We have a lot of rules in our society. We have laws, codes of conduct, rules of engagement, and guidelines on what’s acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Some of these rules are necessary, in order to ensure basic survival and a reasonably peaceful existence in our current vibrational environment (like laws against murder, for example). However, I’m talking about the should’s and should not’s of our society, which “govern” just about every behavior or circumstance we could get into. Most of us have grown up in an environment where rules were the norm. We feel comfortable being told what to do and how to do it, and we feel incredibly awkward when we don’t know what the rules are.
If you’ve never dined in a five star restaurant, for example, you might feel embarrassed if you don’t know which fork to use. You may not even know why it’s so damn important to use the correct fork, but you don’t want to be caught using the wrong one. We want to dress appropriately, say the right things, do everything we can to make sure we don’t stand out in a negative way. One of our biggest fears is that we might be doing it wrong. “Just tell me what to do” is the theme, and so, we have no shortage of guides on how to behave in every situation from going on a first date, to chairing a business meeting.
This is no different in the spiritual growth arena. Those searching for enlightenment love to come up with lists of what you should or shouldn’t do, the right and wrong way to do this and that, the right way to behave and think and feel. This might seem hypocritical, coming from a spiritual blogger – much of what I do is to give advice. But one of my biggest goals has been to do so without passing judgment. I try to avoid the words should and shouldn’t, and aim always to point (not push) the individual toward listening to their own inner being. I try to ask questions, present different points of view, and do my best to leave the ultimate conclusion up to the reader (you can tell me if I’m succeeding or not…)
Spiritual people (and for the sake of this article, I’m going to use that phrase to refer to those who are actively seeking enlightenment) love to judge one another, just like everybody else. And over time, we’ve constructed numerous rules of how enlightened people ought to think and behave. I’ve dug up 3 of these and will do my best to make a case for why you can safely ignore them.
1. Spiritual People always have to be happy. Variation: Spiritual people can never have any negative emotions. This would imply that some of our emotions are “bad” while others are ok. But our emotions, all of them, are useful tools which indicate to us how what we’re thinking in that moment is serving us. A “negative” emotion isn’t bad for us, no more than the feeling of being hungry is bad for you.
Hunger is your body’s signal that it needs nutrition. If you ignore the hunger signal, eventually you’re going to starve. So the feeling of hunger is actually very useful – it lets you know when something’s out of balance so you can fix it. Emotion is the same way. The feeling of anger is just a signal that something in your thoughts is out of whack, so that you can address it. As your core vibration rises, the kinds of thoughts that trigger anger or depression will rise as well. It’s all relative. So, a person with a lower core vibration might feel little difference while thinking “I’m a failure”, because most of their thoughts are right around that level, while a person with a high vibration might get quite angry while thinking “I’m not as successful as I could be”, even though the second thought isn’t nearly as negative as the first.
To me, the goal is not to become an emotionless drone. Success (in becoming enlightened) isn’t measured in NOT feeling the emotions anymore, but rather in continuously raising our vibration. Our emotions will continue to guide us to ferreting out the relatively lower frequencies, so we can continue to move even higher. We will always encounter different frequencies (if we stopped doing that, we would stop having experiences, and would die of boredom). As we interact with them, our emotions will let us know which ones we want to continue to play with and which ones we want to let go.
2. Spiritual People have to meditate, visualize, etc. every day. Variation: It takes discipline to become enlightened. This little gem comes to us from the deeply ingrained and widespread belief that without pain, there can be no gain. We can’t get ahead without working hard for it, i.e. suffering. I’m not saying that it doesn’t sometimes take huge amounts of effort to accomplish something, but inspired effort doesn’t feel like “work”. It’s fun, passionate and easy. It’s the kind of activity you can lose yourself in for hours without realizing how much time has passed. So, we love to come up with checklists of things we MUST DO every day. Meditate daily? Check. Do Yoga every morning? Check. Spend 20 minutes with the Vision board? Check. And then, if something comes up and people have to miss a session, they get stressed out.
I get questions all the time about how often to meditate, for how long, how specifically to do this or that, and I always explain that while a regular routine can certainly be helpful, it’ll only be really beneficial as long as it makes you feel good. The second you feel an obligation, or feel stress about doing it the right way, you’re not really gaining anything. In my view, spiritual people should meditate or do anything else, for that matter, precisely as often as they want to.
3. Spiritual people should never engage in certain activities like watching TV, gambling, drinking, eating meat, smoking, etc. I’m going to word this very carefully, because I know that I could be seen as contradicting myself, so I want to really explain what I mean. I personally don’t watch TV. I plan to do a whole blog post on just this subject (it’s on the list). But the reason I don’t watch TV is not because watching TV is inherently evil, but because for me, personally, it’s very difficult to hold the vibration I want to hold while watching TV. So, while I would advise someone who is trying to raise their vibration to try staying away from television for a while, to see how that feels, it isn’t the TV that’s causing any harm – it’s the fact that we allow it to affect us. And everyone is affected differently by different things.
I changed to an almost completely raw diet at the beginning of this year. I do think that this change was a result of my spiritual path and I also believe that the switch has allowed me to rise even further. But that’s because of the way I feel about raw food. I would never state unequivocally that to become enlightened, one must go raw. The same thing with alcohol, gambling, smoking and any other activity we might consider damaging or low on the vibrational scale. I haven’t been able to handle large quantities of alcohol for years. I do occasionally have a glass of wine with dinner (wine is raw) because I really enjoy it and at that quantity there are no negative consequences for me. But I have friends who are incredibly happy who can handle huge quantities of booze. Interestingly, they don’t pay much of a price for that consumption either (whereas I do). They have a different relationship to alcohol than I do, and it affects them very differently.
Whenever I hear someone ask “How can you be spiritual and do that (insert whatever)?”, I remind myself that no one can really know how an activity will affect another person. It might lift them up and it might drag them down. The key is how they feel about it. If, for example, you smoke, but you think that you really should quit, then you obviously don’t have a good relationship to smoking. You’ll either want to change your belief, so you can smoke happily, or quit. The goal is not to condemn the activity, but to eliminate the conflict – in this case, smoking while feeling really badly about it. The point I’m making here is enormous and multifaceted, and if you’d like to read more, I invite you to check out a case study I published: Is Your Job or Life Choice Spiritual Enough?, which delves much deeper into this issue. Don’t forget to read the discussion in the comments, as well. It really serves to highlight the point further.
Just like everyone else, I’m guilty of constructing my own, personal set of guidelines on how “spiritual” people ought to act. When I see someone who’s had a major insight being a bit condescending towards another spiritual seeker for not “getting it yet”, I often think “If he were more enlightened he wouldn’t judge the other guy.” Then, I immediately catch myself and think “If I were more enlightened, I wouldn’t judge him for judging.”
We all have our own personal code of conduct. The key is to become aware of it and question if it’s still serving us. A lot of the rules we live by do nothing but limit our thoughts and behaviors. To me, moving toward enlightenment means letting go of limitations; finding my own way in each moment and figuring out where my authentic path lies.
What “rules” do you live by that may no longer be serving you? Share your experience in the comments and let everyone benefit.