I like your blog but I don’t really have any ‘problems.’
Is there still something I can do that will help me grow spiritually?
Hey, good for you! Problem-free! But did you notice your assumption? By asking “is there still…?” you’re operating from a headspace that is presuming that spiritual growth is about dealing with problems. You see it as a salve and not a dance. You’re seeing challenges as ladders and growth as gaining altitude. You’ve been taught a very linear, rising-toward-God/Enlightenment set of narratives. You imagine Enlightenment as the end of a road. It is an achievement and its objective is to stop suffering. That’s a misunderstanding, and that’s also why you definitely can grow even without “problems.”
Your spirituality is not something you achieve. It’s not an answer. Nothing ends there. Mental and Spiritual Health is not something you work toward and get. It is something you realize in any moment in which you are at One with everything around you. Including the things you might otherwise be tempted to describe as problems. You don’t rise above problems; you’re at peace with suffering.
I’m not some voodoo guy who makes my problems evaporate. I’m a guy who doesn’t use his consciousness to argue much with what is. I’ll do it a little bit—but that’s helpful because the pain I feel is what points me in the right direction. If there’s four dogs on the walk to work and only one of them bites you when you try to pet it, then that dog is essentially telling you to pet the other three instead. It’s very nice of him to be so clear if we’re awake and listening. But egos aren’t. Egos get mad at the owner for not training the dog better, or worse they blame the dog itself. Can you see they imagine a right way that the world should be and in that world no one should suffer. Bah. Silly.
Each moment is each moment. Native Fijians are correct: 100% of your life is lived in the Present Moment. No moment dictates another moment. Each one contains freedom. So we can want the moments to fit into a pattern that we call legal or right, or moral or ethical, but those are thought-constructs and that’s the very illusion that the Buddha was attempting to dispel. Those patterns exist only in our minds. In fact, all a society is, is a collective agreement on what those patterns are.
So we can tell ourselves ego stories—narratives that suggest how future moments should be, but in truth they will unfold as they unfold, regardless of our wishing. We don’t fix our lives by getting everything lined up perfectly. Instead we understand that our lives are stunning gifts, and we do that by ignoring our stories of want in favour of appreciating what is. We don’t ask the outside world to line up with our beliefs, we accept what is happening and we choose to look for the rewards within it. And rewards can come in many strange forms. Remember, you’ve likely paid money to see horrors, suspense films and tragedies. It’s not like those aren’t interesting and intense experiences, but we’re only okay with them when we feel that we’ve chosen them, as we do in a movie. But the theatre’s just a construct. You can do that anywhere. You can feel like you chose it outside the theatre too. You just don’t give yourself that permission. You don’t understand the world in a way where that makes sense. You want the world to line up with the lines in your head. You have ways you expect it to behave. And when it doesn’t, you don’t look at your expectations, you argue with the world. You think something is wrong. And spiritual health is what fixes that. Nope.
Spiritual Health/Mental Health comes from being okay with things. From not wanting to be God where we have control and predictability over future moments. Health comes from allowing things to Be. Remember: “To be or not to be, that is the question.”
So how do you grow spiritually without overcoming problems? Well there is no growth and there is no overcoming, so get rid of the linear-ness and see life as one big flat space where you move from spot to spot—not in a good or bad direction—there isn’t even such a thing as a direction in a healthy headspace. You just choose, and then you don’t argue with what you find there. And that’s the key to your larger question:
If you’re not wasting your life arguing with what is, then you’re free to use that same life-energy to do something else. I would suggest going to the old standbys to start with: Singing, dancing, hugging, making love, laughing, playing, spending time in nature, cuddling, or creating. That’s how you realize your spirituality. You don’t achieve it, you realize it in whatever moment you’re in. So you don’t become a spiritual person you enact spirituality by making friends with what is. You will be amazed at how much energy you waste on pushing against the Is-ness of the world. Seriously. It’s 80% of your energy. Imagine how much dancing you could do with that.
Don’t be so attached to ending suffering. Be focused on joy instead. You won’t always find it, but by keeping your awareness on that and not your arguments with reality, you will find so much of it that people will call you happy, or grateful, or maybe even spiritual.
A few friends of mine are friends with Wade Davis, the former National Geographic Chief Explorer. He’s a very cool ethno-botanist who lives with tribes the way you’d imagine Indiana Jones might. I’m paraphrasing from hearing this a long time ago, but essentially a Native in the jungle once asked him about Western religious worship. After having it described to him the Shaman said to Wade, “You go to a place to celebrate God, we dance and become God.” That guy gets it. So that’s a pretty good metaphor to answer your question. How can you be meaningfully spiritual? It’s easy. Just spend less of your time trying to figure life out, and more of your time dancing your way through it.
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.