What is spirituality? What does it really mean to do the work? How will you know it’s really working? So many questions. And what’s worse, so many trying to capitalize on the spiritual awakening going on, leading folks down the garden path, to yet another dead end. Like so many things, it may be better to first define what something is not.
Doing the work is not doing drugs. Not even the psychoactive ones, at least not often. Yes, plant medicine can help people open up, and for some folks I encourage it. Once. The problem is that people are fundamentally lazy when it comes to inner work, and there is a whole group out there who mistake being high for being spiritual. Mind opening drugs are used to show what is possible without them. I know people who take mushrooms every quarter, but never meditate between. Spirituality requires mental awareness, and daily integration. It is a symptom of our culture to think we can simply take a drug to find enlightenment. Not so much.
Doing the work is not positive thinking. At the higher levels, positive thinking is a must… after wading through the muck of the subconscious. The problem with trying to start there is lack of awareness. We do three minutes of affirmations, then play the same old background tapes for the next sixteen hours. Positive thinking is an amazing tool, but only after it is embedded in the subconscious. Then we think happy things almost all the time. Before that can happen, the subconscious needs to be cleared out, and we need to be consciously aware of every single thought. Every. Single. Thought. Most of us can’t start there, even though the “bliss bunnies” try to tell us if we just think happy thoughts, everything else will happen automatically. Nope.
Doing the work is not about dogma. If you are prone to dogma, you will seek out dogma, no matter the context. Their are dogmatic Christians, and dogmatic Atheists. Some are dogmatic about food choice, others about lawn care. Seriously, people love strict rules, either to follow or break. True spirituality is based on non-jugement, even toward yourself. None of us is perfect, and even doing your best is a sliding scale from day to day. Yes, do your best, but never berate yourself. And always remember not everyone is on the same path. If you are concentrating on being a better person, it doesn’t matter if you’re Atheist or Christian or Wiccan or whatever. Dogma is imposed from the outside. Spirituality grows from introspection.
Doing the work is not about demanding the acceptance of others. If your growth takes a turn away from your current friends, it’s your responsibility to find a new circle. It is never their responsibility to accommodate the new you. When you come out of any closet, some of your friends will cheer you on, and others will try to push you back in. You are the one who changed – and good for you, evolving and stuff! – but be ready to let people go. We each evolve at our own rate. Don’t wait for, or drag, others. You can only do you.
Doing the work is about presence and awareness. The goal is to be fully present, and fully aware in each moment. I once read that the goal was to take each breath consciously. Apologies to the perfectionists in the crowd, but for me, this is really inspiring. I’m no where near that level, but I do take conscious breaths several times daily. At first, it’s exhausting to be conscious of every passing thought. Start with words. It’s easier to be really present with what you say out loud. Start wherever you are, and pay attention.
Doing the work requires dedication and discipline. I’m not sure why this aspect scares so many people. Everything takes dedication and discipline… learning piano, dance lessons, a new career, even learning to walk. We need to practice everyday to learn any skill, and awareness is no different. At first, do it at certain times, and in small increments, so you don’t get overwhelmed. Dedication is an agreement with yourself. Discipline is using your free will to hold up that agreement.
Doing the work requires a daily practice. Yes, the practice must be daily. If you only brush your teeth once a week, how effective would it be? This doesn’t have to be a big thing, but it does have to happen everyday. It could be 45 minutes of yoga, or 5 minutes of gratitude journaling. It could be a walk, or a meditation. Find something you like, and make it part of your daily routine. If nothing else, breathe consciously (5 counts in, 5 counts out) for 3 minutes, twice a day. If what you choose doesn’t feel right, change to something else. I like to keep a daily practice for at least 40 days, before changing it up. Up to you. Just make your daily practice daily.
Many groups focus on how dark and scary doing the work is, because it can be emotional. Let me give you a different framework. “Doing the work” is just making the subconscious, conscious. That’s it. It can be emotional because when we finally consciously see the subconscious patterns we have been living, it releases the emotions and stories we were using to hold it in place. It’s a detox, on all levels. Yes, it can be emotional. Yes, it’s worth it.
We are always manifesting, we are always attracting. We are creating from the subconscious, until we make it conscious. Your world will reflect what’s going on internally. That’s why spirituality is an inside job. No one can be introspective for you. No one can be aware of your thoughts except you. This is why we do the work.
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