The goal of spiritual practice is to make better choices, based on a better and clearer understanding, an enlightenment. It is to become more righteous, making choices that are more divine, based more on following God and her teachings or laws, and less on our own carried past or desired/feared outcomes.
The goal is to be in The Moment and make the best choices we can, open to what is. It is to stay centred enough to be present.
One of the key teachings of any path is that you are not upset about what you think you are upset about.
The underlying message of this teaching is simple: your stuff is your stuff, and you have to own it.
It may be attractive to externalize your own thoughts and feelings by assigning blame for how you feel to others and their actions, but it leaves you where you can be manipulated by expectations, fears, beliefs and assumptions that are deep within you, but that you don’t own.
If you are just following your training rather than being centred in your own learning and deep understanding, you are not being yourself, rather you are being one of the group.
This is at the centre of the lessons that Joseph Campbell built by finding the threads that connect myths across time and distance, across cultures and history. Your job is to slay the dragon with “Thou shalt” on every scale, to examine where you stumble, to find your own unique gifts and be, in the end, boldly yourself.
We can’t become more righteous by just following rules more obsessively, rather we have to build within ourselves a deep understanding of what is right and what is wrong.
Life is a series of hard choices that have no perfect or binary answer. In a finite world, every choice we make for something is also a choice against something. We can’t have it all, or at least can’t have it all at the same time.
And when we are being controlled by internalized stuff we don’t yet own, we can’t make our best choices.
The process of deconstructing who we are and then reconstructing ourselves in a more aligned, respectful, human and righteous fashion is important. And the first person we need to learn to listen to, to love and respect, to understand and honour for their quirky, charismatic humanity is us. If we aren’t at peace with and caring for ourselves, we have no basis to open to others in the world.
Human life is, in so many ways, about loss. There is no way to open space for new growth without letting go of something. For me, the challenge is how to value the stories and lessons without also clinging on to the broken and dying. It is when we accept loss that we also accept joy and possibility. Winter is required for spring to happen.
When practice gives us the strength to realize that what we feel we have to lose was never really there to lose, that it was only something we could hold onto for a moment, or was a dream that never was going to come true, then we can go about being in The Moment and seeing what gifts lie for us there.
Unless you are committed to The Moment, not some lost past, some feared future, or some idealized perfect world, you will never be satisfied with what you have done and who you are. You will spend life in fear or disappointment.
The work you need to do for yourself is your practice, getting to a quiet place, listening to yourself, building your own self-knowledge, strength and endurance. You need to practice, practice, practice to get stronger as yourself in the world.
And once you know how to be a seeker, well, then maybe you can be a founder.