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Through Lattice Windows: Three Questions You Should Be Asking Yourself About Your Spiritual Journey

"We can stay confined within our limited desires, attitudes and degree of control for ever, or we can throw wide the ancient doors and allow novelty and awe to enter in.'' writes Leanne Hunt.

Heritage Day fell on a Tuesday this year, creating the opportunity to take off a long weekend. Fortune favoured my husband and I so that we were able to get a booking at the beautiful Ithala Game Reserve in northern KwasZulu-Natal, and this tranquil setting proved ideal for some deep reflection on spiritual matters. Mostly, I was thinking about what I would pass on to a friend in the light of my own experiences. Here is what I came up with:

Three Questions You Should Be Asking Yourself About Your Spiritual Journey

1. Do I really want what I think I want?

This may sound like an impossible probe, but it is extremely valid. We are often conditioned to want things which don't match our individual nature. Religion may cultivate in us the desire for perfection, for example, but do we really understand what this means? Perfection, once gained, can never permit change again, since any change in any direction would, by definition, constitute imperfection.

Likewise, family may condition us to want stability, but stability prohibits things that bring instability, such as experimentation and enterprise. The arts may teach us to strive for purity, since purity in anything is deemed to be of great worth. Yet purity itself can be a prison, forbidding deviation towards the new, the different and the life-enhancing. Even safety, which society upholds as a fundamental right and responsibility, has its drawbacks, being focused on containment and conservation rather than on expansion and transformation.

2. Do I really despise what I think I despise?

Again, this seems to pose difficulty for self-inquiry, but it does yield interesting results. Depending on our culture or community values, we tend to hold very fixed ideas about what is undesirable, in bad taste, unhealthy or even evil. Yet, when we look closer, we discover that much of our resistance to these things is based on a mixture of fear and envy. We dislike what we do not understand and we feel angry that others who do not share our principles partake in such things without a guilty conscience. I am thinking of such things as political controversy, medical or scientific testing, eroticism, provocative humour, counter-culture practices, etcetera. We need to examine what it is about these things that offends us and discover whether we ourselves do not, in fact, share a fascination with the dark and dangerous side of life. While I am not suggesting that we embrace it actively, I am suggesting that we develop an appreciation of what motivates others to behave the way they do, and lose some of our own bigotry in the process.

3. Do I really need to know what I think I need to know?

Here is an interesting one. We are members of a society which has the benefit of enormous informational resources. More and more, we demand to know things - about our bodies, our minds, our environment, our religion, our universe, and anything else that catches our fancy. We may think we need to know certain things in order to progress on our spiritual journey, but here we may be wrong. For example, the past may be out of reach for us. The future most certainly is, unless we put our faith in prophecies and promises, contracts and projections. The fact is, we only know what is present to us now, and the past and future are as uncertain as an artist's impression - that is, entirely open to interpretation and subject to emotional pressure. Rites of passage capture this mercurial quality of life. They are shrouded in mystery, characterised by unpredictability and fraught with danger. In this sense, they also mirror human relationships in general, where we simply do not have knowledge of peoples' hidden motives or private intentions, and must necessarily bumble along, employing respect, forgiveness and patience in order to maintain peace.

Life is dynamic and we create much of what happens to us. If our spiritual journey was all about getting what we thought we wanted, doing without what we thought was unnecessary, and learning what we thought was essential for our wellbeing, it would be more of a career path than a voyage of discovery. Surely, the whole point of a spiritual journey is to enlarge our soul? And isn't enlarging our soul entirely dependent on experiencing things beyond the familiar?

We owe it to ourselves to honestly consider and answer the above three questions. We can stay confined within our limited desires, attitudes and degree of control for ever, or we can throw wide the ancient doors and allow novelty and awe to enter in.


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