One new breakthrough – clearing up something that’s bothered me ever since I turned down the sacristan job at boarding school: what do people mean by spiritual?
I was looking through Amazon’s recommendations – they’ve come up trumps before so it’s worth a look – and saw ‘Your Spiritual Almanac’. Looked at the sample, as one can with a Kindle book before buying. Decided against – a bit expensive and ‘daily lessons’ don’t appeal. But I did see one gem in the introduction – I paraphrase: ‘Spirituality means different things to different people but here we just use it to mean connection’. Bingo! I can handle that. Fits with Jeremy Lent’s ontology perfectly. Quite the opposite of monotheistic grovelling to a judgemental universe begging for personal favours. One more barrier dissolves away.
Anyway, that was while looking at books on personality change as a prelude to getting a handle on spiritual growth. After a couple of false starts with the Big Five personality traits, which I find very depressing, I finally settled down with:
Transcend: The New Science of Self-Actualization by Scott Barry Kaufman, John Murray Press, 2022 (Kindle Edition).
It’s an overview and update of Abraham Maslow’s ‘hierarchy of needs’. Kaufman has modified the usual pyramid (which he points out that Maslow never actually invented) into a ‘sailboat’, with safety, connection and self-esteem comprising the boat and exploration, love and purpose comprising the sail. It’s neater than the pyramid, more expansive and in many ways more reassuring. We’re all working on all of these things all the time. There is a further distinction between ‘deficiency’ needs and ‘being’ needs. If you’re focused on what you lack, there’s less room for openness to new experiences, joy, awe and the like. For me, the big takeaway was the reassurance that we can all move towards growth and that we are all always changing.
And indeed I’ve noticed some changes. Recently I encountered a challenge and I was able to deal with it. Some old friends are coming back to me. And I’m not getting bothered by tiny nuances in the same way as I was before.
I think the best strategy is to be conscious of the process but not too deliberate about it. Just nudge it along. And choose the things to be mindful about.
By the way, if this all seems really quick, it’s only because the whole business has been fermenting in my poor old brain for decades. It’s good that it seems to be finally settling into place.
Spirituality just means connectedness – what a relief! And there’s me thinking all these years that I’m somehow born spiritually disabled, not completely human.
That holy grail – self-actualisation – is actually quite common, not just one saint every century. It’s not a destination, it’s an ongoing process. No one is complete, but anyone can work towards wholeness.
Maybe it’s finally time to look at Tyson Yunkaporta’s perspective.