainly most enjoyable road to union with God, and to union with Self as the Beloved. It seems true that doing what truly brings us joy is the highest mission we have on this planet; finding our joy means finding a direct channel to the Divine. We need to learn to exercise ”joy muscles!” If we are feeling joy, then we can model the possibility of joy to others.

This is not an “airy-fairy” point of view. I am not speaking of simply discovering what brings us joy in the moment, and what is then passing pleasure. I am speaking of discovering joy in each and every possibility of our lives. This means to find it even in the very worst of circumstances and life situations. I speak of the joy which transcends our “every-day” experience of trials and tribulations. It is to find this within our own hearts, not in the transitory pleasures of life.

One of the most difficult things for many of us to do is to fully develop our gifts. This, I believe, is actually at the very heart of taking full responsibility for our lives. At the core of the very fact that we call them gifts is a hidden key: they are not “ours;” they are gifts from Spirit. We are merely asked to receive them graciously, learn how to use them well and pass them on to the world. Notice that the first bit of this is to receive them graciously. This means acknowledging the Giver of the gift with gratitude and an open heart. We did not “earn” these gifts; they were given freely. As we take them to our hearts, we can in turn give them on to others freely.

17. To acknowledge the idea of “no sacrifice” living.

This task involves discovering that “sacrifice” (in the sense of burden) leads to the guilt/resentment/martyrdom/punishment syndrome (all patriarchal views of service, I might add.) If we are serving out of this type of sacrifice, we usually do it with resentment and martyrdom. We make others feel guilt instead of touching the guilt we truly. I think the true birth of service comes from doing things only because we want to, with full responsibility and freedom of choice – no martyrdom, no guilt, no resentment – and, therefore, avoiding setup of punishment or further guilt-invoking situations. Imagine a world where everyone served because they wanted to do so!

Now, the approach does NOT mean that doing the type of service which is done because it is right to do (and we thus want to do it), does not at times involve great difficulty and hardship. The difference is that there is no martyrdom involved in the doing of it; however, there may be sacrifice in the sense of giving up something to which there is very great attachment.

What seems to happen here is that we go through a period of no longer wanting to do what we were doing because we examined our reasons and found martyrdom, the sacrifice which is experienced as burden, or resentment. As we own up to these feelings and realize that no one outside of ourselves is forcing us to do what we are doing, or think the way we are thinking, we usually go through a period of pulling back, pulling in, from activity. We need solitude and do eventually come back out, filled with new energy. This is because – now – we are doing what we want. At this point we are no longer confused, but aligned with personal truths, no matter what the cost in releasing attachments.

18. To shift relationships from being need-based to being growth-based.

As investment in old identities drops away, relationships based in collusion (co-illusion) of supporting each other’s old images must begin to shift. We are more interested in supporting the other person’s growth and freedom. Therefore, relationships are sought that will help us grow in freedom and not remain stuck in old images.

A new way of looking at our most intimate relationships emerges: the “Imago Deo” is the image of God we see in each other when we fall in love that we have then to re-discovery within ourselves in order to become whole. Thus, our most beloved “other” becomes our teacher(s). His/her face becomes the face of God – serving his/her needs; learning to love unconditionally becomes a true spiritual path.

19. To confront themes of death and rebirth.

In dreams, or in our dark inner thoughts, death can become an obsession. Something is dying within us, and needs to be given space and compassionate understanding to come to the surface. The experience can be so dramatic that a person may actually feel as if he or she is dying. There may exist a longing for death and a need to acknowledge that longing. Something is also trying to be reborn within the person; dreams arise of giving birth. There may be a fascination with newness, and wanting to try new things.

Beliefs must be explored about the meaning of death and rebirth. If someone is facing the loss of a loved one, he/she needs to ask themselves these tough questions and fully explore his/her own beliefs about death. This often includes the fantasies and fears about what the person who has died is now experiencing.

There may be very difficult decisions to be faced. More and more people are finding themselves facing horrendous physical realities which lead them to question whether or not to take their own lives. It seems this is a profound, worldwide phenomena as we are living longer but not necessarily better lives. This involves confrontation of the most soulful nature with one’s moral, ethical, religious and spiritual beliefs. This can bring a person into direct contact with the reality of ending one’s own life, and needs to be explored fully and carefully.

20. To forgive past “sins.”

Forgiveness of past doings, real or imagined, becomes an important focus. This forgiveness seems to be a major factor in healing. This work on forgiveness needs to be two-pronged (at least). One is the need to bring total honesty about how much one is genuinely experiencing forgiveness, not simply saying it is so because of inner and outer pressures to do so. This leads to resentment, bitterness and more pain.

The other prong is to examine what the person means by forgiveness. I have found in my work that many people feel that to forgive is to forget what was done to them or what they did to others. It helps if an individual understands that there is no “forgetting” involved, that the remembering can turn into learning, but without the terrible attachment of suffering which seems to always accompany a lack of forgiveness. The lack of forgiveness continues to hurt the person holding on and so forgiveness is for the healing of the person who has not forgiven. This applies whether or not the person needs to forgive him/herself or another. Holding on simply seems to mean the person is not ready to move on and take full responsibility for his/her own life (remembering the suggested meaning of the word responsible). Healing occurs when true forgiveness is achieved.

21. To reclaim our innocence.

After examining our guilt and shadows and taking responsibility for it all, then it is time to reclaim our innocence and find that in us which is pure, child-like and free. What is pure and simple in us, beyond good and evil, is also natural. This process involves, as well, the development of humility. And with humility and the innocence of a child, we can come home to the heart of God, with simplicity and honor.

22. To develop the feminine self – our sense of “being,” rather than “doing.”

This means developing the feminine side of ourselves. It is with the “feminine” side of our nature (gender irrelevant) that we receive – from one another and from God. So ultimately, it is from the feminine that we surrender our lives to God. It is how we receive the love that God has for us, and the lessons. It is the way we receive from one another also.

This task may include confrontation with the Great Goddess in all her aspects, the dark goddess as well as the nourishing, loving aspects of the nurturing feminine. It is no small undertaking because confrontation with the Goddess within us is a powerful earthing connection: a connection with the earth itself, a taking back of our rootedness in her, and a willingness to be devoured in her wrathful aspect. This means going into the void, the dark richness of the unknown within us. I think this may well be the most important single undertaking for the world today and what is needed to save our planet. However, this is a heavily misunderstood undertaking and one, which requires an open-mindedness, and exploration that takes us beyond our limited experience.

23. To find our solitude – the inner space of our wholeness.

This is about finding the deep inner space within, our private space from which we can touch the source of our lives. Many of us need to create a quiet place in our lives – either a time carved out of overly busy lives or a place to go to – a place which is reserved for an intensely private relationship with God, no matter our personal beliefs about God.

The paradox here is that finding our solitude also means discovering our deep connectedness, our relatedness to each other, to the earth, and to God. Out of our unique wholeness we can meet each other as equals. This solitude becomes precious; it is not isolation, but a richness and a depth, a necessity.

24. To explore the “Imago Deo,” our image of God.

The task here is simply to explore our beliefs and images of God. The purpose of this is to make sure that what we believe about spirituality really serves us and is not simply made up of old beliefs we were taught that are no longer of value to us. As we do this deep exploration, we can discard that which is now an obstacle to our spiritual maturity.

This exploration can involve examining new possibilities for spiritual unfoldment or looking at old beliefs with a new understanding.

God is truly beyond all images that we hold. So exploration of these images is very important if we are to discover where we want to give up ultimate responsibility, and what we believe will be ultimate retribution for our actions. Differentiating these images and bringing them into awareness frees up enormous amounts of energy that has been caught in them. We also need to explore the great fear that arises when such images are activated.

25. To confront the split between ‘my will’ and ‘Thy Will.’

Doing what we want to do often reveals splits between our individual desire and what we believe God wants of us. Confronting this also reveals deeper images a person may hold of “who God is.” Often, doing what “we want” is our way of discovering what God wants of us – because there is really no split, no separation, between ourselves and God. On the deepest levels, our personal desires and God’s become one. What we truly want may well be God’s voice within us. It is the voice of the Source of Our Lives, deep within our own hearts. Exploring these areas sometimes reveals significant areas of guilt from which we have been hiding.

To live completely responsible and fulfilled lives requires extraordinary honesty and self-examination. Very often it is easier to feel guilty than to face up to our full responsibilities as mature adults. It is easier to make of God a parental “over-seer” than attempt co-creation which exacts high levels of discernment and surrender.

26. To open to global issues and realize our participation in the Whole.

It seems that as we awaken to awareness of our spirituality, we simply open to wanting to help others as a natural consequence of the awakening.

We find ourselves to be no longer isolated beings, but truly parts of a global occurrence, a global awakening. We feel ourselves to be part of the whole world and begin to participate in it, but not completely “of it” anymore. This can include a dramatic and often traumatic awakening to the “power” struggles going on within the world, to the realization of the money-based, greed-based, nature of that struggle. We here confront the “shadow” side of attempting to do “good works” within the world and our own, deeper motivations and the motivations of those “in power.”

27. To develop Intuition.

We learn to listen to the silence within us. Learning to listen teaches us to trust, to risk ourselves more fully because we know ourselves better, and thus the trust is based in self-knowledge rather than in doubt. As our intuition continues to deepen and open, ever broadening realms of the human psyche become a certainty and a foundation, of our inseparable connection with God, and with the Source of All Life flowing through us.

28. To open to the unknown, and become welcoming of our lives.

As we continue to grow and open, trusting the naturalness of whatever happens for us in our lives, we come to a state of trust with an open, child-like heart. It is then we can welcome our lives with this openness and trust, because we surrender to God. Here we explore fears of the unknown, and simply learn to offer that fear to God, with an ever more trusting mind and heart. We learn that each of us has his or her own direct line to God and does not need anyone else’s interpretation – although dialogue with others becomes a precious undertaking to provide counter-balance to self-delusion.

29. To encounter the Self as the Beloved.

This implies recognition of, and experiential encounter with, the Self as the Beloved, as the spark of God lying deep within the very nature of the whole human being. Here seeking ends, desire ends, separation ends. In practical day-to-day terms, this state is reached in a moment, in an hour or maybe even a day. The awareness and experience comes and goes, staying longer, coming more often.

Concluding Remarks:

The above is, of course, a bare outline of what seems to be a phenomenon affecting an ever-growing number of people. This outline is an attempt to provide a container for the process of turning a crisis into a spiritual awakening.

Psychotherapy can be seen as a model for a “vessel” that can contain the healing process. As more therapists go through this process themselves, they will be better prepared to help others through it. Perhaps this is a journey we all must make in our own ways

Karen Turner


  • Having worked in the field of human growth for almost 40 years now, Karen Turner has worked with thousands of people, in all walks of life. Combining spirituality with depth psychology, shamanism, Jungian work, and intuition development, she works with individuals and couples. Her work has to do with helping people awaken to their individual Spirituality, regardless of 'religious' orientation, or lack thereof. All crises have the potential for spiritual awakening. She does her best to help people discover and apply the tasks necessary for them to actualize this potential. She works in person, and by phone. She helps people with very difficult situations, including those facing life-and-death decisions. She also works with cancer survivors, spiritual "emergencies" and unusual phenomenal experiences.