Contemplations for the New Year - Part 4: True Spirituality is in the Seeking, not the Finding
This is an interesting one.
I'm feeling exhausted from spiritual certainty.
This is not new. I've spent much of my adult (and pre-adult) life around spiritual certainty and it never really fit well, though at times I liked it and wore it myself.
I'm pragmatic and hate drama, fuss and over-reaction. I liked the type of certainty that was practical and plain. Things were just true...stop fussing.
But somewhere inside I was also questioning, because what I was given, by my upbringing, and meant to accept as "just true" didn't make me happy at all. It left me depressed and desperate, feeling hated, unacceptable, suppressed. It was killing me - the real me inside.
As I got older, I peeled more and more of it off. So much, in fact, that I eventually believed in nothing. It lasted for about 90 seconds. It felt horrible.
I decided, in that horrible feeling, that I didn't care if I was making it up, I wanted to believe in something spiritual, some kind of God, because life felt better.
I consider that my true salvation point. Faith, belief, spirituality was saved in that moment, but it was saved in order to feel better. Therefore, if something felt worse, it wasn't going to be my truth. I believe to feel something better than I feel without belief.
And that's when my spiritual path took a sharp turn and never looked back.
I feel like I suddenly saw through the religious culture, structure and assumptions I'd grown up with, I saw through people's needs for religion - not in a superior way, but in a compassionate one. I understood that we all believe for our own reasons, our own needs.
20-odd years later....
I have wandered through this big and rambling world of spiritual ideas. I've seen beauty in all kinds of places, I've seen spiritual ugliness, evil and corruption. I've seen dangerous practices take advantage of vulnerable people, and I've seen people ignore all their innate senses of right & wrong, of boundaries and safety, of logic, to try and reach some spiritual high that they longed for (and that's almost always where abuse happens...seekers beware).
Here's two things I know for sure:
1. The only people with healthy, vibrant, real spirituality are healthy, vibrant, real people.
And health, vibrancy and reality in people are born from therapy...from dealing with the shit inside you. Get therapy. Do that hard work, that courages feeling of feelings, speaking of shame, owning your story, expressing your deepest, hardest things to a trained professional. Just do it. It's the gateway to happiness, wholeness, better relationships, inner peace, spiritual fullness and most other good things in life. Just do it.
(and without doing it, but continuing to seek a spiritual life, you risk abuse because abuse is far more likely to happen to people who have parts of their inner selves shut off, and as such, they're less likely to be able to hear the truth being expressed within...when you shut off the hurt, you shut off the good too.)
2. True spirituality is in the seeking, not the finding.
This is worth remembering for two reasons. Firstly, if any spiritual teacher expresses their beliefs in a way that indicates they've "found" the truth, the one way, the universal truth; if they indicate to you that you "must" go through something, do this thing they suggest, that this is the only way you'll find what you seek, then run a mile. Any teacher who isn't still a seeker is not to be trusted.
For oneself, I would apply the same principle - be open, seeking, AND enjoying what you've found that feels true. Seek God (in whatever form you can find that entity) with the understanding that God is not knowable completely...that's kind've the point, I imagine. God is bigger than us, ungraspable, uncontainable, un-explainable. We are meant to seek, to learn, to grow in understanding, as a constant. We are meant to always be humble enough to recognise that we do not have the full picture and we never can, at least while we're here in this life.
When seeking God is our spiritual journey, we need not seek the "right" ritual, practice, method, belief, theology, teacher, system, modality or any other human attempt to wrange the unknowable into something we can grasp. Any of these that resonate with you can be helpful, but they are not what we are seeking, they are simply a tool that may (or may not) help us in our seeking of God.
And one final point - being calm and ok with our limits of knowing is key. Learn to accept that we will only ever have a limited knowledge or understanding - and that this is ENOUGH. God does not require a perfect knowledge, correct practice or accurate theology...for that is impossible. In fact, I think God "requires" nothing, but God longs for us to have an open, seeking heart. For an open and seeking heart is a heart God can move within, can inspire and change, challenge and expand.
So ask God what it is you need to learn next, what learning would benefit your expansion now, where there is a blindness in you that can be made clear. Ask to be shown where God is today. Ask to see the world as God sees it, for that is a knowledge of God too. And learn to love the seeking.
This, then, is my spiritual intention for 2023...to stop hoping for certainty, assurance, clarity, solidity, in anything except my inner sense that this God-force, this Love-force, is in me and all around me, in all things, longing to reveal more and more of its never ending self to me, and all I need to do is be open.
That is true spirituality. And it is such a relief.