How FREE can we be when we are no longer trying to be the “right” version of ourselves?
The capitalist, secular world pushes us to have all the things, to succeed financially, to climb the various ladders of status and power. To be better than others, to stand out, to win, to be at the top. We are rewarded with money, with more power… as if these things are truly end-game prizes. And yet, some hungry ghost or wounded child within us continues to push us to “succeed” in this system – and nothing is ever enough. How else could we end up with wealthy people rolling around in piles of money and power, and yet they still want more?
And so, people step off this path to join a path of finding enlightenment and spiritual attainment. Initially, much of that path tends to be about “letting go of attachment” – breaking away from the mainstream narrative about attaining greatness through material and financial “success” and turning to something deeper and more meaningful. This often involves embracing new practices (yoga, meditation, chanting, mindfulness), new ideas (authenticity, compassion, intentionality), and new relationships. Instead of being caught up in materialistic pursuits and “keeping up with the Joneses” type relationships, people often are drawn to find their people, and yearn for a community where they can connect with others in this new way of being. Unfortunately, materialistic and capitalistic ways have been deeply embedded in those of us who live in western societies, and spiritual materialism and narcissism plague these alternative, idealistic communities. After all, while we may long for a new way of living and being, we cannot escape ourselves, and change is slow. It’s no surprise that so many spiritual communities (I’m thinking the kundalini yoga community in this moment) implode when shadow behaviors are revealed. Wherever we go, there WE are.
I’m in my mid-40s now, and have been on this path since my late teens. More and more, I find myself uninterested in engaging in things often called “spiritual.” This is not because my own path has drifted away from connecting with what is Divine, but more because *everything* feels more and more like it is connected to Divinity in some way. Making a smoothie for breakfast. Hanging out with my wife and kitties. Sitting out on the deck and watching the birds in the forest. Playing music. Feeling sad. Getting angry about injustice. Writing a letter to my senator/governor. As I understand it in this moment, this is integration, internalization. When the practices and values I have oriented toward for decades have become sufficiently rooted that I no longer seek them so much externally. Everything is the path. There is nothing to eliminate that cannot be brought into the path of living a spiritually aligned life. Nothing must be tossed aside, exiled, or purged. Don’t get me wrong: I still love the crystals on my desk, and I still love music that is aligned with my values; I still engage in meditation and prayer, and I still listen for guidance and insight from Spirit, Pachamama, and my guides. But all of that has become so interwoven into my life, it is simply that: MY LIFE.
And because this path has simply become MY LIFE, there’s nothing special about it. Chop wood, carry water.
It feels like a relief, this. I am no longer trying to be a version of myself that pleases others – not in the materialist/capitalist sense, nor in the spiritual sense. I find myself less and less willing to entertain what feels like bullshit. While I understand that we all are wherever we are in our process of living our lives and growing as humans, I am amused by things that I see on social media: trying to be attractive enough, witty enough, smart enough, powerful enough, spiritual enough… And as I see it now, so much of that *still* comes down to people trying to climb to the top of some ladder, aiming for… what? In the end, we all die – some of us quickly, and some of us more slowly.
I acknowledge that it is a privilege to be living in a way that allows me to spend my time contemplating things like this. Circling back to the idea of being FREE, no longer caught up in trying to be the right version of oneself… That freedom, to me, is the freedom from self-obsession. Freedom to become more interwoven into the tapestry of life, and to give our energy into caring for the interdependent whole. Loving other beings, human and other than human, so much that we want to give our energy to helping each other thrive, and offering kindness and care in whatever way we are each best suited to give.