“Do you think there is some kind of force for good — some kind of Spirit — within, beneath, behind, or in front of the process of spiritual development, somehow guiding or inspiring it? And, if so, do you think that we are controlled by it? Or do you think that we have a kind of freedom not to respond to its promptings, however understood, such that we can truly miss the mark?
“I am also wondering if you think there are times in a person’s life — or some people’s lives — when it is important to let go of ideals of “progress” and “growth” altogether and accept the sacrament, maybe even the grace, of un-self-awareness.”
It may seem unnecessary or obvious, but I think it’s important that this discussion take place within the context of a disclaimer. None of us knows the whole truth, and we’re all working with our current best intelligence. Several great teachers of mine have ever said to me, “This is my answer today. If you ask me a week or a year from now, I may say something completely different.” To me, this did not mean the last answer was untrue, it meant their relationship to it had shifted. We each work with the answers that serve us in this moment. It’s as though each individual answer is a fragment of the ultimate truth, through which, we can access the whole. Sort of like how each cell contains DNA that maps out the entire organism.
It appears to me that there is very much a Spirit involved in our spiritual development. Sometimes we experience it as an external force and other times internal. Perhaps it is like asking, do flowers feel the urge to grow, or does the Universe desire that there be flowers? I suspect these are different versions of the same thing. We are free to ignore these promptings; however, there do seem to be junctures where it is insistent, and the price of denial is great pain.
Even though this often feels like we are being made to do something against our will, it is probably more accurate to say that the suffering is caused by an internal civil war. We are identifying with our ego, which feels attacked by our spirit’s agenda.
In regard to growth: With the possible exception of a few true spiritual masters, I believe we are all constantly participating in the growth process.
“This little self that we have come to believe is the entirety of our being is only a small part of something larger. … We expand to become what we already are.” – Donna Farhi
But what do I mean by growth? There is this fantasy about the economy in which, if everything were working as it should, there would always be more. More companies, more products, more money, more customers … I see this as one-dimensional and unsustainable.
Might growth also mean learning to be more efficient, less dependent, more cooperative? The confounding beauty of spiritual growth is that what it means constantly changes. You stop physically growing when you reach adulthood, but don’t you continue to grow as a person? Even within a particular cycle there is plateau and decline. I see these as part of growing.
When I look at nature, it seems never to stop progressing and evolving, but part of that process is winter, stillness, resting phases, introspection. The mentality that creates, “ideals of progress and growth” recognizes only the higher, faster, stronger part. Like most aspects of ego, it is excessively literal.
Finally, I agree we must accept un-self-awareness, because that is a part of the process as well. It has a role to play just like denial can protect the mind from overload and shock protects the body from pain. However, the question is not, “are we unconscious?” It’s “how unconscious?” And how much more conscious are we really interested in being?