“And this world, they insist, is where we belong. This wider field of consciousness is our native land. We are not cabin-dwellers, born to a life cramped and confined; we are meant to explore, to seek, to push the limits of our potential as human beings. The world of the senses is just a base camp: we are meant to be as much at home in consciousness as in the world of physical reality.” – Eknath Easwaran
It goes without saying that I’m fairly spiritual, but I realized that a lot of people don’t understand what that means. I think some people write terms like ‘meditation’, ‘yoga’, and ‘spirituality’ off as blind faith or religious dogma. Some imagine that being spiritual means renouncing materialism and having pursuits out of mainstream society.
I can only speak for myself but I see my interest in spirituality almost as a scientific discipline. Just like someone devotes time, energy, and practice to an external discipline – spirituality is my exploration of the internal world of awareness and consciousness.
Just like we immerse ourselves in the wonders of the external – experiences, foods, opportunities, and people, I would argue it is as equally important to explore the inner world. To ask and reflect on some of the deep metaphysical questions in life: What is this experience? Who is conscious? What is consciousness? What am I? Body? Mind?
This inner reflection and inquiry can create a pretty awesome guide for traversing the trials and tribulations of our physical existence like suffering, loneliness, fear, and death.
Practice is necessary to undertake this inner exploration. It helps to make time everyday to concentrate and focus the mind – which a lot of people call meditation. I think a lot of people think meditation is this passive activity but I’ve found that meditation requires me to be extremely focused, attentive, and alert.
My interests in these deep life questions have come out of my observations of the transient nature of experience – fleeting relationships, finances, opportunities, health etc. Facing death through the loss of loved ones has inspired me to take an even deeper study into what existence and life really is.
What I’ve learned so far can’t fully be expressed into words as a large part of my own growth in this domain has been a series of subtle shifts and an experiential awakening. It may sound like a marketing gimmick, but you seriously have to experience it on your own to understand the benefits of this life inquiry.
Although the spiritual journey is subjective, people across time and faiths seem to converge on a similar idea of unity and oneness through this exploration. Any idea of separation is illusory. The real You is not this body, mind, and ego – the real You is consciousness that pervades everything. The Vedantists have been saying this for over 3,000 years and we’re starting to see this idea of unity reflected in the realm of quantum physics. That being said, these conclusions shouldn’t be taken on face value – each person should do their own inquiry and come to their own conclusion.
In my childhood I wasn’t exposed to this internal inquiry. Like most people my life was geared around external worldly pursuits. I think that happens because of the stereotypes associated with spirituality. I think people see meditation and spirituality as something passive and as an escape. Some people mistakingly assume that spiritual pursuits might mean renouncing all worldly goals and living a life as a celibate monk in some forest.
However, I’ve realized that this sentiment is far from true. Instead of a passive pursuit, this spiritual exploration will allow you to engage with the world free of a lot of the suffering and fear we normally bring into our daily lives. You don’t have to renounce materialism, be vegetarian, convert to any religion, or believe in God to be spiritual.
At the crux of it, this exploration is simply an inquiry into the truth of existence. There aren’t any rules to follow in order to engage in this inquiry. However, what is true is that as you engage in this pursuit your view on some aspects of life may change. You may for example start shifting to a more simple lifestyle, because through your inquiry and reflection you start to actually experience how transient and impermanent everything really is. You might start feeling how a lot of your worldly desires are empty. You might start feeling a level of joy that comes in simply existing that dwarfs any joy you’ve ever derived from material wealth. These types of shifts don’t happen over night, they are fairly subtle and happen over time.
Some people are so fascinated by this inquiry that they choose to dedicate their lives to this study. These folks might become monks and move to a monastery, just like someone chooses to get their PhD in physics and dedicate their lives to the study of that subject.
My overall point is there isn’t a right or wrong way to be spiritual. There isn’t a prescribed path that you must follow. Although, I am spiritual, I still enjoy my iPhone and MacBook just like any other person. The difference is that I engage with these material things in my life with the knowing that they are all impermanent, and that joy doesn’t come through the acquisition of more stuff.
I don’t have the false expectation that by acquiring a certain object or pursuing a certain opportunity I’ll be happy. This deep inquiry has convinced me that I’m whole as I am today and that joy comes through simple existence and understanding of what I truly am.
This understanding is truly liberating, because it allows you to engage with the external world (opportunities, people, things etc.) without attaching so much baggage to everything in life to uphold your sense of identity. You are allowed to freely engage and interact with everything and anything, without relying on the external world to give you happiness.
In a world where it seems like everyone is agitated and scrambling to find something for relief, I believe that lasting relief can only be found by taking pause to reflect on the internal.