Friday, 12 August 2011


I've been feeling quite devoid of ideas regarding spiritual evolution. At times I've been feeling like a spiritual failure. I feel stupid, unevolved, undisciplined and highly flawed... who am to have any opinions on spiritual matters? Was it all just a dream that I was following all those years, a desire for deeper fulfilment that just isn't possible in this life? Perhaps letting go of the strife is the answer, but there's a fine line between letting go of non-constructive ideals while maybe starting to live life more authentically,  and just giving up. All the bits about being human are poignant and often quite humiliating. The "double vision" is still there though, which means that life as such with all its worldly concerns is being attended to, while at the back of the mind are thoughts about what is important from a spiritual point of view. I guess I keep coming back to my old friend compassion, one of those spiritual ideals that always resonated strongly with me, but one that also seems increasingly difficult to attain. I'm sure the lack of fear of rejection and anger about the way others treat you would remove a lot of anxiety and neuroticism. 

Well, sometimes I need to get all the frustration about other people out, yet going on and on about other people's flaws and unfair treatment isn't getting you anywhere. That's just amplifying neuroticism and negative feelings of all sorts. Let's just be practical about it. This may sound judgemental but after a reasonably long life of trying to connect with people I have realized that people are very preoccupied with themselves and it's not very often that they have innate empathy or a desire to develop this kind of trait. Numerous times I have looked at myself and wondered what I'm doing wrong or whether I'm projecting some lack of empathy myself, thus getting the same back. Other times I catch myself reaching out spontaneously, with a really heartfelt wish to give, and it tells me this is how I'd really like to be but I am often holding back because of bad experience. I'm not sure that there are any other reasons than that people are the way they are in this time and space. Someone might say, well it depends who's looking. That's true, but there is also an objective reality that we can get plenty of clues about if we look around. You have to accept that before you can change the way you see things subjectively, otherwise it'll just be a case of wearing rosy glasses. 

Perhaps there are things in ourselves that really aren't quite in place. Perhaps, for instance, we aren't open enough. Radiant people attract others, that's for sure. But we can't all be radiant, or radiant at all times; it can be just a bit too much to ask of ourselves during times of illness and stress. There's no point trying to force it, though keeping the idea of who we'd really like to be at the back of our minds is probably helpful in the long run. Be gentle with yourself; this is the starting point of a compassionate attitude. It can also be the way towards having a healthier body. This attitude includes accepting that you aren't always at your best or even doing the best that you can. In the end "the best that you can" is just a relative ideal among many others - sometimes useful, but sometimes harmful too because it can create stress. Vulnerability, which makes us hold back, is one of those things that can only be overcome gradually, and very gently. We are humans in a very human world, and it's natural to expect a bit of reciprocation. To give and give before we have become free of any expectations is very heavy. We need to find a balance, a way of managing our energies before we are ready to release them freely. That's my guess anyway. Progress is slow at times. 

Illness lowers the tolerance levels so much, not just physically, so it's much harder to have a positive attitude towards others. At the Chronic Babe Forum I see a lot of people who are "almost conscientious to a fault" as one of the girls expressed it. So much good intention and also a lot of frustration because of it - no wonder so many of these people get ill. In the end we just have to try and puzzle all these nonsensical bits together and see how we can best express ourselves in spite of the adversities. Avoiding the bitterness-trap with all its expectations of others could be a major life challenge, perhaps even a reason things are the way they are and people treat us the way they do.

Artwork: Digital Photograph, "Beckoning Shadows III", by author, all rights reserved 2011

Tuesday, 9 August 2011


I'm sure many of us question our spiritual path at times. In spite of much effort there isn't always that much to show for. Or so it seems. In times of doubt, I've had to go back in time to the moment I had my own personal "revelation"which lead to a lot of research into esotericism and soul searching. The revelation was just an insight, nothing very spectacular. I recently watched some episodes of the iconic TV series "Kung Fu" from 1973, the one that made me cry buckets because the perfect use of the body and the disciplined mind in synergy was something that I really wanted for myself. I wanted to do Kung Fu but knew my back problem wouldn't allow it. Well, in the end I did it anyway; I did a first part and received the first belt. It was incredibly hard work, more than I was physically capable of, and it cured my desire for more. I got it out of my system - fortunately, because I wouldn't have been able to go onto the next stage because of my back problem being more obviously in the way. 

So now I have revisited the TV series, but this time it just made me sad that my life is far removed from the ideals presented there. Rocked by emotions, temper and judgmental thought, and at the mercy of physical ailments I am... while desperately trying to raise the level of chi and trying to fit in some creative work into the day, I become aware of all the strife involved in the pursuits of a better life or way of being. Illness can force you onto your knees, as managing yourself and your attitudes becomes oh so much harder. It's easy enough to be positive and generous towards life and other beings when you're well and strong. Doubt about yourself and others creep in more easily when you're weak and tired. There are many challenges to face on a daily basis. There is very little time for all the things I should do in order to keep fit, to balance the energy level, to raise chi and to purify the mind through meditation practice, work with emotions, mindfulness, and simply talking sense to myself. Of course, if you believe in reincarnation then you will have faith that this was meant to be, that these collectively hard times are helping you grow as well. As someone recently comforted me, it isn't the weakest students that get the hardest lessons.. 

Ironically, the challenges are sometimes quite the opposite to what we think they are supposed to be. For instance, positive thinking is not an end in itself, because that would just be a way of denying the negative that is intrinsic to a polarised attitude. You can't become an unconditionally loving person just by willing it, because you will be a fake and you will simply be suppressing negative tendencies. Sooner or later it will become apparent. The process is much trickier, as you must gradually work your way through the inner bullshit and find a way out of false or fake attitudes. Meanwhile, trying not to be so hard on yourself as you recognize that a judgemental attitude towards the self is just as detrimental as it is towards others. Does this sound familiar? Then you are no doubt a spiritual person. You're such a person because you care about these things. You want to get it right. And you may not even know exactly why. Perhaps you had some deep mystical experience that helped you in this direction, maybe not. It's not important. What matters is the way you feel about the purpose of your life when you are being really honest.

There are people who engage in spiritual or religious activities for a while but then turn their back on them in disillusionment. If you don't feel the calling of spirit that persists through adversity and set backs, then it's not your path. Sometimes I wish I could turn my back on all of it, as it creates much trouble in my life! Sometimes I think I have actually done just that, because momentarily I don't feel the compulsion to bring spirituality into something I'm doing or working on. I wonder though if maybe it's a healthy way of being, as not only do you need to give yourself some respite, but you also need to take stock of life on a practical level and all the elements that make up our day-to-day reality. Sometimes a bit of "normality" can be very restful. But it may also allow you to look at spirituality in a new light, and discover how it's intrinsic to all these elements and that your compulsive attention is not always required. If spirituality is your path, the spirituality will be there regardless of your efforts to engage in it. I think in life we need a balance between ordinary life and the grand spiritual ideals, otherwise we might become obsessed and out of sync with the way things really are. The fact that someone is doing meditation three hours a day is no guarantee that their life is any more spiritual than that of someone who just lives life mindfully regardless what comes along. 

Then, to finish this off, there is the issue of mystical experiences. Remember, that as long as they have a beginning and an end, they are part of illusory reality. Some people have them, others don't. I don't think that is a measure of spiritual success. I think it just depends what kind of life you have chosen to live (since I believe there is a path of destiny). I know that people who seem genuinely psychic can seem intimidating, as if they have gained some great spiritual wisdom that you are not ready for yet. But this is just an assumption on your part, and may not be true at all. Being psychic can be just as much a challenge to deal with as anything else in life. It's easy enough to beat yourself up because you don't have them like some other people, or allow yourself to feel inferior. Well, maybe that's your spiritual challenge! 

Artwork: "Forgotten Heart", digital abstract photograph, all rights reserved 2011.