Today a friend asked me to explain my current attitude toward spirituality.
We haven't talked as much about godly, mystical, and meditational matters as we did back when I was an active member of an India-based religious organization, Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB).
It's always interesting for me to hear what I have to say in response to such a query. I didn't have to think much, if at all, before answering him. After all, writing posts for this blog keeps me attuned to how I feel about spirituality now, as opposed to my previous true-believing past.
But talking face to face is different from communicating blogishly. I wanted to be as direct and simple as possible with my friend. We were having a coffee house conversation, and I didn't want it to turn into an one-sided soliloquy.
"I guess the biggest change is that I'm much more into the here and now," I said. "When I meditate I'm focused on my breath, my body, and what is right around me. I'm no longer seeking some hypothesized other-worldly reality."
My friend wondered if I'd given up on exploring the possibility that consciousness can contact realms beyond the physical.
"Not at all," I told him. "But I no longer believe that this is likely. And even if it is possible, I don't think it would come about through active effort -- rather, through a relaxed letting go."
We continued on with our conversation for quite a bit longer.
My main intention was to get across a basic fact: ending my involvement with an organized religious faith -- complete with a guru, holy books, rituals, and lifestyle commandments -- certainly didn't mark an end to my commitment to spirituality.
Indeed, that commitment has gotten considerably stronger now that I've entered my churchless phase.
I simply have a much broader view of what "spiritual" means. To me, this word points to how I experience reality subjectively, the inner sense of how I experience life as contrasted with how others perceive me outwardly.
"What if this life is all there is?" I asked my friend. "We die, and that's it. Wouldn't it be a waste to always keep on looking for ultimate truth and meaning around the next corner, and never get there? Why not accept that all we can ever be aware of is here and now, not there and then?"
I told him that a big part of the RSSB meditation system was, essentially, doing nothing: merely being aware of what was present within one's consciousness, which might include spiritual sights and sounds.
Well, that's still what I do now in my morning meditation.
But I no longer have conceptual or intellectual expectations about what I'll experience when I close my eyes and settle onto my meditation cushion. I just aim at being as mindful and aware as possible of what actually passes through my consciousness.
If God, angels, heavenly beings, Buddha-nature, Spirit, astral realms, or any other divine entity make an appearance, I'll welcome them. If they stay away, I'm content.
Another friend chimed in to the conversation at one point. He said, "Brian spent many years looking for evidence of the supernatural and never found any. So now he's looking for truth in other directions."
If after thirty-five years you haven't come across what you've been looking for, does it make sense to keep on searching in the same place, and in the same fashion? No. I came to the conclusion that this would be crazy.
Maybe it doesn't exist. Or maybe the object of your desire is elsewhere.
Like, right here. Haven't you ever wandered around looking for your car keys, only to finally notice that you were holding them?
I have. And that moment of astonished relief when I realized my searching had been senseless... that wordless sensation is what I was trying to communicate to my friend today in quite a few words.
Rumi spoke of how buried treasure of the spiritual sort can be found: not by searching in distant places, but by looking right beneath your feet. Excellent advice, which I've taken to heart.