No, I am not talking about a so-called spirit guide, but a 'spiritual guide' ... that is, a guide which makes reference to certain 'spiritual' [see below] principles.
The meaning of the word ‘spirituality’
First, what do I mean by the word ‘spirituality’?
The English word ‘spirit’ comes from the Latin spiritus meaning, among other things, breath, breathing, air, inspiration, character, spirit, life, vigour, and courage.
Spirituality does not require nor depend upon any notions of ‘supernaturalism’ but refers to non-physical and non-transient things such as faith, hope and charity as well as states of affairs or human consciousness which, going ‘beyond words’, are only partially (if at all) graspable by human concepts ... things that cannot be seen but which are otherwise capable of being apprehended, if not fully understood.
Similarly, another Catholic priest, the Redemptorist Father Gerard H Chylko, wrote that spirituality is ‘made up of all those qualities of mind and character that make us who we are: our values, our desires, our feelings, and our dreams’.
All of the above makes perfect good sense to me.
Finally (at least on this point), Quaker writer Parker J Palmer has described spirituality as a ‘longing to be connected with the largeness of life’, that is, to something larger than one’s ego or 'self' (that is, some ‘power-not-oneself’). I like that.
Perhaps the main difference between spirituality and religion is that the former gives one complete freedom to choose one’s own individual path towards wholeness, recovery and ‘enlightenment’. Religion is the institutionalised, organised formal practice of a particular spiritual tradition's beliefs (ugh!), ethics, and rituals, whereas spirituality, doesn’t necessarily entail any adherence to a religious tradition.
Call it the ‘interconnectedness of all life’ or, if you like, ‘InterBeing’ (the latter wonderful term comes from Thich Nhat Hanh [pictured right]; see also the 'InterBeing' calligraphy, above left). In that sense, there is only one life manifesting itself in all things and as all things.
In short, we can have no conception of any such existence, nor any conception of what it might possibly be like.
Further, as already mentioned, if there were 'higher' and 'lower' orders or levels of reality, it would be impossible for us to be attentive to, and otherwise aware of, what happens from one moment to the next. The 'observer', the thing 'observed', and the 'act of observing' itself, must all be located on the one order of level of reality.
'In a universe of LAW there can be no supernatural. There may be the super-physical, or super-normal, but there can be no super-natural. You cannot transcend Natural law, nor suspend it.' [Original emphasis]
So, if someone says to you, ‘There is a supernatural dimension to life, I’ve experienced it, but the reason you haven't experienced it is because you don't believe like me,’ just smile benignly, and say, ‘Have a cup of tea.’ (That's pure Zen. See the other piece of calligraphy, below, which reads, 'Go and have some tea.')
Having said all of the above, if you choose to believe [see below] in the 'supernatural', that does not prevent you from practising mindfulness. You see, mindfulness doesn't require any beliefs at all, nor will any beliefs prevent mindfulness from 'working' ... except, perhaps, a negative belief pertaining to the nature of mindfulness itself (eg that it is 'demonic' or something similarly silly). Further, as mindfulness, being entirely naturalistic, operates on the one so-called 'ordinary' order or level of reality in which all things live and move and have their being, mindfulness can and will work irrespective of the existence or non-existence of other supposed orders or levels of reality.
Now, whether you are a Buddhist or not, it pays to be an empiricist. Buddha Shakyamuni was one ... indeed, one of the greatest empirical philosophers of all times. He refused to affirm that which was unobservable. He relied solely on the observable. Not a bad way to proceed. The 'answer' to any problem can only be found on the same order or level of reality as the 'problem.' Obvious, isn't it?
Unfortunately, many people still seek 'answers' to their problems from 'outside' or otherwise 'beyond' this spatiotemporal world, and they even believe [sic] that they receive answers. It's only a matter of time before this sort of problem is categorised by the American Psychiatric Association or some similar body as a 'mental illness.' Indeed, as belief in the so-called 'supernatural' wanes – particularly in Western societies – then it will no longer be able to be asserted by religionists of the kind in question that their false and fixed, and otherwise irrational, belief [sic] is one 'normally held by others of the same culture or subculture.' At that point in time, belief in the so-called supernatural will be seen to be what, in truth, it really is – a clinical delusion. Even at this point in time, it's a very fine line, for as the noted psychiatrist Dr Thomas Szasz has said, 'If you talk to God, you are praying; if God talks to you, you have schizophrenia.' It's not funny. It's serious.
Nothing – I repeat nothing – is more important than, or superior to, facts ... that is, occurrences in space and time. Nothing! Indeed, there are only facts.
So, if some person says to you, ‘You will never understand God [or Super-person X or whoever] unless you get beyond or abandon reason,’ again, just smile benignly, and say, ‘Have a cup of tea.’ (More Zen! The only sensible response to people of that kind. If they mention so-called 'revelation', tell them that reason is the only form of 'revelation', for the reasons previously given.)
Choose a religion or, if you don’t like religion, a philosophy or a ‘way of life’ that doesn’t require you to believe or disbelieve anything. Life is Truth, and life is forever open-ended. We, as part of life's self-expression, are always in direct 'contact' with, and can always be choicelessly aware of, Truth. No doctrine or dogma, and no priest, guru or saviour, is needed for you to know and experience Truth. Beliefs actually get in the way of things. They are a barrier to Truth. In the words of Krishnamurti, 'Truth is a pathless land.' He also said, 'To find truth, or God, there must be neither belief nor disbelief. ... To seek God without understanding oneself has very little meaning.'
We, in the West, live in an age of crass materialism. Is it because most Westerners have given up on so-called 'orthodox' Christianity? The mainstream Christian churches would have you believe [sic] that is the cause of Western materialism ... that, along with human greed. No, I tend to agree with Bishop Burt (referred to and quoted above), who, after accusing the Christian Church of having 'lost the chart of man's spiritual origin and destiny,' went on to say:
'Western materialism is the product of certain orthodox Church doctrines which have been the substance of Christian thought for centuries. If modern civilisation is to be saved from the suicidal doom to which it is drifting, materialistic doctrines, even though invested with a halo of sanctity, must be expunged from Christian teaching.'
'Orthodox Christianity has lost its appeal to thoughtful people because its primitive doctrines are divorced from reason, from logic and commonsense.'
Those words were spoken in Sydney, Australia, over 70 years ago. Ever since then, Australians and most other Westerners – who, like me, are not prepared to believe that which offends against one's sensibilities or which is otherwise contrary to reason – have been leaving the churches in droves. For the most part, I don't blame them.
So, dear friends, whatever you do ... don't 'believe'.
That is the ‘right’ ... indeed, the only ... way to proceed.
Don't try ... instead, let.
Even Jesus is reported to have told his followers, 'Resist not evil' (Mt 5:39). The American spiritual teacher Vernon Howard, whose writings and lectures have had a big impact on my life, said this: 'Resistance to the disturbance is the disturbance.' Get the picture?
DALAI LAMA SAYS 'MINDFULNESS IS NOT RELIGIOUS'
MINDFULNESS IN THE BIBLE
THE MINDFUL ART OF KNOWING ONESELF
RATIONAL HUMANENESS IS THE ANSWER