Aligning with a Higher Purpose
Transformative Inquiry Practices for Conscious Evolution
The power of transformative inquiry is only beginning to be tapped. Cultural evolutionary theory tells us that, as postmodern humans, we have capacities for self-awareness and introspection that none of our forebears could have imagined. Yet, only a few spiritual pioneers have explored what it would mean to leverage these newfound capacities for our spiritual advancement. The practices outlined below each offer a window into deeper self-awareness, and an opportunity to use our advanced introspective capacities to propel us into new heights of clarity and spiritual alignment.
There are three ways to engage these practices:
1) In solitary contemplation. Just reflect on the questions in any way you can. This is generally most effective if done sitting quietly for a dedicated period of time, but it can also be done while taking a walk, running, riding the subway, or even driving.
2) As a journal exercise. Writing down your reflections can be a powerful aid to deeper contemplation. It can also help to capture the deeper insights that emerge, so that they are harder to forget later.
3) With a trusted spiritual friend. Sit with someone with whom you can open up completely and take turns sharing your reflections on the questions. Depending on the depth of trust and shared spiritual commitment in the relationship, you can also give each other permission to probe and inquire for deeper answers.
Is My Life Really My Own? Embracing the Truth of Interrelatedness
We’ve all heard that we’re interconnected. The ancient mystical scriptures and today’s frontier sciences testify to the reality that, in visible and invisible ways, we are all woven together in a vast web of interrelatedness. Yet, although most of us would say that we believe we are all connected, how deeply have we allowed this truth to impact our relationship to being alive? If we look deeply into what this truth reveals, we come upon an arresting discovery—that our life is not really our own. That, in everything we do, we are impacting the whole, and that we therefore must be accountable to that whole for every choice we make. Whereas we once thought that we “owned” our life and could do with it what we pleased, we now awaken to the reality that our life in fact belongs to the greater unfolding process of which we are a part. Everything we do, even our relationship to our thoughts and feelings, affects that larger process. And as such, we can no longer afford the security of the illusion that there are any private acts. When we look at this insight within an evolutionary context, we realize that, in fact, we have a very specific obligation. Every important choice we make is either contributing to the evolution of the whole or not. And if it’s not contributing, chances are that it is exerting an inertial drag on our collective evolution. So, to be true to the recognition of interrelatedness, we must commit every moment of our life to furthering the evolutionary process, knowing that the entirety of humanity, life, and consciousness is counting on us. Ask yourself: “Is my life really my own?”
Am I Living What I Know?
There is a great sacrifice in giving up the need to experience more insight or revelation. In most of us who have been seeking for a long time, there is a deep-seated belief that we need to have more spiritual experience, insight, or revelation in order to be Free. At the root of this belief is the conviction that the goal of the Path is about finding ourselves in a permanently altered state of consciousness within which our every thought, feeling, and impulse is in perfect alignment with the Greatest Good. Because many of us have had at least a glimpse of such a possibility, we therefore assume that what is needed is for us to expand that glimpse until it becomes a permanent “experience” or state of being. But there is an unimaginable liberation that begins to dawn when we finally give up this need to have more, know more, and see more, and turn all of our attention to living in alignment with the deepest Truth we’ve already seen, the deepest experiences and insights we’ve already had. Ask yourself: “Am I living up to the deepest truths I know? Am I embodying the most profound insights I’ve discovered?” Most of us already know far more than we are living up to. If you dedicate every moment of your life to being a perfect living expression of the deepest Truth you’ve already seen, you will suddenly find yourself on the True spiritual path for perhaps the first time. You will have taken on the ultimate challenge of aligning yourself with the Source without asking anything from It in return. And in so doing, you will be forced to transcend or overcome all of the obstacles to that alignment. This is the great sacrifice of spiritual life. But you will find that you have the strength, courage, or conviction to make this sacrifice, because your attention is not on the obstacles but on the goal itself. In walking this path, your insight and experience will naturally deepen, but when it does, your only interest will be in aligning yourself with that depth as it reveals itself.
Authentic Happiness: Am I Ready to Give Up Wanting?
The illusion of personal happiness has us all under its spell. Even the most spiritual among us tend to remain under the subtle influence of the belief that fulfilling our personal needs and desires will bring happiness and contentment. We are fed this message on a daily basis. And because in our world of endless possibilities there is always more to have and more to experience, most of us never get to fully test the hypothesis. But those who have had the luxury to fulfill their most grandiose desires find that wanting is a bottomless pit. There is no true happiness to be found by getting what we want. As the great sages have always known, authentic happiness is found only in transforming our relationship to wanting itself. When we no longer need anything for ourselves, then we find that a deep and abiding contentment is our natural state. But at that point, having truly given up wanting for ourselves, we don’t even want that contentment for ourselves. In this, we have discovered liberation from everything—even the desire for happiness. Ask yourself: “In what ways do I still believe that getting what I want will lead to fulfillment? In what ways am I still chasing the dream of personal happiness? When will I be ready to finally let it go and allow my life to be about something much bigger than my own fulfillment?
Surrender: Am I Willing to be Taken Over by a Force I Can’t Control?
Surrender has always been the heart of spiritual life. Yet, in contemporary spiritual circles, surrender has often been interpreted to mean simply accepting what is. This is a profound misconception. When you undertake a sincere engagement with an authentic spiritual path, at some point you will come into contact with an overwhelming presence and power that seems as though it wants to take over your life. That power is what has traditionally been called God. And it does want to take over your life. In theistic terms, we could say that God wants you to become a vehicle for Its will. In non-theistic terms, we could say that it is the evolutionary and moral imperative of the cosmos calling us into alignment with a deeper order of being. But God can’t take you by force. It needs your compliance, your surrender. Most of us believe that, if faced with the opportunity to surrender to a greater, divine presence, we would happily fall to our knees in submission. We think we want God to rule our lives, but when the opportunity beckons, most of us cling to the certainty and security of our smallness, holding on to our illusions for dear life, terrified to let go and be consumed by the Infinite. The holy life is indeed the most blessed, joyous life of all, but only because we have been stripped of our petty wants, needs, fears and desires. How ready are we to let them go? Contemplate the following: Am I willing to let a presence and power greater than myself overtake me? Am I willing to let a higher priority govern my life? Am I willing to say “Not my will but Thy will be done?” If the honest answer is “no,” ask yourself “why not?” And keep asking “why not?” until the only possible answer is “yes.”
The Deathbed Perspective
Imagine you suddenly learned that you are going to die tomorrow, and are now looking back on your life from your deathbed. Face with ruthless honesty into the big choices you’ve made in your life. Ask yourself:
- What was the most important thing in life?
- Did I make sure I gave the most important thing the highest priority? Did I put first things first, always? Or, did I compromise what was most important in favor of what was comfortable or convenient or expedient?
- To what degree has my life been an expression of my highest ideals and understanding?
- Did I consistently do the right thing when it mattered most? What are my regrets?
Bring this perspective back to the life you are now living, with the future stretching out before you. Ask yourself what you will do differently based on this perspective. Is there anything new you are willing to commit to in order to make sure you live a life you can look back on with perfect contentment, knowing that you gave it your all? Throughout your week, keep returning to this deathbed perspective on what you’re doing. Ask yourself, “Am I giving my time to the things that matter most?”
What Would I Do if the Evolution of the Human Race Depended on Me?
We all influence each other in visible and invisible ways. Are you willing to take responsibility for being an example for all others to follow? Spiritual teacher Andrew Cohen asks his audiences the following question: How would you live your life if you learned that the further evolution of the human race rested on your shoulders alone? In other words, if you knew that all of your future actions were creating the action templates, or habits in consciousness, that would guide the actions of all future humans, how would your behavior change? Would you suddenly find that you had the strength and courage to leave behind all forms of victimhood and emotional indulgence, and step into a heroic relationship to this life? Would you find the conviction to overcome whatever obstacles seem to stand in the way of your becoming a powerful and undeniable expression of liberated consciousness in this world? Contemplate this question as though the future of humanity depends on it. Because it just might.