From my experience while traveling the path of spiritual growth, I can confidently say that once you begin in earnest to seek a deeper understanding of yourself, as well as the nature of existence itself, it’s impossible to turn back. The more you open your mind to new ideas and concepts, the more you will want to explore. There is no way around it; it actually gets into your blood.
This discovery is a fascinating process; one that is incredibly rewarding, and at times very demanding as well, simply because spiritual growth requires that you step out of your comfort zone. It also requires that you become increasingly open-minded, and focus more and more of your attention on the present (i.e., on this life), rather than looking toward the potential afterlife rewards typically touted by organized religion.
Traversing this path is a lot like walking a high wire without a safety net, because unlike traditional religious practice there is no rigid dogma that exists to provide you with all of the ‘answers’. Instead, on this path you take on the responsibility for finding your own answers to questions such as: Who or what is God? What is the proper code of conduct for me to follow? What is the purpose of my life? What is the meaning of life in general?
Developing “Your” Spiritual Philosophy
The decision to take responsibility for discovering your inner ‘truth’ requires that you embark on a quest to develop your own spiritual philosophy. This does not automatically mean you must completely discard your traditional religious beliefs, but it does require that you be willing to question literally every aspect of what you have been taught. It also means that you learn to challenge everything you hear and read as you move along this path, including the contents of this article.
In other words, you no longer simply accept something based solely on what another person’s religious doctrine, or philosophical author tells you is true. Instead, you closely examine it and ask yourself if that truth actually feels right to you. If the insight or concept doesn’t resonate positively within you, this is usually a clear signal that it is time for you to put it aside and replace it with something that will. The following passage from Michael Newton’s book “Destiny of Souls” confirms how very important it is for each of us to define our own spiritual truth:
“Because each of us is a unique being different from all others, it is incumbent upon those who desire internal peace to find their own spirituality. When we totally align ourselves to belief systems based upon the experience of other people, I feel we lose something of our individuality in the process. The road to self-discovery and shaping a philosophy not designed by the doctrines of organizations takes effort but the rewards are great.”
Many in the traditional religious community might argue that having ‘faith’ means we may not question established religious doctrine, for the sheer act of doubting what we have been taught to believe is to be considered blasphemous behavior. As this quotation from Fr. Anthony DeMello’s book “Awareness” illustrates, however, that is really not what faith is all about:
“An openness to the truth, no matter what the consequences,no matter where it leads you and when you don’t even know where it’s going to lead you. That’s faith. Not belief, but faith. Your beliefs give you a lot of security, but faith is insecurity. You don’t know. You’re ready to follow and you’re open, you’re wide open! You’re ready to listen.”
This doesn’t mean that you become gullible and immediately accept new information to replace the old, but instead you learn to question everything – new and old – with an open mind. It is also essential for you to understand there is nothing at all irreverent about questioning traditional religious concepts, for even Buddha himself cautioned against blindly embracing his teachings when he said:
“Monks and scholars must not accept my words out of respect, but must analyze them the way that a goldsmith analyzes gold, by cutting, scraping, rubbing, melting.”
In developing your own spiritual philosophy, it is very important that you, too, adopt a similar approach. Additionally, you can accelerate your spiritual growth by not limiting yourself with respect to what types of self-development books you will read, tapes you will listen to, or seminars and workshops you will attend. Even if some of the content you encounter appears to be a bit ‘out there’, you never know what gems you may uncover as you proceed through the remainder of the material.
I know this to be true, since on my own shelves there are a number of books that at first glance contained a lot of material that either didn’t interest me, or was in my judgment, somewhat bizarre. Interestingly, it was within many of those same books that I ultimately found incredibly inspirational and/or thought-provoking passages.
In several instances it was necessary to read perhaps a hundred pages to find even one such passage, but in the end the discovery was well worth the reading time invested. I experienced essentially the same thing with various self-help audio programs as well; there was always something of value to be found within them.
Before leaving this subject, it is important to note there are many who would argue that the development of individualized spiritual philosophies is potentially problematic, particularly given the so-called natural tendency of human beings to be self-serving. In other words, if people are left up to their own devices, what feels spiritually right to them may not be in the best interests of the aggregate society or culture.
In response to this, one need merely look at the success that organized religion as a whole has had in fostering peace and goodwill throughout the world; much of the ongoing conflict in the world is based on some form of religious disagreement. So, could things really become any worse if people assumed the responsibility for developing their own spiritual philosophies? From my perspective, they could only improve.
(The preceding article is an adapted excerpt from Spirituality Simplified, Copyright 2002 & 2014, by Jeff Maziarek.)
About the Author
Jeff Maziarek is an inspirational speaker and author. His first book, Spirituality Simplified is an easy-to-understand and entertaining work that provides an ideal starting point for anyone with a sincere desire to pursue a path of personal and/or spiritual growth. His second book, Codi’s Journey, is a memoir about his beloved Border Collie who passed away in 2005.
Spirituality Simplified is available on Amazon.com in both print and eBook formats. Codi’s Journey also can be purchased on Amazon.com in both print and eBook formats and on BarnesandNoble.com in eBook format . To subscribe to Jeff’s free daily inspirational emails called “PONDER on THIS,” please visit his Pondercentral website.