Not surprisingly, with our eyes wide open, it is common to experience greater judgment of other people (friends and strangers alike), society, and the world. Others may feel our judgment and defensively respond with their own judgment of us. We are seen as different, weird, and maybe even crazy. Sooner or later, we decide to keep our growing awareness to ourselves; maybe rationalizing that it’s better to be silent than be judged. At this point, we don’t have a lot of hope that others will wake up.
We are still focused on everything that is wrong in our lives, and in the world, but, at the same time, we have resistance to letting go. The process of letting go is often “the work” in this stage, and, as we learn to let go, Stage 3 is where we may leave unsatisfying jobs, intimate relationships, families, friendships, religions, organizations, and any disempowering ways of life. We may disentangle from roles we played, reject our past identity, and there may even be a total withdrawal from society.
Our former model of the world is failing and we no longer see the world in black and white or good and bad. There may be a growing sense that we are all connected, but at the same time, we may feel completely disconnected from every other human being. In many ways, we are faced with the dichotomy of life and existence.
The most common attribute of stage three is loneliness. In a sea of billions of people, you may feel like you are the only one awake; no one understands you, and there is no one with whom to connect. At this point, you might begin to question “the questioning” – why did you ever begin this journey? What’s the point of waking up, if you must be alone and lonely?
After all, you might have been unhappy when you were asleep but at least you had friends, family, and people who cared about you. Now, there is no one. You consider “going back.” You wish you could forget about everything you now know just so you can be part of a family or community. You yearn for “normalcy” in order to fit in with others, but you also know that it is too late. You cannot forget what you have remembered, and despite your loneliness and your desire to fit in, you wouldn’t go back or undo your path even if you could.
Issues of worthiness often surface in this stage, because the ways, in which, we once proved worth no longer work or are no longer available because we left the job or situation that once made us feel worthy. We may still try to seek approval, acceptance, or appreciation or get other emotional needs met by those still in our lives, but it doesn’t fulfill us, as it once did, and we are left feeling empty – forced to deal with feelings of unworthiness on our own.
Our desire to fit in and be accepted is slowly being drowned out by our desire to be free and awake. In the quest for answers and relief from emotional pain, we may embark on some sort of spiritual practice such as meditation, yoga, or mindfulness. If we are not using the practice to avoid something, its purpose is likely to get us somewhere, accomplish something or wake up.
In stage three, we may experience the first real sense of power, but, if the ego claims this power, we may have challenging and humbling experiences. By now, we may be able to see the connection between our thoughts/beliefs and the creation of our reality, and, as a result, we try to control our thoughts, but it is a difficult process because old programs are still running.