The spiritual/religious experience has been basically the same in all epochs and cultures. It has always been an experience of oneness and belonging. William James described it as the sense of entering into union with something deeper and larger than oneself. The experience of people in all epochs and walks of life confirms that James was right: we are like islands on the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep.
— Ervin Laszlo
There’s a universality to the human experience. Even prior to the spiritual, we’re driven and sustained by the same wishes, fears, hopes, anguish and ultimately need for meaning and beauty. We have the same biological needs for survival, and the same human drives for happiness, success, health and security.
Why is this important? Because our societies and our world are fragmented. We’re just not in it together. That’s troublesome because seven billion humans on one planet must cooperate.
While we’re all the same at a human level, with the substantial increase in human population, the pressure created on our planet, and decreasing resources all around, we’re a competing and selfish species. The world’s economy is competition-based as it is, and the numbers don’t allow for any kind of heart to enter our consideration.
We were taught to think thoughts like competition, struggle, sickness, finite resources, limitation, guilt, bad, death, scarcity, and loss. We were taught that things like grades, being good enough, money, and doing things the right way, are more important than love. We were taught that we’re separate from other people, that we have to compete to get a head, that we’re not quite good enough the way we are.
— Marianne Williamson
This doesn’t mean there aren’t any redeeming moments. It’s also not a comment on humanity’s goodness. The Dalai Lama has said, “Those who have little interest in spirituality shouldn’t think that human inner values don’t apply to you.” In the current state of the world and the environment, those “human inner values” must be inclusive of others. Whatever we do to share, cooperate, preserve and pollute less all boil down to one agreement: My survival is dependent on your survival. This agreement isn’t only between humans. It’s also between humans and other species.
No matter what country or continent we come from we are all basically the same human beings. We have the common human needs and concerns. We all seek happiness and try to avoid suffering regardless of our race, religion, sex or political status.
— Dalai Lama
Those who actively embrace spirituality know that it’s inherent to life. It’s not an extra piece to life. Nothing needs to happen for life to be spiritual; it already is. What does need to happen is for individuals, populations, leaders, organizations and other groups of people to make this intrinsic truth conscious and embodied.
When that happens, spirituality blossoms not only to its full power, but all of its resources, aspects and qualities.
In that state, all excuses become null and void. We’re unable to ignore the call to cooperate, to put selfishness away for good. There’s an undeniable clarity. The unity of life takes hold of our awareness in a loving way and won’t let go. This means that every time we see suffering, notice an action or behavior that unbalances the world, or an insect on its back not able to turn over, we’re brought back to the moment, instead of callously walking by.
This moment is a moment of choice.
A spiritualized person doesn’t always make the right choice. They still have inner work to do. What they do have going for them is that moments collect again and again in a way that they can no longer be ignored. There’s a new consciousness, whereas without being spiritualized considering an insect may never even come into the heart-mind, not even register.
It may never register that the clothes we’re wearing are made by someone who also needs clothes on their back, how we consume and dispense what we consume affects the health of the planet, the worker picking our food also has children and wants to be free of suffering.
The bliss of ignorance is not nearly as enriching as the bliss of open, awake spirituality that’s aware and owned by the individual. This means that the individual takes responsibility for the prompts to action both in the inner and outer worlds.
However capable and skillful an individual may be, left alone, he or she will not survive. When we are sick or very young or very old, we must depend on the support of others. There is no significant division between us and other people, because our basic natures are the same. If we wish to ensure everyone’s peace and happiness we need to cultivate a healthy respect for the diversity of our peoples and cultures, founded on an understanding of this fundamental sameness of all human beings.
— Dalai Lama
Cooperation is engendered by the recognition that the family we’re born in is only one cell in a vast human family.
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