The fluffy tranquillity of a fantasy religious la-la land may well be the place in which some are dwelling in order to hide from the consequences of their tragic life decisions, but real spirituality takes effort.
I recall hearing of a lady who suffered from anxiety and ended up learning about breath work, which she had heard nothing about previously. This would be no great surprise, for in the West, pranayama is not generally known. Yet this lady had been a yoga teacher for twenty years. It begs the question, what exactly had she been educating her students on for two decades? Surely there is only so much downward-facing dog one can take without a properly controlled lungful of air.
Of course, we can see the monk on the mountain and marvel at his serenity, but you are not a monk and likely you do not reside atop a peaceful mountain. At a meditation seminar held in a busy northern English city, a student asked the teacher from rural China how one can meditate amongst the chaos and noise of a densely populated metropolis, to which the teacher replied, “I do not know.”
There was an element of humour in the meditation master’s reply, for in theory one can meditate and be completely content chained upside down in a jail cell while being screamed at by a guard. But that level of focussed attention takes practice.
The truth is that on the surface most folk are able to put on a calm mask and head off to a humdrum job, but underneath that mask they are a cauldron of uncontrolled emotion, nerves, distress, anxiety and negativity, which all too often is later directed at those we love the most.
The reason for this general distress is that our inner self wants something that it isn’t getting.
If we experience a bad gut, our insides do not verbally tell us how to fix things, but they do quickly respond when the right thing is done, be that stopping drinking alcohol or reducing carbs and sugar, or simply fasting for a while.
Spirituality works in much the same way. We can view meditation as fasting for the brain. Yet the path to awakening can be very traumatic.
It might be a very comforting thought to believe that throwing on a pair of sandals and shaking a tambourine in a room full of hippies will remedy all ills. And it could be quite nice, for music and escapism is like a holiday for the mind. But still we would be masking deeper-seated issues.
Some do not find any meaningful spirituality until they have spiralled to their lowest low.
In the Northern myth, the wisdom seeker was Odin. His awakening is described in Hávamál or ‘Sayings of the High One’, where he fasted for nine days and nights and fell screaming from the World Tree. Fasting and screaming are not fluffy pursuits. It is red pill spirituality, as real as it gets.
Usually the modern term ‘red pill’ has a more material connotation, relating to masculine / feminine inter-sexual dynamics or the political scene. But certainly it can apply to spirituality.
One has to always ask the question, ‘Is my spiritual path genuinely offering me something worthwhile?’
A religion may offer camaraderie, which is important, but spirituality is an ascension which takes effort and isn’t always comfortable.
Simple meditation sounds blissful, but in the beginning it is hard. Sitting with a straight back is hard. Bringing the attention repeatedly back to the breath as a wild storm of thoughts batters through the mind is hard. Being selfish enough to dedicate the time to practise is hard too, especially for the family man or stereotypical ‘nice guy’. And remember, meditation is not at odds with the northern tradition; the Buddah was Aryan in description and the Indian Brahmins were the high-caste priests descended from the northern folk-wanderings.
As one confronts previously held beliefs, a transformation occurs. And before the face becomes glowing and relaxed, it takes on a look of tension and trauma which must be worked through. Personal issues can be hard enough to confront, but for those in the meta-political arena, all kinds of other dilemmas arise.
Just as in myth, the world around us is multi-layered. There are bad people and good people in Midgard (the middle level in our Northern European mythological worldview, where man resides) but who or what drives these folk? Level one of popular understanding is simply that bad or misguided politicians are to blame. Next we can point a finger at corporations. After that, then what? Competing religions? Light and dark forces? Interstellar beings and wars between the gods?
Certainly I have always felt there is something deeper at work. And I use the term ‘felt’ deliberately, for while man’s primary method of operation is to think through a problem, deep spirituality cannot be simply categorised in words. There is a kenning, a knowing, a blood-memory. And the emotional aspect of spirituality is why the women of a community were the seers who were consulted before battle, for women are more in touch with this spiritual aspect of being. In my writing I refer to men for that is what I understand best; however, men and women are complementary and our folk are at their best when the masculine and feminine polarity is in balance. Polarity and balance here are the key words.
One must understand that firstly the spirit struggles when in the material realm yet paradoxically it strives to utilise the material to return to the spiritual (i.e. the sensation of the breath upon the flesh of the nose is used to achieve meditational enlightenment) and secondly the way the modern world has been designed around us is not conducive to calmness of mind.
Seek wisdom and spirituality, do it logically (which in my opinion means choose a religious lineage which corresponds with the folk lineage) but do not take the fluffy, happy-clappy path for sake of ease.
Just as the winter flu flushes out toxins and the severity of such a flu relates to the toxicity of one’s life, so will the difficulty of one’s spiritual path reflect the issues one needs to overcome in order to attain a higher level of understanding.
Waes thu Hael – be Thou Whole and Healthy