💭 What is spiritual growth anyway?
👋 Hi friends,
‘Spiritual development’ is not something that I have previously given a great deal of thought to.
When I was a child we used to - intermittently - go to church on a Sunday, and although I enjoyed the singing and beauty of the architecture I didn’t think much more deeply about it than that.
We live in a secular age - the churches are empty and the shopping centres are full. And I was largely fine with that, I am a 21st century being, I too worship at the altar of science and progress. Religion seemed increasingly anachronistic.
But at some point, no matter how lucky you are, you will encounter suffering, disappointment, grief. Where do you turn at that point?
In our rational age, the answer is really only ‘therapy’. Whilst therapy is helpful, it doesn’t seem like it is sufficient.
When I don’t know where to turn, I usually turn to books.
One book, The Untethered Soul, by Michael Singer, opened the door a little towards this thing called spirituality.
But what does spiritual growth even mean?
And why should we care about spiritual growth anyway?
It all seemed imprecise, a little bit hand wavy.
I wonder if spiritual growth is about changing how you relate to the voice in your head? Most people have an inner monologue narrating their life. This voice is judgemental about everything that happens, and can cause a lot of unhappiness. And apparently people can have between 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day.
Or perhaps spiritual growth is about understanding and relate to the world around you better. Or perhaps it is about learning to live with equanimity? To not fight so hard against the ups and downs of life, but rather to relax and enjoy the experience.
I think spiritual growth is probably some combination of the above. It’s not philosophy, though it is philosophical. It’s not psychology, though it does relate to the psyche. It’s not therapy, though it does relate to the things that therapy touch on.
I think for me at it’s most basic it’s probably about exploring consciousness. If I sit and meditate for half an hour, how do I feel? If I try to observe thoughts and feelings rather than immediately act on them, what happens?
What does it even mean to ‘observe my thoughts’? How can you observe yourself, that doesn’t sound like it makes any sense? And yet it is possible, you can sit there and realise ‘huh, I am thinking about an elephant right now, that’s interesting’.
Yet even as I started to think about these questions, I worried whether you can still be logical and scientific whilst exploring spirituality, or do you end up surrendering rationality?
I really hope that this will be possible to reconcile. I don’t want to start buying ‘healing crystals’ or talking about my ‘aura’ or asking people what their star sign is.
Even so, thinking about the quality of mind, the quality of consciousness, seems important.
To take a cliche, there are plenty of rich miserable people that are disconnected from their closes relationships. And there are people that have very little but yet live happy and fulfilled lives.
Life is pain and suffering and disappointment, but it is also beauty and happiness and joy. We can’t ‘fix’ life to avoid the former, it’s impossible to avoid. Yet what I want to understand, and what I believe is possible is how to live a good life in spite of the suffering. How to laugh in the face of fate. Remain joyful in the presence of grief. Cultivate happiness in spite of disappointment.
We don’t know how many years we have on this beautiful and crazy ride, it seems like it would be worthwhile to try to figure out how to spend this brief existence content and tranquil, without internal suffering and without fighting the realities of life.
These are big and timeless questions, and I have no answers to any of them. But exploring these questions is something I want to do in 2023.
I don’t know how it will go, but I will let you know what I learn and what works in the hope that something might help you too.
Otherwise, wherever you are in the world I wish you a wonderful 2023.
Until next time,
🎧 What I am watching - Jiro: Dreams of Sushi
This is the story of the owner of a small sushi restaurant in Tokyo. Jiro has been a master sushi chef in the restaurant for his whole life. It’s an amazing exploration of discipline, of craftsmanship, and the path to mastery.
📚 What I am reading - The Surrender Experiment
Michael’s other book The Untethered Soul is one of my favourite books. I frequently turn to it for comfort in difficult moments in life. So I was excited to pick up The Surrender Experiment recently. I am about half way through, and this book is very different. Its mostly an autobiography of Michael’s spiritual journey. It is enjoyable, though less immediately practical than his first book.
💬 Quote I am thinking about
“For food in a world where many walk in hunger; For faith in a world where many walk in fear; For friends in a world where many walk alone; We give you thanks, O Lord.” ~ Author Unknown, Giving Thanks
Was this edition valuable? Help me to improve it.