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How Independent Are We Really? Why We Need Each Other to Evolve on the Spiritual Path

by | Jul 2, 2020 | 1 comment

As a spiritual guide and teacher, I’ve worked with thousands of people aspiring to realize their spiritual potential. And if I’ve learned anything in the process, it’s that to evolve on the spiritual path, we need each other.

To truly realize our highest potentials, we need to engage in transformative interactions with other people who share our aspiration to evolve.

It’s a simple idea. But its implications run deep.

Notice how this idea strikes you, and perhaps you’ll see what I mean.

For instance, this notion that we can’t walk the spiritual path alone may resonate with the part of you that longs for connection and support on your journey.

But you might also notice that another part of you finds it difficult to swallow.

In our modern world, in which independence has become almost a religion, the notion that we need other people for anything seems like heresy. Indeed, if we were to embrace such an idea, wouldn’t we be giving away our power, and our freedom?

When we think about traditional depictions of the spiritual path, the picture that often comes to mind is also of a solitary, independent journey. The lone sage on the mountaintop. The yogi alone in the cave. The hermit in a hut. The wandering pilgrim.

Even if we attend church services or classes or meditation groups, most of us still tend to think of our spiritual path as a private, internal, solo quest in which we are the sole determining factor of our own spiritual destiny.

But how independent are we really?

If you’ve ever attended a personal growth workshop or spiritual retreat, you’ve probably noticed that in an environment where everyone is focused on our higher evolutionary potentials, it’s relatively easy to experience a spiritual “high” or to break through to new ground within ourselves.

But what happens when you come home from such an event, and find yourself again surrounded by people who don’t share your higher values and aspirations?

For most of us, in the absence of a supportive social container for our awakening, we find ourselves quickly losing touch with the new potentials that had seemed so accessible in the retreat or workshop environment.

Although we like to think of ourselves as independent, the reality is that we are social creatures. Our ability to co-exist with one another depends on our willingness to abide within a matrix of shared values, assumptions and agreements about what is real, what is important, and what is acceptable behavior.

So unless we surround ourselves with others who share our highest spiritual values and aspirations, we will almost inevitably find ourselves fighting against a kind of invisible but powerful “social gravity” pulling us back into the unenlightened, unevolved “world mind” we’re trying to break free from.

It’s not impossible to generate “escape velocity” on one’s own. But, for most of us, a sustained context of “evolutionary partnership” with kindred spirits becomes essential.

Where and how do we begin to create such an environment?

Begin by asking yourself some important questions:

  • Of everyone I know, with whom can I truly be my highest self? Among my friends, family and colleagues, who truly shares my deepest values and highest spiritual aspirations?
  • Do I have any social structures in my life in which I feel free to stretch myself—and my relationships—beyond my and our comfort zones? To reach into new territory without being concerned that I’ll “rock the boat” or scare others off in my efforts to awaken and evolve?

If a number of people come to mind, count yourself among the fortunate, and then arrange a meeting with your newly identified “evolutionary partners” to begin to create a conscious container for ongoing evolutionary partnership.

In that meeting, make your shared agreements and values explicit. As a starting point, I invite you to discuss with them one of the Principles of Evolutionary Relationship I teach in my Integral Enlightenment 9-week course:

Evolutionary Relationship Principle #5: We agree that the context for our relationship will be leaning into our evolutionary edges. Rather than meeting in our limitations and problems, fears and doubts, we take a stand for meeting in the expression of our highest potential. We take up the challenge of showing up and engaging from that place, stretching to manifest that potential now, and explore that potential with each other.

This is just one of seven Principles of Evolutionary Relationship I explore in the Integral Enlightenment course. But even on its own, if engaged with sincerity, it can serve as a powerful foundation for deepening into evolutionary partnership.

If your relationship inventory does not immediately reveal a core group of potential evolutionary partners, you may need to begin searching for a new group of kindred spirits with whom you resonate at the deepest level.

You can do that in your local area, and thanks to the ever-expanding power of the Internet, you can also now find community online. More and more opportunities are emerging all the time for us to not only find loosely knit spiritual community, but true kindred souls whose aspiration and focus is deeply aligned with our own.

Wherever your spiritual journey takes you, remember: you’re not in this alone. You never will be.

So, seek a supportive context for your higher development. If you do, you may find your solitary spiritual journey being replaced by a rich and joyous relational spirituality, in which the fruits of the path begin to show up immediately as love, trust and shared inspiration with your newfound partners in evolution.

-Craig Hamilton

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1 Comment

  1. VENKATARAMAN K S

    This article touches on a vital aspect of spiritual sAdhana. Thanks.

    The seekers who strive to attain spiritual freedom form a small percentage of the population. The spiritual path is broadly divided into two, viz. the path of renunciation and the path of family life.

    The renunciation is obviously an arduous path, available only for very determined seekers, who have that inborn ability to renounce all the worldly attachments and dedicate their entire life to what they consider the service to the Almighty. For such persons,

    The path of family life is the option for those seekers who have worldly ambitions and a desire to evolve spiritually. Only for these people, association with spiritually like-minded persons is a must. Such association is known as ‘Satsang’ in Hinduism. This serves as a safeguard for the family people from becoming overwhelmed by worldly desires and losing track of spirituality.

    Undoubtedly, human beings are social creatures, and the Satsang ensures that their commitment and enthusiasm do not get mitigated by the powerful assault of worldly forces.

    The Satsang is a tool. It is not to be equated with the spiritual effulgence, the ultimate goal of a seeker.

    The great saint Adi Shankara says in the Bhaja Govindam.

    “SatsangatveNissangatvam, NissangatveNirmohatvam

    NirmohatveNischalatatvam, NischalatatveJeevanMuktih.”

    From the good company or Satsang comes non-attachment- that is, dispassion towards all things worldly. From the non-attachment arises freedom from delusion. A person becomes dispassionate when he is free from moha. When there is freedom from delusion, his mind becomes still. From this state, he can easily gain liberation. Such is the greatness of Satsang.

    https://www.hinduscriptures.com/vedic-culture/way-of-life/satsang/importance-of-satsang/1925/

    Reply

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