Reader Discussion: What Is Your Spirituality?
Recently, someone asked me a very basic question: What is spirituality? I paused for a few seconds, and began to laugh. Despite running a blog that claims to be about spirituality, I honestly don’t know. Since then I’ve been reading up on that aspect, and the strange thing is, most people don’t really know either.
There are so many different definitions of spirituality. Someone once told me it is very hard to have a good conversation on the topic because everyone is on a different page; they’re all talking about different things!
Here are some of the definitions I’ve come across:
- Seeking God
- Seeking Enlightenment / Oneness
- The evolution of consciousness
- Talking or communicating with spirits
- Spirituality is just a release of ‘feel-good’ chemicals in our brain
- The end of suffering
- A way of living
- Only for the narcissistic, or those who don’t live in the real world
- A waste of time
- Just a bunch of rip-offs (or worse, cults!)
- A bunch of rituals to satisfy some need or fear
- For all the nutjobs of the world (maybe theyve met me in real life?)
- Something fun to do in your spare time
It is the same thing with the practices; what exactly is a spiritual practice? There are millions of different techniques and meditations. For some, a spiritual practice means an hour a week of yoga. For others, it means being unconditionally compassionate, or self-aware, or whatever, every waking moment.
What Is Your Spirituality?
And so this post – let’s share your spirituality. What is your definition, what is your goal, what is your practice, and how did you get started?
(I think all these are essentially one question anyway, if you really get down to it.)
In addition, I have also been getting a lot emails asking about my story, and my exact practices – you write about so many different practices, which do you use? – so this is to share some of that. It’s kind of a long read and definitely not needed for the discussion; I just had nowhere else to put my reply – so you can stop reading now if you are bored.
One Definition, Practice, and Story
First of all, the below is just my practice and definition. It is “my” spirituality, that’s all. I know I contradict many concepts and traditions, and many serious practitioners will disagree with my approach (I’ve had some awesome debates), but that’s part of the fun of these discussion threads. Don’t be shy about disagreeing, hit me with it!
What is my definition? The end of suffering. That was what it started out as, and over the years made a big detour, and eventually ended up right back where it started. Except at the end, the basic definition has been slightly expanded.
How I Got Started
A large percentage of seekers have begun simply because they were unhappy. That was certainly how I got started. I was miserable and I just couldn’t take it anymore. The funny thing was – I didn’t know it would be a life-consuming pursuit. I thought it was just a quick training process, and that it would be easy.
I approached it like physical training. Just work out hard, eat right, and get fit; all very mechanical and cold. I thought finding imperturbable inner peace would be the same thing – work at it intensely (and selfishly – more on this later) for a few months, then move on.
Except I didn’t know what happiness was. Like most people I thought it was external. It was around that time the whole Secret / Law of Attraction thing exploded in the media, a few years ago. I got sucked into it too, until I realised that happiness didn’t come from having all the material things I wanted. (On that note, I am still waiting for my supermodels. No joke. I honestly sat down and tried manifesting some supermodels. I refuse to write an article on the LOA until I have a supermodel girlfriend.)
Happiness Comes From The Inside
However, the more I dedicated myself to happiness, the more aware I became, and the more aware I became, the more I realised happiness was internal. Beyond a basic level of comfort and security, material goods and sensual pleasures don’t make much difference in happiness. Our internal state of consciousness is the major factor in how happy we are.
This conclusion wasn’t because of any spiritual or religious teaching. It was simply my experience. No matter how much I got materially or pampered myself sensually, my thoughts and emotions were the same – horrible, repetitious, and painful.
Is Self-Love The Answer?
Soon after, I came across the teaching that everything was either love or the lack of it. I had come across these teachings before, but like most in a sometimes dog-eat-dog world, I had discarded it as weak and soft. But it was true. All the lower states of mind, like hatred and sadness, simply indicated a lack of love. The practical application came when I met a Buddhist teacher who told me to welcome and love my pain, not to get rid of them.
And so I did, and found my grief began to dissolve. Slowly, I felt happier and freer. I was overjoyed, thinking I had found the one “technique” I had been looking for – I finally understood what it meant to love yourself. In every other tradition I’ve explored, including psychotherapy, the basic method of emotional work is the same – welcome your emotions without acting on them. But soon afterwards I was introduced to the Sedona Method, letting go of the negativity, the lack of love, which was even faster. All I had to do now was put my time in, or so I thought.
Love Restricted is Not Love
Then I discovered this love was not love if it was selfish. I reached a road block months after. My grief and anger, although much lessened, strangely refused to change. My beliefs and egotistical mental positions were in the way. I had to be right. I had to win. In other words, I wanted to be free while still seeing them as wrong and evil. But it was a contradiction. As long as I judged others I could not be happy.
To undo these positions, I tried many ways, including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy but eventually settled on The Work of Byron Katie. It was the swiftest way I’ve found of undoing all my beliefs, judgements and mental positions.
The old teachings – love your enemies – finally made sense. It was not some high-minded snobby ideal, it was strictly practical. As long as I saw someone as an enemy, I could not be free. Finding love and compassion for yourself and for others were one and the same.
And so that is my practice – two main methods of working with emotions and thoughts. There are always obstacles, and I always slip and fall. Guilt and shame often got in the way of unconditional self-acceptance. Some parts of myself I refuse to admit I have, let alone accept. Anger and righteousness still gets in the way of accepting and loving others.
In addition to the main methods, I use certain techniques to overcome these obstacles, such as the ones I blog about. But these supplementary methods come and go. Right now, I’m using Carl Jung’s shadow psychology and the dialogue / sub-personality work of Gestalt psychology, but as always they are just to let me “reach” previously denied places in my psyche with my two main practices. (Articles coming soon! I haven’t gotten good enough at them to write anything yet.)
I have no idea how much there is left. But the higher you go, the more glimpses of the end goal you see – being imperturbable and peaceful no matter what is happening around you.
And so it has all come full circle, except slightly expanded. It is still something selfish – if the end of suffering isn’t selfish, I don’t know what is. Except it isn’t quite so selfish – for you cant find compassion for yourself if you dont have compassion for others. Neither is it a high-minded, snobby ideal. It is practical, reachable goal.
And so that is my long-winded response. I would really love to hear your stories and contributions, in the comments below!