This is going to be a post on what I feel spirituality is, and what a person becomes when they lack a deep spiritual aspect to their life. I’m going to break this down using two different models, one to explain the general dynamic of a person who lacks spirituality (spiritless people), and those who have a deep sense of spirituality (pursuers of Christ-consciousness).
People who lack a spiritual component to their lives, I’m going to call ‘spiritless’. They tend to follow the model below.A completely spiritless person is guided solely by external influences, since there is no deep inner core within themselves to impose any sense of their own will on the world. They’re basically machines. They perceive things through their senses, which then get processed by their brain. These sense impressions first get processed into desires and emotions of all kinds, which are all over the place. These emotional feelings within them proceed to produce thoughts, which are mostly rationalizations for why they feel the way they do, or are concocted attempts satisfy all the inner contradictory longings. Since the external world is so chaotic and all over the place, so is this person’s inner mental life.
Since these people are governed by external influences, they are a slave to their emotions and thoughts. They have no awareness of any deeper aspects of themselves, so they completely identify with their thoughts and feelings; they therefore cannot step outside of thought and emotion, examine these components of consciousness, and guide the process. They see things around them, these experiences make impressions on them, longings are created, and they constantly chase this or that, hoping it will end the chaos happening within them.
The tragedy of the spiritless cycle is that the world outside of us is filled with false promises of happiness. These external influences guiding their behavior are not likely to end up in happiness and meaningful fulfillment. The type of consciousness the human brain produces is rather limited. It will constantly send you on wild goose chases, promising fulfillment if you acquire this, accomplish that, or achieve whatever. Then you work your tail end off, you finally acquire what you were promised, probably to realize it wasn’t all you believed it would be; sadly, the human brain will take no responsibility. It’ll basically just be like, well, now pursue this instead! Go go go! And until you get up and go, it will create feelings of depression, jealousy, and ill-conceived hopes that, “If only I’d done things differently.” And it will have all kinds of conjectures (likely faulty) as to what went wrong.
The real key point is that, when dealing with the normal mind’s promises, happiness and fulfillment are almost always something to be obtained at some later place and time once some conditions are met. Once you achieve those conditions (if you’re ever able to), you’ll finally reach that supposedly wonderful place. When you arrive, you may feel good for a short time, but (in my experience anyway) you’re ultimately emotionally underwhelmed and unsatisfied, and the brain blames you. You weren’t good enough, you weren’t pretty enough, you weren’t smart enough, you made a wrong decision at this juncture, you trusted the wrong people, etc. Now be depressed, be unhappy, and go through some process of pulling yourself out by chasing something else. Get back up! Get back in the game! Get psyched! There’s more fish in the sea! You’ll win the game next time! Chase this other thing instead!
If you finally learn this “game”, this stupidity, and really sit down to meditate and self-analyze what’s going on with your mind and emotions, you’ll realize the thoughtless, ill-conceived, stupid forces which you were letting guide your behavior, simply because you lacked any awareness. You just had internal feelings and proclivities, and you let them push you here and there. From my own analysis of myself, these proclivities are poorly thought out. A thoughtful person can look out at this universe and see a lot of the stupidity all around of us. Believe it or not, that stupidity lives alive and well in all of us as well.
But there is self-awareness, thank goodness. If you come to a point where you’re attempting to step outside your own mind and emotions, and look at them as an observer from above, looking at the process and trying to gain better control over it, congratulations, you’re now starting the spiritual journey. If you keep at it, over time you will eventually realize that the path is to pursue Christ consciousness.
The first thing you’re going to ask is what is it that has stepped outside of the mind and emotions, and is looking at them from “above”. It’s very puzzling but you’ll realize that you can do it. Whatever this observer is, it is NOT anything that you perceive, or else how could it exist beyond it? However, if you self-reflect and develop this perception, this ability, for lack of a better word, you’ll realize that you’re like one of those old phone-operators in the 1950’s, with all the ports and wires, and when certain signals come into consciousness, you can redirect them here or there, nullify them, mute them, etc.
Just to give an example, say you’re in the grocery store. You walk by an aisle filled with cake and donuts. Your brain says, “Oh, it looks so good. Buy it! Buy it!” That’s the impulse. If you give into it, that signal gets sent to the imagination, which will attempt to amplify the signal. It then puts an image in your mind of you laying the box on your kitchen table at home, opening it up, and biting into one of those donuts. There it goes! More and more, amplify, amplify, until you break down, buy the donuts, eat them, then feel guilty because you know they’re going to make you fat — but you don’t want to be fat. That’s the spiritless cycle. It’s contradictory and makes no sense. It creates impulses, tells you it’ll be oh so great, then you give into the impulse, and it guilt trips you and makes you depressed.
This is where self-awareness comes in. You stand above that, you see the impulse to buy donuts, and you send a command from above, “We’ve done this before. It doesn’t work out. No. I refuse.” Then it creates the impulse again. You have to say “No” again, and again, and again. If that impulse wont leave you alone, you close your eyes, focus your attention on the point between your eye-brows, and then just breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out, just focusing all attention on your breath. You then drain that “circuit” within your brain of its energy, and redirect it to concentration on your breath. From my own experience I can tell you this — you’re on a ship, and if you let your sails be blown around by every whim and desire, you’re going to crash, sink, and burn. Your favorite idea must become “No”.
The human body is a machine, and this is you taking control of the machine. The more control you have over this machine, the more free will you have. However, this free will requires awareness. But don’t get too excited. In order to care enough to be aware you have to have formed an identity. Who do I want to be? You’re just now at the beginning of the journey.
In the donut example, you have to have set down a new law, “I do not want to be fat.” That’s free will speaking. Then when impulses arise which don’t line up with the objective you set, you have to be self-aware enough to realize that it doesn’t line up with your identity and stop that impulse in its tracks. You have to have taken the time to watch your own mind and emotions, and really thought about what was taking place. The best way to do this is during meditation. You sit still, quiet the mind, and you self-reflect. You ask yourself, why do I feel this way, when did I start feeling this way? You watch events unfold and you realize what’s going on. What triggers this emotion in me? Why does this upset me? Why do I enjoy this so much? What am I hoping to achieve by doing this action? Has this pattern of behavior worked for me before?
So yeah, we’re now at a big cross-roads. Who do you want to be? The possibilities seem endless. You could pursue just about anything. How will you pilot your body and mind around? What will you do? What will you think about? What will you pursue? “I don’t want to be fat” seems like a rather shallow goal. Maybe that doesn’t matter. But what does matter? That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? I’m guessing you want to feel happy and fulfilled. You want to feel satisfied with your life.
I will now assume that’s your goal. There’s a series of important questions you now need to ask yourself. I think the most primary is to ask whether happiness is dependent upon achieving various goals. If you haven’t already in your life, I encourage you to take several of your deepest desires, pursue them will full force, and actually achieve them. Then hold your mind accountable. Is it all you imagined it would be? Did that new bigger house make you happy? Now that you’re married, did a spouse make you happy? You’re sitting in that brand new car. Do you feel any different than you did before? So you finally got your degree and are working in some brand new career. How do you feel? Any different than before? Be mindful of the before and after. If these things made you feel better, I congratulate you and am happy for you. I truly am. But, and this is a big but, if not, be aware of what just happened.
If you’re like me, your answer will be that you achieved your goals and felt no different than before; I felt (at times) short bursts of temporary joy and then ultimately felt underwhelmed and cheated. So naturally I began to suspect that nothing (no-thing) will change how I feel inside. That’s quite a dismal prospect.
So what then? I started pursuing meditation.
If you look on the flow-chart of Christ-Consciousness cycle, when I first started getting into meditation, I learned that I can cut-off the thoughts and emotions. That was huge for me. I learned that I can just exist, aware of what’s happening, but am able to turn on/off various emotions through focus of attention. Very neat and transformative stuff. I was simply my spirit, for lack of a better word, watching myself live my life.
The one thing I initially did was simply unplug all the plugs in the big switchboard. This was because, due to my own mental programming over the years, I was such a negative person, and my emotions were very negative. There was a lot of anger, depression, and other bad things in there. I remember thinking, geez, my mind needs cleaned out. This is going to take some work. The first time I learned that I can turn all that off, I was just like, wow!
A lot of people become alcoholics, drug addicts, and other things all to avoid their own, mostly self-created, negative mind. The mind can be your own worst tormentor. Then I’m like, oh wow, I can turn it off! I can turn it off! I’ve written on my blog that ever since this discovery, I haven’t known anything like depression. There are small bouts of frustration, like if I’m playing a video game and die or something, but none of that overwhelming despair at life in general.
The next step was self-awareness, watching my life carefully from “above”, and looking at what events and situations brought happiness into my life. What was the pattern?
I found that I highly approve of any situation where there is deep love. Not passion, but unconditional love. Mothers caring for their children, teachers caring about their students, doctors who work hard to heal the sick, and so forth.
I admired people and situations where there was peace, such as monks who would not retaliate even when violently attacked. They seemed far more highly evolved and spiritual beings in my eyes. I reasoned they must be connected to some higher realm to have the mental strength and confidence to do that.
Patience seemed extremely important, especially since we all come up short. Watching teachers berate students who were slow on the uptake rubbed me the wrong way.
Kindness of all kinds was wonderful. When people were kind to me, I found it resonated with something deep within me, and I felt an obligation that it should be reciprocated.
I found it superior to have faith that good things are going to happen, and to believe in a good future, ever striving to make it happen, as opposed to negative people who simply complain and do nothing.
I found self-control to be of utmost importance. The body creates many desires that are not conducive to a happy life. They must be suppressed and well managed.
These were the sorts of things I saw when self-reflecting, and are traits which I’ve been working to strengthen and reinforce in my mind. As for the negativity and garbage, I’ve been constantly keeping an eye on it, and trying to flush it out. In general, I’ve found that the stage and stage-props (the the people, situations, and places) on which events were happening was relatively unimportant. Did the situation have those key components I just listed? That was most important. Otherwise it isn’t worth experiencing.
For me, my own goal seemed to be to make my mind a beautiful place, and that that was the best gift I could give the world. My mind needs to be brought it into conformance to some beautiful ideal. In this process of striving to do this, and meditating, I found I started to connect to some superior source of consciousness, beyond myself.
I came to learn this is what Christians refer to as the Holy Spirit. I had not known this spiritual being/force before, but then again, my mind had never been quiet, and I wasn’t exactly listening or open to the sorts of things it would’ve had to say.
If you don’t believe in any of this, I suppose I don’t blame you. Years ago, I wouldn’t have believed it either.
But Christ-consciousness is the total opposite of living spiritless. It’s about connecting to an essence deep within you, in stillness, listening quietly, letting it be the primary source of your thoughts, and then letting your emotions and actions flow from that source. To what extent this being is my own self essence deep within me, or whether it is separate from me but is working together with my spirit, or what, I’m not entirely sure, but I’ve found I never regret listening to it. It is the same source as your conscience, but normally people do not listen to it unless it’s screaming at you and you’re about to do something stupid. However, it will talk to you in stillness.
The first time I ever listened to it was during a semester where I taught an electronics lab. In meditation, it told me to love the students unconditionally. To speak positive encouragement to them, in all that they do. To always reinforce confidence in them that they can achieve results and do all that was asked of them. To offer them the best feedback I could, in kindness, and offer infinite forgiveness. To stay behind after normal hours, helping them build circuits. To order them pizzas in class, out of my own pocket. To lay out all the electronics components for them before each lab. It gave me advice of this nature. The more I listened to it, it had a certain type of excellence and love about it that I greatly admired. I wanted to be like it. I obeyed and treated the students in this way. At the end of the semester, the students were coming up to me shaking my hand, telling me it was the best experience they have ever had learning. They wanted to take me out to drinks, buy me dinner, others baked me cookies, I would enter the lab room and see murals on the chalkboards, dedicated to me, depicting me as a super-hero.
Many of these students are scientists and atheists, people who would scoff at the idea of God, but if only they would knew that the force that was operating in that classroom, that I was channeling each day in meditation and prayer, was the same aspect that caused them to love me like they did. I simply was a vehicle channeling this energy. I feel they would love this Holy Spirit, if they knew it.
You can be down and out, and sit down, quietly, in meditation, and call on this Holy Spirit, and it will balance all energies within you and leave you in perfect peace. I’ve done it so many times now, it’s beyond doubt. But then I got to wondering, why did I never experience any of this before? Then I dusted off my Bible, which I hadn’t read in a long time. I did not have the proper conception of God, nor was I keeping the proper commands Christ had left us.
“If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”
22 Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”
23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.
25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
— words of Jesus Christ, John 14
If you think communicating with this being is a ticket to getting what you “want”, you’re quite mistaken. In my experience, this Holy Spirit follows a yogi adage I read in a Kriya yoga book.
“Do not do what you want, and then you may do what you like.”
– Indian Yogi
It’s a teacher and you’re a student. You don’t bark commands at it, you listen. If you’re humble enough, it will direct you to ways of living that will make your life more loving, peaceful, and meaningful. When you’re forging this identity, if you agree to follow the deep universal laws of creation, loving unconditionally, etc., this teacher will come to you. When you’re finally at a place where you realize, “I don’t know what I’m doing”, and have tried everything you’ve thought to try, and will listen, the teacher will come, that is, if you open yourself to it.
But you don’t have to. You can live spiritless, and be blown around by every random desire and emotion, though your mind will be a place of turmoil and you’ll suffer a great deal. You will be a slave of this realm, this strange matrix we’re in. It will be your pilot, and I do not think you want that. I encourage you to connect to ever deeper aspects of yourself, expand your awareness, and take control of your life. But who will you choose to be? Not an easy question. So last of all, once you are piloting your own life, do not feel you’re above the ultimate laws of all creation. Love others as yourself. Love unconditionally. Be kind, patient, and exercise self-control. This is for everyone’s good, including your own. If you’re serious about living right, and quiet your mind, if you call out to this great cosmic teacher, it will come, and will help you in life, give you its peace, and lead you to ever greater meaning and wonderful things. I personally vouch for the Holy Spirit, and Christ. Whatever they are, they are good.
This, in summary, is how I interpret the spiritual journey.