We need to move beyond the rather primitive notion that holiness and the spiritual life are about perfection. Nothing could be farther from the truth, for if we are human beings (and if you are reading this, I assume you are) then holiness consists in being fully human. Humanity isn’t perfection, it’s messy and filled with mistakes. Holiness then is about being authentically and unashamedly human, with all of its flaws and failings. In that, there is no shame. Rather, it is precisely why we are here!
One understanding of the goal of the spiritual life is getting to our true selves. This is a cumbersome task because we spend most of the first half of our lives being told by others both who we are and who we should be. In addition to being profoundly annoying, this practice is doomed to failure because the only one who can discover who we really are is, well, us!
Unfortunately, most of us are way too concerned – especially in the first half of life – about what others think. Unless and until we slow down and begin to ignore others and listen to the still, small voice within, we can’t begin the extensive excavation process that is unearthing the true self.
Most often it requires a crisis or a loss to set us on this journey. Like it or not, life is only too happy to provide us with multiple losses in a seemingly unending attempt to get us started. What’s holding you back?
One of the biggest problems we in the west have is a profound lack of altruism, and our spiritual communities and traditions are no exception. I laughed a few weeks ago when I received an email from a nationally known group that holds initiation rituals for men. Citing the truth that we have lost much needed authentic initiation rituals in our culture, the email then went on to offer a program that was priced out of reach of the vast majority of young people!
While there are notable exceptions to this rule, they are few and far between. I do believe people need to earn a living, but it seems that many of these programs are created to build financial wealth for the leaders rather than to serve people. If my primary motivation is to turn a buck, that fact won’t be lost on the participants – and it will show in my results.