Is spirituality a matter of becoming less or more human?

For far too many spiritual seekers, their spiritual aspiration is like an iron maiden of virtue whose inner critic spikes ceaselessly stab our all-too-human souls. We envision becoming “spiritual” as transcending our humanity rather than becoming more fully human.

Modeling their behavior according to ideas of spirituality that they have read in books, many seekers I meet are genuinely upset with their humanity. They want to be generous, not stingy; admiring, not envious; loving, not hateful; calm, not upset; joyous, not sad; accepting, not angry; holy, not human. When these seekers experience such human ‘blemishes” to their spirituality, they become fearful of their spiritual prospects.

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The First and Last Freedom

Have you ever wondered about the relative importance or unimportance of ideas? Of thoughts? The world is awash with ideas. In 2007, there were 165 million websites. Their 12 billion pages present ideas from the mundane to the sublime. There are 168 million different book titles (2009). With all this thinking, you might add your thought that our problems would be solved – or fewer in number, not growing.

Ideas rule the lives of people. What we think is right, wrong, how to live, why to live, etc. are nothing but thoughts. People dedicate their lives to their ideas. Some would even tear others limb from limb or even destroy themselves and the planet for these things called ideas! That’s how important they seem to be.

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Creating a Structure of Living that Supports an Inner Life

In my work, I get to see the underbelly of our social order: the patterns of unhappiness and hardship which we suffer alone, but which are shared by others in epidemic proportions. These are the disorders of society which breed widespread personal unhappiness.

James Hillman, Jungian analyst, alludes to just such a societal disorder when he comments that one of the hardest things which he has to treat is his clients’ schedules. Hillman notes that their schedules are their defenses against change. Said another way, your personal organizer is your defense. Your to-do list is your personal tyrant. Your busyness is your soul’s captor. We haven’t the time to allow into our lives the changes that would be a salve to our souls.

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Authenticity and Approaches to Personal Transformation

Quotations theme: The drive towards self-actualization impels us towards transformation. How do we consciously cooperate with this drive in a way that complements our authenticity? Do we slice and dice ourselves according to others’ dualistic notions of good and evil? Do we subordinate the person to objective moral laws? Or might we allow the unfolding of our nature within the field of presence?

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Who are You? Who is the Self that Would be Authentic?

How would you reply, were I to ask you, “Who are you?” Actually, take a moment to consider who you are. Really! Who are you? Perhaps you might pause a moment, and say out loud who you think you are. Someone might reply to me, “My name is Sarah, I am a 41-year-old architect. I am divorced, and the single mom of two children. Between driving my daughter to karate, my son to soccer, minding a house, and keeping my career, I’m exhausted!” I might reply, “Sarah, I understand your exhaustion. Yet how can this be you? There was a time when you hadn’t children. A time when you were in love with your fiance. A time when you were a college student, not an architect. Wasn’t that you back then too? ”

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