Some friends and family members have wondered what I do when I say I’m on a spiritual cultivation journey. After contemplation, here is my explanation of what it is, and why it’s important to cultivate our spirit.
A spiritual path is not necessarily one that is religious. It is the journey we go through this life as human beings. The thing with spiritual cultivation is that it’s not so much about doing. Yes, there are various practices one can take on to support the process, but a spiritual path is more about being, than doing. Essentially, we explore and learn what it means to be human, and how to be with our Selves and others in our humanness.
Spiritual cultivation involves doing the inner work to develop our capacity to be with suffering. Suffering is part of the human condition manifesting as illness, loss, aging, and death. As humans, we are vulnerable, we get hurt, we suffer, this is the truth of life. To live as a human is to undergo suffering. But to undergo suffering is not necessarily the same as to suffer. We do not actively or voluntarily suffer, and neither do we want to identify with our suffering.
When we develop our capacity to be with our suffering, experiences such as positivity, joy, beauty, and love can still emerge amidst the suffering. When we are aware of the deeper part of us, our greater consciousness has the ability to hold both the positivity and the suffering. This is not the same as looking on the bright side while turning our gaze away from suffering. To truly be with our suffering is to be awake and present to how we are in the suffering. For instance, how much does it hurt, how sorrowful does it feel? Can we get in touch with our human vulnerability and remain soft and open-hearted to be touched by life?
I am reminded of the last moments I shared with my grandmother, holding on to her palm, feeling her pulse fade. I wanted to be there to witness her in her pain and fight till she breathed her last. It was a strange experience to be overflowing with a myriad of emotions. Sorrow for losing one whom I love, joy and gratitude for being able to share those last moments with her and to have been able to love her in this life. The entire experience was a blessing as I surrendered and allowed grace to enter.
What we bring presence to is given our sacred attention. It is an act of honouring and love. When we presence suffering, we mark the experiences we undergo as worthy of and significant to our life on Earth. No part of our life is dismissed, every part of us is honoured.
When we can be with our suffering without reacting or collapsing, we can begin to taste the subtleties that arise along with it. Like our physical body, our spirit has the ability to grow too. And it grows with awareness and presence. When we are awake to the greater consciousness within us, when we are willing to do the Work to look at our fixations and free ourselves from the trapped emotions and stories we tell ourselves, our spirit grows and deepens. It descends deeper into the world, deeper into the reality of our experiences, allowing us to experience more of the subtle differences of life. And herein lies the richness of living, herein lies the ability and resource to recover and respond to life. When life throws us lemons, before we make lemonade, we taste the sourness in them and allow our whole body to shrivel with it. And who knows, taste the delicate sweetness within, or savor the refreshing fragrance in the zest, or cringe at the bitterness in the rind.
True liberation is not a release from suffering—that would eventually come when death greets us. True liberation lies in the acceptance of suffering being part of the human condition, allowing it to wash through us and, in some cases, crack us open, knowing that we will work and heal again. Nothing truly gets us down when we surrender; nothing has a hold on us. We love and suffer, suffer and love; it’s not one without the other. And we do it with open hearts. We presence our suffering and sorrow with loving-kindness and compassion.
We do not choose our experiences, we live awake to this life. We know that whatever will come, comes. We do not push or pull, rush or resist. We walk this Earth allowing all the human experiences to meet us and enrich our soul. This is the path of the Spirit.
May you find the path that speaks to you, and grow to live from your essence.
“The Work” is any way, school, or method that recognizes the fact of suffering and the cause of unnecessary suffering and works to lead a person back to his true nature, which will eliminate the unnecessary suffering.A.H. Almaas, Diamond Heart
If this is new to you and you are interested in doing the Work, let’s have a conversation. I am a developmental coach who helps people embark on this journey, and I can provide you with the safe space and the guidance to do the Work.