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    Spiritual Schmiritual

    So, in my last post, I mentioned my desire to be so divorced from all things spiritual and personal development-ish, that I couldn’t even be called a critic.

    But before I could do that, I need to know the terrain I’m leaving.

    After all, if I want to get out of the game, I need to know where the edge of the game board is so I can make sure that once I step off, I’m off.

    That said, I’m inspired to ask these 2 questions:

    What is spirituality?

    What constitutes personal development?

    These words are used so casually, so flippantly, as if everyone knows what they mean.

    But, seriously, what do they mean? What’s spiritual and what’s not? What is the evidence of a more developed person?

    I’ve got a few ideas and thoughts, but let’s get the ball rolling with your notions (or what you think people are referring to when they use these concepts).

    And… beeee-gin!

    14 Responses to “Spiritual Schmiritual”

    1. Ric Says:

      Here are a few thoughts I’ve had on the subject:

      What is spirituality?

      The language of altered states.

      Non-logical or acausal synthesis of ideas and experiences into some sort of whole, either as a uniformity or a complexity depending on thinking style. Ideas of God, everythingness, allness, oneness….

      Sameness, the making of one thing into another and perceiving it that way. The transformation of inconvenient facts into agreements. Confirmation bias.

      Root word from breathing, air, inspiration, aspiration, etc. Spirit.

      Non acceptance of painful or confusing reality and the search for its opposite.

      Happiness borne of confusion, excitement, natural vistas.

      Mistaking perception for Truth.

      Unusual mental conditions, disfunctions and diseases that create perceptual and cognitive distortions leading to atypical conclusions about reality. Manic, psychotic states, synesthesia, stroke, seizure, mass behavior

      A side effect of extreme repetition.

      What constitutes personal development?

      Reproducibility of states. Repetition. Never-ending verbosity. Compulsive synthesis. Longer, deeper altered target states. Seriousness. Lopsided emotional states. Insistence about Truth and reality as a fixed thing. Grandiose metaphor, imprecise detail and procedure. Inflexibility

    2. ellen Says:

      Whew, an exhaustive list.
      Reading through it I think I can put my hand up to most of those at one time or another, and ‘never-ending verbosity’ remains a constant. At the time of the experiences, though, I thought myself probably crazy, not ‘spiritual’. I have no idea what spiritual means.

      Today, and from the other end of the telescope, I see all these traits as simply part of the human condition and as such inescapable. What is odd is how we can see them so clearly in others but rarely in ourselves. I have no idea what ‘normal’ is either.

      What constitutes personal development?–again, no idea, not a concept that has ever caught my imagination. Personal survival comes closer to the overriding ambition of my life.
      I do like a flexibility of perspective though, which for me means a freedom to choose to think myself crazy one day, a deep thinker the next, sometimes miserable, sometimes not and just a fallible human most times.
      The big unmentionable, of course, is death. I, personally, am developing towards death and doing my best to discard the labels and the baggage before I get there.

    3. Brian Adler Says:

      I’m not sure to what extent this overlaps with what you’re describing, but what I’ve lost interest in is listening to other people’s belief systems about life or giving particular attention to my own. I know lots of people like that where I’m living now in NC (who don’t spend time discussing such things – let along paying to discuss such things) but it wasn’t so common in Boulder…

    4. Carys Bowen Says:

      Spirituality may be simply the thing that each of us has in our hearts that desires freedom and mercy, and to be merciful.
      I think it has little to do with religion, ’cause so many religions seek to exclude other religions…which means there’s a set o’ rules, so no freedom. It’s a tough word to define in the face of so much New Age terminology, as it’s so often associated with ego-driven goals – as in ‘learning to be more spiritual’. I don’t think we can be ‘more’ spiritual if the quality is set up as something we must achieve through endless self examination & comparison with others.

      Personal development is easy for me to define, but it’s PERSONAL! What it means to me certainly can’t be a blanket definition for all. To me, it’s and finding a way to live & express myself that doesn’t hurt me or others. It’s not something I was ever able to learn from a book!

      I agree with Brian, I’ve lost interest in the belief systems of others, and identify less & less with my own because in doing so,
      I’ve noticed a lot less mind chatter. I’m in NC, too. I don’t bring these things up too often, they can be flash points for
      discussing things I’ve settled for myself — for now, anyway — and I’ve no desire to imprint others with my beliefs.

    5. Ed Says:

      I’ll take the easy one: personal development.

      A person looks at their life and decides their life is [this]. They decide they want their life to be [not this]. If the difference between [this] and [not this] is non-trivial (i.e., more than “I’m in the living room but I want to be in the kitchen), they call the path between “personal development.”

      Sure, there are connotations of “growth” and “progress” and some “path forward.” But all it really is is motion.

    6. Ed Says:

      And the hard one separately and more cynically:

      Spirituality means “I have these experiences/sensations/longings/desires/whatever that people have traditionally explored through organized religion. Except I don’t like the organized religions I know about, so I’ll intentionally not use the word ‘religious’ and instead use something close.”

    7. Ed Says:

      And your non-big questions:

      “What’s spiritual and what’s not?”

      Well, what bucket system do you want to use to divide up the world? My observation is that ‘spiritual’ usually means ‘stuff I have an affinity for and that raises certain brain states’ and non-spiritual is everything else.

      “What is the evidence of a more developed person?”

      As the father of a toddler, I am not sure the concept “more developed” makes sense except to those people who want to believe they’re better than other people. My son doesn’t care about how developed he is. Does that make him less developed, because he can’t speak in complete sentences, or more developed, in the Buddhist child-mind sense? I find I’m happiest when I mimic him and don’t give a damn about ‘more developed’ or ‘less developed’ either.

    8. Stacy Ann Clark Says:

      I like the way Ed defined “personal development.” I could pretty much go with that.

      “Spiritual” is harder, yes. How about “unprovable non-physical assertions?” It seems like no matter what, spiritual tends to get into abstracts and unprovable assumptions.

      I’m interested in a working definition of “truth.” Do you have one of those?


    9. Ric Says:

      In the current context one might say that Truth is the emotion of certainty, the feeling of being right, an emotional verification of one’s perceptions or thoughts as real. Otherwise it can be thought of as the ratio of correspondence or similitude between two perceived objects, hence rationality most clearly exhibited in mathematics.

    10. Dave Says:

      Personal development=ego development, nothing wrong with that as long as we are aware of it and not fooling ouselves.Ego=our ideas about ourselves. Spirituality? I don’t know. I think spirituality is just another form of personal development for most people. Let’s face it, 99.9% of “spiritual” teachings are either about some type of power (over ourselves or others) or about being more at peace with ourselves. As I have stated in other posts it seems that the people who really have powerful “true” experiences i.e. Ramana or David Carse, see that these experience take place outside of the human egoic condition. Real spirituality seems to be death of the self and no one really wants that despite what they say. You can’t teach or impart Truth, only say what it is not. Just my two cents, ask me tomorrow and I may have a totally different answer.

    11. ellen Says:

      Dave says “Real spirituality seems to be death of the self and no one really wants that despite what they say.”

      Death of the self would be the death of me, physically and mentally– I’m not too keen on that and a prematurely dead Ramana or David Carse(?) would have been no help to anyone or themselves.

      A personal lack of attachment to ideas about myself has made my life a lot easier, I’d recommend it to anyone, ‘spiritual’ or secular.
      A more mundane way of saying this is ‘don’t take yourself so seriously’–I didn’t need to climb mountains to hear that but I did need to climb mountains to understand it and, most importantly, put it to work. Well worth the effort.

    12. Dave Says:

      Hey Ellen, thanks for the feedback. I guess in my experience the death of the self actually means an end of the idea of oneself as opposed to the actuality of oneself. What we think about ourselves is often confused with who we really are. To me, again this is just my take on it, “spiritual awakening” is the falling away of the whole idea of an individual self. Of course there is still the functioning of the body and the mind but it is just seen and observed and not bought into as the end all and be all of existence. The life of the body/mind is seen as a part of a whole, or, as Wayne Liquorman would put it, seen as the functioning of Totality.

      When we use the term “myself” we set up a “me” who has a “self”. We view our-selves as something that is separate, thus we try to improve our-selves or love our-selves or not take our-selves too seriously. It seem that in awakened people this separation has disappeared. there is no “my” self there is just self in, and as, all things. Self or God or Being (or whatever word you want) is all there is. One of my favorite sayings is “There is no God. There is only God.”

      Anywho, I’ve babbled on long enough. I hope I don’t come across as trying to preach or tell anyone how to think/believe. I’m just throwing my understanding out there and I’m certainly not claiming I know any more than anyone else. Oh, one more thing, I highly recommend reading “”Perfect Brilliant Stillness” by David Carse. I’ve read alot of so called spiritual books and this is one of the best. He’s a carpenter from Vermont, no sales pitch, no sat-sangs or self promotion not even a picture of him on the book. A good, honest, direct, in-your-face look at one man’s experience of the inexpressable.

    13. Sean Brown Says:

      Wouldn’t the result of “my desire to be so divorced from all things spiritual and personal development-ish” also be personal development? In other words, within the paradigm where there seems to be choice, isn’t consciously directing your reprogramming to avoid consciously directing your reprogramming still consciously directing your reprogramming?

      Realizing that-which-you-are doesn’t usually result in instantaneous flow for the residual programming that has effectively become unplugged. There’s a period of years where the “ultimate understanding” (which is really the total absence of the presence of a need to understand) erodes away cognitive programs, and at times that might look like personal development. But it’s just the way noumenally powered objects seem to employ succesion-bound cause-and-effect to shift from programming-bound congnitive reaction to noumenally-sourced intuition as the new way of functioning. It all is part of what-is, including that which is often labeled as personal development.

      Is there REALLY a line between personal development and any other activity that we do? Spending time deliniating and categorizing activities that are or are not personal development is the realm of the thinking mind, of cognition, and in doing so, we’re essentially feeding the beast that we seem to be trying to get out from under. Is meditating considered personal development, a way to relax, or an activity you feel that you must do because your guru or a book or your mind tells you that you must? Isn’t it really all of them and none of them? Can’t all activities that might be considered “personal development” also be considered as something other than personal development, and if so, what is left on the list of things not to do? Isn’t the crux of the matter really that which seems to be driving the desire to personally develop or adversion to not personally develop?

      The most effecitve way to fix the problem (of desiring to deveop personally) isn’t to do it on the same level as the problem, it’s to a deeper level to dismantle the machine-level programming that is causing it. Dealing with each issue as it manifests is like the little Dutch boy putting his fingers into the dyke each time it cracks. The cracks will always out-number your fingers and toes and it will take as much time as there is to fill them. This is akin to the “teach a man to fish” metaphor, in that if you just reprogram your “self” to no longer personally develop, that’s all you do. But if you go to the root of the issue and fix that, the results manifest in a much broader spectrum of your personal programming. Fix the issue, the superficial issue is fixed; fix the cause of the issue, many, many issues may become fixed, all with the same amount of effort. Work smarter, not harder. (I’m trying to see how many cliches I can work into a single paragraph.)

      But the “fake it til you make it” technique of (apparently) intentionally changing your current programming (which results in a perspective that is out of alignment with “what is”) to a programming that mimicks inspired living seems to allow some people a glimpse at concepts that were heavily obscured while living out their previous programming. (example: If you beat your wife every night, you might find that if you stop beating her she might actually become friendly. The potential for friendliness was always there, but the beating hampered it from arising. Again, you might have to “fake it til you make it” here, so I’m not saying that you HAVE to stop beating your wife, you just have to fake-stop beating her to see the effect. Once you see it, it’s your preogative to start back up again or not.)

      But then I fully admit that my knowledge is not the truth, so what the hell do I know?


    14. sashen Says:

      Hi Sean,

      The great irony (in my experience at the moment) is that to respond to your post with the time it would take to give it its due would require putting more attention on this topic than I can muster.






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