Going Through the Motions?
In meditation and conversations with Pat this morning I could see a pattern in me of going through the motions of being on an intense spiritual path, Pathwork in my case, purportedly to reach greater consciousness and fulfillment in living but perhaps not really having any intention of waking up and experiencing greater consciousness, fulfillment, and happiness. At first glance it seems I may be committed to doing the hard work of transformation, but without any goal or expectation of actually reaching a richer or happier life as an outcome. Could this possibly be? At first this seems shocking, but as I settle into awareness of this possibility I get the picture of why I may be fooling myself in that arena which is most central to my life, my spiritual journey and awakening. Several threads surface in this contemplation. As I reflect on what is truly important to me, what I most identify with, it seems that it involves being productive, effective, efficient, and competent, and, above all, doing my best. Working hard brings a feeling of satisfaction, fulfillment and a sense that I have earned my place at the table of life. As I sense into this I can identify with the feeling of “job well done,” a feeling I cherish. The tasks of life have to be both hard and well done. And it seems I cherish this “job-well-done” feeling more than bliss, love, joy, and peace. So if I want to spend time enjoying music or time with Pat or friends, this is OK to a point, but if it interferes with “important” life projects I have identified for myself, I start getting anxious and feel a need to get back to my tasks. So, I ask myself, why would I value the feeling of “a job well done” more than, say, a feeling of love toward or from Pat or another friend? Is not “the greatest of these love” as it says in the familiar Corinthians passage? One reason may be control. I can control doing a job, but cannot control the spontaneity of love. But it is deeper than that. Perhaps on some deep level I do not trust that love is the greatest feeling in the Universe, that feeling love is infinitely more pleasurable than the feeling of a job well done. This being a possible belief in me, it makes sense that I would choose getting back at it, back to my important life work, as being more “pleasurable” than spending time dropping more deeply into the experience of love. I put “pleasurable” in quotes, because in this model perhaps I am not valuing pleasure either. I am valuing the feeling that accomplishing hard work well gives me. Is that really pleasure for me? Well it seems to be. But in a way this pleasure is a byproduct and not purpose of doing a job well. And maybe that is the way it is with love, too. Perhaps I do not love because I want pleasure. Perhaps I love because I long to connect, because it is an innate quality of my Soul, and the experience of pleasure comes along as a byproduct. Perhaps another thread to all this is that I look at life as a reward system. Perhaps I see God, or Life, or Society rewarding me for a job well done, like a parent or teacher might do in my experience. In this model I feel unworthy just as I am, so to be accepted, loved, and worthy I have to believe right dogma or have right faith or do works of love in order to obtain the pronouncement from God, or Life, of a job well done. In this way I miss the point that the doing of a job well IS the pleasure. And that loving IS its own pleasure, it doesn’t lead to some future pleasure or reward. So getting back to my spiritual path, am I merely going through the motions of an intense spiritual path and not looking for more pleasure or happiness or fulfillment in life as a natural consequence of my intense path? I am surprised at my answer of NO! I am not merely going through the motions. I see that being on an intense spiritual path, for me Pathwork, IS the PLEASURE of LIFE. It does not lead to the pleasure of life in some far off future. It is the old story that the joy of life is in the journey of living life, not the destination. But there is an AND here too. Namely, AND life gets even more full, more pleasurable, more fulfilling as I live on the spiritual path. I experience relief in this clarification that has surfaced. Recapitulating, I am not going through the motions of an intense spiritual path in order to find joy, pleasure, and fulfillment. No. I am engaged in my intense spiritual path because for me it IS joy, pleasure, and fulfillment. And the joy, pleasure, and fulfillment build more and more as life unfolds. The both/and of living replaces the either/or of living. Or is that a cliché?