WHAT GOOD IS LIFE WITHOUT SOUL?
You can only know what it is to need to live a spiritual life if you have been to one of two places. If you have somehow come to spirituality from a very good place in life then you know. The other place is Hell ~ some of us have been there. Working toward Spirituality on a daily basis makes life bearable for some, happier and more fulfilling for others, puts some others in touch with a higher plane, and for some others it stops them killing themselves. For some of us Spirituality is a matter of Life and Death.
I have absolutely no pleasure in the stimulants in which I sometimes so madly indulge. It has not been in pursuit of pleasure that I have periled life and reputation and reason. It has been the desperate attempt to escape from torturing memories, from a sense of insupportable loneliness and a dread of some strange impending doom. ~ Edgar Allan Poe
Some see The Raven as a metaphor for Death.
One can choose any path towards spirituality but the Buddha laid down some pretty sound ideas two and a half thousand years ago.
- Life is difficult and shit happens.
- Craving for immediate pleasure makes more shit happen.
- Learn some self-control and life will become less difficult as you won’t drop yourself into the shit so often.
- Learn the true meaning of right and wrong and always try to do the right thing.
Of course this was not quite how Buddha explained it, but my version gives the essence.
The fourth Noble Truth is also known as the Truth of the Middle Path, or the Noble Eightfold Path. You don’t have to be Buddhist to aspire to have the qualities described in the Noble Eightfold Path;
- Right Understanding
- Right Thought
- Right Speech
- Right Action
- Right Livelihood
- Right Effort
- Right Mindfulness
- Right Concentration
Any high-powered executive would give his eye teeth to be able to follow the precepts of the Eightfold Path. Back in the day, if I could get half of those half right half of the time, I was King of the Hill. Sadly, most high-powered executives will be far too busy working, or going on time-management seminars, to give the matter of Spirituality any study at all.
For some others, such as drug addicts, compulsive gamblers, alcoholics, neurotics, among others, working toward the Noble Eightfold Path is what keeps them alive. These people often use a 12 step recovery programme to achieve spirituality ~ and the essence of these 12 step programmes is very close to the teachings of the Buddha. The snag is that organisations such as Alcoholics Anonymous are part-way to becoming a Religion, with all that implies.
However, if you are an alcoholic, drug addict…, then working toward spirituality by attending AA, NA meetings may just keep you alive. Every little action in working towards Spirituality is very, very easy, and unless you are suffering from an extreme character disorder, feels perfectly natural.
The hard part is that the path to true Spirituality means that you have to keep doing it, every minute of every day. The other hard part is that you will expose your soul to yourself. If you like you may substitute ‘deepest subconsciousness‘ for soul. What you will find down there are the good things, the ordinary things, the hurtful things, and the deepest, darkest, most evil parts of yourself.
Some of us didn’t want to go there. Some of us made half-hearted efforts. You know what? Not doing your utmost means you only get part of the good stuff. And, for some people that’s not enough to keep them alive.
That doesn’t mean that to do your utmost means you have to spend every second of every day actively working towards the Eightfold Path, or being involved in 12 step work. What it means is that you have to want to believe, and when you do your 12 step work, or working toward the Noble Eightfold Path, it needs to be taken seriously and honestly. Trust me, looking deep into the evil part of your soul isn’t something you can do for 12 hours a day ~ not unless you want to become completely insane. All of us have a Mister Hyde.
Like everything in Life, true spirituality also needs balance.
Personally, I looked for balance in the philosophy of yin and yang. This stuff apparently goes back about 3,000 years, and works on the premise that there are two sides to every coin. Each of us has two basic halves, male and female, and these need to be kept in balance. It’s more complicated than that ~ think of; night and day, sun and moon, winter and summer, fire and rain, life and death…
Without balance it’s very easy to go completely off the rails.
For example, my last divorce came about partly because my work / life balance was skewed in favour of work. My ‘patch’ was Europe and North America. I spent most of my time on aeroplanes, in hotels, in meetings, on more aeroplanes, trains, or in my car, and more hotels and more meetings. What with that and the affairs and drinking my good lady soon became my ex.
The only way I know to begin to achieve any balance whatsoever is to practice the doctrine of ‘everything in moderation’.
This has been much derided, however ‘everything in moderation’ doesn’t mean everything. Some things are just not on the list. If you take drugs then stop. If you smoke then cut down with the aim of stopping soon. If you drink every single day then stop drinking completely. If you drink a little too much then cut down, have at least two days a week when alcohol is off the agenda. Sugar in any form is mostly not on the list. Stay away from candy, cakes and cookies.
Tomorrow I will attempt to explain how to get started on your work toward Spirituality. Every person on this planet could greatly benefit from doing some of this.
You may trust me on this one, you do not want to hear the Raven quoth ‘Nevermore.’