Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Dirty, Dirty of the Spiritual Path

I like to talk about the muck of the spiritual path. The real muck. Not the "oh my knees hurt from this 7 hour, silent meditation retreat" difficulties. Those to me are potentially silly. They potentially are escapist spirituality of the worst kind. But I'm getting ahead of myself, and I'm not intending to devalue spiritual retreats. They offer a very important place in our society, and I encourage all of you to attend a few to get a sense of what it's like to step out of the rat-race of society and experience a much more peaceful way of being with yourself and others.

No, I'm talking about the real muck that's inside all of us. I'm talking about how we deal with these internal issues and change our everyday lives so that we can live in more joy and happiness because we're no longer so caught up in our BS. That's the dirty, dirty of the spiritual path, and we've got plenty of work to do.

No Mucky Corner Left Out on the Spiritual Path
One of the problems that I see in more "established" spiritual paths is an unwillingness to deal with a lot of heavy subject matter. Just about anything that goes on below the belt is either anathema, unwieldy, or needs to be denied in some way. True spirituality embraces everything. So if you have sexual trauma or sexual shame, you need to embrace those feelings. You need to heal that level of yourself, not abandon it for self-enforced celibacy. There are all kinds of ways that you need to heal a sexual or physical issue. The mind, heart, and body all heal in different ways, and while meditation is nice for finding your center, it should be considered a launching point to actually dig into your issues.

Multiple Spiritual Tools for Different Issues
You're going to find out that your issues are deeply intertwined. It's a humbling thing. It's like when you've broken a bone in your body, but you didn't address it. So you compensated with another part of your body, which began to get stressed. Then you compensated with some other parts of your body, stressing those. Then suddenly one of them breaks down, so you're addressing that issue. And you need to, but now you're following the thread back to the source. And each area of you that compensated will need to be healed in its own way.

For instance, you at some point decided that you don't like the color red. You've actually made a big deal out of it by not buying red clothing, furniture, and what-not. You've started the spiritual path; you've started to question the choices you've made without thinking. So you follow this thread back. You try on red-colored clothing, and you're actually scared. Now, it's time to break out the journal to figure out what this fear is about. Maybe you talk with some close friends. You follow this fear back, and you realize that you didn't always not wear red. It started when a friend told you that you looked bad in that color. Now, you're unraveling what that statement was about and why the friend said it. If you're still in touch, maybe you call that person. Perhaps, you're starting to wear red again to work through this issue that you now understand is about fear. And digging deeper it's about fear of social rejection.

Phew...all this from what color sweater you might wear, right?

The Spiritual Shovel Digs It All Out
The above example may seem a little trivial, but I wanted to give you a sense of how intertwined things become in our lives and often built up off of misconceptions and small moments that made us feel uncomfortable. Everything is interconnected, and subsequently, to stand in the fullness of your light and love, you're going to have to dig out all the crap that's sitting on top of that light and love. I like to remind people that spirituality won't take you away from pain; it'll take you through it.

And if you're starting the spiritual path because you think it's going to be all roses and rainbows, you've got another thing coming. The spiritual path won't make your life easier. It'll help you to accept your life as it is. From a profound sense of acceptance, we stop resisting life. In this way, it is "easier," but we still have plenty of challenges in life. We'll still run across unkind people, get honked at on the freeway, and have people and situations that otherwise don't make us feel loved. But the deeper realization that we come to is that the world doesn't hold our approval or love. We do. When we open into that space, things profoundly change.

The Spiritual Escapist: The Next New Drug
Yet still, many of you will hope that you can just surf on retreat high-states all your life. You'll confuse this as an "enlightened" feeling, and you'll be constantly trying to get that feeling back. I believe that this is one of the ways that people define addiction. I mean there are certainly worse forms of addiction to have (heroin, for example), but it still perpetuates a core error in understanding. You're still looking for life to make you happy. You're now thinking that "spirituality" will make you happy.

In it's truest sense, spirituality will make you happy because you no longer will need to be made happy. You'll see happiness as a personal choice even in the most difficult times. But in the everyday world where you're defining one thing as spiritual and another thing as not spiritual, you'll now encounter a new misery. It'll become more and more apparent that fewer and fewer people live in this "spiritual" world, and it can become increasingly easy to isolate from all these "unenlightened" folk who are bashing into things and causing a mess. I'll always say that getting some space from the madness is helpful, but in its deepest sense, spirituality will take you right back into the maelstrom. We use retreats and time in nature to center ourselves, and then we head back in because we're part of the whole. There is no part of this world that doesn't deserve our love and attention.

Developing Your Spiritual Practice and Facing Your Issues
Now's a good time to get a journal (does he always have to mention the journal?) and write out your fears, sadnesses, desires, angers, and all that other crap. Get it in front of you. You may also talk to close friends to get a better feel for your blindspots. I wrote a post about 5 Tips to Find Your Blindspots that you can check out on this link. It's so important to find out what's following behind you. Not everything you can't see about yourself is bad either, and I'm not telling you to ignore all the good and beautiful things inside you. But for the sake of this post, I'm warning you not to get caught up in seeking just "good feeling spiritual experiences." All experiences are ultimately spiritual, and how you choose to be with them will define a great deal in your life. You can allow them fully to come and go, or you can fall back into attachment, grasping, and desire. From that space, you'll always be unhappy (Oh if you have questions about what desire is, check this post out).

Keeping It Simple: Chipping Away at It One Issue at a Time
As you dig down into the core issues that you have, fears et al., you may feel a little overwhelmed. You may want them to all just be over with. You won't be alone in that feeling, but the reason you're feeling these things is that you probably didn't feel them fully the first time around. You blocked them out and repressed them. Now, they're bubbling back up to the surface. It becomes a very interesting practice in learning how to see the issue clearly, experience it without reacting, and then letting it go. Because most issues really are old news. We just got them stuck in our energy bodies and even our physical bodies. So, now you have to let them go without constantly getting stuck on this story about how your father treated you. You're grown up. It's over with. Move on. This isn't meant to sound harsh; it is meant to be blunt and direct. You will most likely find that you're hanging on to a lot of pain because it defines your ego identity, and who are you without that ego? Ah, who indeed? But that's a topic for another blog post.

Digging in the Mud: Cultivating Space for Spiritual Awakening
Digging in the mud is how we create a fertile space for awakening to grow up and bloom. If you don't do it now, you'll be doing it during awakening. A lot of people have to heal and clear simultaneously with the expanding force of awakening. It is, quite simply, exhausting. The more you do to heal yourself and be a more open and loving person, the easier it can be for you if awakening does come. Think of it like having a really messy home right now. There's junk everywhere. Now imagine that you're going to double the size of your house and do major renovations on every floor. Can you think of how much work it would be to be simultaneously cleaning the whole house and renovating at the same time? That's kind of what awakening is like when we haven't faced our issues.

And spiritual awakening shouldn't be a goal in any of this anyway. It can't be. It's not a goal. It's a state of being. Doing your work to heal yourself and clear old issues will bring its own openings and additional energies that you had no idea lived inside you. That's the gift of doing the spiritual work in the dirty, dirty parts of yourself. And that's why regardless of what unfolds for your path, it will always be deeply rewarding to put on your heavy gloves and boots and shovel out all this gunk that has weighed you down your whole life.
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