Sometimes it is difficult to see through the haze of emotions, past experiences, neuroses, personality quirks and cultural and familial indoctrination in order to find your truth. In fact, this is probably one of the most difficult things to do once the decision to take your spirituality seriously is made. No matter what tradition you may practice, there remains the detritus of a lifetime’s worth of programming that must be identified, codified and sorted through in order to find the pure light of your spiritual self that lies beyond. The major religions all recommend certain spiritual tools that allow you to sift through the layers of the personality in order to accomplish this aim, to include affirmations, prayer, contemplation and meditation.
Within the structure of traditional religious practice, all of these tools serve certain ceremonial functions. People pray together in churches and mosques, they quote affirmations and meditate together in Sat-sang. Tales of faith designed to teach deeper spiritual lessons bind believers together within the ceremonial structure of the religion to create a common narrative that transcends individuals and cultures. The codification of belief has come to define aspects of societies to the extent that entire geographic regions of the world can be simultaneously assigned to disparate religious systems that also possess political characteristics as well. Because of this institutionalization effect, the structure of formal, spiritual aspiration takes on both the positive and negative aspects of politics and economics, resulting in the degradation of spiritual qualities and the elevation of consumptive qualities.
When spirituality becomes mass-produced, therefore, the danger of formal religion’s incapacity to elevate the individual soul to a higher plane of self-realization and existence becomes much greater. When church or mosque becomes a weekend jaunt, when prayer or meditation becomes only a social function, when affirmations become pithy quotes, spirituality dies a quick death and dogma sets in. Of course, the original capacity of each religious tradition to bring the seeker to a state of higher consciousness remains available, yet the path of such a person must then wend its way through all of the personal and cultural brambles that conspire to keep the true aspirant from self-realization. Working through your daily trials and tribulations is then experienced as a constant questioning of Self versus Other, of belief versus truth, of personal knowledge versus cultural tradition.
Are they lying to me? Do they know the real truth or is this just their interpretation? Is what I believe right or wrong? When seeking the elevation of the soul beyond the material planes of existence, when seeking to exemplify a higher form of living while still being incarnate upon this earth, when seeking to embody Divinity in thought and practice, these questions threaten the aspirant with immobility and doubt. It is at this point that tradition – the teachings of your religion, the experience of your own, personal spiritual explorations – comes into clarity. Seeking the highest potentiality, according to the system of truth that your own discernment has confirmed, becomes the way through the morass of doubt and ambiguity that ever threatens those without conviction.
The highest potentiality is the path that best exemplifies a divine passage through life’s disparate lessons. The form of the ever-present question becomes, what is the highest potentiality of this experience? Our individual growth depends upon the manner in which we deal with life’s trials and tribulations. How we respond to each test determines whether or not we have to repeat it, at a higher cost for each iteration. Seeking the highest potentiality allows us to consciously chart a course forward based upon our own personal spiritual knowledge and experience, no matter where we may be along the path. As we both succeed and fail during the course of our lifetimes, we gain a greater confidence in our ability to live our truth. How our personal truths then come to resemble and manifest the greater Truth that binds the cosmos together in love then becomes the indicator of our personal spiritual progress and the standard by which we come to live our lives in a conscious manner.
Living life consciously can only occur once we have recapitulated our lives, gone through our memory banks and examined each lesson we have learned for its deeper Truth. Once we have done this we become aware of the story of our lives, our own personal mythos. We become aware of the trends of our lifetime, whether we are the hero or villain – according to our personal belief system – and what the value of such assignations might be to the future course of our lives. We can then make the effort to live an examined life and become resolute in our desire to become better people and we are able to make conscious decisions about who we are and who we want to be. It is at this point that seeking the highest potentiality of each lesson becomes ingrained within our psyche and lived reality, allowing us to then embody our highest principles automatically and on a daily basis.
Coming to the point where we can live a conscious life is not an easy thing. Often, it takes personal trauma to get to the place where we can even examine our lives deeply enough to realize who we truly are because it takes being able to pierce the lies we tell ourselves as well as the lies we have taken on as our truth. That truth can hurt and, often, we have to be at a place where life experience has forced us in order to even want to examine our behavior and thought processes to that degree of detail. This is generally known as the dark night of the soul and results in the death of the Self and the rebirth of a new aspect of Self, better equipped to live your life honestly because of this direct-if-originally-unsought self-appraisal.
Mid-life crises, traumatic events, social ostricization or unforeseen occurrences and accidents can all result in the onset of the dark night of the soul and the resultant death of the self. And while it may seem like a negative thing when you are going through it, once you have come out the other side you realize the importance of what you’ve just experienced and are then prepared to live your life consciously in search of your highest potentiality. The tests never stop, because that is what life is all about. It never becomes easier, just different. Envisioning our experiences as cyclic and spiraling ever-higher as we continue to co-create our shared reality gives us the necessary perspective as well as the impetus to reach for the stars, seeking the truest manifestation of Self as we journey through our lifetimes in preparation for what lies beyond.