“What does it mean to be spiritual?”
Are we trying instead of being?
Is there even such a thing as being spiritual?
Is it spiritual to…
- earn money
- charge for spiritual work
- use marketing
- eat meat
- have doubts
- say “no”
- wear makeup
- enjoy physicality
- grieve loss
- have goals…
When we say, “I’m trying to be spiritual,” or “That’s not very spiritual,” our statements reveal we believe in a destination called ‘being spiritual.’ And we believe it’s possible not to be spiritual.
But if you mindfully contemplate, this is seen for what it is, “trying to be spiritual” is just a thought, a belief. And one that can block true perception, causing suffering, denying us the very thing we seek.
The true self is everything we think being spiritual is, and is not a point of view.
The true self, as ordinary awareness, is not a flag planted in the sand in opposition to another flag.
Only the mind divides in this way, creating apparent duality.
When we take ourselves as a point of view, we limit our perception to that point of view – this is an ego lens.
We turn a point of view into an identity. But we are not a point of view.
Trying to be spiritual is impossible. You are already the true self. By trying, you reveal that you simply don’t know yourself.
If you don’t know your true being, you will believe that you are meant to become something. You need only remove the cloud of believing this to see you are already pure consciousness. Like removing the cloud to see the sun was always there.
A younger version of my mind would agonize over the correct ‘spiritual’ mindful response to life events.
When a friend lied and stole from me many years ago, I laboured for days with – “It’s not spiritual to be angry!”
“Aren’t I supposed to love her unconditionally and accept her?”
When a lover broke his promises, again and again, I avoided an argument with, “I should just be spiritual about this and accepting.”
Wisdom offered me some tough love truth.
When I tuned in to mindful wisdom about ‘being spiritual’ I learned the spiritual identity feeding me these thoughts and giving them power was the barrier.
Ego is a mask. Any mask. Even one we call ‘spiritual’ is a mask.
Not true, merely covering what is true.
True spiritual enlightenment is often not what we imagine
Ordinary spiritual enlightenment which is the recognition, the “Aha!” seeing of our true nature as awareness, can seem completely at odds with idealized spiritual fantasy.
Many spiritual seekers have an idea of what enlightened spiritual people are meant to look like, sound like and act like.
Then ignorantly, we feel to reach this special destination we must try to mimic what it looks like to be spiritual.
My business partner Chantel often says, “Trying is lying.”
The ego is always acting.
Always pretending. Ego is not even real. It’s a false idea of who we are.
Ego is self-image – an image isn’t real; it’s an image. An idea. A point of view, a concept.
It has no weight, no substance, no reality. The mind projects and veils the truth.
And so, ironically, spiritual identity is as ego-driven and ignorant as any other false identity.
“I am spiritual” is as untrue as “I am not spiritual”.
- The true self, ordinary, non-dual (not two, undivided) awareness, is not held captive by the mind.
- A screen is not touched by a movie no matter how lovely or ugly the scene, no matter how we dress the characters.
- The dreamer is not the dream character who is trying to be spiritual.
Spiritual looking and sounding characters are as much of an illusion as burger-eating, beer-drinking material identified characters on the screen of consciousness.
Don’t misinterpret what I’m saying. I’m not encouraging cruel or destructive acts.
I find we can act with far more love, compassion and responsibility when we realise the true self, and remove the flags of trying to be spiritual. And we act authentically guided by wisdom.
All identities are concepts, not real. The mind projects them on the screen of consciousness.
Consciousness is unmoved by the movie.
Setting aside that metaphor, let’s look at the “true-self” response.
Is fighting or war spiritual?
Life operates according to its innate intelligence. And it does so automatically.
Birds fly, eyelashes grow, personality flowers, mind matures, souls evolve – these are all a part of the dance of life.
And life looks after itself. It has laws and innate intelligence. This is the role of divinity.
This great, awe-inspiring innate, automatic, intelligent moves galaxies and people.
But suffering ensues when the mind is shrouded by ignorance of the true self and is hypnotized by the false ego movie identity of “I am spiritual” (or any other identity).
Also, life’s spontaneous, intuitive and true movement is blocked and distorted by this ignorance.
So when ‘a friend steals your money’, or ‘lover lies’, or dharma (the natural laws of life) is breached, there is always a spontaneous, wise and true response available in that moment.
This spontaneous, wise and true response cannot happen if the ego-mind is pulling strings.
These strings will sound like thoughts about “I must be spiritual” and cause inner conflict and suffering.
When dharma (the natural laws of life) is breached, there is always a spontaneous, wise and true response available at that moment.
When a false spiritual identity is in charge, movement is painful, causes division breaks families apart and triggers suffering.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna commands Arjuna to pick up his weapon and fight in a war.
Arjuna doesn’t want to fight and lays down his weapon.
He doesn’t want to go to war with his cousins and family.
Krishna has to enlighten Arjuna, revealing the truth of his nature, as non-dual awareness for Arjuna to accept his dharma and fight in a righteous war.
Are we held prisoner by a spiritual identity wearing masks of polite love and blocking appropriate wise action?
Here is a translated quote of Krishna telling Arjuna to go to war.
“And even considering your personal dharma as well, it is not right for you to hesitate. There is nothing better for a warrior than a fight based on dharma.” (Bg. 2.31) The Bhagavad Gita
We feel when dharma is breached.
Dishonesty. Theft. Denying freedom to the innocent. Taking what is not ours. Ill-gotten gain. People take the wrong places in a family structure – emotionally parenting our parents, etc.
These breaches of dharma have karmic consequences.
Life looks after this through the dharma field. The body and the mind are woven from the fabric of the dharma field.
There is always an appropriate spontaneous wisdom-led dharma aligned response to life.
No one can tell you what that is or anticipate the wise response in advance.
Self-honesty, maturity and wisdom are required for life to move with dharma.
And in this movement is always love. But this love does not look like the clichéd spiritual identity image.
- This love can rage with a fierce grace to restore dharma.
- This love can move like Kali, the destroyer of worlds.
- This love can also bow in acceptance and let go.
- This love can laugh like a child, work hard to pay bills, and do its duty with dignity.
- This love can move to help tender gentleness, and it can equally move to pick up its sword and fight.
- This love moves cleanly, without arrogance, and is not driven by personal fear or desire.
The ego is always hungry; it wants for itself. It defends and attacks blindly.
The dharma field moving with intelligent wisdom is different, entirely. It can move as impersonal love or impersonal war.
If you want to know if an action is born of an ignorant ego trying to be spiritual or if it is life’s dharma field moving appropriately, look and feel honestly in your body.
The body is very sensitive to dharma.
We experience a felt sense of heaviness, contraction or closing when we move against the wisdom of life. A closed mind, heart or gut response indicates a lack of wisdom. Action, speech and thoughts from this closed state are likely to break dharma and cause harm.
We feel open when we move with the wisdom of life. Even anger, sadness, even wielding a sword of truth can be an open movement of wisdom led action.
This is an invitation for us to spot the tricky fox of the ignorant ego-mind, as it builds its false images of self posing as “being spiritual.”
A spiritual self-image is still that, a mirage, an image.
To liberate the mind with the truth. To see “ah – I am not an image. I am that I am, non-dual, ordinary, action-less awareness.
Try out this statement, perhaps mindfully say the words aloud and notice the response in your body.
“Life happens in me, and life guides life. Life flows as my soul, body and mind.”
“May my mind be illumined by the truth and be set free of all false identities.”
How do those words feel?
When spiritual vs physical labels are collapsed, seen as concepts in the mind, we are free of both.
The self is non-dual (not two, not separate, undivided) awareness. “I” am not a separate person; personhood is in the self. A song of life in the open space of awareness.
Beware my friends of the “spiritual identity”; it is the trickiest of tricksters. It uses the appearance of truth and distorts it to keep our minds in prison.
We are free of the divisive surface mind when free of the false spiritual identity. The surface heart that feels lacking fills with its wholeness. The gut at war in resistance surrenders to the truth.
Mindfully, we leave all outcomes to life, and when it’s time, we pick up our dharma swords and we fight.