by Jim Tolles: I originally wrote this post in 2012, and I’ve updated it from time to time. At the time of this update, it’s 2018, and I hope to clarify further this whole experience of releasing issues…


In general, the energy body is everything, and because the whole of our body is energy, we can release energetic blocks emotionally, physically, psychologically, and energetically. A lot of overlap happens here, and so I encourage you to not think in terms that are too discreet from one another.

Additionally, while I’ll talk about spiritual awakening a lot in this post, most people don’t have a spiritual awakening. They have spiritual openings and glimpses that inspire them to pursue the spiritual path. For them, building energy and being dedicated to returning to awareness are critical to loosen thing up enough to get the energy intelligently flowing.

When things are flowing such as after a spiritual awakening, a lot of issues can emerge all at once, and that can be overwhelming. This is in large part because most people have never had a big release of pain…EVER. So they don’t know what is going on nor what a release feels like. Additionally, in a world that is often focused on avoiding uncomfortable things, this process of drawing up an issue, feeling it, and releasing it is a brand new space. It’s easy to misinterpret things as going wrong when the pain comes. Because of these misinterpretations, people try to stop the process, and that additional resistance creates so much more misery. It can even create a dark night of the soul situation.

So, I’m going to share some thoughts about releasing emotions, physical tensions, and energy blockages. Hopefully, you can better understand your own energy and your own healing so that you embrace it.

The Awakening Big Bang Comes and Goes

If you’ve had a big spiritual awakening, you’ve been jolted into a new level of understanding. Maybe you got to surf on these waves of bliss or profound inner stillness. Maybe not. Maybe you got tossed immediately into the well of pain inside you and are in shock at what you are feeling. If so, it’s time to work.

If not, the work is coming. The bliss and oneness experiences–like any experiences–come and go. They’re not to be held onto, and it’s not like you can hold onto any experience in life anyway. However, many people think that these experiences are what the spiritual path is all about. So they try to cling onto them, and when those experiences end, people become endlessly frustrated that they can’t get the feelings back.

But this is a deep misunderstanding about spiritual awakening. Awakening is the start to understanding oneself and finding freedom from the suffering of the ego. That freedom is the ability to be with whatever experiences or feelings may come. It is not getting to feel only one way all the time for the rest of your life.

Breaking Down the Ego and Facing Suffering

With the breaking of the proverbial dam or with making a choice to pursue spiritual freedom, you will discover lots and lots of suffering. A lot of our lives are full of “structures” that continue suffering. These structures are the relationships, jobs, tasks, emotional tendencies, physical habits, and mental patterns that only serve to reinforce our ego identity. That very identity is often full of pain, and the continued countless choices to be an ego creates ongoing suffering.


Probably an easy example to use is an abusive relationship. An individual can be attached to an unhealthy and/or abusive relationship because the individual doesn’t think s/he can make it on their own. Their ego fear of change keeps them stuck. The relationship itself keeps abusing them, and the person suffers when they have full ability to change it (not that their ego lets them believe they have that ability).

After an awakening or with dedicated inner work, that belief about needing a relationship is being dissolved or may be completely destroyed. The individual goes through the discomfort of feeling and facing their own attachment, and then as that attachment dissolves, the individual has to learn how to live in a healthy relationship by changing the one they are in or by leaving it entirely then finding others with whom s/he can have a healthy relationship. This often brings about waves of new individuals through the person’s life. One wave of people will come; you’ll learn new lessons; and then they’ll leave. Then the next group of people will come. It will take a lot of focused dedication, but these new lessons are one sign that you have released an issue and are expanding.

Discovering More and More Ego Suffering

One common misconception for many people is that they think they just have one or two things to work on, and then they’re done. Even more commonly, people think that changing their external circumstances will fix everything. I have seen this acted out endlessly. So many people think a new romantic partner, new job, new place to live, new spiritual teacher, new spiritual community, and countless other new things will “fix” them. It doesn’t work. A true awakening reveals that truth to a person again and again. And when someone doesn’t have that energetic push to help them, they need to be deeply dedicated to their spiritual work. Otherwise, they will get stuck because people like to stay in their ego patterns.

With dedication, a person gets better and better at looking within themselves. It’s like using a microscope and then getting stronger lenses over time. At first, you can only see so deeply. Then you can see deeper. Then you can see deeper still. This is seen in how people improve at interpreting their body, energy, emotions, and thoughts. Initially, a lot of people are terrible at interpreting how they feel. They’ve spent so much time ignoring and avoiding their feelings, sensations, and other information that they don’t know what is what. That’s another reason a spiritual awakening can overwhelm people. They feel lost in all this “new” information that they can’t immediately understand. Once again, dedication and tools like meditation and gentle breathwork can be vital to calming the person so that they can get clear on what they are feeling and sensing.

The Intensity Builds

Through dedication and focus, energy can build regardless of having an awakening. Building things up in intensity is a way to push on the deeper issues and move them into awareness. This can make you feel like a pressure cooker. For each person, the amount of intensity they can handle and that they need to move through their next layer of issues is different. If you are used to 100 degrees, then 110 feels like a pressure cooker. If you are used to 150 degrees, then 110 doesn’t feel like much of anything. Each level of healing and release takes different pressure and intensity.

For instance, you may know how to let go of relationships so that may be easier for you than another person. So the next level of pressure will require you to let go of the desire for relationships. For another person, they have to face their fears of intimacy because sometimes those people who can let go of relationships easily are actually just running away. Again and again, honesty is one of the most vital parts of this whole process. If we allow our egos to trick us, we will spin endlessly through repeating issues and never really heal and grow spiritually.

Anyway, as the intensity builds, something shifts. Usually, things get worse, and so using the breath to calm the body and staying in awareness to calm the mind are critical aspects to allow something to rise and begin to release without resisting it.

Vulnerable and Broken Open

And when something breaks open, a lot may go through you. You may feel an energy release, which can feel like a tingling, hot, buzz rippling through your body. You may feel lots of the pent up emotions releasing. You may start crying…A LOT. In these moments, you are releasing the pain of this issue or old karma. If it is really intense, you may need some energy support from something such as sound healing (which you can find on YouTube), being in nature, or a close spiritual friend of teacher. Most times, rest, meditation, and drinking LOTS of water help you to clear out what just broke open. Some people can get sick or very physically ill. And while I ALWAYS encourage you to check in with doctors for physical illnesses, when it’s a spiritual healing in progress, they usually won’t find anything wrong with you. You’ll just get sent home to rest until it clears.

However, continuing to relax into this intense experience and meet whatever memories, emotions, and other sensations come are the essential steps. Some issues will come with repressed or forgotten memories. But other issues won’t. Learning to be okay with unexplainable sorrow and other emotions is part of processing. If you doubt your experiences and your feelings, you will get stuck.

The Resulting Expansion from Released Pain

Typically, when the pain/sickness clears, you feel amazing. I’ve seen it happen in my students. It’s awesome. Their whole energy can shift if it’s something really big that just cleared. Some key indicators that you have released an energy blockage of some kind include feeling:

  • Lighter
  • More relaxed
  • More loving
  • More peaceful
  • Clearer of mind, and more

Typically, the person didn’t “do” anything to achieve this release. Usually, a lot of breathing and surrendering to the arising pain are all that are required. Then, something shifts. Maybe it is a more gradual shift, or maybe it is a sudden shift. However, by and large, the above experiences are exceptionally common in a significant energetic release from the heart, body, mind, or energy.

Certainly, people will at times immediately drop into a new issue after clearing something. It happens. So it is possible to not feel much if any of those above experiences before the next issues arrive. I’ve seen this be the case for people who have awakened and have significant trauma in their history.

Furthermore, don’t rush into the next self improvement, mantra, or kundalini yoga exercise after a big clearing. It’s important to settle into this new space. Get used to your energy and the potentially new sensitivities you may now have. The next issue will arise soon enough.

Then the Next Wave of Issues Emerges

Whether soon after a release or some time later, new issues get revealed. It’s just how it is as the layers continue to get peeled away from the ego. If the issues that are revealed and pushed into awareness are dramatically different than the ones you’ve worked on before, you may now be drawn to new teachers, paths, friends, and ideas to find the tools that you need to deal with this new level of you. Consequently, the cycle I’ve just outlined begins anew.

For the old ego, this can get demoralizing, which is why letting go of the remaining parts of the ego become so critical. At each level of healing, we need to let go of ideas about how the process should unfold. So you need to continue to tune into your inner knowing/intuition. It’s absolutely critical to determining what you need most to assist this amazing healing process.

And the process continues as we get pushed to confront our most basic desires and fears. Generally speaking, the ego is built upon two main drives: the drive to survive and the drive to continue the species. From them, the four core human issues are:

  • the fear of pain
  • the fear of death
  • the desire to procreate
  • the desire to protect our children

These four main issues show up in countless ways and wear many, many masks. They are essentially the four supports to the “house” of the ego. If you were to knock down even one of them, you would be deeply transformed.

A Quick Overview of the Healing Process

Here’s a boiled down view of the process of releasing pain and healing into a few quick bullets. Keep in mind that everyone’s process is different, and when the seas are really stormy, it’s hard to get much if any bearings on the process. But here goes:

  • Expansion. You are venturing beyond your usual comfort zone. Life is filling you up and often asking you to learn to new things.
  • The Turn. You hit an edge. You get pulled back. If you can sense when this turn comes, it can help you to identify what the issue is that is chaining you and is about to be healed.
  • Contraction. Your energy disappears for all or most external world engagements. This is when doing anything in the world often blows up in your face. You may feel like your body is a pressure cooker. You may feel pressure or discomfort on parts of your body.
  • Dropping Into the Process. Sickness, feeling all kinds of upset feelings (sadness, fear, anger, shame, etc.), and/or experiencing lots of upsetting physical sensations arise. Stay in awareness. Observe the arising of the discomfort. It’ll help you to see what’s going on as well as to help heal it. Find tools and support as appropriate.
  • Release. Depending on your process, the release can feel good immediately, or you may go into deeper issues that get revealed by the release of other issues.
  • Clearing. You feel the pressure cooker let up. You could feel more flexible in your body, more open in your heart, more clear in your mind, more clear in you energy and connections with others, all of the above, or something else.
  • Next Expansion. You expand until you hit the next crop of issues and karma that needs to be healed. The cycle renews as more ego is dissolved on the path to spiritual freedom.

A Journey Up a Mountain

My first experience with this type of energy clearing came unexpectedly–of course–on a hike up a mountain in 2010. It was a brand new experience. I was struggling on this hike and drinking tons of water. I had a sense that something “spiritual” was up, but I didn’t really know what it was. As I mentioned earlier, many people have no idea what it is like to clear an energy blockage, and I was definitely in that group. I remember when the hike turned into a climb through craggy, crumbling rock. I remember the intense fear that rose up in my chest. It looked bad to me. I was scared to go down. I was scared to go up. So I kept going.

But one interesting thing I did was that I become extremely present when I was climbing.  I could find each hand-hold that I needed. Then when I paused, I’d descend into the fear until I felt something move inside of me. It was like this chunk of black stuff came up from the pit of my stomach. As it rose, I suddenly realized I was going to cry. This was way outside my comfort zone. All my social conditioning was getting triggered in regards to how to “act like a man.” But it was unavoidable. So I started crying and crying. I’d climb. And then I’d cry until I reached the top.

My brother was there at the top, so I collapsed into his supportive arms. I was so raw and wiped out. It was intense. Yet, I got a glimpse downwards into myself from that experience. I had no illusions that I’d in any way transcended all my fear. Instead, I suddenly saw how much fear there was inside of me, and while the hike back was way easier having let go of this burden that I’d been carrying, I knew there were more of these spiritual ordeals to come.

The Long Look Down

Hopefully that little example gives you a glimpse of how the process can go, although that is a quick example. Many others issues take days, months, or even years to release depending on the nature of your attachment. That example was also not even close to the most freeing or profound release that I’ve had. My intention in sharing it is to show you that I was once new to this whole process, and with a little courage, you too can move through proverbial mountains of ego issues.

When one of these shifts is going on, it can take a lot of love and courage to go within and be with the discomfort. But we’ve all been looking away from ourselves for too long. We’ve ignored our inner space and ourselves to large extents. It’s time to stop. It’s time to see what all we are carrying. Whether you are just starting, healing, or awakening (which kinda combines healing and expansions simultaneously), you can do this. Pain can be released from the heart, body, energy body, and mind, and as you do, you will feel more amazing and open than ever before. You will finally get to feel like you.

Even more than that, you can begin to truly let go of the ego and journey towards spiritual freedom.

Source: The Spiritual Awakening Process