Tag Archives: Stillness

The Relationship Between our Individual and Collective Spiritual Journeys

Our spiritual journey is unique. It will be different than anyone in history who has ever undergone this transformation before. Such a realization can be incredibly lonely and frightening.

When we start down this path we find our first guru and we read about the circumstances of their enlightenment. We understand their suffering deeply and believe that we feel exactly as they did prior to their shift. We read about their dark night of the soul, or their dramatic shift in perception, and helplessly try to recreate it for ourselves.

We start out treating enlightenment as if it comes with a manual. Sometimes even the most profound spiritual texts initially sound like this. We all know the instructions. You must surrender. You must accept the present moment. You must be still. You must be the witness. It’s almost like a to do list that we need to scratch off to become enlightened.

And after numerous attempts at mimicking the transformation of spiritual gurus I came to the realization that my journey is completely my own. I don’t know if, or how, I will become enlightened so I can not walk on the path as if I know where it’s going. I can not do something and know if it is helpful or a hindrance to my transformation.

It’s at this point out of sheer desperation that we reach out to the collective. We share our experiences and listen to the experiences of others. We scour the internet for wisdom and then share it with those like minded souls. We meditate, do yoga, have a realization, and then have this powerful instinct to communicate with those undergoing the same struggle.

It is this desire to share with the collective that fuels my individual journey.

What if I couldn’t blog? What if there was no YouTube? No Twitter or Facebook? Many of us may think that the world would be a much better place, and to a large degree I believe they may be right. But from another perspective social media has enabled me to create this huge community from which I find wisdom, and hopefully to which I contribute some myself.

The simple existence of this community has kept me moving forward. It has propelled me deeper into spirituality than I ever would have gone without them. Through my community I find encouragement, compassion, empathy, guidance and knowledge.

However, there is most certainly an element of sharing that strengthens the egoic “I”. It is the part that feels good when a post gets a lot of likes, or the part that feels excited when an original quote gets retweeted. The irony can get quite thick when you get a large response on some wisdom you had shared about not being your thoughts, and as a result start thinking how clever you are.

But perhaps the ego has a vitally important role to play in my personal journey. That as my ego seeks validation through a increasingly larger spiritual community I am also pulled deeper into the realm of spiritual seeking. As I surround myself with vast amounts of spiritual texts, lectures, and gurus, I increase the chance that I will ignite my transformation through encountering the right person, or hearing the right bit of wisdom.

Or maybe, and this is what I believe now, the greatest lesson I will learn through immersing myself into all things spiritual as a means to enlightenment will be its complete and undeniable failure. Perhaps this is where I will finally learn what surrender, acceptance, and stillness truly is.

Losing Interests and Gaining Perspective

In recent weeks I must admit that I am losing interest in all of those things that I used to consider staples in my daily living.

I used to watch at least part of every hockey game that would come on TV, then I would only watch Ottawa Senators games, now I am barely interested enough to watch one period. Even playing hockey has lost some of it’s appeal. I go once per week but I now feel I can take it or leave it.

I also used to be somewhat of a movie buff. Often hitting the cinema at least weekly, and even maintaining a bi-weekly schedule when two kids came along. But now, with my wife and two kids away on vacation I have little desire to hit the theater. Not even the guilty pleasure of popcorn and fountain-pop can pull me in!

Watching TV also seems to be heading the way of the dinosaur. Last night I watched the premiere of an old favourite ‘Survivor’, and then the start of ‘The Amazing Race’. Survivor was entertaining enough, but I doubt I will watch a whole season. The Amazing Race actually gave me a headache. There are so many fast takes, and lightning quick switches between scenes that I couldn’t even keep my eyes on the screen.

Even my desire to blog has greatly reduced. For several months I was posting every day and now I believe this is my first post in two weeks!

This process has accelerated since my family headed to Florida to take in the sun. I stayed home for financial reasons, and for lack of vacation days. But I had figured I would be indulging in all of these guilty pleasures while they were away, instead I find myself sitting at home and not wanting to do any of them!

I don’t feel depressed. I am not unhappy. What the heck is happening!?

I have come to believe that with all of the stresses of having a young family I clung to these things as a sort of an escapism. That the only real reason I wanted to do any of them was to get away from the never ending responsibilities of raising two girls. The greatest blessing of this time alone may be an increased presence when my family returns. That instead of thinking when I will get my next break, I will realize that what I truly want is to simply spend time with them.

A part of me also knows that these fading interests are a vital part of my spiritual journey. That all of the things that I used to view as an integral part of me are just not that important. Everything I am not needs to go away so I can finally figure out who I am. There is saying I have that goes “First love empties you, then love fills you.”

Over the past few days there have been these incredible moments where I am sitting on my couch, the house is quiet, the dog is resting, the sun has set, and there’s just one lamp on in the corner. Those are golden moments. They are filled with silence and stillness. I can feel my breaths happen effortlessly. I don’t control when they happen, or how deep they go. I sense the aliveness of my body as something separate from my point of observation. I feel like a part of the whole. There is the body that came out of the universe, and the seeing presence that knows this. It is such a peaceful feeling.

I must be absolutely grateful to my wife for giving me this opportunity to have such experiences. She didn’t have to drag both kids through an airport, spend two weeks with a family that often drive her batty, and lose hours upon hours of sleep with no break. But she went anyway. And while she struggles, I have grown. That is sacrifice, that is love.

There is no “I” in Self

For many years I had been attempting to follow the teachings of several spiritual gurus and, honestly speaking, I had experienced very limited progress. The teachings are similar throughout the spiritual realm and they primarily focus on these approaches:

  • Presence
  • Acceptance
  • Surrender
  • Stillness

I had attempted to practice each one of these many times. I had practiced presence by focusing on my senses and attempting not to interpret what I perceive. I had practiced acceptance by trying not to resist my current situation no matter what it may be at the time. I had practiced surrender through utter frustration by lack of progress and to a certain degree giving up. And I had practiced stillness through meditation and daily long walks in a local park.

But yet I wasn’t making the kind of progress that I wanted. I was most definitely going through a healing process but there were still plenty of moments of suffering. Then I noticed one major flaw in how I had practiced those spiritual techniques.

They were all practiced from the place of “I”

I cannot be present. I cannot accept. I cannot surrender. I cannot be still. It is the “I” that subsides in order for any of the above to genuinely occur.

“I” is a concept. It is a vast collection of thoughts, often contradictory, that one accesses relentlessly in maintaining their false identity. Each one of the approaches above demands an absence of thought. No “I” can coexist within them. Instead, the techniques all act as gateways from the “I” to the real self.

What they offer to the seeker is a taste of the true self. A hint of truth. Evidence that there is a self that exists beyond that limited “I”. If for only a moment you experience true presence, acceptance, surrender, or stillness you will see for the first time a separation from the “I”. You will step back from the life you have always known and become it’s witness. If only for a moment. And you will have awakened.