If spiritual awakening is defined as raising the level of consciousness (= soul), which transcends our mind and even its death, it has two "enemies". The first, which I've been aware of and started to tame in various ways, is our ego. The second, which I've just become aware of through A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle, is our "pain-body", which he defines in this most insightful and inspiring book of his as "accumulation of old emotional pain" which "almost everyone carries in his or her energy field". He also defines the relationship between our pain-body and ego as "close relatives" that "need each other".
He characterizes these two "enemies" of ours as follows, among others:
The greater part of most people's thinking is involuntary, automatic, and repetitive. It is no more than a kind of mental static and fulfills no real purpose. Strictly speaking, you don't think: Thinking happens to you. The statement "I think" implies volition. It implies that you have a say in the matter, that there is choice involved on your part. For most people, this is not yet the case. "I think" is just as false a statement as "I digest" or "I circulate my blood." Digestion happens, circulation happens, thinking happens.
For thousands of years, humanity has been increasingly mind-possessed, failing to recognize the possessing entity as "not self." Through complete identification with the mind, a false sense of self - the ego - came into existence. The density of the ego depends on the degree to which you - the consciousness - are identified with your mind, with thinking. Thinking is no more than a tiny aspect of the totality of consciousness, the totality of who you are.
In addition to the movement of thought, although not entirely separate from it, there is another dimension to the ego: emotion. This is not to say that all thinking and all emotion are of the ego. They turn into ego only when you identify with them and they take you over completely, that is to say, when they become "I."
The ego is not only the unobserved mind, the voice in the head which pretends to be you, but also the unobserved emotions that are the body's reaction to what the voice in the head is saying.
Because of the human tendency to perpetuate old emotion, almost everyone carries in his or her energy field an accumulation of old emotional pain, which I call "the pain-body."
The pain-body is a semiautonomous energy-form that lives within most human beings, an entity made up of emotion. It has its own primitive intelligence, not unlike a cunning animal, and its intelligence is directed primarily at survival. Like all life-forms, it periodically needs to feed - to take in new energy - and the food it requires to replenish itself consists of energy that is compatible with its own, which is to say, energy that vibrates at a similar frequency. Any emotionally painful experience can be used as food by the pain-body.
The pain-body awakens from its dormancy when it gets hungry, when it is time to replenish itself. Alternatively, it may get triggered by an event at any time. The pain-body that is ready to feed can use the most insignificant event as a trigger, something somebody says or does, or even a thought. If you live alone or there is nobody around at the time, the pain-body will feed on your thoughts.
When I encountered the following two paragraphs, I was both shocked and embarrased as they diagnozed so accurately - far better than my psychological counselors - the two most serious problems I ran into, or to be more precise, my "pain-body" caused me, which eventually lead to the premature demise of something that was very precious in my life until then:
Excessive consumption of alcohol will often activate the pain-body, particularly in men, but also in some women. When a person becomes drunk, he goes through a complete personality change as the pain-body takes him over.
In intimate relationships, pain-bodies are often clever enough to lie low until you start living together and preferably have signed a contract committing yourself to be with this person for the rest of your life. You don't just marry your wife or husband, you also marry her or his pain-body - and your spouse marries yours. It can be quite a shock when, perhaps not long after moving in together or after the honeymoon, you find suddenly one day there is a complete personality change in your partner.
This penetrating insight into our human nature (and its dysfunction) has made me curious to find what he has to offer as a solution for breaking free of our pain-body. He only makes the following suggestion in general terms:
The beginning of freedom from the pain-body lies first of all in the realization that you have a pain-body. Then, more important, in your ability to stay present enough, alert enough, to notice the pain-body in yourself as a heavy influx of negative emotion when it becomes active. When it is recognized, it can no longer pretend to be you and live and renew itself through you.
It is your conscious Presence that breaks the identification with the pain-body. When you don't identify with it, the pain-body can no longer control your thinking and so cannot renew itself any more by feeding on your thoughts. The pain-body in most cases does not dissolve immediately, but once you have severed the link between it and your thinking, the pain-body begins to lose energy. Your thinking ceases to be clouded by emotion; your present perceptions are no longer distorted by the past. The energy that was trapped in the pain-body then changes its vibrational frequency and is transmuted into Presence. In this way, the pain-body becomes fuel for consciousness. This is why many of the wisest, most enlightened men and women on our planet once had a heavy pain-body.
People with strong pain-bodies often reach a point where they feel their life is becoming unbearable, where they can't take any more pain, any more drama. [...] Their acute emotional pain forces them to disidentify from the content of their minds and the mental-emotional structures that give birth to and perpetuate the unhappy me. They then know that neither their unhappy story nor the emotion they feel is who they are. They realize they are the knowing, not the known. Rather than pulling them into unconsciousness, the pain-body becomes their awakener, the decisive factor that forces them into a state of Presence.
With this theoretical solution he proposes we readers are left pending in the air, as it were, with no clear idea about what we have to do to implement it in practical terms. In the meanwhile I've found out that he will open his School of Awakening soon for the first time. This seems to be a living example of the famous saying "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear". This opportunity seems too perfect to miss though I still have to find a solution to the problem of paying the tuition fee for this course (in addition to two other courses in Jewish life coaching and Jewish psychology I've started taking and will start taking respectively).
PS: Quite a few self-proclaimed "rationally thinking" people seem to get confused so easily between pre-rationality and post-rationality. Spiritual awakening in this sense is not pre-rational as they erroneously think but post-rational beyond their rational mind, which they believe blindly is omniscient.