I believe I’m in the middle of a spiritual awakening.
I’m in a twelve step program, the twelfth step of which states, “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other (insert plural addict descriptor noun) and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”
I’ve had many spiritual experiences along the way—almost indescribable and often unbelievable experiences that might make some question my sanity should I attempt to describe these to them.
The opening statement of this essay might be enough in itself for my atheist and agnostic friends to challenge my soundness of mind.
Yet here I sit, quiet in my apartment, questioning the purpose of my existence.
Somehow, I’ve been awakened to a clear view of the way I’ve lived my life until this present moment.
Everything creative that I’ve ever done or made has been largely for the purpose of recognition.
Yes, I care about people. I don’t actually have a mean inclination anywhere within me. Yet even the most seemingly generous of acts I’ve carried out have had some validating profit motive.
Moments before typing this out, I found myself laying on my bed—awake from an afternoon nap. I had incense burning and a new age chanting album playing quietly on the speaker beside me. The window from my eighteenth floor apartment was bright with warm winter rays gleaning through the leaves of the ficus tree at the foot of my bed. I could hear the city sounds outside, but even they seemed hushed by the surprisingly grand, yet quiet calmness of my little urban sanctuary.
I’ve had waking moments like these before in which—although the atmosphere I’ve created is peaceful—my thinking is wrought with anxiety about my future. Today’s session had a similar start. In fact, when I began thinking about my past and where I am in the moment, I trembled as I tallied the sum of the majority of my efforts in life: I’m alone. In a bachelor apartment. In debt. Unsure of where I’m headed. Back at square one, writing a book again. Not that I’ve ever finished writing a book before. It was actually the thought about the previous book and beginning to write it that prompted my current spiralling thought process about my past, present and future. I had written it for the acclaim. Moreover, I had written it for the validation I received in people knowing that I had been writing a book.
Once I saw this more clearly, my view on the subject of my seeking recognition began to expand. I’ve always known I’ve been a fame-whore, jokester, name-dropper and attention-seeker. It’s been an easy task to take inventory of my grosser handicaps and be willing to discard them. This is a process that’s described by steps four through seven of my recovery program. I’ve even gone beyond and dug really deep to find the fears behind my need for recognition and validation, and I’ve found that I’m fearful to let go of controlling the way I’m perceived.
In an even more intricate, almost micro-inspection of this control I’ve been fearful to release, I can see the multitude of times that I’ve spoken in a deeper voice, sat in a more ‘masculine’ manner, or haven’t revealed interest in someone who’s sexual orientation I am unsure of; shape-shifting, procrastination and inaction because of my own internalized homophobia and dependence on others’ perception of me.
Another part of my recovery program is a suggestion to enlarge upon my spiritual life. I’ve continually done this in the study of philosophies, spiritual ideologies, religions and through the practice of meditation.
Currently, I have been studying and practising a transformative course that utilizes spiritual and religious principles metaphorically to understand the ego and to begin the process of progressively transcending it.
Almost everyone believes and understands that we have an ego; sometimes a very large or very fragile one. And most people understand, at some level, that the ego—when frail or exaggerated—can be the cause of fear, anxiety, depression and anger.
The ego is the part of the mind that is responsible for a sense of personal identity—the over-identification with which can cause the aforementioned problems. The ego compares and judges in an attempt to position and secure a person’s status and sense of self among his fellows and within the world.
So, if we are aware that we have an ego, and that it can quite easily be destructive, then what part of ourselves is the observer who is able to objectively look upon our ego?
Some (myself included) say that this is the spirit or the soul; the truth of who we are.
If the ego is fuelled by pomp, comparison and judgment, then humility, or simplicity and unpretentiousness, is the path out of ego, toward our spirit.
If the spirit-self is the opposite of the ego-self, then it would stand to reason that the spirit has no capacity for judgment and comparison, and would instead recognize its true state and perfect beauty.
Self-esteem is a creation of the ego; it is comparative in nature and has the quality of judgment. We say we have good or poor self-esteem—which is judgmental on its own—and whether we say good or poor, each is a measure of how well we perceive ourselves in comparison to the world around us.
Alternately, if spirit is the opposite of ego, and is the embodiment of truth and knowledge, then as someone moves closer to spirit, it would also stand to reason that there is no need for the concept of self-esteem AT ALL. We would just BE. Because we would know who and what we are.
I can apply this idea to what I just described as the life-pattern I’ve lived of doing everything in order for people to validate my potential.
In this way, making a voluntary shift toward my spirit (higher-self) and vigorously self-searching to uncover and uproot the aspects of my ego that keep me separated from my spirit would logically bring me to peace in my mind, true confidence and the cessation of my dependence on affirmation of my potential from others.
Circling back to the beginning of this essay, this is why I said that my afternoon experience today began with startling anxiety. However, my experience didn’t continue to spiral into depression, regret and misery. Rather, when I found myself clearly being able to see my struggles for identification through validation-seeking, it didn’t consume me. What it did was make me even more aware of the necessity of spirituality in my own life. And it fortified my passion for spiritual development as a means of acquiring a truly confident, strong and sound sense of self.
As I’ve explained before, I have had superficial beginnings to a lot of my practices that still yielded powerful results. So when I looked upon what my current practices were, I reminded myself that no matter my motives, I’m staying sober and finding happiness.
I also began to recognize the power available in really owning who I am. Thus, the turning point for me beginning to write my book also began to manifest.
I started to let go of all my own hangups about my spirituality and embraced it full force. In so doing, I recognized my faith.
I’m 44 years old and I would be wise to start embracing who I am and not cowering and hiding my true passions out of fear of cynicism and judgment—my own and others’.
I can’t prove to you that you are spirit in nature and having a human experience.
I do believe this myself, however. I also believe my spirit (higher-self) is eternal and already on a predestined trajectory; our lives are but momentary incarnations to help us remember who we are.
Once we recognize that we are spirit with a predetermined authorship, then there’s no need to be lost and try to figure out life on our own. There’s no need for the constructs of the ego to place ourselves in society. There’s no need for resentment, fear, worry, doubt, judgment or procrastination. These are all attempts at controlling the world around us and how we are perceived. We can continue this and repeatedly live in chaos, or we can voluntarily relinquish our vain efforts of directing ours and others’ lives and turn back toward our true path.
A Buddhist friend recently commented on one of my blog posts. He quoted one of the Buddhist masters as having said, ‘Relax into your life. And do not be embarrassed.’ It was not instructing to not be embarrassed about this or that, but just to not be embarrassed. Period. I interpret this as: I am who I am; I can speak the way I want to speak, sit the way I want to sit, love the way I want to love, do the things I want to do and—ultimately—be exactly who I am.
The internal voice that is able to identify my fears and my desires, my natural inclination to move my body in any manner and my organic impulses to simply be as I am inspired to be—these are all aspects of the observer—however one chooses to interpret it.
The authentic self simply is as it is, and therefore does not require external validation.
Even if you don’t believe your higher-self is eternal, but you are able to perceive your ego, then you can still recognize that the journey away from it and toward your real self is the most constructive path you can follow. It will lead you home to true confidence and peace of mind.