Val is a life-long student of unexplored human potential and many challenges that self-honesty throws at us on that path.
More smiling, less worrying. More compassion, less judgment. More blessed, less stressed. More love, less hate.
-- Roy T. Bennett
Spirituality -- With or Without a Deity
For longer than I could see it as excusable, spirituality has been synonymous to religiousness. Now, many religious folks are also deeply spiritual, while many of those deeply spiritual are, as well, either atheists or agnostics.
How does that work, you may ask.
Spirituality is really a personal quest to explore one's own higher levels of consciousness, basically by getting rid of our lower brain's animalistic tendencies and their outer expressions.
In tradition of different spiritual schools, notably those of the Far East variety, the path of spirituality is characterized by self-discipline, mental and physical, and by a philosophy with its main tenets focusing on love, harmony, and peace.
Also, there is a great emphasis on personal responsibility for one's intimate reality and one's style of interacting with others, suggesting an attitude of allowing individual differences, compassion, and support.
If there is a god in that picture, He/She/It serves as a cosmic inspiration on that path, as we see our consciousness as a personalized extension of that universal consciousness. Being spiritual, we don't see that deity as judgmental and punishing. In any case, that god is not to be either feared of appeased.
Spirituality is always about a personal journey of awakening one's consciousness through a meditative sinking into one's own essence, while minimizing, or disposing of ego, that animalistic identity with its survival priorities.
Some additional techniques may be applied, like qigong, tai'chi, self-hypnosis, and positive affirmations with elevated emotions as an energy carrier -- for reprograming of our "autopilot", or belief system.
Thus, those who strive towards enlightenment keep an image of a deity as an awakening guidance -- as if coming from within -- not out of any prescribed rituals and group activities which may solely serve to put one in that special "mood".
Also, since that god is not judgmental or punishing, but loving and supporting, there is no place for "sinfulness" and "evil" and alike negativities in true spirituality.
Such concepts don't promote, but sabotage spiritual awakening by keeping on alert our vulnerable ego and its self-defeatist obsessing over interests of survival..
You can safely assume you have created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people that you do.
-- Anne Lamott
History Against Gods
There is nothing inherently spiritual in all of the human race; rather, it's an individual trait -- more like a singing voice, as we can either sing or we cannot, while being "musically literate" or capable to read notes, won't make us "sound" any better in an absence of that singing ability.
Thus all those preachers and gurus out there, while possibly being very eloquent about spirituality, may, or may not be spiritual themselves. It would be quite fair to simplify this distinction by saying:
Those who "got it" may need a little push from some words of spiritual wisdom to set them on their path -- whereas for those who "ain't got it", no words will do.
The mankind's history can easily attest to that. Namely, despite all available inspirational wisdom compiled since the first shamanic teachings about an attainable harmony in ourselves and in our coexistence -- over ages of philosophy and religion trying to instill that altruistic morality into humans, we don't have much to show for it.
Indeed, if while learning a trade we had to re-read our instruction book so many times without being able to put it in practice -- we might as well give up our trade ambitions.
Our history, as well as these present times, are showing a garden variety of animalistic displays of territoriality, greed, and hording of means of survival, struggle for a status of power, with shameless and ruthless examples of arrogance.
Also add to those all intimidation, enslaving, and exploiting, not to mention a widespread criminal mentality. Not even to go to the numerous examples of religious wars, where killing was done "in the name of a deity".
With all that in mind, sometimes I tend to think in terms of something that I call "universal principle of variety".
Namely, following the example of some over hundred chemical elements composing our material world, I can easily speculate about a variety among human mentalities as well, all somehow orchestrating the model of our coexistence, maybe even necessary for a progress through an "eternal tease and challenge between the elements".
By following that model, most, if not all of us, are simply unfolding into a mentality the seed of which we carry. Which doesn't make spirituality anything like ubiquitous, universally spread around -- regardless of how much we would prefer seeing the whole mankind as one massive congregation of believers.
We could say that the great majority of religious followers are not spiritual at all -- merely indoctrinated by family and society to believe and to perform prescribed rituals.
Thoughts like that must have made me an individualist of my own design long time ago -- especially after multiple running into individuals who had absolutely no interest in matters of spirituality.
On the other side of the spectrum we have an impressive multitude of those who believe that they are spiritual -- by attending a holy place of their choice, where they repeat some rituals, and parrot the passes from their respective holy books.
So many of those are not even trying to be better human beings -- as they may not miss a single "saying grace" before eating their dinner, but neither missing a single opportunity for a malicious gossip, political hate, or anything else on the list of being "just imperfect humans" -- as they often like to use that universal umbrella.
I believe in God, but not as one thing, not as an old man in the sky. I believe that what people call God is something in all of us. I believe that what Jesus and Mohammed and Buddha and all the rest said was right. It's just that translations have gone wrong.
-- John Lennon
A Musical Masterpiece on Out-of-Tune Instrument = Noise
Observing and thinking like this didn't only make me an individualist reluctant to generalize about people, but was also a prelude to my reluctance to pick any holy book to "learn" about things of some importance.
Those simple, and intuitively suggestive ethical rules of decency and fairness didn't take any "commandments" to be applied.
Even if I could get over the dubious chances of becoming enlightened by solely reading such a book, the simple fact of its being historically ineffective was quite enough to deter me from it.
Intuitively, I somehow knew that nothing short of working on refining my own model of psycho-physical functioning would make a darn difference.
I even had a name for that back in my teenage years -- "functionalism", that's what I called that basic requirement including the way of my functioning, rather than an accumulation of some "higher knowledge".
In a simple but elegant metaphor, it's like a fine-tuning of an instrument without which no good musical composition or orchestral arrangement could possibly sound good.
For a metaphor, I am imagining an attempt of playing Massenet's "Meditation" on drums. Indeed, a preoccupation with survivalism and competition simply can't coexist with spirituality.
Which brings to mind all those people in my past who, due to their nature, couldn't produce anything of a spiritual value, without that inner call to seek that dimension in their inner world.
As well as all those who displayed quite an ambition to make an instant religionist out of me -- while they, themselves were not following the recipes of what they advertised.
That may not be observable only in the mentioned caliber of religionists, but so many people are generally not really following their own "principles". Like, I have seen an obese cardiologist, an unhappy "life coach" who could hardly hide their misery, plus a couple of control freaks parading as "loving and caring mothers".
People believe one thing, say another, and do something altogether different. That's why I am talking here about spirituality as an almost impossible thing considering the personal nature of so many people.
Believe in your infinite potential. Your only limitations are those you set upon yourself.
-- Roy T. Bennett
No Prescribed Path to Spirituality
Thus, true spirituality is not possible by merely clinging to some unattainable ideals through intellect alone -- it has to be cultivated through any modality or technique that appeals to us according to our individual differences.
Sometimes people ask me how to meditate, and I rush to tell them that they have to search for the right kind which sits well with their individuality, since there is no "one fit all" -- regardless of how different schools are trying to make meditation exactly that.
Also, we cannot imitate the spiritual path of those great teachers like Jesus or the Buddha, simply because they were different personalities. We can, at our best, get inspired, and then try to create our own spiritual "inner version" of what they were talking about.
For a very simple example, if we could really "follow" Jesus's teachings, then we would also be able to walk on water, perform miraculous healing, and bring our own Lazarus out from death.
Unlike religiousness, spirituality is not a "team work" through the Bible study groups, attending church, synagogue, temple, or mosque. Without trying to make it sound like an overly ambitious task -- spirituality is about seeking that god-like nature in the depths of our own soul.
So we could say that it is turning our attention inwards, not outwards, expecting from our own nature to give us answers and divine experiences, not from the outside stimuli.
On our spiritual path we are alone. Only we can know those intimate specifics which in our case give us wings or hold us back.
However, as it was said at the very beginning, a religious person of any denomination and faith can also cultivate their spirituality -- as long as they are working on refinement of their nature, not by merely calling themselves "believer".
The most telling distinction between true and false spirituality is how we are dealing with our ego. For, stepping into that inner shrine we have to leave our ego outside.
Well, I hope these few words have inspired a little for taking a right path toward spirituality.
© 2021 Val Karas