We are living in exceptional times of spiritual generosity. Without taking any spiritual vows or undergoing a single initiation, we have at our fingertips more spiritual tools, teachings, and practices than has ever been available to any group of people, at any time in human history.
And yet, despite this abundance, it has never been more difficult to come by spiritual discernment or to move beyond the superficial promises of spiritual consumerism that permeates popular culture and to engage deeply in our own unique and living path of awakening. Encouraged by the fashions of our time, we seek spiritual sales and quick fixes.
We want to know this secret that will put us on the fast track to enlightenment and satisfy every whim of our ego. We may even believe that if we only become spiritual enough we will magically be granted an exception to the realities of the human condition, we will become less subject to the loss, pain, and disappointment of ordinary human life.
Driven by a funny miscalculation, we fully expect to be saved upon awakening, mistakenly believing that by starting to live a more spiritual life we will bypass the struggles of living a human life. Ironically, as our spiritual insight increases, the opposite happens.
As we mature spiritually, the gap between the spiritual and the ordinary begins to disappear, of course, we continue to experience challenges, but no longer berate this human limitation. We stop trying to be special and begin to appear as we are; we stop trying to manipulate reality to be the way we want it to be, and instead, we deepen our intimacy with life as it is.
As we let go of our spiritual agenda and embrace our human rupture, paradoxically, self-judgment subsides; self-improvement gives way to acceptance, certainty to the mystery. Ultimately, no matter how many books we read, workshops we attend, or peak experiences we have under our belt, spiritual growth is not a life hack, it is not the game of acquiring more and more spiritual gifts, ideas, or accolades.
Rather, it’s a slow, intimate, and vulnerable process of disentangling, letting go, and surrendering that opens us wide. This openness is where the magic happens. So here are five spiritual life hacks, or rather un-hacks, for our awakening souls.
1. The highest form of wisdom is kindness. ~The Talmud
A great transformation occurs when we begin to cultivate an attitude of unwavering kindness. Kindness even to the most inconvenient parts of ourselves. It is only through the eyes of kindness that we are able to truly see, that we are able to recognize the preciousness of all nuances of life and to cultivate true love for ourselves and for others.
By choosing kindness, we honor the most direct and highest form of wisdom: the wisdom of the heart. Because the heart accepts everything as it is. It knows no judgment, asks for no improvement, it holds everything dear. When we give in to this radical acceptance, life regains its innate dignity.
Release the pressure to demand that things change, and suddenly everything is released to move naturally in the direction of wholeness. But true kindness is not for the faint of heart. It is a spiritual rebellion that always begins with the Self.
Turn those tables of self-cruelty over. Silence the merchants of self-improvement. Remove all icons of gods and men from the walls and hang a mirror. Whatever idol of a better you that you’ve placed on your altar, let it shatter now. Let yourself come into your own Holy of Holies exactly as you are. Fall into your arms and never let go.
Incredibly, it is only when we fully step into our hearts and give ourselves our kindness that it can naturally start to flow over everyone else. When you feel lost, overwhelmed, angry, or frustrated, whether it’s shame, blame, guilt, or fear taking its toll, simply acknowledge your experience, let go of judgment on yourself, and no matter what type of pain, you are in, be kind.
2. Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls. ~ Joseph Campbell
There is only one commandment: commit to yourself. Make the voice of your soul your only allegiance. It is the voice of the living divinity. Until we enter into this final covenant, we are driven by the winds of karma, our true purpose drowned out by the noise of split intentions.
The only commitment, the deepest devotion, our ultimate spiritual marriage turns out to be with ourselves after all. This is what it means to enter into our Dharma, our service to the world. To awaken and serve, we must first embrace the ultimate leap of faith in our own arms.
A turning point in every life comes when we begin to reorient our lives towards our true North. Often such a moment is preceded by a dark night of the soul: when everything begins to fall apart when our stories about ourselves can no longer hold up when our plans and hopes are shattered on the ground and our arsenals of transformational tools and spiritual ideas no longer bring us refuge.
As everything we know collapses, we begin to listen more deeply to the still small voice within. This is how the true North begins to reveal itself. Because the still small voice speaks in the language of the soul’s desire. What you most long to do is a treasure map to your soul.
That dream, held firmly in the most secret chamber of your heart, is an echo of the desire for life. Right now, make a commitment to follow your happiness, and make no mistake, the doors will open. You have to walk through them.
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3. To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. ~ Pema Chödrön
In a world obsessed with certainty, security, and personality, we spend our lives trying to hold onto what we know, what we have, and who we are. And as this takes place in the arenas of the spiritual marketplace, it may seem that the whole business of spiritual growth is a project of arriving at a more ideal situation.
However, as our path unfolds, everything we hope to receive through our efforts begins to crumble. Every time we think we have arrived at our destination, that we have finally found a permanent refuge, the ground below us moves again and we are thrown once more out of the nest we have built through our most sincere spiritual efforts.
And although at first, we see these falls as signs of failure, we eventually realize that this perpetual dislocation is actually a sign of life’s embrace. As consciousness dawns, like Jacob struggling with the angel, we come to be perpetually dislocated, and therefore perpetually blessed.
As we surrender the dance of awakening, we stop grasping for the safety of what we know and who we are, for the insights that seem so solid and deep for a time. And as life expands, our relationship to discomfort changes. To a person observing a seed, growth can look like a disaster, with all of its breaking apart and turning inside out, signaling the death of the seed.
However, those who experience growth intimately see it as the brilliant wisdom of life. Although completely destroyed, it is only through such breaking open that the acorn could become the oak. Discomfort, pain, and difficulty often accompany our own spiritual germination.
After all, we are planted in our own land of being and must break open in order to grow. In the end, everything leads us in the direction of wholeness. Ultimately, we already have the awakening plane within us. Trust your Buddha nature, you are already what you are looking for.
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4. Be yourself. Unless you can be a unicorn, In that case, you should always be a unicorn. ~ Elle Lothlorien, Alice in the Wonderland
Be a unicorn. Your circle is not meant to fit into anyone else’s square peg; your circle is wholeness without periphery. We are usually born into rigid worlds full of rigid rules, where from an early age we are meant to be anything but who we are.
Deviating from narrow expectations is rarely safe and we quickly learn to adapt to our surroundings, cultural norms, and social demands, numbing the pain of self-betrayal until we can no longer tell the difference between who we are and who we should be to survive and be successful.
Rightly so, we invest a lot in ourselves and build our lives around enhancing and protecting our hard-earned identity. Let go of that small self. Release it into wonderland. Instead, be a unicorn. Your own wildest and most unconditioned aliveness.
Who would you be if you didn’t have to survive in the real world? What if you didn’t need anyone’s approval or acceptance? What if you didn’t need to fit in, to stand out, to adapt in some way to the outside world? What would you do with your life, what would you create?
Now, we’re not implying that life is an everlasting Burning Man festival, although going to Burning Man at least once can serve as a big lesson in becoming a unicorn. However, the ultimate goal of the spiritual journey is, in fact, to burn off the false self, to stop identifying with our history and remembering our own original face. It is the face of freedom.
You were born from the stars and you will return to them. You are too large to fit into the narrow box of existing structures, norms, and expectations. You are here to give birth to a New Earth. What wild vision is beckoning your heart? Let your difference light up the world. It is in absolute integrity with your own soul that you can begin to offer your unique gifts to the world. And the world will respond in kind.
5. Hard times require furious dancing. ~ Alice Walker
While it seems intuitive to assume that the very point of the spiritual process is to transcend the body into a higher mystical state, in reality, the most vital part of the spiritual journey is actually to become fully embodied in our human lives.
Embodiment is the name of the game, beloveds, and dancing is the most direct way to embody our soul. Simply put, we awaken into our bodies, not out of them. The dance will awaken your shakti, invigorate your senses, invoke your soul.
It is no wonder that since long ago, it is by coming to dance together that people have celebrated, worshiped, and participated in sacred rituals. Sadly, in our disenchanted modern world, other than a runaway drunken dance club, we have little opportunity to come together in the community and experience the freedom and healing bond of the tribe.
Fortunately, dance is coming back with a fury. Awakening the whole world, tribes of dancing soul shakers have arisen in communities of conscious movement all over the planet. Whether it’s Ecstatic Dance, Contact Improv, or 5Rhythms, whether with a friend, a dance class or with your own children.
Whatever your shape or style, find a way to connect with other souls and come together in the dance. Dancing in a chosen tribe will steal you away from helplessness, release stagnant energy, unclench the pangs of isolation, and open your heart to contact for it has longed to be opened for too long. Especially when times are tough, get up, give in, and dance. Let life dance you and let dancing be a part of your life.
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