Category Archives: My Spiritual Journey

What is Truth

Today, on the long commute home from work, I started pondering the core reasons I first became interested in spirituality. Why did I dive down this rabbit hole? What was my goal?

And I came up with two:

  1. As a means of coping with the mental health challenges
  2. In the pursuit of truth

Given that as my mental health challenges subsided I still continued on this quest, I will focus on the second reason as the constant. Pursuit of truth.

As I continued the first thought that came to me was a common piece of spiritual advice that I had heard on many occasions, and in many forms. It was to stop believing your thoughts. To stop thinking that whatever your mind says is automatically true. So if I am earnest in my pursuit of truth, and I heed this advice, I should cease to continually pour so much energy into the obsessive examination of my own thoughts.

As an experiment I convince myself momentarily that my mind has nothing to offer in this spiritual quest. As this paradigm takes hold I find myself retreating from my familiar home in my head and my focus diverts to my immediate surroundings. My environment starts to feel fuller and sense of calm begins to develop. Simple items near me start to gain depth. I postulate the following idea: what if the most obscure item in my car provided a more profound gateway to the truth than my mind could ever conjure. Unfortunately, but predictably, this feeling doesn’t last. There is far too much momentum in my habitual thinking.

But why do I even want to know the truth? Why bust my ass to find something so elusive?

My initial answer is to enable a life well lived. I had thought that in knowing the truth I could then make the right decisions to shape my life in the most desirable way possible. But if the greatest spiritual teachers tell me that my mind is not a source of truth, my idea of ‘knowing the truth’ does not make sense. It reduces something as divine as truth to just more ego stuff.

Perhaps truth, and a life well lived, are actually one in the same.

If access to the truth is found in the present moment, and living life in the present moment is the object of the spiritual quest then they are in fact inseparable. I can’t use the truth to find my purpose, truth is my purpose.

 

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Carl Jung – “We Cannot Change Anything, Unless We Accept it” (5 minute read)

If you are struggling to find inner peace, I urge you to read this short post. It is an excerpt from a lecture that Carl Jung, the founder of analytical psychology, gave to a group of clergy. I discovered it on YouTube and have provided the link below.

People forget that even doctors have moral scruples. And that certain patients’ confessions are hard for even a doctor to swallow. Yet the patient does not feel themselves accepted unless the very worst in him is accepted too. No one can bring this about by mere words. It comes only through reflection and through the doctor’s attitude towards himself and his own dark side. If the doctor wants to guide another or even accompany him a step of the way he must feel with that person’s psyche. He never feels it when he passes judgment. Whether he puts his judgment into words or keeps it to himself makes not the slightest difference. To take the opposite position and to agree with the patient offhand is also of no use and estranges him as much as condemnation.

Feeling comes only through unprejudiced objectivity. This sounds almost like a scientific precept and it could be confused with the purely intellectual abstract attitude of mind but what I mean is something quite different. It is a human quality. A kind of deep respect for the facts, for the man who suffers from them, and for the riddle of such a man’s life.

The truly religious person has this attitude. He knows that God has brought all sorts of strange and inconceivable things to pass and seeks in the most curious ways to enter a man’s heart. He therefore senses in everything the unseen presence of the divine will. This is what I mean by unprejudiced objectivity. It is the moral achievement on the part of the doctor who ought not let himself be repelled by sickness or corruption. We cannot change anything unless we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate. It oppresses. I am the oppressor of the person I condemn. Not his friend and fellow sufferer. I do not in the least mean to say that we must never pass judgment when we decide to help and improve, but if the doctor wishes to help a human being, he must be able to accept him as he is. And he can do this in reality only when he has already seen and accepted himself as he is.

Perhaps this sounds very simple, but simple things are always the most difficult. In actual life it requires the greatest art to be simple and so acceptance of one’s self is the essence of the moral problem and the acid test of one’s whole outlook on life. That I feed the beggar, that I have given him salt, that I love the enemy in the name of Christ. All these are undoubtedly great virtues. What I do unto the least of my brethren, that I do unto Christ. But what if I should discover that the least amongst them all, the poorest of all beggars, the most impudent of all offenders, yea the very fiend himself, that these are within me, and that I myself stand in need of the arms of my own kindness. That I myself am the enemy who must be loved. What then?

Then as a rule the whole truth of Christianity is reversed. There is then no more talk of love and long suffering. We say to the brother within us “Raca” and condemn and rage against ourselves. We hide him from the world. we deny ever having met this least among the lowly in ourselves and had it been god himself that drew near to us in this despicable form we should deny him a thousand times before a single cock had crowed.

 

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Obsessing Over the Question – Who Am I?

Now THIS is something that I know about! Quickly to start, here is a truncated list of the many different ways I have sought to learn more about myself:

Having completed all of the above and still finding myself without a solid understanding of who I am sure seems to be a classic case of paralysis by analysis.

Valuing self awareness as I do I am forced to question my whole approach. From a spiritual perspective this constant pursuit of figuring out who I am, under the pretext that it can help me live a better life, keeps me entirely out of the present moment and intensely focused on some future state. It is the ego trying to leverage spiritual knowledge to make life better for the ego.

My current gratitude practice is definitely something that I can improve. Is my current life so terrible that I must use all of my energy making things “better”?

Obviously it is not.

I have a healthy family. I have a steady, well paying job. I have friends. I have a roof over my head. I have more luxuries than 99.9% of the planet. And I live in one of the safest countries on the entire planet.

Now, perhaps being in such a privileged position has burdened me the responsibility to make the most of it. Contrarily, if the energy I bring to my daily interactions leans towards negativity because of this burden than a life well lived may be the best course of action.

My needs are simple. I want to laugh. I want to feel safe. I want to live a happy healthy life.

Additionally, this tendency towards obsessive self assessments seems more suited for someone in the pursuit of extreme success. The presence of this proclivity in me may be largely influenced by the incessant social media narrative of the same theme.

But, truthfully it doesn’t seem very appropriate for someone like myself. Success of this nature would certainly bring with it more stress, and I am certainly not known for my innate ability to handle stress!

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Knowing Yourself is the Key to Knowing Others

It has been a while since I posted anything on this particular blog but after a lengthy phone discussion with an old friend I have been inspired to reignite the examination of this side of myself. Perhaps the truth of the matter was that I never stopped on my journey.

Challenge

My biggest challenge in life, as it has always been, is figuring out exactly how to interact with the world. I possess strong opinions and a desire to engage, but I always feel inadequate when expressing myself. And the ideas that I am trying to unleash remain trapped within my brain.

Additionally I feel a simmering urgency to get involved as it is incredibly frustrating witnessing how people interact with each other on social media. It is absurd that so many people hold on to their ideas with such a unwavering certainty when even a cursory examination of spiritual principles could cast enormous doubt upon any perspective.

Fear

However, I believe there is an underlying shadow of doubt that is feeding the divisive world that we find ourselves in. People are subconsciously realizing that the paradigm upon which they base their value system is dissolving beneath their feet. And with the desperation of a drowning swimmer they cling to the familiar, no matter the evidence laid before them.

If I claimed 2+2 = 5 no one would react so strongly in denying that untruth. One would simply know it’s wrong and move on. But when foundational ideas about the very way you live your life are challenged…. you get loud, you get angry, and you certainly don’t go down without a fight. There are examples everyday of people experiencing this huge identity crisis. 

In no place is this more apparent than in the social media trend called ‘Cancel Culture’. This draconian and unforgiving practice reeks of fear. It requires a person to completely disregard their own flaws, while highlighting, as paramount, the perceived failings of another and ultimately punishing them harshly for it. And all of this based on a minimal amount of information.

Temptation

The temptation I feel is to respond equally as harshly to those promoting cancel culture as a useful approach to improving the world. But the unfortunate irony is that in doing so I am becoming the very thing I am most passionately opposed to. The upside is that perhaps in understanding more deeply what I need to transcend this anger I gain an understanding of what others need. And I believe this element is at the core of my spiritual journey.

Understanding the essence of who I am, in turn means I understand others. And within this understanding is the gift of truly being able to make a difference in this world.

 

Photo Courtesy of: De Visu/Shutterstock.com

 

Gnōthi Seauton (Know Thyself)

In all honesty, my spiritual journey has brought me further away from knowing my true self than I ever could have possibly imagined. Since discovering that this incredible dimension exists I have adapted so many more labels that simply hamper the entire process. Labels like:

I should be non-reactive

I should be calm

I should just be

I should be forgiving of everyone

I should be wise

I should not be superficial

I should not judge others

I should be accepting

I should allow others to be as they are

I should be deep

I should not be anxious

So when any feeling should arise that was on contrast to the “rules” above I would use spiritual techniques to try and defeat that feeling. I would struggle to be transparent to negativity, to ignore those anxious feelings and be present, to always look beneath the surface of the person who was annoying the shit out of me, and to be uncaring that my favourite sports team got eliminated from the playoffs.

The experience of being spiritual became another prison. I went all-in on a way of life that was supposed to lead to freedom but I was sadly mistaken.

I have found that any behaviour, or thought, that denies my true nature is as harmful as an act of hatred. It is a poison that seeps into every corner of my body. It is this image of the spiritual person that is the problem. Sitting cross legged, with their hands resting on their knees, holding a steady mood no matter what comes their way, repeating some mantra meant to clear the mind.

I want to foster a new attitude. An attitude that accepts everything about me. An attitude that says that I don’t ever need to change. Truthfully, the spiritual person is every person. As they are. It is not about denying your form. It is about knowing it, and honouring it.

Pay attention. Be aware. Get to know yourself.

But don’t you dare apply any self-knowledge as another means to create change! As if you need to improve? Upon whose authority will you deny the billions of years of evolution that led to who, and where, you are right now. The real spiritual life, as I see it, is to carry-on fully engaged in this world of form, but with an added intense awareness of the mind-body form.

The mind-body has likes, desires, skills, a sense of humour, fears, emotions, faults, loves. Really it has the entire spectrum of what it means to be alive.

In spiritual circles they often speak of transcendence. Transcendence is not the achievement of an enlightened state where this roller coaster of experience doesn’t happen anymore.

It is surrendering to the ride.

Love with all of your heart. Acknowledge your fears. Use your skills. Have a good laugh. Let this form run the show, because really you’re not in charge anyways.

Facebook and the Spiritual Journey

There is something about the online spiritual community that doesn’t sit quite right with me. I am a member of a couple of different groups on Facebook; one about Thich Nhat Hanh and another about The Power of Now. And while I find the intentions of such groups are good-natured, and the vast majority of its members aim to be helpful, there is definitely some sort of mixed messaging at play simply due to the nature of spirituality and the medium itself.

On the path towards release from ego domination and the thinking mind, an online community such as the ones above can only be filled with the written thoughts of thinking minds. It is ego’s helping ego’s get rid of their ego’s. Everyone is doomed to failure!

A common trait is that every single member of these groups has likely experienced the power of the teachings from one of those respected spiritual masters. This experience has caused their ego to assign a label of specialness to these individuals. That’s why these groups pop up in the first place. To honor the person and the teaching.

But it’s like knowing just enough physics to be dangerous, and thinking you will finally create a perpetual motion machine. For there to be power and authenticity in the form of text you must be one of those few individuals who have transcended the world of form. The rest of us are simply following this path and continuously coming across false sign posts saying “Welcome to Enlightenment!” Only to find out we are not there yet.

We want to be there so badly that we can almost taste it. We harbor this hidden jealousy that Eckhart (or Thich) are there and we are not. So it’s within these groups that we get to pretend for a moment that we ARE him. That we truly understand his teachings, and that we can help you just like they helped us.

And I must confess that I have participated in such a way in those groups. And I have blogged for years about spirituality and ended many posts with a realization, or a lesson learned. The truth is that I really don’t know what I am talking about. I feel I understand it very well conceptually, but then another side of me feels like that is the very trap I am trying to avoid!

By far the greatest benefit I have received from the online spiritual community is the discovery of other spiritual masters and teachings that I had never heard of before. And honestly I never would have been exposed to them had it not been for social media.

So perhaps I should follow pretty much every teaching I have ever read and practice a little gratitude. Instead of nit picking the subtle side effects due to the modernization of the spiritual journey I should simply be thankful for the goodness I have received and shut the hell up!

Luckily, forgiveness is also primary theme in all spiritual teachings.

What is Awareness and What is it Good For?

When you feel depressed, awareness does not cheer you up.

When you screw up at work, awareness does not say you’ll do better next time.

When you yell at your kids, awareness does not help you calm down.

When hit a car in parking lot and drive away, awareness does not forgive you.

When you are unfaithful to your spouse, awareness does not justify it.

When you steal some bread from the grocery store, awareness does not take away the guilt.

When you lose a loved one to cancer, awareness does not bring them back.

When you have spent your last penny, awareness does not put money in your account.

When your desperate for a spiritual awakening, awareness does not make it happen.

Awareness is always just…..there.

Doing nothing. Helping no one. Changing nothing for the better.

It is the source of all inaction.

Instead it is infinitely loyal. It will never leave you no matter what despicable act emerges from you. It knows nothing about judgement. It knows nothing of worthiness. It knows nothing about evil. It knows nothing of heaven or hell. It knows nothing about death. It knows nothing about suffering.

It knows nothing.

Absolutely squat.

It is not there to heal you. It is not there to make you live longer. It is not there to make others love you.

So what in the world is awareness good for.

There is one way to find out. And that is to align with it. Be a witness to your perceptions. Open yourself up to feel whatever is brought to the forefront in the field of your observation. Let it wander. Do not focus on any witnessed feeling as more important than another. Allow this freedom to dwell in your mind and body.

If you are walking, listen to the pebbles crunch on the ground as feel the pressure of each step. Notice your head moving from side to side looking at the trees. All of a sudden you turn off the road and onto a walking path. Why did you do that? You don’t recall making that choice. Now you notice each leg moving one after the other. You’re not actively choosing that either.  A random thought pops into your head that you should eat healthier.

Why?

You didn’t decide to think that. Things are happening and you don’t seem to be involved in any part of the process.

Soon you start to notice everything. The way your tongue is resting in your mouth. The way the cool spring breeze is making your eyes water just ever so slightly. The rising of your stomach with every breath.

Then it suddenly strikes you.

I am none of this.

Such intense witnessing has released you. You begin the understand the role of the witness. Your dreams. Your hopes. Your struggles. Your judgement. Your accomplishments. Your failures. Your suffering. All of these things are not “You”. They have simply been witnessed by “You”.

Now, even more dramatically. All of the ways in which you have defined who “You” are begins to fade away. The simple gap between something being inherent to your identity, to simply being observed, causes a cascading avalanche of the former self into oblivion.

Ultimately the realization hits. The me that has ruled this life, does not exist. There is no meat to this ego. There are no obstacles for me to overcome. There are no requirements for my existence. There is nothing that was there before.

There is only awareness.