Spirituality & Selfishness

I recently had a conversation with a woman who I respect very much, a successful doctor, wife, mother and intellectual seeker. In this particular conversation though, she said something that took me aback, “I don’t like the study of spirituality because it seems too self involved, you are only helping yourself”.

True. And not true.

Her statement struck me and got me thinking. As someone who has made spirituality her living and number one focus for the past several years my first reaction was admittedly defense. However, with another breath, I became open to what she had said. In some ways she had been right but in another way, it was my self awareness strengthened by my spiritual work that led me to be open to what she had said instead of dismiss it immediately.

She was wrong. Spirituality in many ways is the study of self. You notice your habits, you acknowledge your strengths and work on your weaknesses. You test your limits and learn to accept that which you cannot know or control. A dedicated spiritual practice forces you to go deep and look at yourself intently which also requires a lot of time. That can seem selfish. The goal of a spiritually minded person is to unblock the limits their mind has set so they can see things through a greater more compassionate lens, not just for themselves but for others, too. A person who is brave enough to look fully at themselves with love and compassion in turn has a greater capacity to give others the space to do the same without placing limiting labels or judgments.

She was right. I have seen it from others and I have thought it myself. A calm peace can come over you when you are connected to your spiritual growth. You feel better and in turn treat those around you better and it is easy to think that is enough. The truth is, that is good, great even, but it is not enough. To clarify, I am not for one second saying that you aren’t enough or that you should force yourself to do more. Giving or acting in service from a place of guilt or “should” will not help you and it certainly won’t help others in the long run. Instead, begin to see yourself in others and see them in you. Forget the separation of “you” and “them” and instead look at the world as one. As you do this it becomes easier to take care of those around you, to help where you can and give where its needed. Not because you are trying to do a good deed but because taking care is just what you do.

Balance. Spirituality is an inside job, to start, but once you are on the path it is impossible not to move outward and spread the love.

Happy seeking. Happy giving.