Episode 31 waking up to what? spiritual practice and finding your purpose
“What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.” – Abraham Maslow
In the depths of addiction, there’s never enough. Almost by definition, addiction is the attempt to fill a craving that’s impossible to satisfy. The addict is a hungry ghost, starving for nourishment, unable to receive it.
But what is it that we crave? What is it that we lack?
My descent into the hell of addiction paralleled my growing feelings of separateness and disconnection. I didn’t necessarily recognize them as such. But I was keenly aware of the vague unease and the sense that something wasn’t right. Something was missing, and I didn’t know what. So I escaped the discomfort by changing the way I felt. Anything to avoid facing the growing sense of emptiness; the growing hole inside me.
Maybe you can relate. Most addicts have a version of this story.
Being an introvert, it’s not so much that I craved the company of others, but I certainly craved a sense of wholeness and purpose. I used drugs and alcohol to change the way I felt because the way I felt was unbearable, empty, and incomplete.
Even those who who’ve never suffered from alcoholism and addiction are prone to this emptiness, this sense of disconnection, though they attempt to fill it by binge-watching Netflix, scrolling endlessly through social media, developing unhealthy sexual relationships, or any number of other behaviors and process addictions.
Our addictions were an attempt to put a band-aid on a fundamental human problem: the need for meaning, purpose, and connection; a knowledge of who we are and why we’re here.
To their great credit, the founders of AA recognized that this need was a spiritual one. Unfortunately, hearing that we “have to find god” is enough to send some people running out the door, never to return. And it’s killing us.
Twenty-first century culture has made incredible strides in the fields of science and technology, psychology, biology, sociology, and a number of other critical disciplines. But in our reliance on the scientific paradigm, which has been an incredibly valuable framework, large swaths of the population relegated ideas like religion and spirituality to the dungeon of superstition. And with it, we lost our connection with the fundamental truths that spirituality offers and the deep human needs that it fulfills.
Despite the widespread perception, spirituality doesn’t mean dogmatic adherence to and unwavering belief in a mythic-literal narrative. True spirituality, in whatever context you choose to approach it, is about developing an inner contemplative practice gives us a first-hand experience of the divine. It’s an opportunity to find meaning and connection. A spiritual practice shows us, through direct experience, why we’re here. More importantly, it shows us who we truly are, which is none other than divine infinite spirit experiencing itself.
If that last paragraph didn’t resonate, don’t worry. It turns out that when we open up the aperture on what constitutes spiritual practice, we discover that there are many paths to wholeness. From making music, to gardening, to writing, to snowboarding, to fixing cars, to washing the dishes, or caring for our children, almost any practice can be approached from a spiritual perspective.
A simple willingness to surrender to the practice unlocks the path. Through action, we change our state. We act as if our lives matter, and before long, we discover just how deeply they do. Through spiritual practice, we’ve done what Maslow recognized as the key to change: we’ve changed our awareness of ourselves. We’ve moved toward wholeness. We’ve begun to wake up.
[1:25] We all suffer from something – why the practices and the ideas of Integral Recovery are broadly applicable to everyone. Why waking up, growing up, cleaning up, and showing can transform our lives, and a brief explanation of what the four broad practice areas entail [3:56] Why finding our purpose is critical to recovery and to living a meaningful life in general. How is our purpose tied to the practice of showing up, and what happens along multiple developmental lines without a firm sense of meaning and direction in our lives? [5:00] Why all four lines are essential and interconnected, and how putting any of these areas at risk jeopardizes and weakens our development in the other three. [5:42] Development and evolution in all four lines is an ongoing journey; the practice of a lifetime. Avoiding pathology and continuing our growth depends on our ability to continually strengthen and correct imbalances in all four essential dimensions, and why this matters now more than ever. [6:47] How despite its enormous depth and scope, the lack of spirituality in the current psychological paradigm paints an incomplete picture of the human experience. Why the cartography of human consciousness is incomplete without the spiritual dimension [8:02] The dangers of ignoring our desire to explore spirituality when we “throw the baby out with the bathwater” of traditional fundamentalist religions of the amber/blue level of the AQAL map, and why continuing our spiritual exploration from higher developmental levels is essential to our continued evolution. [9:26] The thirst for wholeness that is addiction, and why developing a personal relationship and understanding of spirit through inner contemplative practice is integral to our recovery. [10:47] The longing to accomplish, achieve, and feel good about ourselves, and how the rush of addictive substances short-circuits or reward system and stunts our maturation and growth even while it explodes our sense of disconnected isolation [12:55] The “spiritual but not religious” movement, and what spirituality actual means when people, especially (though far from exclusively) millennials use this phrase. [13:15] What are the fundamental questions that spirituality and spiritual practice seek to answer? [14:35] Why an academic understanding of spirituality is insufficient, and why our apprehension of spirituality, and the answers to its questions, must come from direct experience. [15:50] Why exploring the answers to these fundamental questions through a reductionist, materialistic philosophical ontology is inherently unable to convey the first-hand experience of spiritual realization (hint: see the four AQAL quadrants) [18:23] How our interpretation of spiritual or mystical experience depends on our current level of development, and why the revelations and answers that spirituality provides continue to evolve as we do. [19:00] How having a direct spiritual experience can change your relationships with others and with yourself – infusing you with a sense of purpose and meaning and catalyzing development and growth in the other dimensions of the Integral map. [19:46] The parallel of spiritual experience to the experience of being in love – why we have to taste it to really know it. [20:47] How peak experiences we’ve all had, like playing sports, hearing great music, or falling in love, can clue us in to what spiritual practice can give us when we drop the religiosity and seek out direct personal experience. [21:15] Abraham Maslow’s contributions to secularizing and democratizing spiritual peak experiences, and his recognition in the genesis of positive psychology that these experiences are an essential evolutionary nutrient to our well-being, happiness, and life-satisfaction [23:10] Opening up the aperture on what constitutes meditation: The wide variety of practices and pursuits that can catalyze spiritual experience and our direct realization of spirit and oneness [24:50] Why the study of spirituality, regardless of our path to direct experience, gives us the language and the framework to understand the profound nature of our experiences [26:10] The many paths of yoga in the Vedic and Hindu traditions, and how a number of paths and practices can catalyze our realization of the divine, the deepest part of who we are. From Karma Yoga – the yoga of service, to Bhakti Yoga – the yoga of devotion, to Raja Yoga – the “king” yoga – and many others, and how finding the right combination based on our own unique typology and current Integral Psychograph can propel us along the path. [28:36] Cultivating your artform – whether it’s through athletics, mechanical work, programming, snowboarding, writing, or anything else you feel called to do, and how this practice expands the entry point for people, enabling them to gain the immense benefits that the pursuit of mastery, commitment, and sustained effort can have on rebuilding us in recovery [30:03] What to do when you’re don’t’ know your purpose – how showing up for the journey of discovery, with full presence and open-mindedness allows this to unfold [31:40] Following your curiosity and allowing serendipity – the practice of “living as if it were so” [32:42] The James-Lange theory of emotion – We don’t have to “feel” a certain way in order to do something. Rather, we do things in order to feel a certain way. In Alcoholics Anonymous, we often hear “act our way to right thinking”, and the James-Lange theory posits that we can act our way to right feeling. When we “act as if” our lives will make a difference, we take the actions that create that reality. [34:00] Why is spiritual development so important to our psychological well-being, and especially to our recovery from addiction? The primary goal of much of traditional therapy is to root out our original trauma at the core of our addiction, but spirituality and purpose can lead us to consider what we’re forestalling; what we’re giving up and missing out on, in terms of connection, purpose, and meaning, by continuing in our addictions [35:53] How do we find the good that’s mixed into all our experiences, including our struggles with depression, alcoholism, and addiction? We look at what it catalyzed in terms of our growth, and how it allowed to us to develop a more intimate relationship with our own darkness and shadow. [38:14] Are we interpreting our experiences personalistically, or transpersonally? [38:50] How losing our innocence and making mistakes allows us to develop compassion, and how we can transform our suffering into an asset [40:22] In transmuting the darkness, we also release the “light dragons”, and realize what we have to give [40:50] Our purpose and our meaning can show in in large ways or small ways, but the compass that guides us to find that purpose and live in alignment with it comes directly from our inner contemplative practice. [41:50] Showing up is the grand humbler and the ultimate practice. When we show up in every area of our lives, from washing the dishes to being a better father (and son), to any other action we’re engaged in, we can change the world in small and meaningful ways. Chop wood, carry water. [43:00] The interconnection between prayer and meditation, how the insight and spiritual guidance we receive can come in the form of large-scale orientation or small-scale daily “next actions” that move us into alignment with purpose as the journey unfolds – and all of this comes from a different place than our ordinary rational-linear consciousness [44:04] Tapping into the wisdom voice that’s beyond ego and allowing it to emerge organically through our practice. This is the daily practice and the deeper meaning of 11th step in Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step groups
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