Spiritual awakening reveals to us a stainless, unbroken perfection at the heart of reality. Always arresting in its purity, the discovery of this perfect essence shatters our insistence that something is missing and brings us to our knees in awe and reverence before its wholeness. Yet, in our lived experience as human beings, most of us find that life is most meaningful when we are growing, evolving, and working to improve the world around us. How can we reconcile these two seemingly contradictory spiritual truths? Is it possible to embrace our inherent perfection and still continue to pursue our higher evolution? In this video, Craig explores this perennial spiritual paradox and illuminates how these two conflicting insights can actually work together to unleash a more fluid, powerful, and evolutionary relationship to life.
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I feel most alive when I’m evolving and helping make the world a better place. But spiritual teachings often assert that reality is already complete and perfect as it is. How can I reconcile these two contradictory ideas?
You’re spot on in your insight that there’s an inherent tension between these ideas: the inherent perfection that we discover in meditation and the desire to transform and evolve that we discover as we awaken. And there are a few ways that we can reconcile these seemingly contradictory truths.
The way I tend to think about the inherent perfection is this: What about the possibility that there’s an essential nature that’s not imperfect? You don’t have to say it’s perfect, because then you could be asserting some kind of concept or mental construct. So I like to think of it as an essence or a dimension that’s not imperfect, which just means that it’s not missing anything.
Have you ever had an experience of contentment so deep that it couldn’t be defiled? It’s an experience or a recognition that there’s nothing missing from this moment. There’s nothing incomplete. There’s nothing wrong. Deep down at the heart of it all, there’s nothing wrong. This is another way to talk about what this notion of perfection is pointing to.
Of course, merely thinking about this paradox won’t get us there. But it’s valuable to have a conceptual framework that can use to reconcile the apparent contradictions of spiritual awakening. So here’s an approach that you can work with.
As you said, the world and the cosmos are in a process of positive evolution. And yet our ability to really discern what needs to evolve and how to help things evolve is obstructed by our conditioned insistence that we know better. It’s impeded by all of the conditioned ways in which we impose a sense of limitation and lack on reality. We have all these layers of assumptions, and biases, and defense mechanisms that distort our perception and make it hard to see things clearly. We have all this psychological complexity that makes it hard for us to positively contribute to and participate in the evolutionary process.
Spiritual practice starts to release us from all those conditioned tendencies that we’ve evolved over time—the biases, defenses, assumptions, beliefs, and limitations. It’s releasing us from all of that so we can get out of the way of evolution and it can start to have its way with us. This is why one of the most important by-products of spiritual awakening is a kind of natural flexibility, or fluidity, or adaptability, or evolvability.
Most people find it hard to make significant changes in their lives. It’s hard to change. Everybody knows that. We’re resistant to change. We tend to cling to the way things are. We tend to believe things can’t change. Change is difficult. Change is a challenge.
What if we could remove all of the obstructions in our own psyches to being able to flow with life and adapt to each new moment? What if we could shed that which is outdated and in the way and move into a way of living that is more appropriate and adequate to each new moment? The goal of spiritual awakening is to develop an orientation that is fluid, free-flowing, dynamic, and creative.We want to be able to respond to life freely and without obstacles or obstruction.
In order for that to happen, we have to get beyond our existential anxiety which is based on a fundamental belief that there’s always something lacking. We have to get beyond the constant assumption that there’s always something missing, that there’s always a problem. We have to discover the essential goodness and wholeness and fullness at the core of reality. This enables us to trust. It awakens us to this deep trust in the life process that’s moving through us. It gives us faith in our ability to respond spontaneously and dynamically to life without needing anything other than what we have available to us in any given moment.
This is one way of looking at how these two parts work together. It’s hard to truly be a free, dynamic, unhindered, evolutionary agent as long as we’re still bound up in a sense of fundamental limitation and lack. It’s difficult to be a conduit for creative evolution if you’re still holding onto a sense that deep down everything’s flawed. So when we discover the inherent fullness, wholeness, and essential perfection at the heart of the cosmos, it liberates us to respond wholeheartedly to life. Then we become an authentic, powerful agent of evolution.