When an awakened soul looks at any spiritual tradition, religion, or other structured path, they can see the truth here as well, and this is a powerful thing. Because now, the individual can find the truth and tools they really need and leave the useless doctrine that only serves egos and structures behind.
The Removal of Illusions Around Spiritual Traditions
Let's be boldly honest; there's a lot of spiritual traditions that are filled with ego crap. That's probably how you ended up on this blog. I do my best to be honest and clear while limiting my own ego crap. It's always an imperfect thing to be a human being, but I do my best. Most people don't even do that much, and that includes various anointed spiritual leaders of different traditions. I am not going to berate any traditions or religions in this blog. But I am going to say that many of you who wake up will see what is valuable and helpful in these spiritual systems while being clear about what is not useful. Spiritually-awake people can easily become very religious, but for many, that simply means having structured and disciplined spiritual practices. It doesn't mean following one religion to the exclusion of all others. That only happens if a person feels called to do it, but even then, the awakened person still sees the beauty in other traditions.
Personally, I don't hold to any one tradition. I prefer to use what is useful and leave the robes and most of the structures behind. As many of you will note, Jesus wasn't starting a religion. He was just trying to get out there and get stuff done. He didn't stand around collecting money from the rich all day; he hung out with the lepers, healing people. While we're not all going to do that type of work as awakened people, it's simply a reminder of what one of the great archetypes of awakened, loving living was doing.
For that matter, the Buddha wasn't starting a religion either, as far as I know. He was just out there teaching because it was what he was called to do, and I'm pretty sure that he'd already gone through a lot of local spiritual traditions, finding what was useful and leaving the rest (like extreme asceticism) behind.
Finding Useful Spiritual ToolsAs an awakened being, when you trust yourself, finding spiritual tools is easy. They will appear. There isn't a need for a great struggle. If anything, we are letting go of the thing that is doing the struggling--the ego. That may mean you will check out lots of different spiritual traditions and religions as you find the tools you need. This can be a great time of reconciliation with religion if you've felt ostracized or otherwise disillusioned with religion before. It won't mean conversion. Rather it will be much easier for you to see what is beautiful and useful in a religion and apply that in purifying and enhancing your spiritual life. The rest just washes away. It's not real, even if others are still completely committed and lost in their rites and traditions. Consider the idea of being nourished by spirit in your body (aka communion). It's a beautiful rite, and it acts as a reminder that we are spirit and our whole heart, body, mind, and spirit needs regular nourishment.
But if an individual gets lost in the idea that you're somehow eating Jesus (transubstantiation), then we're losing the importance of nourishing yourself spiritually and are replacing it with a hierarchical idea of Jesus. In essence, we're worshiping another person as being better than us, and that is not the truth. We are all equal. That was part of the point of Jesus working with the lowest of the low; he was showing that we are all equal, and we don't need to be anointed as being worthy of acceptance or love by another. We are all deserving of love, for we are all love in its purity.
Challenged in Challenging WaysIt's a little redundant, but in the awakened space, we will be challenged in challenging ways. We often find challenges from the very "spiritual" people who we thought would understand us best. But unawakened spiritual people can be extremely unconscious. In this space, they are dedicated to the structure and doctrine of their tradition more than the truth of their tradition. They, of course, don't see it that way. They presume that their way is the right way and also presume that a variety of bad things will happen to other people for not following their way. That, of course, is fine. That is their path, but for those who are awake and are seeing reality with surprising clarity, you may be shocked at first. All I can say is to leave them be. Let everyone follow their own paths. So long as there is no near, clear, and present danger to you, then you continue on your journey.
I know that some of you live in areas where this is a lot of spiritual intolerance, so it will be a challenge to you to just authentically be yourself at times. All I can say is that if you don't, others are unlikely to do it either. Many of you are pioneers, and all of these challenges are much like clearing a road where no road existed before. Consider that if you are being challenged as you awakened that you are meant to face these challenges. It's not fatalistic; rather it is an encouragement to embrace what is before you. Because as you do, you light a lantern for others to follow, and there many be more awakened people like yourself nearby who simply couldn't see you until you held up your lantern high, yet humbly so.
The Impudence of AwakenednessThere is no false humility in an awakened person. You aren't going to hide or kowtow to lost liars in robes. Most of the time we don't look for fights with others around spiritual topics; what is there really to gain in a set of ego arguments, anyway? But there will be times that you hear the calling in your heart to speak. I encourage you to trust it. Just as I follow that calling to write here (and trust me not all my emails are as kind as what most of you send me), I encourage you to speak your truth from the awakened space. It will very likely challenge a lot of other viewpoints. People have this very narrow-minded understanding of harmony. They think it means that we all will agree in our ideas. This will never happen. Ideas are always in flux, changing, and otherwise heavily influenced by viewpoints and upbringing. Rather, we are moving towards a deeper harmony with life, which can accept all the conflicts as part of the shifting of the river water. I won't say that you will need to speak out in any profound ways, but you never know what life will be asking of you. And I don't want to leave you with the idea that you should passively let every word go by unanswered. Some things require you to speak and to stand up because as I said, until someone holds up a lantern, much of the rest of the path and the world around is still quite dark.
Moving Through Different Spiritual PracticesAwakening can make you intensely committed to the spiritual path, but not to a particular spiritual tradition. For those of us who truly have embraced the awakening, there really is this strong aspiration to embrace the wholeness of it and to not let a speck of darkness remain. It's a powerful inward commitment, although to people around you it may look like you can't settle on anything. But as I've mentioned on this blog before, internal success doesn't look the same as external success. So do not worry if your work with a Buddhist meditation group is finished in three weeks. It may be time for two months going to a Roman Catholic church.
You aren't marrying a religion on this path. You're marrying yourself. And you're marrying God. After that, everything else is simply a stick or a leaf floating past on the river of your life.
Untethered From EverythingOf course, you are untethered from everything in awakening, not just spiritual doctrine. That's the power of it. It strips away from you every attachment. Many of you immediately try to get re-attached to stuff again--relationships, jobs, etc.--right after that untethering. That's just old programming, and if you're lucky, all that stuff will keep blowing up in your face until you truly embrace the freedom of having no attachments. This too is often confused as being with out commitment, but that is not the case. Rather, you are committed to the whole of life with an open hand. Whatever life sends, you freely receive. The strength of that hand in the awakened space can protect and hold up anything. When it is time to release something, the open hand allows the thing to freely go.
Attachment is the reverse. It is a closed fist that has difficulty accepting new things (change) or letting go (another form of change). Do you see what I mean? If not, feel free to leave a comment, and we'll talk more. The main takeaway is that everything you've been attached to--including spiritual doctrine, 20 years of meditation, 30 years of regular church attendance--dissolves in awakening. In this space, if you choose to meditate or go to church, that is fine, but you will do it because it is what your soul truly wants, not what you think you should do to be a good spiritual person. You are already a beautiful spiritual person. The external exercises often obscure that instead of illuminating it.
So as you melt into awakened space further, trust this untethering. Trust that you will find the right spiritual practices and traditions for you, and trust that your path is unfolding just as it should.
This picture is gift from Becky Stiller. You can see more of her photography on this Flickr link.