There are many glamours and much disinformation about what walking a spiritual path involves. Time to be more grounded about it.
The spiritual path is about cooperating with our higher self and its part in the divine plan. It is not about our personalities per se, except in how we can change them to be better suited to this task. It is a long-term goal, taking place over many lives, with each life only dealing with some aspects. That means that we in our personality will not become
perfected, but hopefully become more cooperative and learn to express as much of our higher self as we can.
In each life we are being schooled in what it takes to create at the physical level, and how we progress from an idea to manifestation.
Most lessons in understanding the mechanics of the process of creation require several lives of becoming immersed in the depths of personality life, before finally realising how far from our true selves we have strayed.
The main implications of this process are:
- a.During the initial lives of this process, we are thoroughly caught up in the attractions of what we are learning about
- b.We are blind to how the indulgence creates difficulties for ourselves and others, otherwise we wouldn't go to the depths we need
- c.At later lives, we begin to understand the grief that we have when we lose the indulgence opportunities is a natural part of the process
- d.We eventually realise that it is our attachments that create the pain and suffering we feel, and that we also create that in others
- e.While we understand the process, and perhaps no longer create the problems, we are still going to have to deal with the consequences of what we created in the past.
Fortunately, each personality life is spared from remembering actions performed in previous lives. While that makes it difficult to see the cause and effect process at play, it does stop us being overwhelmed by how much pain we have caused in the past, otherwise we would just collapse with grief. In a single life we will be dealing with several such threads, each in varying stages in the process. That means that while we seem to have some wisdom in some aspect of our lives, we can be quite immature in others.
Of course, every other person is going through the same process. Understanding that, we can hopefully be more tolerant of ourselves and others when we or they don't live up to our expectations. Forgiveness is putting that understanding into practice, though that does not mean we shouldn't be wary. We can all relapse if circumstances challenge us too much.
In effect we are all fulfilling our spiritual destiny by just living our lives, going about what can seem rather mundane at times. However, the true spiritual path is about consciously and deliberately living in accordance with values and actions that allow our higher self to be the controller of our lives and manifest in what we create.
After many lives, we start to understand that there are bigger forces at play.
It is after we have had innumerable opportunities to understand the mechanics of working with the physical, emotional and mental aspects of our personalities that we are confronted with how limited in understanding we really are. We become aware of how we seem to be swept around in the world by forces seemingly beyond our control.
While in other lives, the
Why are we here? questions about our existence will have come and gone, we come into a life where some of them must be answered, to some extent. We can no longer just indulge ourselves in the hope they go away. They keep getting brought to our attention. That is when we are prompted to pay more than lip-service to them, but actually do something serious about getting some answers. Something might happen that challenges us to do more than respond with bravado or push back. We are forced to look within.
That can be very daunting for those used to relying upon validation from others, as it means we have to start facing who we really are, rather than the carefully manufactured self-image we present to ourselves and others. The challenge really comes down to what we consider our identity is, and which we have believed ourselves to be for so long that we have forgotten that there could be any other.
Living a spiritual life is about living a life in the truth of what we really are and what we should be doing while we are here.
Unfortunately, we carry a lot of guilt about what we have done that we shouldn't have, and what we should have done. Living a spiritual life is about pealing back those layers so that we are free to be who we really are. Of course, it took us a very, very, very long time to build up those layers, so it will take many lives to peel them back and discard them. Fortunately, our higher selves don't expect our personalities to learn how to do that too quickly.
The process of re-establishing knowledge of our true identity is helped by all the understanding we have gained in the past, so it will be much shorter than what we did to get so enmeshed. What stands in our way are what we keep holding on to, but which we need to let go of because it can no longer help us.
There are many religions supposedly devoted to helping us walk a spiritual path, with long histories and strong organisational backing, many times from the governments of the day. Unfortunately, their structures have become powerful, and can tend to favour maintaining their power, rather than furthering the spiritual growth of their followers. Hence, it is wise to proceed with caution, and only take on what we really feel comfortable with, despite what pressure may be brought to bear to conform to prescribed thoughts, behaviours and actions.
The path is not extremes, being none of utmost sacrifice nor indulgence nor opulence. We are not really trying to prove anything to anybody else, but free ourselves from our own constraints of mind. Our higher self knows where we are on the path. Almost everyone else has no clue! So focus upon the higher self and what it sees. All activity on the inner should facilitate that process. Outer activities should help keep us grounded so that we proceed with balance. Slow and steady is what will produce the best results.
There are many ideas that people associate with the path, so some need to be addressed here.
Many see pictures of Shaolin monks and marvel at their ability to handle pain. However, that is not spirituality. It is an indulgence of physical and mental prowess though it is professing to be the opposite. Identifying with our higher self should be the focus, not on whether we are attached to our personality or not. This focus should keep us from being distracted by such stunts.
The size of a religious organisation means nothing if it is not focussed upon helping free people from their misplaced identification. If it uses its size to alleviate suffering in the world, that is good, but gathering great cathedrals or halls, or masses of wealth, is not. Those latter are signs that those organisations have lost their way. Facilities should be commensurate with what they really require and no more.
Just talking about being spiritual is not being spiritual, especially if it is centred around the personality. Being spiritual is when the inner connection creates a transformation in the personality to the extent that some part is always centred in the higher self, and automatically comes to the fore when contemplating what actions to take. It may seem a small part, but it has veto rights!
Many like to exercise their mental capacities by pointing out supposed illogicalities in peoples' religious beliefs. That is fine for them, as it may be part of their learning in how to think more clearly about beliefs. But their arguments shouldn't be a reason to abandon our beliefs. Instead, we can periodically contemplate whether our beliefs need challenging, but we are in a great experiment and sometimes we need to go with some perhaps erroneous assumptions and see what happens as a result, then modify our beliefs accordingly.
A prized ability on the path is discrimination, as it enables us to see what is true and what is distraction.
If we see clearly, we know what we are dealing with and will be able to act in right measure. Increasing our awareness of ourselves and what is really happening around us is the key to that clear sight. For that we have to discriminate between what is true and real, and what is illusion and delusion.
The first step in discrimination is to be aware of our reactions. Many times our
gut feelings or uncertainty indicate what we need to be wary of or not make hasty decisions about. Most things are not that time-sensitive that we need to rush decisions. There are no once-in-a-lifetime spiritual sales here, where delaying means missing out on enlightenment. Steady and measured is the path.
We don't need to be caught up in other peoples' grand schemes of self-aggrandisement or dreams of spiritual greatness. Success on the path is not found in large numbers of enthralled masses in great cavernous halls. More likely in a few people truly focussed upon being true to their higher selves. Being aware of the energy at play in such grand schemes will help to avoid them.
The ultimate discrimination is in being able to hear the voice of our soul amidst the noise around and in us. For that, we need to reduce our internal noise and desires to give that quiet voice a chance. However, it is also important to act upon that voice when we do hear it, even if it seems to push us where we may feel uncomfortable. Sometimes we will get it wrong, but also be pleasantly surprised when we take the steps and things work out better than we could have imagined.
However, we don't need to get pushed into activities that only really enhance our personalities, as those will only draw us deeper into attachment to the wrong outcomes. Almost all self-development courses fall into this category, many just playing from a one-size-fits-all playbook. The path is highly personal, though not self-indulgent, so we need to be open to what our real needs are at the time and take appropriate actions, even if they are at odds with what others may want of us.
Many people we have grown up with, including family and friends, will have ideas about what we should do and the directions we should take in life. A characteristic of the path is that it will put us at odds with those around us who do not really have our best interest at heart. That is the point where we are tested as to how much we believe we are on the right path. The selfish will resent us, but our inner will praise us, and that is more important, as its voice will be stronger in future.
The most important part of walking the path is keeping perspective, as it keeps us from getting caught up in follies and keeps our feet on the ground.
Most of the pressure on the path comes from within, because as we cooperate more with our higher self, the more is revealed to us, about ourselves and the world around us. Balancing our spiritual life with our outer lives allows us to walk both without unnecessary conflict that may throw us off the path.
Humour helps us to let go of taking ourselves too seriously and loosens us up so that we don't create foci for health problems. However, the right type of humour is that which doesn't marginalise or denigrate others, but which helps us to see the lighter side of ourselves and the things we do. Don't buy into the stand-up misanthropy that is thinly disguised anger and frustration, as it only builds fear and resentment, which are only impediments to the path.
The path may change our outlook on some aspects of our lives, and we can find that some of what we have been doing is no longer compatible with what we now feel. That may mean we need to change our jobs or even a whole career. It may mean that we need to not associate with some people that we had tolerated in the past. Decisions don't need to be made quickly, and we may need to discuss possible changes with those around us.
Some foods that we have been eating may no longer be as appealing, as they may be contributing to feeling unsettled. We may not have noticed their effects before, but becoming more sensitive to our inner can highlight what is not good for us. Of course, any mind or mood altering concoctions we have been having, unless prescribed for particular conditions, will probably be far less appealing, likely leading to eventual discontinuation or much less disruptive consumption levels.
It is about becoming more balanced and aware of what disturbs that. Some things we may need to keep doing because we have relationships and activities that we have committed to. Do not see these as impediments to the path as they may be helping us to keep balanced and stopping us from getting ahead of ourselves on the path.
It is better that we take a measured and steady pace on the path, rather than be all enthusiastic and then crash as the personality reactions we have pushed aside catch up with us. Be fair to ourselves when we don't feel we have lived up to our expectations, but just aim to do better in future. The inner does not expect perfection, so we should not expect it either.
The spiritual path is about working for what the higher self wants, so some time must be made available to listen to it.
In seeing the amount of time that many seem to spend in spiritual practices like meditation, we may think that a lot of time is needed for spiritual growth. However, the input from the soul tends to be of a strategic nature rather than direction on the minutiae of our lives, so the amount of time actually needed for contact should be not very much out of a day.
When starting on a spiritual path, some time will be needed to just get used to the process. The goal is to be able to contact at will, but to get there we have to understand how we go about it, and what it feels like to be in the state of being that allows the communication to happen. Typically, we learn to focus our minds, which may involve visualisation and repeating words or phrases (mantras) that keep our lower minds busy by slowing them down in a steady rhythm, and away from the stressful outer-directed thoughts we usually fill our days with.
This begins the process where we have a chance to engage our higher mind, where we have a chance to hear what our higher self has to say. This is not easy, but is facilitated by practicing on a daily basis at a particular time of day, so we get used to making the space within ourselves, and won't be disturbed by the circumstances around us drawing us out.
We may have had fleeting examples of this state when we are in the shower or sitting on the toilet, where we get a flash of inspiration to do with something we have been thinking about. It works this way because we have actually, but unintentionally, given some space for answers to come through from the inner.
The answers may not have been of a so-called spiritual nature, but they will typically provide a significant alternative or new way of going about what we have been doing. Sometimes they will be symbols, for which we may need some help in getting their meaning, rather like for interpreting symbolic messages from dreams, which is the other way the inner tries to get through to us when we keep ignoring its help.
Meditation and contemplation are about formalising this process of making inner contact. Contemplation is where our lower mind ponders on an issue that we need to address, but not to get answers immediately. Rather, it is about being clear about what it is we want to know, so that what comes back to us later is more useful to us.
Meditation is about trying to get to a state of higher mind where the messages can be more direct. However, words and symbols are not used in the messages, but more a direct awareness of what has to be done. It can be very subtle, and may take time before it becomes understood within our everyday consciousness, and even then, we may not be able to tie it to a particular meditation.
After much practicing, being able to shift our consciousness between different states at will may become possible, and so the rigidity of the earlier time of practicing may not be as necessary as often. By that time, we can make contact as and when needed, having learnt to trust in the process.
In the end, we may only spend a few minutes a day in deeper contact, sometimes for only a few seconds at a time, but the effect on our lives will be dramatic, as our new understanding plays out in our actions.