Dear reader

Why do I write about pitfalls of spirituality?

My purpose with this blog is to crystallize and share my thoughts and experiences, in the hope that you and I may benefit from them. From 1993-2005 I practiced a so-called spiritual method (Sahaj Marg). Ultimately I realized that this method - and especially the organization around it (Shri Ram Chandra Mission or SRCM)- was contrary to some deep spiritual layer in myself. I came to some clear conclusions, and also to some still developing insights.

One still developing insight is that almost everybody is looking for some form of spirituality in their life. Therefore there are many spiritual methods and movements, often with similar pitfalls to the ones I experienced.

Many people follow a well-trodden path which is defined by the group in their immediate vicinity. Others are prompted by their heart and/or head to look for spirituality that makes sense on a personal level. Spirituality gives fulfillment -humanity as one, universal love growing, one with the buddha- as well as direction through life's tough questions.

I write about the pitfalls of spirituality because so many others seem to write mostly about the bliss of their own approach to spirituality. This bliss to me actually seems a pitfall.

Understanding the pitfalls I deem essential to gain more spiritual insight. For me this actually translates into a lighter and more loving heart. I do not believe that understanding is the key issue in spirituality. But I do believe that misunderstanding can block key issues (although to which degree probably varies with each person).

Please bear with my frequent use of I feel, seems to me, in my not so humble opinion and so on. It is to emphasize that I do not consider any of my opinions to be more than that. I cannot bring you universal truth. In my not so humble opinion [imnsho] universal truth is a major pitfall in spirituality.

Dear reader, I hope you find something worthwhile on these pages. Friendly reactions, which may be as critical as you like, are always welcome.

Tips how to read this blog

* Please start with the closing remarks (click on the link), they should provide a balanced perspective on this blog.

* There is a list of 20 pitfalls in the sidebar. Clicking on a pitfall will provide a number of posts in which that pitfall is discussed to some extent.

* If you have time, consider starting with the oldest post, and simply going through to each next post. This probably gives the most faithful ;-) reading...

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A first list of pitfalls of spirituality

In this first post, let me simply name some pitfalls of spirituality that i perceive to crop up in many spiritual efforts, movements, religions.

  1. guidance
  2. universal truth & absolute truth
  3. bliss & happiness, pain & sorrow
  4. morality & moral pressure
  5. before & after life
  6. wonders & miracles
  7. money
  8. power
  9. belonging & fulfillment
  10. group dynamics
  11. us & them
  12. woman & man
  13. ego & selflessness
  14. mind & heart, logic & feeling
  15. fear & temptation/reward

The list is not meant to be exhaustive, and I don't think that the above items are all completely separate either. It's just a working list to start from, as we go along the blog probably will evolve.


Anonymous said...

Dear Frank,

thankyou for this blog.

I have been involved in 2 practices in the last couple of years, and have devoted much of my time to them.

I have to say, I resonate with at least half of the comments you have made on this blog - I have experienced many, many of the same contradictions and pitfalls. So much so that I have thoroughly enjoyed reading to integrate my own experiences and ideas. And I am still doing that.

One significant difference I detect, though, is that you seem to have contentedly left your movement, finding enough satisfaction elsewhere in your life, whereas I still feel that I need something else in order to heal a kundalini syndrome I developed a few years ago. So I have felt obligated to continue these practices despite all of these crazy contradictions.

but really, so many parallels I am shocked.


frank waaldijk said...

dear chris, thanx for commenting!

for other readers' sake i will copy your comment to the last post (which is at the top of the blog), and reply to it there, ok?

Estrella said...

I have recently tried to be recruited by a well meaning family member( who is a preceptor) to Sahaj marg. I came across your blog while researching it. I have never had any leaning towards spirituality but three days living with 4 members of sahaj marg made me doubt even my own leanings towards atheism. I was shocked at myself.. There is a constant talk about spirituality, meditation, how more of it is better, guru pictures in every room, and hour long conversations about "points" and "fearlessness" and "divinity". As a mental health practitioner, i do understand the benefits of meditation, but this subtle brainwashing went beyond that. I even attended a group meeting and found that the sensory deprivation of meditating for one hour left one very suggestible to the talk by the "guru" later. Only after I left the house did I feel like myself again. These articles of yours are very discerning and articulate. It is something that I felt but could not verbalise.

One point I would like to address, is the pathologising of normal mental and emotional states that goes on as a way of manipulation. "oh, you're not 100% happy with your job? Meditation can make it possible". Arguments that very few ( if any) are always happy at their job all the time are met with "But it is possible through meditation etc etc". It causes you to doubt your absolutely normal mind-body state and lures you in to keep you as dependent as possible. It is natural that vulnerable people are drawn towards it. It's quite insidious. You are not broken, but they make you suspect you are and say they can fix it. in the process, they actually do break you.

However I must add that spirituality and these groups like any organised religion provide a great sense of belonging and support to a lot of vulnerable people. I feel like who are we to take away a crutch when we cannot offer anything as a replacement. XD

Thanks for writing this Frank. It has really helped me make my own thoughts about organised spirituality clearer.

frank waaldijk said...

thanx estrella for your comment and your appreciation! it's good to see that you retained your self-reliance, and also a balanced perspective on the pros and cons of `belonging'.

my most recent thoughts center around the question how to reconcile self-reliance with a supportive `organization' of meditation/spiritual gathering.

nowadays i tend to meditate by myself, and keep silent mostly about my spiritual musings and guiding principles. but i feel it should be possible in some way to also create a more social interaction around meditation/spirituality, without the pitfalls mentioned on this blog.

yet, i haven't had any bright ideas how to do so in any really practical sense. but your comment certainly kindles the issue, so thanx for that as well.

best wishes! frank

Estrella said...

maybe it is possible to find a group that lets people orbit around them in the outer rungs without much expectation. I find yoga classes a good way to mix with like minded people. :) Best of luck!