Religions and other spiritual traditions have a variety of explicit and implicit goals. Some of the explicit goals of many religions and spiritual traditions include trying to offer safety for the spiritual follower, social identity by connecting with others with similar beliefs, communal safety through everyone following the same rules, and other things. Some of the more implicit goals are things like self-perpetuating the belief system and maintaining the organization that has grown up around the beliefs.
You’ll notice that I didn’t mention spiritual freedom. Many religions have no overt interest in spiritual freedom because most people are not interested in becoming more aware of reality and being spiritually free. Most people are much more concerned with being safe, and so that is what a lot of spiritual paths offer. They offer a set of beliefs and practices so that you can feel safe and believe that you won’t be harmed so long as you follow the rules.
Well, I’m sure many of you have come across moments where you did “what you were supposed to” and something painful still happened. This may have created doubt in you about the spiritual tradition you were following at the time and started you off on a brand new part of your spiritual journey. Perhaps that’s what eventually landed you on this spiritual awakening blog today.
Unfortunately, safety is an illusion, and despite wanting to avoid pain in life, we can’t. Sometimes, people get sick and die through no fault of the individual. Life is inherently uncertain, and the true spiritual path honors and acknowledges this and many other aspects of reality.
There are two aspects of safety: one is the feeling you have and the other is the physical reality. A physical reality is like being chased by a bear. You know you are in physical danger. A feeling of being unsafe, however, gets applied to many situations from a break-up to job worries to being upset about getting a bad haircut. There are all kinds of ways people make themselves feel unsafe, and that type of perceived loss of safety is entirely chosen. This is an aspect of suffering we can change.
But until people understand the roles of different spiritual systems and their own true desires, people can not address the core issues at hand. Furthermore, they can be manipulated, lied to, or simply stuck on the spiritual paths. People have to choose the conscious spiritual path. You have to chose to want to know the truth about reality, and as part of that, you have to give up the search for safety.
The desire for safety has driven more people to God than anyone can count, and yet this is truly a mistaken understanding. God does not bring us safety from pain. God brings us freedom from pain.
The two sound the same, and so perhaps this is why many spiritual teachers and traditions get it so wrong. Pain is part of life. It happens. It happens when you stub your toe. If you’re a woman, it can happen during a heavy cycle. It happens when you get sick. It happens as the body breaks down as you age. Pain happens in all kinds of ways, but you do not have to be controlled by it. This understanding is the path to freedom. We understand that pain is part of reality; it is not something from which we can get away or be insulated. In accepting it as equally part of life, that is how we learn to take actions that feel true to us rather than taking actions as a means of mitigating or avoiding pain, which can influence our entire lives.
Unfortunately, this is a hard truth to swallow. And that’s why any spiritual teacher or path offering any kind of safety, pleasure, protection, and what-not is so easily believed by so many people. Most people want to believe that they can be protected from pain, and many spiritual paths and teachers attempt to offer that protection. They offer it with beliefs and practices, rules and predictions. The result is that people can get extremely confused, lost, and even worse. False teachers and wounded healers can easily lead people astray. Ironically, that means the more a person wants safety, the more they can find themselves harmed in some way.
Choosing to be Aware
Choosing to be aware is one of the most important decisions a person can make for themselves. On the spiritual path, choosing to be aware is about looking at reality and learning to peel away the many layers of the ego so that you no longer delude yourself. The less you lie to yourself and project those lies onto other people, the harder it is for anyone else to lead you astray.
Choosing to be aware is what I mean by choosing the conscious spiritual path. This is not a path where you need to blindly believe anything. It is quite the reverse, and it all starts by being willing to question all your beliefs and assumptions. From there, it is important to let those surface-level beliefs go and look for deeper and more unconscious beliefs. Each time you truly let an illusion or issue go, you will discover more space and more clarity. All of life gets easier to see and understand without applying any particular belief to it.
Increasing Powers of Observation
The power to observe people, environments, and life itself is a power that does not seem to get enough credit. It’s somewhat implied in the power of the present moment because you have to focus on the present moment to do any kind of quality observation. The more present you are, the harder it is to project a belief on the situation and the better you get at observing.
Beliefs are inherently part of the past. The ego looks at a situation, and it associates that situation with a past experience and a belief. For instance, a person looks at a red dress and remembers that they had a bad experience with someone wearing a red dress. From those often unconscious and almost instantaneous associations, the person decides they don’t like this other person in the red dress. The first person may even think this is an intuition.
So even in that moment, the person is still not fully present. They are still trying to engage with the other person through their past experiences. This degrades the person’s abilities to really observe the other person in the present moment, and that can lead to all kinds of poor actions.
But as a person allows themselves to really be here and now, it forces them to be truly in tune with what is happening without these past preferences. It also makes a person more naturally intuitive because you cannot rely on past associations and ideas to tell you what to do with the present. So you pay even more attention, and that makes you better able to observe all kinds of details you might have missed because you were projecting your beliefs onto the situation. This kind of power of observation naturally leads to more conscious actions and interactions with others.
Getting Out Your Ego Peeler
The true spiritual path is an ego peeler, and peeling away all these delusions and issues brings you closer to spiritual truth–truth such as you are here and now. Unlike other spiritual paths, true spirituality is often very mundane. It isn’t heavily decorated, and it isn’t complicated. It is simple, direct, and clear.
So whenever your spiritual practices or beliefs get too complicated and especially if you think they’ll keep you safe, then this is a good time to get out your ego peeler. Starting running your awareness around the edges of your beliefs to find a way in and pull away another layer of ego. Each time you drop a layer of ego, the more conscious you become about who you are and what life really is. In so doing, you find more space, openness, love, kindness, service, clarity, and much more within you. That’s the beauty of the ego peeler. When we no longer seek the external world and spiritual paths to give us safety, we find that all the things we truly wanted were already within us.
For some more thoughts, you might be interested in these spiritual blog posts: