There is no such thing as spirituality, mysticism or religion... there is only reality or un-reality, clarity or confusion... understanding or misunderstanding. While we sometimes employ these words to describe what is unseen and not readily perceived, the fact that these "spiritual" philosophies exist as competing views of reality (that some argue and become violent over) only serve as evidence as to how clueless we human beings can be...and how deeply we can deceive ourselves. (..and how much we still don't know.)
The goal in sharing any thoughts or ideas about the possibility of expanding awareness is to help people out of suffering. In my opinion, the goal is also to begin unravelling the fallacies of the human mind, and these stories it can fabricate that we call "the ego". In order to do that, I think that it's important to speak in clear ways that are understandable...not debate philosophies that may (or may not) be irrelevant. Many times these lofty "concepts" whether they be religious dogma, or spiritually inspired fantasies can become just another tool of the mind to insure it's existence. The concepts themselves can then become tools of the ego. In my view, what the ego wants above all is to exist (and be in control), and will leverage any philosophy or context to do so. (Note: The mind can't understand intellectually what it is to transcend itself.)
Does this mean that I don't believe that the originators of the world religions were trying to tell us something valuable? No. I think they were. In fact, I think that message is fundamental and essential, when it is about Love. Unfortunately, that message has inevitably been twisted by the interpretation of the ego to create "Identity", and that turns into a source of suffering.
So, what is "spiritual"? It is a word that mean different things to different people. It is a word, I think, that attempts to describe the ineffable and invisible inner universe that we all have inside of us. It describes the inner world that we all experience, that world that is unseen, but influences everything. Many times words like spiritual or mystical can also be associated with thoughts and philosophies that are largely unprovable or not self evident. In my opinion, "the ego/mind/identity" will just use these unproven thoughts (beliefs/fantasies) as another distraction to divert the ego from it's existential crises.. or to create another "us and them" scenario. History shows us this over and over. The ego says, "perhaps when I get another hit of this idealized reality, I can finally confirm that I exist and then I can also confirm that everything is OK and exactly as I imagined."
Meditation should guide you towards logic, reason and understanding. Understanding is the path to Love. Isn't Love the highest goal of any spiritual pursuit? Fairy tales will not change your life, a clear view of reality will. For me, "waking up" was/is finding the space to question my own mind. Most everyone has created a false reality to some extent. The achilles heel of our human creativity and imagination is that we can imagine false scenarios that later become the beliefs that rule our minds.. Meditation is a way to open the mind and drop the walls of that box that has been slowly created over time (by the ego-mind-identity).
For me this process was "psychological". The process of working though my own psychological traumas was forefront in my experience and where most of the healing occurred for me (and still occurs). Are there deeper metaphysical implications? Yes, I think there may be, but I can't claim to know what I can't prove.. These insights and intuitions do give rise to interesting questions though, and asking interesting questions is ultimately how we learn and grow. Even in this day and age of advancing technology, life is still full of mysteries, and collectively we are still seeking to expand our view of reality (through the pursuits of science). However, it's also important, I think to analyze and cross check anything the mind produces for ourselves. Always asking, Is this thought accurate? Is it true?
To be honest, I was drawn to a more "spiritual" communities after my awakening. Why? For me I think it was the fact that in general the people are A. more open minded ..and B. for the most part, they seem to be committed to being open to Love. I needed and desired that. Most of the people that I have met in "spiritual" communities have experienced wounding on some level. Many of the people I have met have experienced a loss or personal pain that has opened them up to the fact that our inner world is as important as the outer world. Many are compassionate and giving.
The problem that I see is that because of the open mindedness there is also a lot of latitude for adult escapist fantasies. (Note: Escapist fantasies are also a known, but poor, mechanism for dealing with emotional trauma.) In my view, this can only serve to create more confusion. Meditation and mind body practices are a valuable tool for healing, but that healing must come as a result of looking closely at the truth. "The truth" being the process of opening to the reality of the thought patterns, core beliefs and subconscious patterns that are currently shaping your life. The only way to truly change, and realize freedom from repeating mental patterns and actions (aka. karma) is to awaken to these unconscious patterns enough to change them. After all, I cannot be aware of what I'm not aware of. Right?
(Fantasies, religion, fundamentalism, etc.. can be (and many times are) sophisticated ways of avoiding emotions, pain of abuse (or masking the abuser), and deeper personal psychological issues. Indulging in fantasies (of any kind), only erode your ability to be objective. This erosion has the potential to keep someone locked in the indecision and confusion of the mind that will make it nearly impossible to create the positive change that is desired. In my opinion, it's better to say "I don't know", rather than to fabricate the illusion of knowledge.
"Waking up" from emotional or psychological abuse can be mind bending and jarring enough. Many times people have spent years within an emotionally abusive situation only to suddenly "wake up" and realize that they are in an unhealthy situation. "Finding reality", and then learning the kind of treatment and behavior that you should accept can be difficult to process mentally. It takes time, and there are layers of understanding. Growing up in a situation where patterns of abuse are present only makes it that much harder to see this as an adult. So, in my opinion, adding some of the fantastical ideas that commonly populate the "spiritual path" (..as "sold in stores"), is probably not going to be helpful. Endeavor to base all ideas on a foundation of Love, not division or fear.
Sometimes, when we heal these psychological patterns it sort of frees one up to see deeper insights and patterns, that may be relevant beyond our own psyche. That happened for me and some of these "insights" seemed pretty far out and hard to process all at once. While some advance guidance can be helpful, to go looking for things that are "far out" is not really necessary. If I were giving advice to myself I'd just say, seek to know yourself, and deeper insights will find you.
"Spiritually minded" communities can sometimes be a great place for support and social interaction, but be aware that they can also be a breeding ground for predators. You don't have to look too far to see this.. Be aware that there are, of course, "spiritual" people that will prey on another person's vulnerability. Because these communities are ripe with people healing from mental wounds, there are, unfortunately, also those who will seek to exploit these wounds. This can be hard to see while you are working through, and healing your own mental issues.
So, I would encourage anyone to find a community with some solid and grounded practices based in common sense psychological principles. If it feels weird or "off" to you, well then, it probably is.. learn to trust your instincts, and learn to examine things as objectively as possible. Remember, you don't have to know why...if a situation doesn't feel right.. or if a person's behavior doesn't feel right.. it probably isn't.
Keep it real. When all the glossy spiritual bullshit has faded, when you can't quite be inspired by the latest "guru du jour", what your left with is reality. Your life. Your issues. YOUR decisions about what to do.
Let love or fear be your barometer..does what you are hearing encourage Love..or fear?
Remember that the most spiritual thing you can be is YourSelf!
Seek to Know yourself, and the rest will become apparent.
The most important leader in the world is YOU.
Believe nothing on face value that doesn't make sense to you. Ask relevant questions, seek clear answers..
Treat others how you'd like to be treated...and expect the same.
(disclaimer: for any of the videos I post, it doesn't mean I necessarily agree with everything that person has to say... just that the video posted has interesting concepts to be considered.)
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Just a personal note: There is nothing new under the sun. I am just attempting to present info. here that has helped me. I hope to present it in a clear way based on my experience with anxiety which was a spiritual, psychological and emotional awakening for me. In retrospect of this experience I have been reading as much as I could to come to a deeper and more grounded understanding of this seemingly mystical thing that happened to me (so that I could share it with you). I'm not a doctor or a scientist. Please know this is only my experience. Yours will obviously be different, but since my experience was so similar to others I've talked to, I am hoping this may be helpful or useful to you in some way. It's also a way that I hope to share the love with you. That is my purpose here.