Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Showing Up for Yourself on the Spiritual Path

When I was a kid, I never understood getting grades for attendance. To me, it was a foregone conclusion that I'd be in class, and if I wasn't, I hated feeling like I was being penalized for being out sick, which was usually about the only reason that I'd miss school. As I've grown up, I've realized the wisdom behind placing importance on attendance. Because ultimately in life, you can't succeed in work, have good relationships, or keep a job if you don't show up.

Step 1: Showing Up for Yourself
It's important to say that the first step is to learn how to show up for yourself. For some people, spiritual awakening may explode right in the middle of this issue, and in that case, you may really feel the weight of unworked out issues as you have to rapidly figure out how to be in integrity with yourself while dealing with the major shifts of the path. You can't cop out on yourself at this point.

But most people have been neglecting themselves for a good portion of their lives. Think of this: You go to a job you hate every day. Other than getting resources to support you, you're pretty much copping out on yourself. You're not showing up for you. For 40 hours or more a week, you aren't showing up because you've sold out what you really want to do. Heck, you may not even know what you want to do. You probably don't know who you are. How can you even show up for yourself if you don't know who you are?

The Downward Spiral and Lost Souls
It's pretty bleak out in the world in some ways. Consciousness is like a giant flashlight illuminating all the ways that we've given up on ourselves and gotten lost. Greed, control, hate, fear, and power have spiraled us downward, and you probably don't see an easy way out. You're right. It's probably not going to be easy for our global human community. But showing up for yourself is the first step to global change, and you're worth it. I'm not even talking about showing up in any particularly "spiritual" way (although ultimately all things are spiritual, and the depth of sacredness comes with the depth of our mindfulness). I mean you need to stop and look at your life.
  • Are you where you want to be? 
  • Have you ever been where you want to be? 
  • Do you have the friendships and relationships around you that you want? 

Take a hard look.

It's easy to blame life and say that the world has somehow not given you what you want, but that's a cop out. You're giving up your responsibility to you. It's time to take it back. You've played a role in creating your life situation, and you need to own that. You need to take a look at how you've made choices that have led up to this, and now you need to show up. You need to show up and take responsibility of the mess. It's time to get the shovel to start digging out.

Spirituality on the Integral Path
Integrating spirituality means bringing it into all aspects of life. This doesn't mean preaching to people about what you believe (although it could mean that for some). It means that you're practicing loving kindness and connecting in meaningful ways with people on more than just Sunday morning church or Wednesday night meditation. It means showing up in every way, every day. If someone needs your help and you say that you'll give it, show up. If you don't, you're not really being spiritual. There are plenty of people who use the term "spiritual," but when things get hard or serious, they're out the door at the first chance. Or they never even got to the porch. This is just an ego layer that likes to show up for "spiritual" retreats, events, and fun stuff, but otherwise, this person isn't integrating the truth of spirituality into their life. It's kind of like a new form of thrill-seeking or state-enhancement. The new drug for some people really is spirituality.

Making a Commitment to Yourself, to the World
One of the deepest truths on the spiritual path is that we are all interconnected; we are all one. In that sense, making a commitment to yourself is also making a commitment to the world. Making a commitment to the world is making a commitment to yourself. If you don't help yourself and nourish yourself when you need it, you're not showing up for yourself and the world. If you don't show up for a meeting at work because you don't feel like it, you're not showing up for yourself or the world (represented by your work). Integrity to all these things is important. How you navigate through this process to maintain clarity about what you can and can't do and what is and is not right for you can be tricky. But it's essential.

Awakening Brings a Major Shift Towards Integrity
For those of you in awakening, you're going to be in the midst of a radical shift towards inner integrity. Anything that you were doing that does not align with it will fall out of your life. Initially, it can be really frustrating because some of the old thought structures may still be saying that you should do this or that. The deeper you will be coming forward and letting you know where you were right or wrong. There are a lot of people who've been very self-sacrificing who suddenly can't help others in the way that they'd done before. This can happen because that self-sacrifice was actually draining them, and those weren't good relationships for them in the first place.

For instance, someone has been giving money to someone else to help them through a difficult time, but in doing so, they were taking on more financial burden than they could really handle. They may also have been stopping the other person from learning how to deal with their financial issues. Suddenly, the giving person realizes that they can't give to this other person anymore. It can be surprising, and of course, the other person may be upset that they're no longer getting these resources. This is where things can get messy, but it's an important part of clearing out issues in life and showing up for one's self.


Showing Up Is Just the Beginning
I suppose that I was lucky to have had two parents who knew how to show up for stuff on time. It taught me a foundational practice that has served me well in life. I remember a yoga teacher commenting to me that one of the great things about me as a student was that I "showed up." So in my own life, I've gradually come to realize what a gift this is, but it really was just the beginning. It got me to the doorstep of bigger things in my life. It can do the same for you. It starts by admitting that you're important and that you know what you need to do. Underneath all the external stuff and issues that you've buried in yourself, your inner knowing is waiting for you just to show up.
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