There’s an idea afoot that there is some kind of disconnect between spirituality and hard work. It makes sense that younger people are seeking a way to work less and/or more meaningfully than their parent’s generation, but the fact remains that there are people of all ages that are avoiding the struggles that create expansion, increased strength and resiliency.
It’s one thing for a person not to have kids because they don’t find themselves with common desires for children, but it’s another altogether for them to not want them because they’ll cramp their style, or be painful to give birth to, or because they require a lot of work. The idea that profound self-actualisation only happens when you focus on yourself is a myth created by misinterpretations of spiritual ideas. In fact the very desire for enlightenment has now become just another selfish personal goal.
I’ve said it many times: enlightenment is not a state it is an action. It is a verb, a motion, a way of being. What it doesn’t involve is self-reflection because in that state there is no self. You are simply doing/acting/being. So an enlightened person is not sitting idle in the lotus position having someone else attend to their daily needs, the truly enlightened person will be that happy, self-less person who generally needs very little and gets great satisfaction from bringing happiness, peace and comfort to others.
It is an entirely market-created ego-based idea that you get up at 10:00am, have a leisurely gourmet coffee before going to morning Yoga, then an organic lunch of tofu and beansprouts, and then finally sitting at your home-office desk at 1:00pm before checking social media for an hour, and then be distracted by notifications and texts and other interruptions “all day” before leaving at 4:00pm for a jog, the gym and a healthy dinner with red wine and cool friends at a jazz bar before pottery class that night. That’s an ad for coffee or Yoga or the gym, not enlightenment.
There’s some who have wealthy enough external resources that they can live that life of leisure noted above but those are my addicted, lost and suicidal clients. The ones that have those resources and aren’t in trouble are the ones that act more like the group in service. They’re working hard, expanding themselves and they’re finding ways to contribute to those around them.
Then there’s many many many more who absolutely cannot afford to live that life of leisure but they try for too long and just end up buried in stressful debt because there’s little reason to think anyone was saved by some stroke of genius. Einstein read a lot about mathematics and he sat in that chair for a very very long time before he came up with E=MC2. You can’t look at a YouTube millionaire today and have that as a plan to support your spiritual growth because that success on YouTube will almost always demand that you appeal to ego a huge percentage of the time.
The real question is, how selfless were you today? Did you go through your day expanding your mind and body through work of some meaningful kind? Did you work hard and accomplish something? Did you gain a new skill? Did you help your fellow man? Do you act for charities, do you contribute, or are you just a protester?
There is nothing unspiritual or anti-enlightenment about getting up at 6:00am to work as a garbage man, or social worker or a lawyer or anything else. There is nothing unspiritual about raising kids and dealing with their mayhem and complications. It’s no coincidence that people who voluntarily choose a more difficult path end up with more capabilities, confidence and calm.
If you’re investing yourself in what has been sold as the spiritual life then it’s you that has sold out. The real enlightened people are working in refugee camps, they’re stay-at-home moms and tradesmen doing a hard day. If they write they write every day like it’s work. What you put in is what you get out. There’s nothing unspiritual about that and there is no path without suffering. So if you’re hiding from life you can stop and go live. Because it’s not a peaceful path that creates more peace, it’s a selfless path that creates connection and connection creates peace.
Look at your life. How much of it is aspirational dreaming and how much of it is motion forward? Because there’s a lot of stressful sitting still going on today and knowing the lotus position won’t help that. Enlightenment is a verb. Find your verb today. You can still wear your tights and you can still be a vegetarian, you just won’t get the reward without the sacrifice. So rather than avoiding hard work try running towards it, because it’s along the way that you’ll stumble into the peace that you’re currently searching so hard for.
PS This was the least-read blog ever and bizarrely so. That fact prompted a popular response the next day. If you did agree to read this one then you probably stand to benefit less from the following one, but regardless they do work well as a pair.
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own overthinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.