When someone realizes that there is a need for change in her life; that there are many things which need to be reformed to progress; then that realization is the most important step into transformation.
That progress is made though certain steps. For some, it will be about stopping to drink liquor. For others, to stop smoking. For others, to become vegetarian, and yet for others, to go to a religious gathering every week.
All the steps that we could perform to gain a different consciousness are welcomed in the spiritual path.
As a matter of fact, there is usually an “improvement “ period of some sort at the beginning.
“Since I decided not to smoke, my nagging cough has disappeared,” or “Since I decided to go to mass every Sunday, my angry behavior has diminished.”
As we can notice, the common denominator is that we “improve” by taking things away.
If you look at any spiritual path, there is always something to “take away,” that is something that we were doing or thinking which is superfluous or “negative.”
The extent of that “taking away,” is known is some spiritual philosophies as “renunciation.”
Many religions praise renunciation as the means to “enlightenment; ” nevertheless, the emphasis on “getting rid of things,” many times will break the individual’s will to continue in a path.
Spirituality is like training an athlete. If an athlete tries to perform a workout, which he is not capable yet, he will break down and he will not be able to perform well in a competition. How impressed others may be by knowing of the difficulty of a workout, is of no consequence in a competition
When our mentality is set on renouncing things without insight or deep understanding, that person will break down and create a mental image of the danger of the “outside,” the temptations of the “corrupted ways” of common people who are able to “do” those things which are being “rightly” renounced.
Amy wanted a change in her life. She became vegetarian because she found out that meat is not healthy for you. Then, Amy met a “nice” spiritual person when she went to a religious gathering; her name is Tracy.
Tracy belongs to a religious group. In her group, Tracy was only allowed to mingle with people who belongs to her religion. Tracy renounced the rest of the world.
Tracy is not encouraged to socialize with co-workers outside work hours, also she is not allowed to specifically take yoga classes or play competitive sports professionally; moreover, Tracy is not allowed to study philosophy, psychology or any other studies which may shake her faith, and finally; Tracy is not allowed to date non-believers or to get married with anyone outside her faith.
For Amy, the above was a lot to “renounce;” but she was willing to do it because she admired Tracy.
She wanted to be like her.
Amy gave up her yoga classes. She gave up her friends. She stopped going to school to complete her degree in psychology. Her world was her religion.
Evidently, in the beginning she had the happiness of novelty. New friends, a new life, a new horizon. Amy improved her demeanor thanks to her new friends in that path of reformation. As time went by, however; Amy felt secluded. She felt that “the honeymoon” period was over.
She decided to quit… and with that her demeanor, her vegetarian diet, her time with “good” friends; all of that “improvement” was gone!
The above is the usual path of those who “quit” a reforming, renouncing religious path.
In time, Amy felt that she was missing something. She knew that her vegetarian diet was bringing benefits to her as well as following other “reforming” tasks which her religion professed as “Do not’s,” items.
Amy “missed” her life style with the religious group but did not want to relinquish the things that were prohibited to her. That was her dilemma.
The important item to remember is that any external activity performed with the purpose of changing the self, needs to be incorporated in the self; that is, it needs to be “natural.”
In this respect, renunciation needs to eventually disappear.
Thus, true renunciation leads to renouncing renunciation.
“Reforming” a human being through the practice of ritualistic activities has the purpose of bringing greater awareness. If that awareness is not experienced, then the practice of ritualistic activities will be a source of repression in a human being in the extent that there is not greater consciousness.
A human being with a higher consciousness does not require external practices to flourish in life. For her a sense of gratefulness to life, a daily doses of being thankful of experiencing the greatness of life is the element necessary to flourish.
That gratefulness is the sunshine and water necessary to grow and transform.
That appreciation of life, that growth, is expressed in a happy face with a bright smile.
This is the ultimate aim of any reformation in the self. The fruit of the seed planted with care.
Searching for “truth,” could take someone through different paths.
That which makes you look forward to living. That which gives you passion to live.
In that search there maybe different paths:
Religious paths, “self-created” paths out of conceptual understanding, and the path of “doing what everyone does,” all of those paths will bring different experiences.
Religious paths are ways of reforming the self. In other words, the belief that we are “sinful” beings who need to be reformed to align with some “plan.”
That is, God’s plan or some other “elevated” vision of whom I should be. The issue is that most of the time, the emphasis on changing into a virtuous being, is surrounded and manipulated by rituals and devotional practices which are meant so we can belong to a particular creed, rather than allowing that person to explore his own limits and discover by himself what being virtuous is all about.
After all, it is truly a pathless path which may need a little “push” from “up above” to get us started.
Therefore, that original reform becomes a source of dependency, that is “I am virtuous, or I am with God as long as I belong to that particular path.” With that narrowed vision of what is truly meant to be unlimited, universal and wholesome; fear will be built rather than trust in life, in my own capacity and abilities.
That is, doubting in my own honesty to be spiritual.
Thus, someone is not spiritual just because that person does not practice a particular ritual, but because there is no sense of inner balance and inner beauty in their life; harmony is lacking. In a sentence:
“When the smile in the face does not come from serenity of the heart.”
“Self-created paths,” means to create your own flavor according to the whim of the moment. There is the danger of misunderstanding in this path.
For instance if I want to try Taoism as a guiding path, there is the main teaching there of “being natural” and doing what is “natural.”
Obviously this word “natural” may get interpreted in different ways according to my whims and my state of consciousness.
Thus, doing what is “natural” may not be what is “right.”
For that reason, it may be important to start our spiritual quest through the direction of some sort of reformation.
Why is reformation important?
Because as long as a person does not know about his “higher” destination in life (other than getting a great job, a big house and a beautiful partner,) that person will be lost in life. What we are looking in life is not something more to “do,” BUT to “BE.”
Peace, serenity, love…those are not small things to “be.”
Those things cannot be bought with money or degrees or social status.
If that is your goal and you do not know where to start, you may need to look into reforming the self, for the “brainwashing” of “doing” before “being” needs to get out of our system.
Then, your search has truly started.
The Path of “doing what everyone does,” is the path to be like everyone. More “doing.” That simply means entropy. Going down.
Why is that?
Because it is the world of duality, the world of search for pleasure over pain. The world of “me” versus “them.” The world of divisions, the world of “getting things done.”
None of the above mentioned paths is the “only path.” As a matter of fact, different combinations of those paths will be experienced by many.
In life we can recognize that there are no 2 people who are the same. Similarly, there cannot be 2 paths which are alike.
Nevertheless, “true” spirituality starts with a search. It has to be a search of something, which we know exists, even though we cannot put it in words. We cannot search for something, which we do not know what it is.
Life will bring the other ingredients towards finding that which we are looking for according to our sincerity, our honesty.
Then, honesty is the most important part in “being spiritual.”
Spirituality is for those who are sincere, honest. For those who are not afraid of viewing themselves as who they are, without covers. For those who do not perform to satisfy the “normal” status quo. For those who do not pretend.
It is in the heart of that main virtue of honesty, where all other virtues could appear.
Life will only peel the layers of confusion out, so the gem could shine. Chiseled by the experiences of living life; it will be bright; all by itself, as the sun rises in the horizon dispelling the clouds of confusion of the mind.