Spiritual Beings Having Human Experiences - by Frank De Luca

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Spiritual Beings Having Human Experiences - by Frank De Luca

Postby SDP on Thu Aug 06, 2009 6:37 pm

In one of my first doctoral classes in East-West psychology some years ago, we were asked for our definitions of spirituality. The question was met with plenty of ceiling staring and throat clearing. A few of us ventured an answer, hoping to give the impression that we knew how to approach questions such as this. I had a sense that most of us thought we were spiritual or at least knew someone who was, but to define it? Well, it’s, you know, spirituality. The most interesting answer came from a Japanese student. He said, “I don’t know what you mean by the question. There is no word for “spirituality” in Japanese. It is not a thing. It’s everything.”

It reminded me of Tibetan meditation teacher Chogyam Trungpa’s term “spiritual materialism,” the practice of “acquiring” spiritual wisdom and practices that ultimately do nothing but serve the ego. In our very acquisitive culture, we try to go out and get some spirituality as if it were a commodity to buy, something that will save us from the trials and challenges that come from living a human life. I have heard clients say to me, “I feel like I have no time to work on my spirituality. I’m just too busy.” Working on spirituality is like having to moonlight, taking on a second job. I think what these clients are saying is that they have no time for practices like meditation or prayer or yoga. Or maybe they are saying, “If I were spiritual, I would not be so stressed by what I have to do to just get through the day. Maybe I would take more time to be and not feel as compelled to do.” Whatever the meaning of their desire, the desire stems from the thinking that being spiritual is different from being human. There is the rub.

I have spent many years grappling with the conflicting needs I have. For example, how can I have a livelihood that provides money and as well as meaning? How can I reconcile the fact that I have a part of me that wants to be generous and compassionate towards others while there is another part of me that wants to avoid people and situations that bother me? How do I reconcile the fact that in spite of my best efforts not to be judgmental and emotionally reactive, I fall short of that most of the time?

There were periods (actually many years) when I tried to cram myself into being a “spiritual” person: someone who was patient, above the fray, contained, disciplined with my words, thoughts and feelings. I wanted to be a good person and live according to my own ideals of how I thought I should be. When I ran aground in a relationship or lost a job or failed in some significant way, I would try to overlook my hurt or anger because they were not the right feelings to have. I would say to myself, “It’s all maya (illusion). It doesn’t matter.” I went spiritual. It’s a little like going postal or maybe worse. Some would call this “spiritual bypassing,” trying to get around my unprocessed unconscious material – my anger, fear, righteousness and other goodies that tripped me up when I was trying to be so spiritual.

In the middle of one of these episodes, I was introduced to the Enneagram. The Enneagram is an elegant system that continues to show me what gets in the way of relaxing into the goodness and grace of my life. It made me look at my personality, my emotional patterns that distort my perception of reality, patterns that were set in place years ago, lodged in the dark recesses of my subconscious, yet replaying themselves ad infinitum, always leading me away from happiness and peace. This information has been a godsend and a way back to my humanness. Instead of bemoaning my human flaws, I began to see them as a path, a path that begins exactly where I am, not where I think I should be. I can relax.

I have become a great fan of humanness. It is a complex and messy thing when we get right down to it. Buddha said life is suffering and we suffer because we misperceive, we desire to be anywhere but here. I do my best as I work with clients to hold their feet to the fire, to have them not go spiritual on me. We end up laughing a lot together. Not because I tell jokes, but for me, laughter is the spontaneous response to being truthful and finding ourselves right smack in the middle of our humanness.

I am not sure any of us need to be more spiritual – just more human. I am not sure our deepest desire is to be more happy, but to be more whole. Wholeness is accepting my “shadow” side as much as accepting my “light” side. I don’t have to build a firewall in my psyche keeping spiritual things on one side and human things on the other. I think this striving for wholeness is a path in itself. How do all the parts fit together in one whole? What is the field, the energy between all these moving parts?

And how would I define spirituality today? Well, first it is not trying to be someone I am not. It is living in my very human life but from a more expanded perspective. The “I” that I am is not all there is to life and not all there is to me. Words can’t really describe this, but I do feel it when I open to life and feel connected to something larger than myself. It is a feeling I get when I sit down to a meal with my partner, my family or my friends and I know that the pleasure of the moment comes from having lived well that day and knowing that these moments of perfection come not from what I was able to make happen but from being a part of the larger story, the larger fabric of life, me as a spiritual being have a wonderfully human experience.

Frank De Luca teaches classes and facilitates study groups on the Enneagram. He also sees therapy clients in Carmel and San Francisco and offers classes on other topics. On September 12, from 9am to 5pm, he will be facilitating an Introduction to the Enneagram Workshop in Carmel, CA. Cost is $95. See more at http://www.arichlife.com or contact Frank at frank@arichlife.com or 831-625-6387.
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Re: Spiritual Beings Having Human Experiences - by Frank De Luca

Postby Vidyanet on Sat Aug 08, 2009 7:49 am

Frank,

I liked the way you articulated that. And I wonder what people would say if asked the question What do you suppose created the divide between spirit and matter in human history?

Every religion, spiritual teaching, etc., seems to have its own unique way for addressing this question. There are numerous stories and mythologies a person can look at on the topic. However, I wonder what each has to do with the views, beliefs and experiences of each individual personally? Especially when story lines change over the centuries and not all people (even within the same religion) subscribe to the same ones?

Recently I looked at the "story lines" for Samkhya philosophy (also spelled Sankhya). A teaching popularly attributed to Kapila, a Hindu philosopher of sorts. I was drawn to the duality between Prakrta ("matter") and Purusha ("spirit").

Even though my short description and choice of words are not sufficient to describe what I actually saw in that form of philosophy, I was intrigued by the idea of many purushas. Even many forms of prakrta (a.k.a. "prakriti").

Along with the question What created the divide between spirit and matter in human history, I'm curious about what people would say if asked for a date? For example, At what time in history did the divide appear to occur?

After looking over a number of sites about Samkhya I got the impression people didn't always hold the same basic views. And it even appeared to me that most religions and schools of thought grew out of the ones that preceded them. Even people picking and choosing along the way, so to speak, and making concessions from time to time in order to render the teachings similar to the already established languages, beliefs and views of others.

Here are two links I selected for anybody wishing to explore further what has been said about Samkhya. The first is about the history.

http://www.samkhyayoga.info/

The second talked about the philisophy more in depth.

http://www.firehead.org/~pturing/occult ... osophy.htm

I'm not giving these two as the best sources, but anyone really interested would probably do best performing their own personal search.

At any rate, Samkhya philosophy (and a number of other teachings) came to mind after reading the title for this thread. Along with what is / are my own personal perspective(s). I have mostly spared the latter.

Vidyanet
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Re: Spiritual Beings Having Human Experiences - by Frank De Luca

Postby Jonathan Reams on Sun Aug 09, 2009 12:45 am

Hi Frank,

I like what you have said. I even used the exact same title for a paper/presentation I gave a conference in Oxford on science and religion dialogue!

What you say reminds me of something I read from John Heron years ago in a book on sacred science. He said that in the "early days" of the growth of Eastern spirituality and practices in the West there as a huge impulse towards transcendence - getting up and out of the human condition. After having various experiences of this nature, he now felt that the leading edge of spiritual growth was in the direction of immanence - coming back into the world and cleaning up the mess of our minds, emotions, relationships, finances, health etc. The added element is being able to engage our humanness with a new perspective gained from the transcendent experiences, putting them in a new context.

I also have found value in the Enneagram. I recall liking the phrase (from Helen Palmer's book I believe) that it describes the way in which Soul's attention is directed into this world.

Jonathan
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Re: Spiritual Beings Having Human Experiences - by Frank De Luca

Postby fdeluca on Wed Aug 12, 2009 3:39 pm

Dear Jonathan,

Thank you for your clear response. You helped remind me that it is about the polarity between transcendence and immanence and those terms summarize the theme of my article beautifully. I like and agree with John Heron's observation about the need to move towards immanence at this juncture. I have been drawn to the Enneagram, coaching models, and other modalities that help keep us grounded while opening to our transcendent natures.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Frank
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Re: Spiritual Beings Having Human Experiences - by Frank De Luca

Postby fdeluca on Wed Aug 12, 2009 3:51 pm

Dear Vidyanet,

I have studied Sankhya philosophy over the years and I do understand the view that there is a fundamental split between sprit and matter. In further study of Sri Aurobindo and integral philosophy, I began to appreciate the evolutionary movement towards integration of the two and the need to transcend either or thinking. As a clinician, I try to help individuals go beyond whatever dual, either/or thinking is inhibiting them from living fuller, happier lives and to be more at peace living in the tension between the two. It is an exciting place to be!

Frank
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Re: Spiritual Beings Having Human Experiences - by Frank De Luca

Postby Vidyanet on Wed Aug 12, 2009 7:38 pm

Frank,

Although Sankhya philosophy appears to be speaking about a duality, I think that comes from trying to explain what it is (through words) to an observer.

IMO, the "duality" is simply an illusion. One that can only be understood and resolved by the individual and no one else.

At least, this is what I suspect.

Vidyanet
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Re: Spiritual Beings Having Human Experiences - by Frank De Luca

Postby Arji on Tue Sep 08, 2009 11:58 am

For me, "Spirituality" came about after experiencing myself as "something" beyond my body. While it was not a near death experience it was definitely an out-of-body experience. I was sitting in a chair meditating when I heard a bird singing while sitting in a tree outside the window. I was deep in meditation but for some reason I opened my eyes to see what kind of bird it was. Suddenly, I found "myself" sitting in the tree looking back at my body inside the window. I felt a sense of connectedness beyond anything I could even describe in words. I just knew that thing inside the window I was looking at was not really "me" yet it was part of me. I felt that I was something that existed beyond the body yet firmly connected to it, the bird, and all of life on the earth as well as the inanimate parts of the earth. It seemed to me that I was infinite and had no limitations. Spirituality, for me, is the realization of life with no limitations. Whether we are healthy, ill, poor or wealthy has no bearing on "who we are". Over time I realized that the limitations we perceive are a result of our thinking in terms of separateness .... from each other and the earth. If we are separate then we have no vested interest in each other or the well-being of the earth. If we feel connected then we will see each other and the earth as an integral part of ourselves and therefore will have more reverence for all things. But then the question became, "How do I become a spiritual person?" Apart from trying to define a spiritual person I realized that in great complexity lies infinite simplicity. Spirituality is simply Being-ness. It is the act of being human and accepting ourselves as an important part of the whole.

Within the topic of spirituality there is also the idea of Oneness. We all hear stuff about Oneness but it appears folks don't really understand what it means. Most feel it relates to our connection with each other and the world around us. However, how can we connect to and accept each other if we can't even connect to and accept all the aspects of ourselves? So Oneness becomes a personal journey rather than something the human race experiences together. Personal Oneness leads to Unity.

Many of us feel we must reject our darkness ... bring light to the darkness. Oneness calls us to embrace our darkness and take it to the light. There is a subtle difference. One mode of thinking tries to deny the many aspects of being human....to transcend the core of our being. It makes us wrong for being angry or afraid. It makes us decide what is wrong and what is right ... what we perceive as bad or good. The other mode of thinking embraces all that we are in our humanness, our Being. We become more accepting of ourselves and each other therefore feeling more connected to the infinite.

I am a human, Being.

Arji
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Re: Spiritual Beings Having Human Experiences - by Frank De Luca

Postby Marian on Wed Sep 09, 2009 3:14 am

Hi Arji,

I was most interested in your comments regarding accepting the darker sides of ourselves. I am reminded of this each and everyday as I integrate into my local community and then retreat and connect with my higher self. I live in an area where there are high levels of drug and alcohol abuse and the streets are patrolled by 'angry' youth - both male and female. Having worked through my own addiction issues in the 80's, I often wonder why I am still resident in such a 'country', so to speak. Most recently I have come to appreciate the wonder of seeing before me - my past whilst being in the present and surrendering to the future. It is a wonderous experience to recognise the mirror of life.

:) Marian
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