Spirituality… is it all it’s cracked up to be?
One thing I’ve become aware of in the world of spirituality, is that for some there is a deep need to be seen as spiritual. This is ironic, because the moment spirituality becomes an important part of someone’s identity, it’s at risk of becoming an ego-trip. This is the antithesis of spirituality. Liberation is the letting go of the title, of the need to be seen in a certain way, and just quietly living a spiritual life. It is only the ego that has the need for fanfare.
Over the last few years I’ve come to question a great deal of what I initially learned on my journey, and I’ve formed a fresher understanding as my awareness has evolved. I’ve listed some regularly used spiritual philosophies below to illustrate what I mean. What is evident to me is that these philosophies can exist in one of two energies: either from the ego (spiritual snobbery), or from the soul (true spirituality), and their resulting meanings are worlds apart. In whichever of these energies an individual spends most of their time is how the philosophy will be experienced and projected onto others.
“How you perceive anything I do or say is a reflection of you, not me.”
Yes, it’s true – we see things according to our own inner-state. However, sometimes we do see things as THEY are, not as we are, so it’s not always true. I’ve often seen this quote thrown around in spiritual circles as a way of excusing one’s own behaviour. So be wise to it if someone has evidently just insulted you, then claimed that it’s your issue that you’re taking it the wrong way.
If you take offence at pretty much everything and everyone around you, that is clearly not reality. However, if you are so spiritual that you claim not to feel negative about anything whatsoever, then that is not reality either. For instance, it would be a good thing to feel offended in the presence of a serial manipulator, sociopath or psychopath, because that would be your inner-guidance warning you to move away from that individual or situation. Glazing over it with spirituality whilst claiming to be the epitome of ineffable love is not always the wise way through in these situations.
In essence: It’s vital to learn the difference between the offence your ego takes (illusion) and the offence your soul takes (your inner-guidance), and then take action accordingly. If it’s ego driven, then take action to heal your wounds. If it’s soul driven, take the action your soul is telling you to!
“If you see it in others, it’s because it’s within you.”
Sometimes this applies. For instance, if you regularly rip others off, you’ll know exactly what to look for and recognise when others are doing it. If you are untrustworthy, then you’re unlikely to trust others. We tend to assume that others experience the world the same way we do, so we project our ‘stuff’ on to them. It’s definitely true that we feel most uncomfortable when we see traits in others that we subconsciously play out ourselves. So yes it applies. But it’s not always true.
If you’ve been willing to work on your shadow-side and have held your hands up to your own ego’s games, then you will see and understand yourself in a very different way. You’ll be observing your own ego in action. When you can clearly see yourself, you can also clearly see others. This includes all forms of manipulation. This is because awakening to ourselves means we awaken to others too.
In essence: Being able to see something in others doesn’t always mean it’s within you too. It can simply mean you have open eyes and are seeing the truth of ‘what is’.
“Everyone shows up as a reflection of you.”
Be loving, and others will be loving towards you. Be awful and others will be awful back. Yes, of course it’s true, but it’s also true that sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t.
I rarely fluctuate up and down to the tune of how others behave now. Sometimes I do reflect others back to themselves because I choose to (see the next item on karma). Most of the time I don’t, because I choose my own inner-state. Either way, my state is my conscious choice and I take full responsibility for it. I don’t spend all day every day being a reflection of others. What an exhausting thought!
It has to be said that sometimes this saying smacks of someone having such a big ego as to assume that the entire world and everyone in it revolves solely around them. It really doesn’t.
If you are at the mercy of others for your inner state, then perhaps it’s time to take self-responsibility. Until you do you’ll be up and down like a yo-yo and fear will be a close friend – how can it not be when you simply don’t know how you’re going to feel each day?
In essence: Sometimes others do show up as a reflection of you, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes others are fully in charge of their own inner state and reflect only that, regardless of how those around them behave. Part of the spiritual journey is in reaching that place.
“I don’t need to take care of it, because karma will.”
Yes, we are all the result of our karma. You only have to look in the mirror to see your karma, because you are your own karma.
However, sometimes you’re meant to reflect back what someone is giving you, because sometimes your response IS their karma.
It can be the case that the more spiritually we respond towards those who are abusing us, the more we teach them that abuse is acceptable. The abuse then continues and ripples out to others, and that is not spiritual, nor is it good karma.
Refusing to stand up to someone who is causing you or others grief in the name of spirituality and saying karma will take care of it, is like ignoring rubbish that has been thrown on the street because it’s someone else’s job to pick it up. It’s like ignoring global warming because ‘it’s not your problem’. Actually, it is your problem. Ignoring it means it becomes everyone else’s problem too.
There is a superb quote by Einstein ~ “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.”
In essence: The trick is in learning when to walk away peacefully, and when to stand up and courageously take action. Both are required for healthy spirituality.
“What others think of me is none of my business.”
If you aggressively don’t give a rat’s ass what anyone else thinks of you, that’s not spiritual. It’s spiritual snobbery. Whenever this is said with underlying anger, the individual saying it definitely does care what others think, but is hiding it behind defensiveness. There are those who are aggressive with it, and there are those who don’t mind what others think of them without any emotional charge behind it – they are worlds apart.
When the true meaning of this saying is understood and lived consciously, then defensiveness makes no sense. You understand that perception alters according to how we’re feeling within. We all have ups and downs, and as such, we know that our judgments of others will fluctuate along with those ups and downs.
We also know unequivocally that it goes both ways – our own judgments over others are just as meaningless as theirs of us. It’s only when we fully understanding this, that the true meaning behind this quote can be fully realised.
If someone is attempting to give you valuable feedback and you don’t care what they think, then it’s a wasted opportunity for self-growth. So it’s wise to pick up the mirror and check in on whether their opinion is bringing something to the surface within you that needs to be worked on. If so, then do the work and let it go. If not, then let it go.
In essence: If there is an underlying emotional charge to your belief in this, then you don’t truly believe it yet.
“No one can hurt me.”
If you have reached a stage where absolutely nothing and no one can hurt you, then is it from a place of spirituality or detachment? Where are all your emotions being buried? Are they being suppressed? If you’re not feeling anything, then are you feeling love either?
Sometimes you are meant to feel pain, fear or guilt. Pain means you’re growing through challenges, fear keeps you safe and also lets you know when you’re stepping out of your comfort zone, and guilt means you have a conscience. These emotions only become problematic when you become trapped in them long-term, not when you feel them as part of the human experience. If you’re incapable of feeling guilt or fear, then that is more a trait of psychopathy than spirituality.
If you lose someone you love, part of the healing process is in allowing yourself to be vulnerable enough to feel the pain. Whereas illusory pain is about not getting caught up in the victim role by choosing self-inflicted pain in everyday experiences, such as spending most days being offended by much of what you see. In other words, to realise when your ego is seeking significance and keeping you locked in the role of victim-hood.
It’s vital to learn the difference between the illusory pain of the ego and real pain of grief. It is also about not getting caught up in the positive thinking game where pain is suppressed under a fake smile. That is like a ticking time-bomb.
In essence: Choose wisely what hurts you. Some pain is real and some pain is not. When you get caught up in someone else’s ego game, that is the time to decide that no one else can pull you in without your permission.
“Respond to everyone with loving kindness, even if they are being cruel towards you.”
There is a big difference between someone who is behaving negatively towards others because they are going through a difficult time, and someone who is, for instance, a sociopath.
Emotional ups and downs are all part of the human experience, and this is when loving empathy is the best way to help bring someone back into a good place. It’s wonderful to help others, but do be aware of fixers, or of becoming a fixer, because there are those who are determined to drag others kicking and screaming into a loving place whether they want to be taken there or not. This can often be more about the fixer than the one they are attempting to heal through their love.
When choosing to be loving and forgiving towards others it’s worth remembering that a healthy dose of wisdom needs to be applied, because the more loving you are towards a manipulator, sociopath or psychopath, the more they will see that as an open invitation to abuse you further and take whatever they can from you. Their brains simply don’t have the capacity for love or empathy, so they are incapable of reflecting genuine love back to you, regardless of how spiritual you are.
Also remember that if you are in a relationship where you are constantly having to be forgiving and understanding, then a time limit really does need to be applied; there’s a fine line between being spiritually compassionate towards someone, and teaching them that you are willing to be mistreated.
In essence: Not everyone wants to be healed through your love, so don’t allow the need to be seen as spiritual to blind you to the truth of who you’re dealing with.
“Don’t give up – success may be just around the corner!”
Yes, except that sometimes things are tough because you are on the wrong path. Sometimes it’s difficult because you’re not meant to be doing it.
There is a world of difference between the challenges of growth (which are normal and part of our journey) and forcing the wrong path to unfold before us because we refuse to give up.
In essence: Become self-aware enough to know when to give up and when not to.
“I don’t need my partner – I choose them, but I don’t need them”.
Yes, absolutely, it can be a burden to have a partner who expects you to provide their happiness. It’s a burden to have a partner who needs constant reassurance.
However, there is also a beautiful element of love which doesn’t seem to be taken into account here, and it’s the vulnerability it takes to fall in love in the first place. It means we open our hearts enough to allow love in. We allow our soul the possibility of being hurt… and we choose it anyway. Part of the beautiful frailty of what it means to be human means that we need love to enable us to surrender to it.
As a woman, I know that my husband loves to be needed. He enjoys protecting me when I feel vulnerable, when I need to be held.
I also like to be needed as a woman, to nurture. To be needed, loved and appreciated is part of human nature.
In essence: If you are so spiritually independent that you really don’t need your partner at all, then what part of your soul is actually surrendered into the relationship?
Why? Seriously though, why do we need to stay so darn positive all the time? It’s almost as if we’ve become afraid to feel all of our emotions, like we’re afraid we somehow won’t be able to cope with them.
So strong is the positive thinking movement, that many feel like a failure if they don’t manage to maintain a hugely positive attitude all the time. It’s bull, really it is.
I totally know that life feels easier and has more clarity when we feel positive, but sometimes there is a very valid reason why we feel low. When we refuse to acknowledge that reason, then applying a positive thinking toolkit is simply icing over the cracks. It may look pretty on the surface, but underneath the cracks are still there.
Sometimes we need to be wherever we are emotionally. Sometimes we feel low because something in our life desperately needs to change. Sometimes it’s because we’re not answering our life’s calling, and our soul is crying out to be heard.
In essence: Rather than simply glazing over your low times with positive thinking tools, how about taking the time to sit quietly, and tune in with what your unhappiness is trying so hard to communicate with you. Then take action on that instead…
I could go on and add many more to this list, but you have a life to be getting on with and so do I.
Have fun on your journey. 🙂