As many of you have gone on your spiritual journeys, some of you may have gone astray with misinformation or with simply overflowing the mind with ideas and practices. In this spirituality blog, I hope to help you take a few steps back and return to the inherent simplicity of being that is the truth of the spiritual path.
If you are looking for a spiritual tradition with a particular ideology or with absolute clarity for every situation, you will be disappointed. Because every spiritual tradition is fallible, and no tradition can predict every situation that may arise on this planet. So the learning has to be for another reason. It can't be a pursuit of safety, love, perfection, or enlightenment. It must, instead, arise from love and the perfection you already are. From that place, learning spiritual information of different kinds may interest you, or it may not. You may not be very eloquent about explaining the spiritual path or how you know what you know because not everyone is meant to be a Truth-sharer. This is fine. All that matters is that the deeper inner knowing within you is alive and well and listened to.
Goal Seeking and Self ImprovementThe misinformed spiritual seeker is the one who thinks that there is something to gain or achieve. This individual gets stuck on trying to achieve a particular level of awareness. There are different levels of awareness, but when allowed and when we are naturally growing, we move to those levels on our own. That's part of what awakening does; it shifts you towards your natural level of awareness. I like to use nature as a metaphor for a lot of these things. So if you are a pumpkin vine, you will grow a certain way. A peach tree will grow another way. Their lifespans and life cycles are very different, but they are both beautiful parts of this world. I encourage you to think of this as you go on your spiritual path because it'll help you from using other people as a goal for where you need to be. Certainly there are some amazing spiritual teachers to offer you comfort and embodied examples of what awakened people look like and how they are. But that's enough. You can never be them. You can only be you.
I would say that some self improvement is helpful for many people early on, so we aren't throwing out helpful tools on the path. But if certain tools helped you to overcome alcoholism, later on, they may not be as useful. As I often say, we use scaffolding to help us build the house, but once it is built, we don't leave the scaffolding up. The attitude of self improvement is a type of scaffolding as well. It helps us to start to turn inwards, but as we naturally develop and things shift, less and less energy is needed to improve anything as we melt into the presence that simply is and always has been.
The Over-Informed Spiritual Seeker's Constant SeekingThe over-informed spiritual seeker intellectually has gathered huge amounts of information. This spiritual seeker may also have experienced numerous types of spiritual experiences. This is a wonderful past-time, but it should be understood as such. Being able to quote the Bhagavad Gita from memory or read the Old Testament in its original Hebrew form are wonderful levels of intellectualism. If this is fun and enjoyable for you, I can only encourage to continue doing it. Following your love with curiosity is part of the gift of this world, but it will not take you to enlightenment. Only when you turn within and away from the words of others will you find what you have been seeking. Because no matter how good it feels to sit with a teacher and a community in satsang, what matters more is if you continue to hold that level of love and awareness. Or does changing to a different situation mean you drop to that level of consciousness? Or do you try to remain aloof from all this unconscious junk? The awakened awareness embraces all. It does not need words, techniques, or reasons for loving everything as it is, and that's precisely what all true teachings and teachers have been pointing you back towards.
Slaying the Spiritual TeacherI was listening to YouTube video when a student in the video mentioned the need to slay the spiritual teacher. This, of course, is not physical. This is the slaying of the idea of the spiritual teacher. This is slaying the need for a spiritual teacher. This slaying of the projection of your own beauty and perfection that many of you put upon the teacher. In so doing, you begin to reclaim the totality of your own love. When no thing and no one can give you this and you fully realize it, you are finally and unequivocally turning towards the spiritual path.
Some of you may ask, "What do you mean 'turning towards?' Aren't I already on it?" Ultimately, we're all always on it, but until you truly go within and know that all your answers lie there, you're not really walking the true the spiritual path. You are distracting yourself with new ideas, relationships, and other games. You may be using the idea of the spiritual path as a way to avoid actually being it. As I always tell people, there are far worse things you could be doing, but I am not here to cheerlead. I'm hear to show you the way to everything you've ever wanted or desired, and the great news is that you have it already. It should be quite a relief to many of you to know that you don't have to go anywhere, sign up for anything, or join some new online or local community to find the love that you are.
The Rebirth of Usefulness of Spiritual ToolsThe irony of this is now that you no longer feel like you need a spiritual tradition, practice, or teacher is that you can now truly benefit from them. Because the misinformed seeker is constantly looking outside him or herself for answers, he/she can't hear the truth. They can reject and accept the wrong parts of a teaching based on their ego preferences. As you look within, you can hear your inner knowing even more clearly, so the truth in teachings and teachers becomes apparent to you. The rest can be left behind. Consequently, this makes your spiritual practice even more powerful and profound. You will also be able to more easily determine when you are blocking the truth or trying not to hear it. The problem with many spiritual seekers is that they're just interested in the latest spiritual flavor of the month and the minute they feel slightly upset about something, they abandon the practice, teacher, or whatever it is they are exploring. In going within in sincerity, the spiritual seeker becomes a spiritual finder and learns to see these blindspots.
Continued Misunderstanding of the Spiritual PathYet, for all these words, I know many of you haven't sincerely gone within. Those of you in awakening have been forced inside, and many of you will have to learn to let go of the tendency to seek your validation and answers from others. All your most important knowing is within you. Most of the rest of the stuff outside is just information that may or may not be useful, and still more of it are projections of other people's realities that have nothing to do with you. There are yet other spiritual seekers who are just trying to create a new, safer, or better ego that somehow makes them feel better. So the born again Christian swears off Christianity to become a dyed-in-the-wool New Age astrologist. The devote Atheist becomes a hard-core Zen Buddhist. The clothes and names change, but the lack of true inner looking remains. The spiritual seeking continues.
The Arising of UnderstandingUnderstanding in and of itself is a kind of spiritual realization. It is a kind of connection between an idea and something deeper in us. When we truly understand a situation or person, it goes beyond words, does it not? Thus, I cannot say that spiritual seeking is an unworthy journey because for some of you, understanding may arise at some point along the way. Suddenly, there will be this moment after all the texts, teachers, and retreats where something drops in and something moves up. Then, you'll be like, "Oh, I really don't need all of that." It may be startling. The ego may decide to swear all this spirituality stuff off as years and years of time wasted, but this is where the moment of freedom is. So if you ever feel this moment, don't give up on spirituality. Turn within. Yes, don't worry about wearing new spiritual robes or continuing to wear the current ones you have on. Yes, don't worry about if you remember all of the parts of the Eight-Fold Path or all of the astrological signs. But do get curious about this sudden awareness that does not need anything. Get curious about this sudden space where perhaps you don't know who you are any more. If you aren't a spiritual seeker or part of this or that community, then who are you? Yes. Good. Sit here in this for awhile, and perhaps you will transform into a spiritual finder.
The nature photo comes from my friend and reader, Becky Stiller. Feel free to check out her beautiful work on this flickr link.