I have observed what I believe to be the three stages of happiness: the conventional stage, the spiritual or scientific stage, and an elusive stage that lies beyond both. Some persons will never experience anything beyond the conventional; some will oscillate between the conventional and spiritual, in search of 'answers.' Whilst a few will some reach the point where they are ready to transcend both these stages entirely ...
Stage 1: The Conventional
Most quests we undertake in life are an attempt to ‘find’ or ‘seek’ out happiness, which we expect to experience through ... finding our life partner, being part of and raising a family, enjoying close friendships, pursuing challenging and rewarding careers, serving our community, generating and spending our wealth and chasing a level of success or fame through our personal ambitions and achievements.
It is more than likely that within our lifetime we will each share these experiences, to some degree. Nevertheless, anything we experience will never be as powerful as what we can observe; and if we observe each of these experiences closely, there lies an overwhelming sense of irony and pathos.
Essentially, the very experiences we chase often end up causing us the most pain. Relationships we longed to create end up lining the divorce courts; our career ambitions keep us under stress, adversely affecting our health; family members, friends and colleagues turn out to be the cause of our frustrations and angst; our wealth (regardless of size) provides us with real no comfort or security; and our ambitions and achievements are often not attained, or appreciated.
Stage 2: The Spiritual &/or The Scientific
Whilst many continue the conventional cycle of happiness and unhappiness, a few begin a spiritual conquest in order to find the cause of their unhappiness. Most persons who enter this stage will tread the path of religion, self-help, therapy, philosophy, yoga, meditation, the occult, and a myriad of spiritual practices in search of 'answers'. Some will even find answers in science and hold reason and logic as their new faith.
Much like conventional searches, this search is also vain attempt to ‘find’ and ‘seek’ out happiness; that secret single answer to life that satisfies their quest. Yet ultimately, one's belief, faith or ability to reason scientifically will only provide short-lived, interim comfort – whilst their backdrop of pain and confusion continues. Instead of trying to understand or observe the nature or source of our pain most will seek to avoid it through conventional and spiritual pursuits in search of the quickest, most convenient solution.
Stage 3: Beyond the Conventional, The Spiritual & The Scientific
Any solace we seek from conventional, spiritual and scientific means will also ultimately prove futile. In fact, the minute anyone claims to have ‘found the answer’ they have simply reached the ultimate state of ignorance and denial.
This stage transcends all, further, it transcends the need to 'find' or 'seek' out happiness – and takes you beyond the pendulum of happiness and unhappiness and into a new state. This state cannot be experienced; it is beyond experience, and can only be realised, observed, and felt.
Not only is this state beyond experience and happiness; it is also beyond wealth, ambition, achievement, fame, recognition, motivation, inspiration and success. When many hear this, their usual response is cynical, however, this is understandable and simply a result of one’s conditioning.
Most human problems are relatively simple to understand, however, throughout our lifetime we have accumulated thousands of experiences that we have never fully observed. Rather than observing a natural state, we live in a reactive and conditioned state. It is this very conditioning that propels us to continually seek after happiness.
Rather than learn, seek or accumulate more knowledge and experiences (which will simply add to our existing confusion) we need to unlearn many of our unconscious patterns and in some ways start afresh.
Many are fearful of entering this stage, believing they will become disconnected, and be required to forgo certain conventional and spiritual pursuits they still enjoy - this is utterly false and untrue. This state will not disconnect you from the world, rather it will reconnect you; providing you with a greater sense of Life Power. All material and physical experiences, success and achievements can still be enjoyed. However, they will be enjoyed at a whole new level; minus the pain and the confusion that once clouded these very pursuits.
Realising this state requires no methodologies, no courses, no programs, no goals, no gurus. Of course, these are all useful, and an be helpful. However, we should always be firmly committed to realised our own truths; out own power. This stage only requires you to be stop for a few seconds, be still and surrender.
Everything else will simply follow ...
Spirituality is losing its mystique. For the most part it has become a commoditised form of entertainment. Daily new fads appear promising a cure all our life ails, instantly, with little or no effort. Such great accessibility to a smorgasbord of quick-fix-spiritualism means that the lay person can now move from one set of teachings, techniques and guru's to the next - in search of some perennial truth, or momentary feeling of success, happiness and peace.
Yes, some solace will inevitably be found in any 'spiritual' pursuit, albeit short-lived, until a newer, more exciting fad comes in our direction. This incessant searching creates a state of somewhat selfish ‘non-activity’ where our prime concern is extracting the most for ‘us’ – our relationships, our wellbeing, our careers and our finances, without feeling the need to give anything back in return.
Spirituality has become nothing more than a means to a (selfish) end.
And therein’ lies the angst of modern spiritualism ... so long as one is caught up in this enduring search for ‘enlightenment’ the essential truths of love, forgiveness and compassion that spirituality (and religion) has endeavoured to spread and instil, remain purely intellectual, and consequently neglected. And evidence of this truth can be seen throughtout the modern world.
Of course, self-exploration and enquiry must be encouraged and there can never be a substitute for practices such as mediation or prayer (and this can be undertaken in many forms). However, in order for us to enter the greatest depth of spiritual realisation we must do more than sit still, listen and read out our material wishlist to God or the Universe.
Instead, we must practice these essential truths in our daily lives; in our relationships, in our homes and in our workplaces. And we must share our experiences with others. This is practical spirituality, and what the great saints, sages, masters and prophets have for thousands of years been calling us to step towards.
Perhaps we need to take a step backwards, rather than searching for the next big fad – the next tip, technique, practice, or guru to worship and follow. And rather than waiting and searching for answers, we need to engage in practical action. Rather than attending talks, lectures, workshops and building libraries that house our massive collection of spiritual and self-help books and cds, we need to extract from this repertoire the essential truths of love, forgiveness, family and community – and spring them into action, now.
Often we delude ourselves into believing that just because we have skimmed a few sacred books and heard a few inspiring teachers, and have the intellectual capacity to ‘talk’ spirituality, that we are actually practicing these essential truths. We are all guilty of this to some extent.
Instead of waiting for miracles in our own lives, perhaps we need to put some of the ‘teachings’ we have learnt to practical use – we can start with our circle of friends, our family, our colleagues and our community, and if we succeed then we can take on greater challenges. We need to rely less on accumulating mountains of spiritual ’knowledge’ and begin by simply living out in action.
Simply proclaiming you are spiritual, religious or have a belief in God or higher force does not create any legitimate self-power; the world is full of dormant and idle 'seekers.' A national census may reveal that a percentage of population is Christian, Hindu or an Isalmic adherant - however statistics alone are meaningless. Imagine if all the people that called themselves 'spiritual' actually acted 'Godly' rather than simply use a title to identify with a group, imagine the transformation we could create in humanity.
Anyone who dares call themselves spiritual or religious must surely carry some awareness of the power of life; some interconnectedness between human, animal and environmental life; and above all some degree of social responsibility. This realisation is pure spiritual energy.
However, one of the greatest challenges faced by humanity is creating outlets to harness this great output of spiritual energy, into social change. What is required is no racial movements or gestures – all that is needed are a few simple steps towards love and grace. We must dare to simplify or lives and explore and practice these same essential truths.
Practical spirituality is the only way of living powerfully. Spiritual laziness needs to end. We want it all, however, we don’t want to take the time to create anything. As much as we like to believe it, just looking at stars and cards, and visualising, and breathing and trying a new form of yoga, buying a few sacred books, or giving all your money to a new guru won’t transform your life; transformation requires a bit of time, patience and the ability to let go of some conditioned 'truths' we have held onto in the past.
And reaslise there are no gimmicks or short-cuts in life ...