The Point of Spirituality Is Not to Follow Blindly, but to Remove Our Blinders
Don’t you already know there’s more to life than it seems?
Have you ever felt wonder as you gazed upon a starry night?
Or felt awe as you looked across a valley from the top of a mountain?
Or felt truly connected to a friend when having a heart to heart?
How do you feel in moments like these? What changes? Do you feel small? Insignificant? Connected? Important? Joyful?
These moments are hard to come by. They’re fleeting. But when they do come don’t they feel incredible? Like the world all of a sudden makes a little more sense? Like life itself has taken on a new meaning?
But, as quickly as they come they go away. And doesn’t it feel like you’ll simply have to wait until the next time the right conditions arise for them to come again?
What if you didn’t have to wait? What if this state of being isn’t something that needs to arrive only when you’re lucky, but can be cultivated?
What if this is the purpose of the spiritual journey?
What do I mean by “spiritual”?
Words often fail us. We each ascribe meaning and emotions to words based on our unique relationships with them. This is why it can be so easy to misinterpret what other people say.
Maybe spirituality reminds you of pseudoscience, like astrology or card reading.
Maybe spirituality reminds you of religious indoctrination.
Maybe you think of spirituality as a fluff word that has no meaning at all.
Try to put those assumptions and associations aside for a minute and ask yourself, what is the common theme among the world’s belief systems?
Are they asking you to believe in something bigger than you? Are they asking you to accept that certain things are outside of your control? Are they asking you to cease putting yourself at the centre of your universe?
These systems of belief draw us in because they stir a part of us that the rest of our lives don’t touch. They call to the part of us that yearns to awaken but is so often ignored.
What if, as so much ancient wisdom suggests, there is a way of being that we’re missing out on? What if all this ancient advice on how to live well has been mostly misinterpreted and misunderstood throughout the millennia?
What if spirituality is the thing we’re all seeking, we just don’t know it?
What does the spiritual journey look like?
We are constantly caught up in ourselves. We ruminate on our pasts and anxiously await our futures.
Did you say something dumb at a meeting this week? Did you get in a huge fight with your partner? Did your parents make you feel incapable of making good decisions on your own?
Don’t our minds fixate on the things that have gone wrong? Don’t they run those scenarios over and over, looking for ways to make them better? But, of course, there’s nothing we can do about the past. It is what it is, they say. Yet, our minds can imagine a limitless number of ways the past could have been different. The problem is that very little of that imagining will ever help.
On the flip side, are you worried about a work presentation coming up this week? Are you nervous about a first date you’re going on tonight? Are you stressed out about how your next article will be received?
Don’t our minds anxiously anticipate the future? Don’t they imagine all the things that could go wrong? And doesn’t this kind of thinking cause you all sorts of mental anguish? Doesn’t it sometimes feel like there is no end to, and no escape from, this type of thinking? And, in the end, doesn’t this type of thinking just make everything harder for you?
Do you ever wish you could escape from these loops of thinking? Do you ever wish you could get a moment of peace from your past and your future?
Do you ever wish you could simply be at peace in the present and enjoy it?
This, I think, is the purpose of the spiritual path. It helps us to see that most of our pain and suffering is self-imposed, rather than caused by external sources. Then, it moves us toward a place of equanimity — a place of perfection.
What do we call a place like this? Many philosophies have called it by a different name — heaven, nirvana, Elysium, paradise, Valhalla — but I think they all point to the same thing.
Perhaps our greatest misunderstanding of ancient philosophies is that they aren’t telling us about a place we go to when we die, but a way of being while we live.
How to get started
Does this sound too good to be true? Do you feel like this state of mind, this state of being, is impossible?
You might be right, but you also might be wrong. Countless people throughout history have announced to the world that there is more than this, more than what we know. Are you going to ignore their calls? Do you think they’re all delusional? Are you so certain that you’re right that you won’t even try to help yourself?
While some of us might be given this vision of a new way of being, most of us need to work at it.
Wouldn’t it be nice not to dwell so much on the past? Wouldn’t it be nice not to be so anxious about the future? Wouldn’t it be nice to find peace and joy in the present with your family and friends?
This is what the spiritual path has to offer you if you put in the effort.
Well, I should say, the right effort.
I think the spiritual path begins with the recognition that something is wrong. Something is not as it seems.
It’s not that we’ve done something wrong. For better or worse, this has been our journey so far. But, what we need to see now is that our strategy for life is failing us and it’s time to make a change.
If we can put aside our egos and our childish need to be right, we can begin to see how our perspectives, habits, and instincts so often fail us and lead us astray — how they lead to our unhappiness and dissatisfaction.
The best way I know to see this happening in our minds is through mindfulness meditation. This simple practice helps to develop the skill of mindfulness, which is essentially the ability to observe and understand the workings of the mind.
Why should you develop your mindfulness? Because to begin your spiritual journey, you must see for yourself that your mind is broken and that only you can fix it. Mindfulness will give you this ability. It will show you the way.
Just like Neo had to experience the Matrix for himself to understand, so do we need to experience for ourselves how our minds lead us away from peace and joy. But we cannot be convinced by words alone. We must see the truth for ourselves.
If you’ve never meditated before, download an app like Headspace or Waking Up for guided meditations. They will help you get started.
What you’ve been looking for all this time is not outside you. You won’t find it in another car, an exotic vacation, or higher pay.
Despite what all of society is telling you, what you’re looking for is inside you. It is only there that you will satisfy your craving for something more. It is only there you will truly find peace.
Thanks for reading!