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Spirituality and Your Messy Life

Why is it that some people with no prior interest in spirituality suddenly become interested when their lives are a mess? There are probably about a billion answers to this question, but I suspect that my own experience is not too uncommon...

"True Believers"

Now, I'm not talking here about the fundamentalism of retreating to a structured set of received beliefs and socio-political sanctions at a time of crisis. This isn't about surrendering in despair to some external authority and allowing some group or ideology to run your life and do your thinking for you while you just "accept" and "believe." We've seen enough of zealous fundamentalist movements in the modern world to know that the last thing we need is more True Believers (as Eric Hoffer called them)...

No, spirituality is another matter. Spirituality isn't about "accepting" or "believing." It's not a movement, an organization, an ideology, or a way of building an improved version of yourself. Spirituality, rather, is a practice of peeling away layers of received belief and experience--a process of subtraction and corrosion in which the realm of "I," "you" and "our" is subjected to a profoundly critical gaze in a context of awareness.

Meditation is at the core of this corrosive spiritual process because it allows us to drop out of the mind and emotions and into a state of awareness that is nonetheless profoundly real and dynamic. When we are neither thinking nor feeling but we are nonetheless aware, we realize that our previous understanding of self was little more than a collection of stories and beliefs we had imbibed from the society around us--i.e., the realm of that great drama queen, the ego. When Ramana Maharshi suggested that we ask, "Who am I?" he was suggesting that we ask within the context of this corrosive sp