What to Do When the Pursuit of Spirituality Becomes an Obstacle to Spiritual Realization
I was talking to a friend earlier today who said to me, “Jordan, you know I love all this Integral stuff and A Course in Miracles, but sometimes I feel like it’s always work. And I never get to relax. Sometimes I just want to relax.” We had also been talking about how he admires young people who can go out to bars and be social without drinking. “I’m pretty sure I drink so I don’t have to be thinking about where I’m coming from all of the time, always psychoanalyzing myself.”
A Common Predicament
I think his predicament is a great example of a very common spiritual struggle, one that I also experience. The judgement of judgement. The non-love of our non-loving thoughts. The seeking of non-seeking. The transcending of that which is already transcended because it does not really exist in the first place.
The moment when the pursuit of spirituality becomes an obstacle to spiritual realization.
From the Forest Itself Comes the Handle for the Axe
“Bob,” I said to my friend, “What I hear from you is a really great development. You are giving yourself permission to be human, to make mistakes, and to relax.
“While it may seem like you are being less spiritual, you are actually doing the opposite. You are opening yourself to more love. You are beginning to love who you are as an imperfect human being who sometimes wants to be unconscious. In doing so, you’re removing an obstacle to love. You now have more freedom to be who you are and appreciate yourself fully.
“Before, if you were ‘unconscious’ and ‘not doing the work’ you thought of yourself as inadequate, unworthy, and unloved. Now you can feel unconscious while simultaneously accepting and loving yourself in the moment. That is the work.
“And now that you’re aware of it, you no longer need to dissociate that aspect of yourself and put it onto a particular action or social situation—such as drinking. You can accept the underlying content—the desire to be unconscious—while choosing a different expression in form.”
He agreed, and encouraged me to write this article (although I think it came across with more beauty in the spontaneity of the moment).
Spiritual Beings Having a Human Experience
In some ways his experience is a microcosm of the entire existential paradox—the experience of feeling like we are something we are not, thinking that the wave is separate from the ocean, or in Christian terminology, the fact that we are born sinners and yet already forgiven. We experience ourselves as separate from God yet he loves us no matter what.
Anyone who has tried to teach meditation is distinctly aware of this paradox. New meditators are so worried about “getting it right” that their minds are filled with doubt, and they are unable to witness that fear and uncertainty. The skilled teacher finds a way for the student to realize that those doubts are just like any other thoughts, objects in awareness that come and go. Getting rid of the doubt or holding on to it is not important. What is important is our relationship to doubt. Emotion in and of itself is a distraction in meditation only if we get sucked in to it; attached. If not, it is the metaphorical weight we use to build our observational muscles, the very thing that allows us to practice and transform.
Loving What Is
The takeaway: We do not stop the work, we transform our resistance to the work. We do not allow ourselves to continue drinking when we don’t want to, we allow ourselves the underlying emotion and choose the healthiest course of action for the moment. We do not force Love into our world of projections and use it to accomplish our ego goals. Instead we bring our projections and ego goals to Love, letting love infuse and transform everything about us, including the parts of ourselves we do not like.