Catch-22 of Chasing Spirituality

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So many of us are beginning to see that lasting happiness comes from a spiritual foundation, and not from a material one.  That is the essential first step – to realize that lasting and ever-present happiness can never be conditional, can never be based on what we gain or achieve, because everything is transitory.

Yet even after this realization, when we begin our spiritual journey, we see it as just that.  A long journey of slowly changing our nature from one of self-interested exclusivity to one of selfless inclusivity.  But actually there is a subtle mental trap here.  The age-old spiritual approach of self-inquiry consistently points to the True Self as the one original nature.  Perhaps you’ve heard, “I Am That.”  There is no literal need to change ourselves to become spiritual beings… we already are that.  It’s just that it is veiled.  And the veil is our identity.

Let’s explore this a little more.  If you ask the average seeker about their experiences, they will likely tell you that when they meditate, or do yoga, they are sometimes able to achieve a great sense of inner peace, expansive calm, and perhaps a great joy or feeling of love.  But when they finish their practices, they are back to their old egoist selves again.  But compare the subtle shift in perspective here to what we just established above.  It’s all in identifying ourselves with this personality construct that we call “I” rather than realizing that in fact we are pure consciousness manifesting as a human life.

Rather than stating that our nature is one of let’s say agitation or stress, and when we meditate there is temporary relief… we should realize that our original nature is already that of eternal peace and when we meditate then we lift the fog.  From that true perspective, spiritual practices are not a long path towards enlightenment but rather… to use a metaphor… the melting of an ice cube into a cup of water.  We are already That but the mind fools us into believing that we are a separate and independent personality with all kinds of traits and defining identifications… which inevitably bring all kinds of issues and baggage.

So look at the implications here – we put the mind in the driver’s seat, because we solely identify with it (as well as the body), then we complain about all the pain and anguish that comes with it.  The mind is a thought engine – it will invariably remember experiences and use that data to manufacture every kind of thought.  The various spiritual paths are there to create space between our conscious awareness and our minds & bodies.  Sometimes that space comes suddenly – such as in Zen – and other times that space is very consciously cultivated over a period of time – such as in Yoga.  In shamanic cultures, plant compounds are used to induce this internal space.  But fundamentally the objective is to quiet the ego to such an extent that all identifications cease.  All expectations cease.  All ties to a particular time or location cease.  In that inner silence, awareness resides.

This is not as esoteric as it sounds.  Even within your own lifespan, the proof is there.  How where you as a child?  Joyful and carefree, living spontaneously every moment, or stressed and worried about this or that?  Did you have any concept of time and place?  We are born with that original nature, but over time as our identifications with things and thoughts take hold, we lose sight of it.  It is not lost; it never left.  We just covered it up with a whole lot of “I” baggage.

So spirituality is not a pursuit.  Making it so is actually a catch-22 of running after something that you already are.  As Rumi wrote:

One went to the door of the Beloved and knocked.

A voice asked: “Who is there?” He answered: “It is I.”

The voice said: “There is no room here for me and thee.”

The door was shut.

After a year of solitude and deprivation

this man returned to the door of the Beloved.

He knocked.

A voice from within asked: “Who is there?”

The man said: “It is Thou.”

The door was opened for him.

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