A friend of mine recently wrote me for support. He was having a bit of a rough time, still driven by his natural passion for learning, growing, always trying to break through… but definitely feeling depressed and confused, like his environment made it nearly impossible to make choices.
He asked some really, really good questions which I paraphrase here:
- What is the connection between depression and spiritual seeking?
- When we feel unsatisfied, unhappy, not complete, is this a spiritual or psychological situation?
- Is spiritual healing really just about getting lucky, being healed by the right spiritual source at the right time? Meanwhile others just continue to suffer?
- If the mind is so important, how do I break from limitations when I’m surrounded by so much influence and conditioning? Is it really possible to change your perspective?
My friend, let’s call him Big Roadman, was really hurting. I didn’t really want to give him any advice or recommendations. Mainly I just wanted to remind him how great he was. At least, I could easily perceive how wise, kind, loving, powerful, and noble he was.
How do you convince people how great they are when they forget?
Perhaps illness, depression, and neuroses are really just different manifestations of spiritual amnesia, or the loss of our Divine Attention. Perhaps moments and life-stages defined by great tension and friction are merely pivotal moments of remembering. The universe steers us for the highest good by creating friction in (seemingly) every direction except the way forward (or back, depending on how you look at it!). The greater we resist, the greater the confusion, chaos, and calamity.
Big Roadman is indeed in a pivotal place: he’s trying to decide on a major life decision, navigating a rather complex range of desires, dreams and ambitions, circumstantial realities, courageous impulses and hypnotic limitations. Paradoxically, it is precisely at this pivotal crossroad moment in life that the Big Roadman need not choose anything. Divine Attention is all that’s needed: a flowing sense of perspective that includes all realities, celebrates the moment, and steadily weaves together the many-threaded tapestry we often, perhaps too casually, call identity.
I enjoy many different identity-definitions of G-O-D. Source, One, Eternal Spirit, Heavenly Father, Primal Mother, the Great Central Sun, Ra, Elohim, Brahma, Ahura Mazda, Ein Sof, I Am That I Am, the Quantum Multiverse, Infinite Intelligence, Generating Organizing Design!
Most of all, I enjoy the notion that: the Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao; The named is the mother of ten thousand things. Perhaps that’s why some Hindus like to chant the 1008 names of God. After loving and connecting with 1008 different names (facets? faces? frequencies?), maybe you finally start to have a little clarity about what one god is all about.
Well, why not the same with us? Perhaps we all have 1008 names and faces, and life is merely an adventure to better discover, love, connect with, and eventually integrate our greater, multidimensional Self?
Perhaps, in the final analysis, all spiritual seeking, all illness and dis-ease, all loneliness, confusion, “karma and dharma”, depression and elation, are merely just pivotal points of friction, tension, and dynamic guidance steering us forward into greater territories of more self?
Often times the more we focus on spiritual seeking (or perhaps the more spiritual seeking focuses on us!), the more things fall apart. Are things really falling apart, or were they already separated and fragmented, and now we are just paying attention!?
Tension, depression, fear, sickness: this is the process of moving into a new, more expansive territory of definition. But often life is so complicated (or so it seems!), it feels like madness to just drop everything and listen to the heart, to the soul, to our sacred wounds. That would be pretty scary, a real leap of faith, a real exercise in free will!
Psychology, yoga, spiritual tradition: they are the same gem of truth being viewed from different angles. Here is one way of connecting the dots, of building your own healing practice, that includes study (psychology), practice (yoga), and spirituality (belief). Really these are all one system, but it can help sometimes to break them down, dust them off, and build them back up into a greater whole.
Whatever our life path and spiritual GPS guide us toward, there are some basic things about our identity and personality that make us feel healthy, whole, and happy or fragmented, conflicted, and fear-based. This is where some branches of psychology can really help.
Think of the mind as a great round table where 12 people sit: they are all equal, though they all have different strengths and weaknesses. Also, some of them are healthy, others are sick, some a bit sleepy, others wide awake, even inflamed, overactive, or exhausted. Some of them are emotional, others a bit more mental, some outgoing and physical, others tactful and strategic.
Incredibly, all our subpersonalities have their own life lessons and karmic tendencies, their own passions and fits, their own greater purpose and way forward into perfect balance!
The goal from a psychological standpoint might be to bring about healing by making sure all 12 sub-personalities are:
- accepted, included, safe
- nourished, uplifted, growing
- integrated, harmonious, supportive
- organized, focused, creative
It’s just like working on a group project… it takes awhile before we all get to know each other, trust each other, forgive each other, inspire each other, then we can get to work! In this case, the group project is: [insert name here]. Many of our labeled sicknesses, whether of body, mind, heart, or soul, are mere disagreements (though sometimes big fights, even all-out war!) among our subpersonality citizens.
Practically speaking, to quickly create more inner harmony, we can learn to identify these different piece of “us”, looking for natural places where we intersect and overlap. By focusing on shared connection, we can sustainably support the process of feeling more whole.
Yoga, or any practice that primarily recommends action and technique to create wholeness, paints a similar picture and describes a similar goal. However, instead of a round table where many voices are trying to blend, yoga primarily recommends that we listen to a higher harmony beyond the potential cacophony.
Perhaps there is a great sound, like a mighty AUM, the harmonious voices of our higher selves, vibrating just behind the many-sided voices of our identity!
Yoga says there is a higher directive, likely superseding identity individuation. In fact, yoga ultimately makes at least two powerful comments about trans-personal psychology:
- Individuation is just the first step because, incredibly, there are higher “super-personalities” that we want to individuate with as well.
- These “super-personalities” are better positioned to organize our identity, effectively creating higher organizing designs and stronger relationships among and between our greater self (wholeness!).
As above, so below. What if there are actually endless amounts of higher selves “above” us. Are we merely one personality-complex in an endless process of step-down transformers constantly co-creating what we so casually call identity? Maybe, if we can figure something out about our higher self, or our higher-higher-higher self, or our “highest conceivable higher self”, greater healing and spiritual awakening can happen.
I’m diverging here, but this is one of the reasons I urge (and educate) people to practice imagining, dreaming, building a framework for understanding and communicating with the soul, the higher self, higher concepts of god, and constantly updating their definitions of enlightenment.
Yoga practices use different techniques: breathwork, energywork, and consciousness programming, to create stronger union between the higher and lower orders (tables) of evolution.
The trouble is, if there really are some major identity-disturbances, yoga and meditation aren’t really going to feel very effective. You’ve got to get right with yourself before you get right with God, as one transpersonal yogi-psychologist said. It’s probably best to, somehow, use both frameworks at the same time.
Maybe the real goal is to learn how to use Identity as a sacred chamber of light, where all lower, higher, middle personalities and potentials can come together. In this space “they” can learn to trust each other and build powerful relationships. This could be what we really mean when, on the surface, we desire greater health, happiness, wholeness, spiritual realization?
Lastly, and most troublesome of all: belief. AKA religion, cultural ideology, personal bias, the language we assign to our values, principles, and what we know must be right. This is really where most of the sickness happens.
Switching metaphors, identity is in this case is more like a river than a big table where people sit and come together. It’s like different colored waters mixing together, constantly influencing and changing and mingling, until they finally learn to blend harmoniously into one beautiful, powerful flow.
The trouble with belief is that it treats identity, which wants to be fluid and expressive in the moment, like a box, or some kind of container where we can put things and know that they will stay there and be OKAY. In other words, a precious box to protect our psychological antiques. Ahem, Ahem, My… Precious.
For a subpersonality or superpersonality, being labeled “right” or “wrong”, “spiritual” or “unspiritual”, is tantamount to being buried alive. To religiousize or pedestal a belief or tradition, no matter how spiritual or “right” it is in the moment, is to starve it of vital nutrients it needs to grow and thrive. Some of the highest spiritual truths make the heaviest dogmas we unknowingly drag around like stinking coffins.
Even though beliefs have the power to inspire us, drive us and others forward, and can even heal and greatly enlighten, the moment we let them stop moving, they start to die. And when they die, they grow heavy and weigh down our mind, or fester and infect our body, or stagnate and cut us off from the beautiful, colorful, rich, flowing aliveness of life.
A bit too poetic? Well, the basic idea is that everybody has dogmas, taboos, and faulty belief systems. How could we not? Our world and our identities move too fast. Our mind is constantly integrating new realities, our life direction is always changing!
If we can somehow keep our belief systems aware and responsive, incredible breakthroughs await. Never before in human history has there been a greater opportunity for authentic human expression, spiritual mastery, and vast identity expansion.
In the meantime, certainly there will be many healing journeys that fill our horizons. These days, its easy to experience many types of “madness”, feelings of being totally lost and confused, perhaps even the dark night of the soul… Life can sometimes feel like pretty dramatic stuff!
I have been through depression and many periods of feeling crazy, totally lost, very angry and unforgiving with myself. I still work daily on humility, courage, trust, and kindness, more and more in very simple ways. I continue to refine my own special blend of psychological perspective, yogic technique, and attitudes that keep life fluid, fun, balanced and flexible (like a never-ending Vinyasa Flow!).
Yet, if I had to boil down every spiritual tradition, ever religious and philosophical system, ever modality of education, expansion, and enlightenment, to write that truth as a single world, it wouldn’t be hard: perception. A master of perception is free to roam the universe faster than thought, to know the secret minds of men, plants and animals, even of angels and gods. Perception is the secrete technique to reverse-engineer the quantum flowering of creation.
Perception not only informs all our sub and super personalities, but it also creates energy: a bigger, more dynamic, more integrated perspective has more energy and more synchronicity available for its systems. When enough of our identity actively synthesizes great perception, we are really participating in a kind of Divine Attention.
And that is exactly why, until we are strong, independent perceiver-receivers (we can truly think and feel, unconditioned by our dogma, mental chatter, and linear identification) we are greatly influenced by the perceptions secretly hidden in our environments, in the auras of those we associate with, and in the densifying atmospheric rivers generated by the etheric tumult of mass consciousness.
Many traditions, for these reasons and others, prescribe the following:
- live in an environment that is uplifting,
- have strong connections with at least a few people you find uplifting,
- make regular travels to uplifting and inspiring places that can “keep you going” for several months in a positive direction,
- and/or find a guide, a path, or a tradition that can be give you structure, harnessing your scattered energies to move in the same direction.
Until our human attention can metamorphosis into Divine Attention, life will have a greater degree of uncertainty and tumult.
The Big Roadman is a character we all must play, the everyman of life that pivots again and again on his way, slowly co-creating his destiny by investing life with his free will, his somewhat Divine Attention, into certain activities, into certain people, places, things, and ideas.
If we did possess the Divine Attention, how would we live? What would life look like? What it would it feel, taste, smell, sound like? Great rivers of synchronicity might sweep us up into their currents, tides, and eddies. Life might look like one big synchronic map, a single flowing synchronic tree of choices, decisions, and actions.
Perhaps the goal, in the end, is simply to live a life that is beautiful. We have no control whether our lives will influence others (even if we’re physically or spiritually shouting at them: go left! go right! up! down! faster!), let alone any real notion of whether our lives should influence others.
But just in case someone else is looking–perhaps even looking with Divine Attention–we can hope that our life, in its own beautiful way, inspires others to live with their own authentic beauty. And if enough people find their way, walking the nameless path of beauty, perhaps the world too, in a mighty period of Cosmic Divine Attention, might awake to its own unique, beautiful, nameless destiny!