Monday, August 15, 2011

Losing Yourself in Spiritual Experiences

One of the things that happens to all of us on the spiritual path is that we have some amazing experiences. We get to connect to ourselves, to moments, and to others very deeply. It's intoxicating. At some point, we wrap up these experiences with the term "spiritual." We begin to segregate out certain experiences as spiritual and others as non-spiritual. Initially, this isn't all bad because I'm quite sure that most people aren't living in integrity with themselves and the world at the start. So to segregate out helping others as spiritual and hurting others as not-spiritual isn't a bad first step, but as we develop our paths, we have to be careful not to get caught up in these delineations.


Spiritual Thrill-Seeking
There is no doubt that having a moment of deep union or connection is awesome. Who wouldn't want to feel that way all the time? It is, however, only a state of consciousness. We all have many states of consciousness through which we move and grow. As we develop ourselves, we learn to accept all of them. The deeper we let go and allow all experiences, the more deeply we can connect with any experience. This is heavy stuff, but a lot of times, we may find that deeply traumatic experiences are sometimes the most "spiritual" or connected. I've had people talk to me about how things get so crystal clear and beautiful even as they are grieving a family member or losing an intimate relationship. In some way, this added trauma forces us into intense presence and acceptance of a moment, and with that can come an opening or even awakening.

But for most people, they get a little taste of something considered to be "spiritual" and away they go running off to retreats, "spiritual" places, or even events like Burning Man, searching for that feeling. In so may ways, we end up searching for a feeling in the external world. But the spiritual experience is always within us. Spirituality is always an invitation to go within.

Wandering Off Into the Wilderness
But social conditioning can be so bad that even when some of us turn to the spiritual path, we go looking for external reinforcement and encouragement. Not all external encouragement is a bad thing, but the only way you ever can really know if you're on the path meant for you is to look within your heart. What does your heart tell you? If you don't know, then it's time to do some work on that area to find out what's in your heart. If you don't do that work, it's easy to be lured off by someone telling you that they're going to give you some kind of experience or an 8-Step Program to Enlightenment in 30 Days. Sheesh. What baloney. No one can give you a path like that. Only you can. Certainly there are many wonderful programs out there with tips and techniques, and if you find one that works for you, then that's beautiful. But you are always the owner of your spiritual path, and the easiest way to get lost again is to start following someone else around and doing everything they say regardless of what your heart tells you.


Spiritual Teacher Phonies and the Subversion of the Spiritual Path
Which leads naturally to the topic of what a phony is. Obviously, we've seen enough spiritual teachers through the news and history who have used their authority to enhance their own status in life in some way. The way they can do this is by you giving up your power to them. You usually do this because you think you can get some kind of spiritual experience, sense of safety, or even social approval by trusting in this figure. However, no true spiritual teacher really wants anything (if it weren't for how this world is set up, most of us wouldn't be interested in donations either--we do this work because we are here to do this work and we love it). Real spiritual teachers don't want to control you or make you do something through fear. They can activate these emotions in you for sure, which is also why doing your work is so important. You need to do your internal work to know where a feeling is coming from and what it is really telling you. Is it telling you something about another person, or is really just some old fear unlocked from your childhood days in relationship to your father? You see. There are some important distinctions to be made, and you can only do those when you trust your heart and own your path.

Coming Back to Center
So, you're coming back from your latest retreat or are all dusty for the Playa from Burning Man, and now you're crashing down from that energy. This is actually the best time to come back to center. This is a great time to sit in meditation and check in with what's going on inside. All this external energy has been moving and swirling, and now, it's time to see where you're really at. Who are you? Do you know? Or were lost in an event and in sensations? If so, then this "spiritual" experience wasn't a finding yourself, but a way to forget what you don't want to be. Was this event a way to forget the life you currently have, but don't want to have? It's important to know how much you're embracing a situation versus running away from another. Too many people come to the spiritual path thinking that it'll make them better somehow. It won't. Not in the way that you think it will. It strips away things. You'll feel like you're losing everything. But truly, you're stripping away all those things that are standing in the way of your center of your True self. This can be confusing for the spiritual thrill-seeker, and as past times go, it's not a bad hobby. But it won't get you what you really want. What you really want is waiting inside you.

Moving From the Inside Out
All spiritual experiences come from within. That's where we are. What happens in the world will please at times and displease at others. That's just how duality works. Some things meet the conditions of our minds as pleasurable; others are considered unpleasurable. The deeper bliss we all can feel is underneath our sternums. It's in our hearts and our souls. From there, we are always in stillness, and we are always in connection with spirit. That's where the spiritual experience that we all truly want is. So as you are enjoying all the amazing events, kirtan chants, meditations, retreats, yoga practices, and what not, just remember that in their truest sense, they are only a reflection of what's happening within. If you want a truly profound spiritual experience, bring your attention and your energy to the center of you. Bring it to that vulnerable, loving, beautiful core of you. As you do this, everything around you from walking the dog to paying your bills can become just as beautiful and spiritual experience as anything else that moves through your life, and you will be able to have it at any time that you wish.
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