Don’t forget: Simplicity in spirituality


Note: My online friend Shalini Bahl inspired part of this post. She is a blogger who writes on mindfulness and spirituality in business. Check her site out if you get the chance.

A Buddhist friend of mine goes by the name of Barking Unicorn, and he has taught me many powerful lessons. Being the Buddhist that he is, he does not wish to take credit for this, but unfortunately for him, I’m going to curse him with the credit anyway. He says that everything that I may have learned from him I could have easily learned from Google. I disagree. Sometimes for a lesson to sink in we have to hear it from just the right person in just the right way. Here’s the lesson he helped me learn, and I can only hope that I’m not too spiritually idiotic to have learned the lesson wrong:

Simplicity please

So many people who work on their spirituality fall into a trap of being ego-invested in spirituality, which isn’t really spirituality at all. People who are like this typically boast that they have performed such-and-such strings of actions and through that have achieved a new level of spirituality. Perhaps these people are complicating things a little?

In my very humble opinion, living with wonder is not about finding the belief system that makes you stand out the most, or that is most exotic. These types of belief systems strike me as ego traps, and I myself am not immune. One tendency I’ve noticed in myself is that I have a craving for the novel and the exotic, but the more I learn, the more I’m discovering that I don’t need to go out into the world and hunt wondrous things down. Instead, I’m learning to find the wonder in everything. That makes all the difference. There’s wonder in every seemingly “mundane” aspect of our lives.

The next time I meditate, I have a plan, and I hope others try this out too for themselves. I plan to focus my meditation on first quieting my mind, and then focusing on one simple, seemingly insignificant object, and just realizing the utter beauty and amazement in it.

The key here is to not let ourselves get caught up with that voice that says “Yes, yes I’ve already experienced that, now it’s time to move onto…” Let us be like the gourmet who enjoys every bite of his food, rather than the glutton who wolfs everything down and remains unsatisfied.

Spiritual “leveling”

I have to admit, I’m very careful about any belief system that encourages spiritual leveling. By that I mean that spirituality does not work like exercise or RPGs. You do not grow spiritually by meditating and attending enough spiritual conferences until you have enough experience to call yourself a guru. It’s true that doing all that stuff can help us grow, but it’s not the cause of our growth.

There are those who claim to have achieved enlightenment. I myself have not “achieved enlightenment” but I do know enough about enlightenment to know that is not something you achieve.  Enlightenment is simply something that’s already there, inside of you, waiting for you to stop and listen. It’s already there, it’s our natural state. The ego, artificial thing that it is gets in our way from seeing this. For a great example of this, read Osho’s Ego: The false Center.

You see, spirituality is not like other forms of self-development. To grow physically stronger, you work out. To grow smarter, you constantly challenge your brain with complex problems. Even the development of psychic abilities requires a certain amount of “grinding” as RPG fans like myself call it. Growing spiritually however, does not work the same way. To grow spiritually, it’s not a matter of who meditates more, although meditation certainly has its potential and is an ingredient to the soup so to speak. While meditation certainly has the potential to help us grow, it also is a trap in the sense that it can ensnare the ego.

Ego investment. It's a trap.

“Look how much I’m growing spiritually” one might say to himself in pride, but such growth is false if we forget that we are all one. If one part of a vast universal consciousness grows, what need is there for that single aspect of the same stuff to feel pride? It is an illusion that we are different. Therefore it is a delusion that one person should feel superior to another.

I suspect that part of the problem is the universal human need (created by ego) to feel importance To paraphrase Dale Carnegie, some people crave a feeling of importance so much that they actually go insane to get it. However, people who crave this feeling of importance (i.e. almost everybody myself included) continue to forget two things:

1) Everybody is important and at the same time nobody is – I guess you could say that in the great hologram of the universe, we all have our own important roles to play.

2) The butterfly effect – Each person is more important than he or she has the awareness to realize. You do not have to be a rock star or the mayor of a major city to have a tremendous influence on the future. For those of you who don’t know, the butterfly effect is a theory that states that small differences in initial conditions can lead to huge changes in a system down the road. Check out this comic to get an idea what I’m talking about.

Imagine – you could single-handedly, or at least have a hand in, inspiring anything from war to peace, to the creation of new ideas and technologies, stories or anything, all by being in the right place at the right time. Even Jesus could not have predicted that people would kill in his name. With that awareness, hopefully any thoughts of insignificance, jealousy or inferiority will be washed away and you will be left with a sense of gratefulness and wonder.

There are no superior people. There are no heroes or “better-thans”. Even the most seemingly insignificant person can topple the most powerful of men and often it happens completely by accident or coincidence.

Until next time, remember mundanity is an illusion.

  1. Alice said:

    This post speaks loudly to me. I have been working on this aspect of my life. I really appreciate that you posted this, even though I know no particular random person was on your mind when you posted it. Thank you for taking the time out of your day to share this.

  2. I’m glad you enjoyed this. Of course you could have easily just found this all on Google. 🙂

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