1-Sentence-Summary: Waking Up is a guide to mindfulness, spirituality, meditation, and understanding religion, analyzing these topics from a neutral point of view to create a bridge between atheists and believers, all while explaining a series of core aspects regarding spirituality and how the mind works.
Read in: 4 minutes
Favorite quote from the author:
According to the book, 20% of Americans consider themselves spiritual, but not religious. If you find yourself going back and forth and often crossing the lines between these two concepts, Waking Up is definitely the book for you. Even if you don’t really know where you stand, this piece of writing can shed some light on spirituality and religion altogether. The author, who is a renowned neuroscientist and philosopher, took on a quest to elucidate the science behind both concepts.
Truth be told, he did manage to narrow the gap between religion, spirituality, and atheism. Or at least piss off all parties in the process. The book doesn’t necessarily try to persuade readers into believing in a certain religion, nor dismiss God completely. It does shed some light on our inner craving for spirituality as humans. The book also tells us how we can get in touch with our spiritual side in a rational way.
Below are my three favorite lessons from the book:
- Mindfulness comes through meditation and accepting spirituality as part of your life.
- To grow spiritually, you must overcome your conventional self.
- Deal with pain and negative events by acknowledging them and actively looking for solutions.
If these lessons don’t make much sense now, stick with me. I’ll explore each one in detail and reveal some remarkable ideas!
Lesson 1: Practicing mindfulness can enhance your spirituality.
Being a spiritual person doesn’t necessarily imply that you’re religious. And to become spiritual is to allow your mind, body, and soul to sync and live in harmony with the world. Practicing mindfulness is like giving yourself a break from your own emotions and assumptions, from the constant mind chatter, and it helps alleviate negative feelings and insecurities. So, where to start? One good way to practice mindfulness is through meditation.
Meditation puts you in a place where peace of mind and contentedness can find you. Although mastering meditation isn’t an easy feat, once you truly immerse yourself in that reflective state of mind, tremendous benefits will follow. Therefore, you can start by sitting comfortably, with your spine straight, and finding a position that feels natural for you. You can try crossing your legs and placing the palms of your hands on your knees. Then, close your eyes and breathe deeply.
It’s particularly important to avoid letting your thoughts run wild, so contain them by focusing on your breath. Count your inhales and exhales if you feel it helps. Filter out all thoughts from this process and allow yourself to take a break and pause your mind chatter. If you let your mind slip, get back to focusing on your breath, again and again. If you feel like you’re not going anywhere with this, that’s ok, as long as you don’t give up. Even a few minutes of meditation can have tremendous benefits for your health.
Lesson 2: Spiritual development starts with physical, mental, social, and ethical maturity.
The nature of life implies that growth happens gradually. As humans, we begin at an initial stage. Then we reach maturity and slowly degrade afterwards, to eventually reach our final stage. One curious thing about life is that every little thing in the universe goes through these stages, although not all of them have the same pace. Now, our development as spiritual beings must happen gradually as well. That’s just the natural order of things.
Therefore, spiritual development is only possible after accomplishing the initial stages of personal growth. As the author suggests, you must first become physically, mentally, socially, and ethically mature. You must first become your conventional self. Meaning that you have no problem eating right, staying in good shape, keeping your relationships healthy and nourished, and performing well in your main areas of life.
Only then can you immerse yourself into your upgraded version. It’s the one that seeks spiritual elevation, answers to the most profound questions of life, and looks for a purpose bigger than oneself. Therefore, to start your personal development journey, you have to start taking care of yourself. Cultivate your mind and body. Keep in mind that, on your quest to spiritual enlightenment, you’re not seeking an ultimate goal or a final achievement. But rather, a gradual, exponential development and a little more growth every day.
Lesson 3: Accept pain and uncomfortable situations as a natural part of life.
No matter your financial, social, marital, or any other type of status you may have, one thing is for sure: you’re human, you’re imperfect, and you’ll have to deal with negative events in your life. After all, it’s only natural! Life isn’t all about happy moments and good times, so when challenges occur, there’s a few correct ways to deal with them, and none imply complaining.
Instead of asking why a certain thing is happening to you, try to detach yourself emotionally from the respective event, and accept it fully. Acknowledging that you’re going through something is a great first step towards fixing your problems. Then, look for ways to solve your issue, instead of sitting by and complaining about it. Keep in mind that bad times are transitory and they don’t define your life. The sooner you accept where you’re standing and find a way to get out of it, the sooner it’ll end.
One good way to accept your present is meditation. While it helps you to calm down and alleviate stress and frustration, it’s also a way of immersing yourself into the present moment and actively feeling your body and mind working for you. The lesson here? Accept pain and struggle as a natural part of life, while doing everything is your power to heal and fix yourself. Don’t ever sit by and complain, but give yourself time to process information and learn how to react to it.
Waking Up Review
Waking Up is a go-to guide for everyone looking to start their spiritual development journey and become more grounded and connected with their mind, body and spirit. While this book covers subjects like spirituality, meditation, acceptance, and religion, it doesn’t try to coerce its readers into accepting certain philosophies as universal truths about life. Frankly, this is a must read for everyone who wants to take their mind to another level and live life more meaningfully, while working on their well-being.
Who would I recommend the Waking Up summary to?
The 30-year-old person who feels stuck in the mundane and wants to learn how to live more meaningfully, the 45-year-old person who feels like they’ve accomplished their life goals and wants to elevate their spiritual side, or the 37-year-old who wants to explore the religious and spiritual side of things from a neutral perspective.