There are perhaps two main elements of the process of awakening. One is Spirit recognizing itself as all there is, and the other is the human self reorganizing and realigning with reality, with all as Spirit.
It seems that the first one, Spirit recognizing itself as all there is, can happen instantaneously (clear right away) or more gradually (veils thinning), and that it can happen without any prior spiritual practice or interest, or following a period of spiritual practice or interest.
And it seems the second, the human self reorganizing and realigning with reality, with all as Spirit, can happen before Spirit recognized itself as all there is (through practices, morality, etc.) and it can happen after (through practices, through a natural process of reorganization).
The path most commonly referred to is the one of an initial phase of practice, allowing the human self to reorganize to some extent, and perhaps the veils to thin, then a sudden awakening, followed by a continued realignment and reorganization of the human self, and also a continued revealing of Spirit to itself. As some say, first there is a “path to God”, then a “path within God” (and it’s all of course within God, it happens within and as God).
For me, Spirit recognized itself suddenly and without any prior spiritual practice or interest, and the reorganization of my human self took place afterwards. For some years afterwards, there was a sense of very high energies going through the body-psyche and reorganizing it, then there was a period where it calmed down a bit, and then the reorganization happened through a dark night, and several forms of fierce – and sometimes gentle – grace. And during this last process, there has been times when Spirit recognized itself as all more clearly, and times – as right now – when there is a sense of some veils. (And that’s perfectly OK, it’s part of the process.)