One of the first issues people on the spiritual path have to address is a doctrinal one: Is it wrong to ask questions that I've never asked before? Is asking questions about the truth we've been taught "sinful?" Your answer can have a dramatic effect on your ability to explore who you are and what you believe in without guilt!
If anyone has ever told you that the path to spiritual self-awareness (defined in it's simplest terms as "knowing who you are and what you believe in, and letting those beliefs be the driving force in your life") is an easy one, they were being less than honest!
Finding your own truth in these times of confusion and change is no small undertaking, and it isn't surprising that many people begin the journey full of hope and enthusiasm, but - as each step becomes even more difficult because it requires even more honestly with yourself and with others - they begin to lose courage. They find a comfortable plateau - a point in their lives where things are better than they used to be - and they decide that staying where they are might not be such a bad option. Why seek the infinite potential within yourself if you've found a self you're comfortable with already?
Unfortunately, the first stumbling block most of us run into is a "biggie." We run into a catch-22 situation: we can't question our personal truth without questioning the doctrine of the religious environment we grew up in, and there's a part of us that feels that the very act of questioning is, in some way, "sinful."
Whether our conviction is for or against our basic religious beliefs, we hesitate to rock our spiritual boat by entering the world of adverbs: who is God, what is my relationship with Him, where does He fit into my life, when will I know for sure what is truth and what is not, and how do I get to a point in my life where it all makes sense to me, and I'm no longer caught up in the never-ending cycle of trying to understand why this is happening to me?
Between the guilt of not accepting at face value the religious doctrine we were taught as children and the confusion of trying to find something solid to replace it with, we move into the Scarlett O'Hara mode: who can forget the dramatic moment in Gone with the Wind when Scarlett says, in the face of adversity, "I shan't think about this today. If I think about this today, I shall go absolutely crazy." We put the whole issue of "spiritual truth" on the back burner, and go on with our lives. For a while.
Sooner or later, we find ourselves right back where we started: some situation in our lives points out to us - again - that we really don't have much of a spiritual foundation at all. If we did, we'd understand ourselves, and other people, and see the order of the universe reflected in the order of our lives. Instead, we see the same old, same old emotional chaos driving the same old, same old lives, and we feel the need - again - to question who we are and what we believe in and why our life is the way it is.
It is this sense of dissatisfaction (discontent, unhappiness, frustration, confusion) that makes us want to question again, and we find ourselves - once again - in a learning cycle that encourages us to confirm our personal beliefs and begin expressing them in our day to day relationships with others.
If our life is working for us - if we aren't in the Scarlett O'Hara mode and we feel good about who we are and what we're doing - we don't feel any need to question our spiritual truth, because it's - obviously - working for us. It's not human nature to seek answers for what IS working in our lives; it's when the situations and relationships that make up our "lifestyle" create circumstances that are NOT comfortable that we question.
If the present-moment pieces of our personal puzzle fit together, life works for us, and we are happy and contented with what's happening on a day to day basis; when the situations and relationships create pain, conflict, and/or disharmony, and we wake up each morning feeling less than enthusiastic about what the new day will bring us, we need to have the personal courage to ask why. There are no victims in life, and we need to be willing to look at ourselves and our lives - and the truth that motivates our behavior in any given circumstance - to see which pieces of our personal puzzle are bent, broken or missing altogether.
When we do everything that we're "supposed" to do, and life still doesn't work for us, we realize, with some sadness, that our "personal truth" looks good on paper but doesn't work when we apply it to our day to day lifestyle, and we are driven to find the missing element (or elements) so that we can be at peace again, knowing that we are living day by day according to our own truth - a truth that we have developed through the experience of discovering for ourselves what works for us instead of listening to what other people think should work for us.
Our conviction in that truth is soul deep, because we have applied it to our lives and our relationships and seen it work positive miracles on a daily basis. We come to understand that we've grown spiritually to the point where "truth" is no longer what we say we believe; it's who we are, and a natural expression of our "self."
Most often, the missing piece in the puzzle is a personal relationship with God. We discover for ourselves that the day to day ritual that is such an important part of "established religion" doesn't constitute a working relationship with the Higher Power in our lives, and when we limit the spiritual expression of ourselves to ritualistic participation in specific activities within certain timeframes, we're not only prohibiting the development of a personal relationship with God, we're prohibiting our personal growth and self-expression overall.
We're missing the point: spirituality is an aspect of ourselves that is present 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Spirituality is our personal definition of the adverbs in our lives, and the foundation on which we decide who we are, what we believe in, where we choose to "come from" when we deal with other people, when we have the right to be happy, and how we choose to express our personal truth on a day to day basis. Religion (that is, the "right religion" for us as individuals) allows us to express our personal truth through fellowship with others who believe in the same truth we do, and shouldn't be mistaken for spirituality.
Spirituality is the foundation on which our life is built, and should be the basis on which we make our everyday choices. It is through this day to day expression of our personal truth that we express our personal relationship with God; it is our active choice to live our life according to God's universal laws (which are the foundation on which all "religions" are based) and make an active choice to work in the best interest of everyone involved rather than focus into our own ego-driven emotional responses - a willingness to look at our lives and the world we live in with a more loving and accepting perspective that sets us apart from the average person.
Living our personal truth is what enables us to live an ordinary life in an extraordinary way, and that is the ultimate objective of every major "religion" in the world:" for each of us to experience, on a daily basis, the extraordinary benefits of having a personal relationship with God.
The questioning that comes with change is a natural process. It's through questioning that we come to confirm our own truth about life. As we grow in awareness, and begin to integrate the spiritual aspect of ourselves into our day to day lifestyle- as it becomes not a part of who we are but who we are, we come to realize that we need not feel threatened by someone else's truth or someone else's perspective.
Once we've moved beyond our own emotional issues about spiritual truth, we find that the journey to places we've never been - new ideas, new opinions, new perspectives - gives us truth in it's many forms and with it's many faces that we can use to confirm (or deny) what WE think and therefore, who we choose to be.
Questioning feels right, because we understand that it was intention that we use our minds to explore, to question, and to find our own path to Him. We realize that life issues such as this aren't really as complex as we sometimes make them out to be. We don't pour a cup of coffee into a cup that still has hot chocolate in it; we don't add iced tea to the glass with lemonade leftovers. We take a new cup, and we fill it with the drink of our choice.
So it is with spiritual truth: we must be willing to give up the old, if even for a little while, to make room for the new. Some of the old we will go back to, and some of the old we will replace with something new that is more appropriate to the newer, wiser person we have become. When we have finished, we will know the sense of being in a position where "our cup runneth over" with peace, contentment and happiness.
It's at the point when we begin to question in earnest that our higher consciousness - that is, our willingness to listen and follow the little voice inside - becomes a key factor in determining which path we'll follow next. To be all that we can be, we must be willing to give up all that we have been before; we must be willing to experience a "spiritual death" so that we can be "reborn," if you will, to a higher understanding of life and it's purpose.
It's our "higher self" (as represented by our "inner voice") who carries us - if we allow it - through this process, reminding us that from chaos comes growth, and from confusion comes understanding. As D. H. Lawrence so aptly put it in "Phoenix,"
Are you willing to be sponged out,
erased, cancelled, made nothing?
Are you willing to be made NOTHING?
dipped into oblivion?
If not, you will never really change.
The phoenix renews her youth
only when she is burnt,
burnt alive, burnt down
to hot and flocculent ash.
Then the small stirring of a new
bub in the nest
with strands of down
like floating ash
Shows that she is renewing
like the eagle
Know that your Higher Self is driving you to change, compelling you to let go of your self-imposed limitations and fly high, until you have reached your own infinite potential and are - every hour of every day - all that you intended to be in this lifetime.
Lois Grant-Holland is a Life Path Focus Counselor offering Life Path Focus Sessions, Karmic Astrology Charts, Channeled Guidance, Intuitive Readings and Classes and Workshops to spiritual seekers on all positive paths, and is the site facilitator at The A.N.S.W.E.R. - (The Seeker's Resource Guide to Alternative, New Thought, Spiritual Growth, Wellness and Enlightenment Resources.) You can visit her website at http://www.loisgrantholland.com