Should I Try To Grow Spiritually?
It seems that I am not trying, which kind of scares me. Don’t I need to put in ‘effort’ to achieve? (Anon., U.S.)
We’re accustomed to struggling. Identifying problems and trying hard to solve them is, for most of us, our habitual way of life. We judge ourselves and our lives, deciding what needs to be improved, and then struggle to make reality conform with how we imagine it should look. And we typically treat spirituality as just another version of this game. We believe that we should be more spiritual, loving, and wise, then we try to make ourselves fit the image.
So it’s not surprising that we can find ourselves uncomfortable, even scared, when we’re invited to cease struggling. It’s tempting for us to imagine that the whole show depends on our efforts. But if we can turn our attention away from our fearful fantasies and just look at what is actually happening, we might start to realize that reality is taking care of itself.
This is not to say that we shouldn’t meditate, contemplate spiritual teachings, or go on retreats, but none of this need be accompanied by the slightest strain to be other than what we are. What if we don’t feel like doing any of these “spiritual activities?” Then don’t do them or do them, but there is still nothing to push towards.
So what if we find ourselves trying hard and struggling to grow spiritually? Should we try to change this? Should we struggle against our tendency to struggle? No. But this doesn’t mean that we should struggle against our inclination to struggle against struggling.
This whole game can come naturally to a stop when we witness its absurdity. This seeing of the truth and living from the truth requires no effort. Physical and mental exertion may happen at times, but we never have to make ourselves whole with our hard work. We were never less than whole. Our routine interpretation of ourselves as an incomplete work in progress is just a pattern of thinking, a tired repetitive narrative. What are you really? What is life really before we make it into a problem? If you just look at your present experience, without referring to your well-worn thoughts to give you an answer, is there anything announcing itself as needing correction?