Spiritual Growth – When The Material World Is Not Enough
I recently decided to embark on a spiritual journey to Bali, Indonesia.
It was a decision I made after a lot of introspection and a lot of failed attempts to re-engage with my spiritual side within the frenzy-oriented ecosystems that we have constructed.
You see, the ability of the individual to create meaning within a secular context is often impeded by the plethora of stimuli that aim to draw the same individual into different “meaningful” states.
All the products, all the services, all the events that are created every day, serve this specific purpose. To fill the void that is constantly generated by a meaningless life.
In a way, that is one of the main reasons capitalism works so well and keeps perpetuating its dominance over most areas of our paradigm.
And it is this perpetuation that does not allow the core of capitalism to change and eventually evolve into something that can serve our need for self-transcendence instead of serving our need for validation and security.
The abiding agitation that people tend to exhibit day after day connotes an extreme lack of spiritual awareness and a total surrender to the twists and turns of life.
I knew that for a long time. I kept feeling it. I kept allowing it to inundate my spiritual system with the wrong habits and approaches and, as a result, I ended up severely disconnected from my true self.
Bali looked like the ideal escape. A place so idyllic, so picturesque and so far away from my base that seemed like the perfect destination for my mystical cause.
The moment I stepped my foot on the island, I sensed its voice calling me. The new world was a strong stimulant for my senses. It felt like I was in a dream. A very beautiful dream that existed solely for the purpose of reminding me that there are also other worlds out there. Away from echo chambers, away from dogmatisms, away from dominance hierarchies, away from toxic and neurotic behaviors.
I was poised to empty my mind and embark on a journey beyond earthly interpretations of reality and challenge my cognitive capacity to such a degree that I could understand, even intuitively, what a real connection with the cosmos feels like.
I practiced meditation and yoga on a daily basis. And by yoga, I don’t mean mediocre gymnastics. I mean the spiritual practice that attempts through a process of stark immersion in specific movements and sounds to connect deeper within yourself and empty your mind completely.
Few understand how powerful this process can be and that is because most of us are prone to resistance.
Resistance was, is and will always be an omnipresent force. But at the end of the day, resistance is futile.
Resistance is nothing more than manifested scream from your deep self that seeks to escape the confines of a limited mode of being.
Resistance is fear cloaked as protection.
Resistance is lack of awareness.
Resistance is intellectual poverty.
We are the ones that feed resistance and its byproducts.
We are the ones that decide by omission to neglect all the riches that spiritual growth has to offer.
We are our own worst enemies.
But we are also our only chance for catharsis.
My recent journey has taught me a lot. Presenting this knowledge in a condensed way, constituted a real challenge for me but I am confident that the result will not disappoint you.
The secrets to spiritual growth
1. When we heal ourselves, we heal the world.
During my stay in Bali, I attended various yoga, movement and mindfulness workshops. In one of the movement workshops, we had to connect with our partner in a way that allowed us to resonate mentally and spatially. By exchanging roles between leading and following, we had to come up with ways to engage in a simple yet powerful dancing sequence that was predicated on intuition.
The exercise itself was quite challenging for me and for most of the participants since very few of us were accustomed to such an intense interplay. Our ability to control our bodies and our movements while staying engaged with the other person, who is usually a stranger, is something arcane and intimidating.
Nonetheless, when the initial discomfort vanishes, the connection and the movement allows both parties to experience the magical feeling that is freedom of expression. It is a tribal feeling deeply embedded in the core of our psyche. A feeling that can offer one a small taste of what spiritual growth is like.
After finishing the workshop, I came face to face with a profound idea. The healing process of the individual, especially when this healing commences with the support of another person, can eventually orchestrate the healing of the world.
The world doesn’t need more saviors. It needs more healers.
It needs people who can realize the power of healing methods and constantly exercise these methods.
The homo sapiens race is nothing more than the conglomeration of atomic expressions coming together and attempting to construe the cosmos in a courageous way.
This results in a form of mental and spiritual exhaustion whose consequences we need to face in perpetuity. Unless we find a way to alleviate the suffering of exhaustion.
Nietzsche used to say that “When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago.” He couldn’t be more accurate.
Spiritual growth and healing is the only antidote to the deleterious effects of exhaustion.
When we heal ourselves, we heal the world.
2. What you resist, persists.
I briefly discussed resistance before, but more in a spiritual context. Resistance, when it comes to spirituality, is manifested in the denial of the individual to identify and eventually embrace different modes of being. It is the total acceptance of the conventional narrative that the world is just a rat race and a continuous struggle for survival. Anything beyond than that is frivolous and utopian.
It has been one of my principal beliefs, over the past couple of years, that the people who manage to escape this narrative and risk dealing with the unknown in an attempt to transcend the human condition are the ones who lead the most meaningful and balanced lives.
In Bali, I was lucky to interact with people who weren’t solely engaged in spiritual practices but also in secular ones. One of the persons I had the pleasure to meet was a leadership coach who insisted that what most top executives miss nowadays in the corporate world is a spiritual approach to leading. Vulnerability, honesty, presence, inner strength and gratitude are perceived as weaknesses and are rarely expressed. Regardless, the paradigm shift we experience on a cultural level will inevitably urge even the most resistant ones to reframe their approach.
Moreover, resistance is also manifested in the way one deals with the darkest aspects of our psyche. The shadow will persist no matter how hard one resists it or ignores it. It is such a potent force that the only sure remedy against it is diagnosis and collision. For its vitality is predicated upon the ignorance one keeps propagating whilst being afraid to recognize one’s darkest side.
When you resist, you become disenchanted and you fail to identify how contingent the shadow is to your spiritual growth. For it is only through spirituality that the balance between our capacity for good and our capacity for evil can be established.
3. You are the anthropomorphic manifestation of the cosmos expressing itself in a poetic way.
Whilst in Bali, I could more closely examine the melody of the cosmos, the sparkling allegories of nature, the big-ass truths of the human condition wrapped in the hard shell of nonsensical abstraction – themes that flew through the air with the greatest of ease. Outside of that environment, I was just deaf and lost in the ubiquitous noise of everyday drivel.
When you succeed in silencing the noise and allowing the signal to pass through, the cosmos can reveal all its secrets. All the nuances of every element that might seem insignificant throughout the conventional narrative ceases its insignificance and it metamorphoses into pure cosmic energy.
You close your eyes and you just listen and feel. The darkness starts to take shape and weird patterns slowly emerge. What you experience doesn’t make sense. Your capacity to understand is based solely on intuition. Any acrimonious feelings dissipate and you jettison your past for a more alluring present.
This is the best attempt you can initiate to connect with the unknown. The chaotic nature of the cosmos seems so seductive and inviting that you can’t resist. It is this nature that you have been seeking for so long. Its essence sounds like poetry to your callow ears.
You lack erudition but your intuition seems enough.
You try to understand. Where are you? What’s your purpose? What is this?
To which the cosmos replies “it is you.”
It is a response so simple yet so profound that it has completely painted over the canvas of your mental imagery.
You are the anthropomorphic manifestation of the cosmos expressing itself in a poetic way.
4. Our war is spiritual. Our depression is our lives.
“We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war… our Great Depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.”
This is a quote from fight club. A movie so prophetic that I get concerned every time I watch it. Concerned because I don’t know if a movie can predict future events, or if the movie itself is the catalyst for the emergence of those events.
Modern societies seem unable to offer the level of meaning demanded by our complicated nature. We seek and we find and we seek again and we find again. In the end, we rarely discover answers that can truly satisfy our curiosity. The next question is bigger than the last one and the lack of proper explanations creates an intellectual and spiritual void.
This void becomes an extension of our persona and manifests itself in behaviors that connote moral relativism and a deep anger towards our creator.
The more dissatisfaction we experience, the more the void grows bigger.
It grows bigger until it transforms into a merciless pit that will swallow us all.
The dawn of consciousness was either a mistake or a gift.
No one can really tell.
It was a gift because we are now able to be in absolute control of our world and keep extending our control to other areas of our solar system. It was a mistake because we have no idea why we do all that.
The aimless pursuit of goals, dreams, and visions can keep one alive, but it doesn’t necessarily make this life pleasurable.
At the end of the day, every mature person realizes that our war is spiritual and that our depression is our lives.
It is only through spiritual practices that we can reframe the context of the lives we decide to lead and eventually ameliorate our experience. All the maladies infringed upon us exist more in our heads than in reality. Erroneous thinking and erratic behaviors that are constantly showcased in mainstream media and are consequently adopted by social agents, act as nothing more than an impediment to our growth.
Apropos, becoming a contrarian and embracing oftentimes heterodox approaches to conventional wisdom, can act as a life jacket within a spiritually dry landscape.
5. There can be no true connection outside a spiritual context.
When I was younger, around the age of 27, I had a girlfriend.
She was ginger-blonde, with freckles and a magnetic smile. She was younger than me, almost 5 years younger.
Before I met her, I didn’t really believe in romantic relationships.
I had some but none of them could affect me deeply.
I met this girl by accident at a party.
Even though our interaction wasn’t something spectacular, the relationship we created later seduced me intensely.
It was one of those relationships where you decide to give yourself totally to another person and you become so vulnerable that you are literally at their mercy.
When you are together, the rest of the world is, in essence, non-existent.
You have created this fantastic ensemble in which you desperately try to protect the ideal nature of your relationship.
A utopia that blurs the limits between the magical and the unnatural.
When you decide to become so vulnerable for someone else, it is a big deal for you.
Inside the adversities and the ugliness of this world, you feel that you discovered a solace. A beautiful embrace that makes you feel secure just like your parents did when you were a child.
The beauty of our relationship lasted for only six months.
Exactly on the six-month mark, the first problems started.
Like it was pre-programmed by an external force or entity to wake me up from my dream and enforce reality upon me.
Everything happy, playful and carefree was replaced by something aggressive, divisive and negative.
As if we both decided that we had to be hostile to each other and to adopt a defensive stance in order to protect our own version of the truth.
We both had our reasons. We were both right. We were both really hurt.
This situation lasted for three years. Imagine how intense situations of ambivalence I have experienced through these years. And that’s not because I could not leave but because I did not want to.
I did not want to lose what I experienced in the first 6 months. I did not want to believe that something so beautiful can be lost. I did not want to give up.
After some point, however, I was tired of trying. I had lost all willingness to live and all desire to see the world as it really is outside the bubble of the illusion I had created.
When I finally left and returned to reality, I felt empty and numb.
This relationship wasn’t good for me, but, at the same time, it was the relationship that allowed me to witness, even for a brief moment in time, what a real connection with another human being looks and feels like.
The period of pain succeeding the period of ecstasy helped me realize that if a couple rejects the spiritual nature of the relationship and allows earthly issues to take over, there is no future whatsoever between them.
Through spirituality, you learn to control your impulses and restrict your ego to such a degree that any toxic behavior and happenstance can be avoided on demand.
We didn’t know that.
Our egos were so big and our constitutions so dissimilar that any attempt to unite under the umbrella of love was almost organically rebuffed.
Today, after sobering up, I understand something very fundamental about relationships. If you decide to stay loyal to a person and not allow your feral nature to take over, you only need spirituality to survive and thrive in the relationship.
Especially if you decide to embark on a spiritual journey together and show empathy and support, the ideal relationship isn’t just feasible, but I would dare to say the catalyst for your spiritual growth and freedom.
Spiritual Growth – In closing
Today, my tone was a bit different than usual. Some of you might feel that I talk in abstract terms and I use a bit more conceptual terminology.
I did that on purpose.
Spirituality and the mystical are difficult to describe accurately because they are expressed in a language we can’t totally fathom.
It requires years of spiritual practice to master this language and most of us will need to settle for just a sneak peek in its quintessence.
But even this mere sneak peek can prove monumental for our health and sanity.
Sometimes, when you want to re-engage with your spiritual side, a simple daily action plan can create monumental changes in your life. In the “30 Challenges-30 Days-Zero Excuses” ebook, I have collected the most interesting daily habits, inspired by renowned individuals, that aim to help people reinvent the way you approach life and focus on adopting practices that are not only feasible but also enjoyable and meaningful. You can check it out here.
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