How to connect with spirituality directly.
Something I’ve noticed over the years of communicating with spiritual people is how crowded their minds become with the symbols, language and cosmologies of whatever spiritual path they are following, or perhaps a jumble from a hodgepodge of different paths. Many people become quite knowledgeable, and some even become erudite.
Learning about spirituality through the lens of various belief systems, religions, paths can definitely expand our ideas about reality, and about what is possible. But many people mistake mental familiarity with a concept with direct knowledge of it. They learn about it and believe they know it.
First of all, you can’t really know it. Just as you can live with your spouse for 40 years and not really know them. Not that they are a stranger to you, but they are a living system, changing every moment. If you think you know your spouse, it just means you’ve stopped looking. It’s the same with spirituality. The concepts of spirituality are living, and we know them through our direct interaction with them moment by moment.
Take the concept of karma, you know it, right? It’s a very well established idea and we’ve all learned about it. But do you have an intimate knowing, relationship, visceral experience of it moment by moment?
What if you were married to a person you’d never even spoken to? Your entire relationship existed only via text messages. You’ve never actually met. Spiritual knowledge can be a bit like this.
Even people who have peak spiritual experiences can then quickly retreat back into their heads, into Spirituality SMS. There is a profound shift, when you drop out of that unreal relationship with spirituality into a moment by moment intimacy, where you are infused with it. I wanted to say it infuses every moment of your life, but really…it infuses you, your entire being. This doesn’t look like fireworks and isn’t a fat slice of samadhi pie. It’s magical, no doubt, but in a very grounded and normal way. You have a visceral, in the moment relationship with Time, with Karma, with all the stuff that used to exist only as Lego pieces in your head.
Pretend for a day that you have never heard a single thing about spirituality. Like you are the first person in the world, and not someone standing on eons of spiritual teachings, concepts, beliefs. Let go of everything you know and get back to zero. It’s not just the terminology and concepts that keep you at arm’s length from intimacy, but also all the ideas about what the spiritual path should look like, what your goals should be, what you should feel and not feel, what rewards you will get for your spiritual accomplishment. Let all that go, and be as though you’d never heard it.
Letting go of what you’ve learned and what you think you know, discover your own being, the life around you, your own spirituality directly, without labels, without expectations. It’s much richer and more real than you could ever imagine. It’s a living thing, and requires that you look and look again, remain fascinated with it as you would a new lover, exist in a state of discovery, not knowing.
When you fall in love, you are always in a state of discovery. You notice every detail, every nuance. You use all your senses, breathing them in, drinking them in. You don’t say, “oh, I know you, now on to the next.”
In the first weeks of my daughter’s life, I would get up to nurse her at 2am. Even though I was dead tired, I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. After she’d eaten, been changed and gone back to sleep, I would sit there watching her in pure amazement for another hour or so. I was completely enraptured by every tiny little detail, every movement, her smell, the feel of her hair, her impossibly tiny fingernails. Even now that she is an adult, when I see her, it’s as though she fills my eyes completely. She walks in the door and she is the entire universe.
We’ve gotten into the habit of always wanting what’s next. We bring this consumeristic approach to spirituality as well. We learn something, file it away, and want what’s next. The next teaching, the next guru, the next spiritual blogger, the next method, the next initiation, a longer retreat, another psychedelic shamanic journey. We want what’s next when we haven’t even become intimate with the teaching or the experience or the knowledge that is right in front of us.
Do spirituality in real life. It’s okay to start out digital, but at some point, if it’s ever going to be real for you, you have to get analog. Let yourself live in a state of awe and intimacy and discovery. For this, you will need to drop your knowledge and become innocent again.
image: taken on a plantation in New Orleans at Christmas