How to Engage in Life Again

After spiritual awakening, you may spend some time in the Hermit’s Cave. If it’s been a long time, you may be asking how can I have a life again?

Whether it’s a literal retreat from the world a la Himalayan monastic cell or moving back into your mom’s house while cutting work and social responsibilities to a bare minimum, after a profound spiritual shift it’s not uncommon to experience some kind of pulling in or withdrawal from the world and life you knew. Sometimes this is of your own design, and sometimes it’s not voluntary: your life breaks up with you.

You may find this withdrawal a great relief in some ways. It gives you space to just be, without the constant mindless stimulation and demands of society. It allows you time to let the changes blossom in you, or blow through you—the process can be gentle or merciless!

However, you might also feel a sense of loss, or at a loss. You may have lost your bond with friends, even family. You may have left your career or find that you are constitutionally no longer able to continue doing the kind of work you used to. You might end up feeling like a rubber band that’s lost its elasticity. You might spend years in this state of passivity, withdrawal or limitation. People describe it as a kind of limbo state.

Hermit’s Caves are awesome, for hermits

Some people are natural hermits. It may have never been obvious before, but after a big spiritual shift, their inner hermit becomes evident, dominant. It’s in their nature to withdraw after spiritual awakening and to remain apart, permanently. There is no draw or tension to re-enter society. The Hermit’s Cave is their home.

For others this is not the case. And even if you visit your own version of the Hermit’s Cave, it’s more like a retreat—you go to cocoon for a while and re-emerge. You are not supposed to stay there forever.

This is not to say you should rush your time in the cave, just because you feel uncomfortable with the process of dissolution. It can be very uncomfortable, indeed. You can’t skip steps here.

What am I still doing here?

This is an important question, more so for people who are actually awake rather than those who have had a Big Spiritual Experience. Once the helping others or teaching others mission rises and falls away, and any other Life Purpose plots and story lines fall away, the fact remains: you are still here.

If you are not a true hermit, then at some point the tension of being too long in The Cave will equal the passivity. Now that can be quite an uncomfortable and confusing process—dialing up the tension, when it has no natural outlet. You may experience anxiety, disordered sleep, all kinds of symptoms of tension rising in a passive system.

There is a tipping point when you have been in withdrawal long enough. The tension can be quite pronounced, but it’s confusing when the passivity, the lack of structure and will to leave are pretty much still equal to or slightly greater than the tension.

Some people will exit The Cave at this point. Some will do it gracefully and others, not so much. For some The Cave, which is the movement of passivity into withdrawal, is self reinforcing. The longer you stay in the cave past your exit date, the less possible it seems to leave. You can feel trapped in amber while life is passing by. This is not the same as profound inner stillness. This is being stuck.

Learning to live in the world, even though you’ll never be of the world, isn’t a cakewalk. But if you are not a hermit, staying in The Hermit’s Cave for longer than you need to is pretty lame. It feels pretty lame! Everyone has their own path and method to exit The Cave, and also, their own obstacles to overcome before they can take that step over the threshold into the world again.

Thanks for stopping by…

Hello to my readers in London! I was surprised to learn that I have more readers in London than any other city. Also, a warm welcome to subscribers in Melbourne and Stockholm…and in the lovely Bay Area, Pittsburg.


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  1. Lin says:

    Nice article. I feel very understood. After dedicating myself to my spiritual growth for three years, I am ready to break out from my cave and be active again, but I am finding myself at a loss as to exactly what to focus on. The pull for non-doing is so strong. It feels very much like being suspended in a void without much momentum in any direction. I feel so alone.

    How to break free from the limbo state?

    • Lilith says:

      Hi Lin,
      You describe the feeling of being suspended in Limbo Land so well. I believe there are many people who can relate to this. Each person has their own way out, and it’s a process, rather than an action.

  2. Donald says:

    I can totally relate. This is the subject that somehow brought me to this website to discover the wonderful writings of Ms. Lilith.

  3. brettalinehan says:

    Greetings from the cave. Definitely feel like there are things I have not come to accept yet, rites of passage that keep me dwelling as a recluse unemployed in my parents’ house. Getting over some feelings of humiliation of moving back here and having no plan; there are a series of older adults in my life who together constitute a strong pull out of this state. I cannot seem to convince anyone that it is not really so bad to be here! I am not miserable (most of the time), though it would seem the world has little to no understanding of this state even when I explain it as clearly as I can.
    Sometimes I go out and do things and I notice that I observe much more and engage much less than I used to. I’ve become comfortable with social situations where I used to say there was an “awkward silence”. I love the silence, it’s such a natural part of dialogue that I have overlooked before. I laugh a little when I see how uncomfortable most others still are with silence in dialogue; lots of people seem to have an agenda of connecting, sometimes with a romantic script. Usually I do not find an opening to engage in these ways and I end up retreating back to the cave before too long!
    Thanks for writing these blog entries. With how confused and disoriented I have been lately one point of solace I’ve taken is in prayer for the others who are going through this too.

  4. Anya Light says:

    Dear Lilith,

    Dear Lilith, I am grateful and relieved to have recently found your site, and the various posts you’ve written on this topic regarding motivation and the incubation/cocoon period.

    brettalinehan wrote about moving in with his parents in the previous comment. I was not able to do that, as my parents abused me in childhood and I am not able to subject myself to their energy at this time. Because I have always been a rather introverted person, I didn’t/don’t have a large array of friends; thus when my awakening began to happen, and my ego began to dissolve, I did not have a support system (financially and emotionally) to lean on except for one person: my partner. However, when our relationship fell apart, and I was still in the throes of wanting to be a hermit, it was extraordinarily confusing. In addition to my awakening, I had been/have been healing PTSD and a number of chronic health problems. Thus, the idea of going back out in the noisy normal crazy world of work in order to make an income to support myself was terrifying. (When I was with my partner, he was happy to support me financially as I’ve worked as an artist with little interest in acquiring wealth)

    So, there I was, breaking up with my partner–my safety net–with nowhere to go and not sure what to do. Should I apply for government benefits? I kept asking myself that question, but that felt wrong to me energetically, as eventually I did want to figure out a way to make an income from some kind of spiritual work, and didn’t want to put myself in a hole that I could get stuck in, as I’ve seen so many people do when they go on the benefit system.

    What happened is that I totally freaked out and left the hermit cave way too early, because I felt that I had to get away from my partner asap. I literally got on a plane and moved from Ohio in the US to the island of Puerto Rico, even though I didn’t speak Spanish and had little money. It was my favorite place on earth, so I just went there, in a hazy crazy blur. Not perceiving how crazy I was acting. I felt I had a “vision” at the time and that I would be protected and somehow find a job. I flung myself out into the world on a tiny island thousands of miles away from home, and it was awful. I got into some pretty sticky situations, I actually almost lost my life because I was so floaty and ungrounded that I could not really perceive consensus reality. Plus, getting re-triggered and re-traumatized and my PTSD came back intensely.

    Long story short: In total despair five months later, I phoned my ex-partner, and asked him if I could temporarily live with him. That was about a year and a half ago. I’m still with him today.

    It’s really awkward sometimes, because he’s still very much “in love” with me, and I’m not so sure I even know what “in love” means. Romance and sex mean very little to me these days. In a way, we have become family to each other. We don’t have sex. We live very simply, but there has been this gnawing in my heart that feels guilty that I cannot promise him “forever”…I can only take each day at a time, one by one.

    These feelings of guilt create a situation where I often unsuccessfully try to flee the cave, putting things into motion…like applying to random jobs…but then when I get hired, I find I cannot start them. I panic and don’t progress with these ideas. There are few things that I am able to accomplish, even though I used to be a real go-getter. I earned a PhD and wrote a book, etc. But now, even tasks like maintaining a regular blog seem to be out of my reach. I keep trying to make to-do lists and do things and set goals, but they just don’t happen. You know what does happen? Meditating all day. Cooking beautiful food. Walking on the earth. Taking four hour baths. Reading the books of enlightened masters. Breathing. This is full enough for me. The energy is just not there to go out into the noisy world and “do things.” I cannot even comprehend the world I find myself in.

    In some ways, finding this MA blog has helped me realize that I actually have not fully surrendered to the state I’m in…I have not fully and totally accepted the reality of my situation…I think this is why this cave time is taking so long. I am trying to walk in two worlds, and terrified of falling fully into the void. Maybe it’s time for me to really just accept where I am? Drop into it more? There seems to be a lingering fear of death in there.

    I have been so confused about it all. I wonder if what I’ve done with him, my ex-partner, is ethical? He is a kind, compassionate, wonderful man…but does he seem like my romantic partner or husband? No. At least not right now. But who knows how I will feel tomorrow, as things are so totally flexible, shifting, and impermanent. And yet he happily financially supports me because of his deep love. I do feel he hopes for a change of heart from me in the future; however, I also know he is awake enough to not be angry or resentful with me no matter what happens in the future. In many ways, he is a very awake and aware man, more awake than me, and I so greatly respect him.

    And then add to the fact that my mother has stayed in an unhappy marriage all her life, and I sometimes question whether I’m just settling for “good enough” when my life is meant to be lived elsewhere, somehow. It’s so confusing. No right or wrong answers, I expect…but if you have any thoughts, Lilith, I’d love to hear them. Thank you for the work you do:)

    Oh, and one more thing: I am looking to find more quality print magazines on spirituality and the topic of enlightenment/awakening. Are there any you recommend, Lilith?

    • Lilith says:

      Hi Anya,

      I don’t read books or magazines or blogs on spirituality. Why would I? What would I possibly gain from it?

      From what you’ve written, you don’t need to move further into that space. You can’t even process whatever “awakening” you feel you’ve experienced. As you say, you are not grounded, you can’t function in the world, even to take care of your own basic physical requirements.

      There is a period of transition. A person’s perception of themselves and the world has been so profoundly altered. And then there comes the first level of adjustment to this. At this point people make all kinds of errors. They separate the world into “consensus reality” and…what? Something else. They separate the mundane from the spiritual. They give importance to one and not the other. All kinds of mundane issues come up (insecurities, beliefs about money, feeling one has a special purpose…all kinds of stuff) and instead of just dealing with them normally, people make them into “spiritual” problems.

      My brain has been thoroughly rewired. My perception of time is different. The way I store (or don’t store) memories is totally different. There are all kinds of things I used to be able to do really well, effortlessly, that are quite challenging or even impossible for me now. This difference becomes most obvious in work situations. Otherwise, I can cook, garden, take four baths a day also…it all flows just fine. But when it comes to work, especially the more politically sticky and corporate aspects of my work (ie: dealing with people), I sometimes have a really hard time with that.

      This is not a spiritual problem. This is similar to someone who has had a brain injury. It doesn’t matter that the cause was a profound spiritual awakening. The result is that certain parts of my brain have been activated, while other pathways have been shut down. I work around this, using the same methods that apply to everyone else. I don’t turn this into a spiritual problem.

      The same goes with being social. One can suddenly feel so out of step with “normal” people. Their small talk, goals, concerns, motivations…can suddenly seem so empty and robotic. This may be caused by spiritual awakening, but it’s not a spiritual problem. If you were told you had to live for five years in the highlands of Irian Jaya, you would feel much the same about the people there. But you wouldn’t label this a spiritual problem. You would understand that you are from such a different culture to these people. Finding yourself living among them, you would need to learn their ways and adapt. Regardless of how strange or even barbaric their ways were to you.

      I understand where you are coming from. I truly do. It’s a very perplexing time and the road is yours alone to walk. But I propose that you “woke up” to one reality and “fell asleep” to another, namely, the human-made world. You’ve lost your grip on one half of reality. You spoke very candidly about your experience in Puerto Rico, and where that led you. And now you imagine that earning money doing “spiritual” work is going to be really different than doing any other kind of work. You will have clients. You will have paperwork. You will have to do your taxes. You will have to deal with other people’s projections, expectations, baggage. It’s not different.

      There are spiritual issues. The fear of death that you mentioned. That’s spiritual. But your inability to put four walls around you and food on the table, your inability to ground yourself in the mundane world, and your delusional thinking…that is not spiritual. That you find yourself in a situation where you feel guilty about the way you are providing for your basic needs (via your partner)…this is not a spiritual problem.

      You’re not thinking straight. And the answer is certainly not to go chasing after more spiritual teachings. Because your problems are not spiritual. And the ones that are…such as that fear of death…will not be resolved by reading what other people have to say about it. You’re not walking some well worn path, where you can follow the directions of another who went before you.

      • Anya Light says:

        Dear Lilith,

        I thank you for your response.

        I really appreciate how you described learning to live in the world after an awakening as like learning to live in a foreign culture. That’s exactly how I feel! I suppose I have felt ashamed about having to learn to adapt…I’ve felt like: Why adapt to their craziness, when I am the one who is becoming sane and they are the ones who are truly crazy?

        You wrote about how being around people and in certain tasks (like work) is challenging for you. You wrote: “I work around this, using the same methods that apply to everyone else. I don’t turn this into a spiritual problem.” Can you give me some examples of what you mean by methods? I don’t want to assume I know what you mean.

        • Lilith says:

          You do know what I mean. If you look at problems and see them as practical issues, you find practical solutions to them. Name one problem you have, and find some practical solutions to it. Minus any kind of ideation that it’s a spiritual problem. There are all kinds of practical solutions for people who have trouble focusing, who have trouble setting and achieving necessary goals, for people who can’t keep track of their own time, for people who find it awkward to converse with other people. Whatever it is, you are not the only one who has this problem, and chances are there are numerous mundane, totally practical ways to work around the challenge. It may not produce a perfect result, but it will smooth out the edges. The only things that stand in our way are our assertion that these are spiritual problems and our misguided belief that the world should conform to our (minority) perspectives and sensibilities.

          • Anya Light says:

            One of my most deeply abiding Truths is that I am here to shift the consciousness of the planet. That is why I chose to incarnate. That might be difficult or impossible for you to understand, but that is my reality. I believe the world should–and must, if it is to survive!–shift to spiritual, holistic perspectives.

            Nonetheless, I appreciate your wisdom. Thank you, Lilith. Much of it rings true. As a result, I am now shifting my focus to healing and clearing up the final stages of trauma locked within my bodily system. Once that clears, I am sure I can find a way to not be overwhelmed by my sensitivities and empathy and do work that I enjoy regardless of what it happens to be.

            Thanks again. 🙂

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