I like to say I “woke up” about 5 years ago. But what does having a spiritual awakening really mean? Is there any way I can summarize what changed over the last half-decade?

5 years ago, I was working across Africa and Asia as a sales director of an international company focused on investment in emerging markets. I partied, drank, slept around, focused on excitement, adventure, and novelty. I had no enduring relationships, no meditation practice, and wore a comfortable mask out in the world every day — bouts of anxiety and depression lurking underneath the glamorous, jet-setting, social-media-safe surface. 

Maybe I was just 25. I often think the modern world confuses “spiritual awakening” with simply maturing. 

Today I’m 30, living in Bali, running a personal development and coaching company full-time, teaching mindfulness and tools for self-discovery to entrepreneurs all over the world. I’m mostly vegan, non-drinking, substance-free, and have a loving partner as devoted to the tantric path as I am. 

For the time being, I feel “on the other side” of my spiritual awakening, not in the throes of its mercy like I once was, seeking out every kind of healer, therapist, and trauma specialist to assist with my process (but I very much work with people who are in that valuable, essential, and challenging place). 

So what happened? What got me to the other side? What did I find most effective and valuable that I’ve taken with me after the dust settled on the catharsis? 

I’m as mystical as I am strategic, as soulful as I am practical, so it seems fitting that I sit down to analyze and breakdown my spiritual awakening into components.

  • STAGE #1: Food & alcohol. One of the first ways I woke up was by a sudden heightened intuitive awareness about what I was putting in my body. The American girl who ate and drank everything and anything suddenly thought, “Hmm…maybe I should lay off the beer.” It was a moment of grace. I dropped alcohol in May 2015 without ever looking back and that was hands-down the purification I needed to allow my true self to speak up. Later, after multiple trips to India and studying with my teachers in the Himalayas, I adopted the yogic vegetarian diet that continued to support my mind and body feeling as clear and healthy as possible. This set the foundation for everything else to arise. 
  • STAGE #2: Yoga & meditation. There’s no doubt about the wisdom of the yogic philosophical texts talking about diet as a prerequisite for yoga and spiritual development. It happened that I intuitively found teachers of classical yoga in India once my physical body was cleared out of the after-affects of western 20-something consumption. I spent months every year (and still do) going to India, learning in the traditional guru-disciple format, and weaving yoga and meditation back into my life back home. My morning practice became non-negotiable, providing a consistent place to find stillness, direction, and clarity in the decisions that were coming: Should I quit my unfulfilling job? Should I dedicate myself to learning and teaching the things that are helping me so much? How can I make a life like this work? Years of yoga and meditation took the physical purification process to mental and emotional levels. 
  • STEP #3: Healing. As my nervous system settled through my daily work on the mat, the light of awareness was finally able to shine on the places that had gone ignored while running around the world, busily earning degrees and climbing corporate ladders, incurring and repressing trauma by denying the true self that couldn’t possibly be heard in all the noise. New intuitive hits would go something like “Hey Elaina, you need to go live in Hawaii instead of taking that prestigious development job in Kenya” — which I would follow because I had learned to listen to the same voice that got me off of alcohol and happily out of the corporate world — and then I’d be guided to conversations, healers, experiences, and teachers that brought great lessons. New realizations about myself and my patterns came up spontaneously: while getting a morning coffee, on the yoga mat, after a therapy session, or driving my car around the big island of Hawaii. I’d burst into tears or be reduced to sleeping for days straight, always feeling lighter, more whole, and more open after. I’d remember things I’d forgotten — both pleasant and unpleasant — and the heightened consciousness seemed to melt hardened outer layers and soften my edges, which had always been braised for a fight out in the world. Healing helped me feel safe in the world and in myself again. 
  • STEP #4: Self-acceptance. At some point, it felt like the “healing process” could go on forever, endless waves of opportunities to confront myself. I intuitively knew that the way forward was not to think I had to fix and heal everything inside of me, but to realize there was actually nothing broken in the first place. The shadowy, hidden pieces that were being shown to me didn’t require anything except to seen and loved. I felt the desire to work again, to share, build something, teach what I had learned, and the parts that had decided what was and wasn’t possible for me in the past had softened and opened on the journey. I really believed in myself and my potential. 
  • STEP #5: Sexual awakening. Throughout the whole journey, my deep longing and unmet desire to be in loving partnership with a man never wavered and caused me great pain. Eventually, I realized that the lack of a partner was actually a gift and assisted in my healing journey by activating my most deeply-held core wound: a perceived lack of love. Once I confronted this final demon, a beautiful partner walked into my life after 9 years of being single and protecting myself. On my own and with him, I was able to walk the tantric path, heal my unconscious sexual past, and awaken the powerful woman hiding behind the facade of a 20-something girl. My vital sexual energy regained its rightful sacred place and I was able to fully allow love into my heart for the first time in my life.  
  • STEP #6: Purpose work. In confronting and healing my deepest core wound, I found more peace within myself than I had ever known. From that peace, clarity and confidence about all my desires arose. From that peace, a commitment to my true purpose arose, which had been there all along. I knew I had to merge my worldly money-making activities with my spiritual path so they’d no longer be at odds. I listened to my new belief system governed by self-acceptance, followed my newly opened heart, and created my own personal development company. I took my previously part-time coaching business into a full-time 6-figure operation serving people on five continents. Today I support people through their own transformation journeys, in both the spiritual and entrepreneurial realms.

The journey of “waking up”, I believe, happens to course-correct us as individuals and as a species. We go through healing to become aware of who we really are, to soften into love, to take proper care of our physical vessels, and to do work that spreads the virus of well-being to more people. 

I share this journey with you to show how one small intuitive hit, a moment of grace that for me started by saying no to alcohol, led to a completely different and much more peaceful and fulfilling way of life. In writing this all out, it becomes evident how there was a sequential order and a divine genius in the way my process unfolded. 

I also put it down on paper to demystify the journey to myself and give you hope in case you’re in the throes of a messy wake-up, in a period of challenging transition, or questioning whether anything magical or mystical is really possible for you.  

It is. And may any new light of awareness brighten and soften your heart this year.