Monday, May 30, 2011

Addictive Qualities of the Spiritual Path: Feeling Good Never Felt SO Good

For anyone starting out or for anyone in awakening, you most likely have had an experience on the spiritual path that felt really good. Most likely. Some people at the very beginning are either seeking deep healing that nothing else can provide or simply haven't happened upon a big opening experience. Don't worry. You will. For the rest, you probably can still remember this seminal experience. Maybe it was a meditation when you suddenly felt very still and quiet. Maybe it was in a yoga practice in downward dog for the 5th minute when you felt this massive energy shift in your body. Maybe it was something else. But whatever it was, you probably--almost definitely--want to have it back.

Spirituality and Awakening: There's No Drug Quite Like It
I remember a friend saying that awakening was better than any drug that she'd ever had and she's completely sober during it. It's true. No drug can compare to spirituality. And perhaps that's why it becomes the most addictive. When you've spent so much of your life in pain, to suddenly realize that you've been in pain and then release it is hugely uplifting. You feel amazing. I've had parts of fear leave my body, and it feels so visceral that I feel physically lighter. It's amazing to feel so open and at ease with my body in a way that I couldn't have possibly imagined. And of course I want more.

Those of you who are seeking healing can be blown away by just how good you feel in one of these moments. It's like mending a broken bone. Suddenly, you can stand. Suddenly you can start to walk again. So you seek out more spiritual experiences to mend other bones and to find out what it might be like to one day run. Truly, the ranges and the amazing powers of spirituality are unlike anything else. But there's a catch.

The Self Improvement Trap
I love to take shots at "self improvement" for this reason: it's never ending. You can always be "improving" yourself in some way. You can get smarter. You can get more flexible. You can learn more. You can go more places and learn how to be with more and more people. These are wonderful things to do, but that's not spirituality. The depth of spirituality is learning how to connect with ourselves and fully accept ourselves in this moment. So where you had an amazing moment in yoga once, you cannot continue to strive to achieve that moment again. It's passed. And you can't denigrate all other moments in yoga as "not as good." Placing that value structure around it will only make you miserable. You'll become a perpetual spiritual seeker trying to get back to that moment and that feeling. That's the addictive quality of the spiritual path, and this is one of the key ways that people get lost.

Learning to Accept Every Moment as Spiritual
I know that people who haven't been doing anything with spirituality love to use the above subhead as an escape to get out of their obligation to themselves. They'll say, "Well if every moment is spiritual, then I don't have to do anything." I think the masters would say, "That's fine. Ultimately, all paths lead to the same place." So if you want to fool yourself into complacency and hide from the big issues that you've got, ultimately, this too is spiritual. And ultimately, it's your life, and you can live it anyway that you want. You can hurt others and hurt yourselves, and eventually, you'll come to the truth through that path of pain.

For those of you who don't want to walk the path of pain, I encourage you to accept every moment as it is. This isn't complacency. When you fully accept that you're in a car wreck, you can clearly see what to do next. If you're lost trying to not believe what's happened or deny it, then you'll sit in you car for the next several minutes saying, "This can't be happening to me" when you could be helping yourself, getting help for another, or whatever else needs to be done in that moment. In many ways, people live in denial of their whole lives. They say, "This can't be happening. This isn't the moment I really want. This isn't the experience I really want." Yet they go and do jobs they hate and stay in relationships they hate that just make them more and more miserable. And then a big festival or vacation comes around they go crazy for awhile, have a big "spiritual" experience, and wish that they could always have that all the time.

Everyday Spirituality: Living in the Moment
The truth is that you can have immense stillness and love within you every day. It is, in many ways, your choice to do so. But you can't compare moments. You can't seek a certain type of experience and call that one "spiritual" and not the rest. That's just a new ego game--it's the game of the ego that thinks it is spiritual. But in actuality, it's just another materialistic ego. Instead of seeking a fun girls night out, you're now seeking enlightenment. You've re-wrapped the same box with different gift wrap. What's inside is still the same. But do you even know what's inside?

And yet, in spaces of healing when we release old pain and old wounds, the rush of energy that comes from those moments is powerful. You may not feel moments quite like that again because, quite frankly, you're healthy. You don't need to heal like that again, and for those of you in awakening, as your vibration settles down, you don't have the sense of higher and lower experiences as much. I refer to this as integrating your awakening. If your vibration is now settled at a higher place, then to have the same experience won't create the differential that made you feel so amazing before.

A Spiritual Explanation Using High Numerical Values
Here, let's try this explanation with numbers. Please remember that this is totally made up, and unfortunately, it is more hierarchical than I'd like to make it. But let's give it a go.

Your energy level is at 1 (out of 10).

You have a spiritual experience that lifts you to a vibration of 4 out of 10.

Yay! That's amazing. I want to feel that way. But your spirit remembers this way of being, and you learn to shift into that space.

You have the same experience, but now it's at the same vibration as you. So you still feel like a 4 out of 10. You're like, "What happened? I don't really feel anything or not like before."

You do more experimenting. You find something else that lifts you to an 8 out of 10. Wow! This totally knocked your socks off.

Then you do the other experience, and suddenly, it doesn't actually feel good at all. It feels either neutral or maybe even draining.

You can see where I'm going. And then there's a certain point of stillness (that has nothing to do with numerical value, mind you :). When you settle into it, all experiences are the same, but you still have your preferences and ways of being that resonate more deeply than others. You can do them or not do them, and it's the same to you. The desire that has been playing out underneath all of this as a means of self-fulfillment has been revealed to you, and you are no longer operating by it. You are free of it. And now you are free of your spiritual addiction.
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