One of the most promising aspects of modern spirituality is the global exchange of ideas and spiritual practices that has been occurring and accelerating over the past 50 years. People from different cultures and traditions learning from one another, taking the best from various many-thousand-year-old traditions and combining them together into a new and better framework – this looks like progress to me. And, at the same time, in this formative soup in which spiritual trailblazers are working to piece together a new mosaic of truth from the fabric of diverse spiritual and philosophical traditions… in this formative soup there is a great deal of potential for confusion, for exchanging one partial truth for another partial truth, for being sucked into illusion or potentially harmful practices that a specific culture might glorify. Spiritual trailblazing is a potentially rewarding but in many ways dangerous path.
When we see and experience that separation is illusion, we might forget that separation is also real. When we hear that physical reality itself is illusion, we might believe this to be true, even though it is not. When we learn that we create our own reality, sit at the center of our own vortex, we might fail to realize that we are also part of other peoples’ created realities and that we are all co-creating each other and composite reality all of the time. On the one hand we are entirely responsible for our world, but on the other hand our spouse/friend/boss is also entirely responsible for their world – even though we are both participating in each others’ worlds. So, 100% + 100% = 100%. How does this work?!
While some of these types of questions and paradoxes can sound a bit philosophical or impractical, what could possibly be more practical on a journey than having an accurate map? In this case an accurate mental map of the territory called life and human existence. Thinking and rationality have fallen out of fashion among many modern spiritual seekers who prefer to idolize heart over mind, emotional process over mental process. But, as I write in my first book, Reinventing Truth: A New Map of the Spiritual Path and Reality As It Is,“There is no primacy of spirit over matter, energy over body, or emotions over mind. All of these things are interdependent and form the complex matrix of Reality As It Is, including our mind-body system.”
Constantly improving our mental map is a good and worthwhile exercise then, and in this process, through time and experience we will get better at discerning truth from illusion, whole truth from partial truth. The Truth will set us free after all, and while there is a strong intellectual component to this process – perhaps especially as it relates to expanding our minds to comprehend paradox… while there is a strong intellectual component, getting to Truth is not only an intellectual exercise. By definition it requires healing of the emotional/karmic/energetic variety, as well, since wounding on these other levels prevent us from having a clear mind, from seeing the Truth without obstruction.
Sometimes our emotional wounds show up as addictions, and it is hard to think of any single factor that separates us from Truth more than addiction. Truly addicted people will create and/or buy into almost any belief system necessary in order to rationalize staying in and continuing to act out from their addictions. That said, whether it is healing ordinary emotional wounds that warp our perceptual lens to some degree, or getting into the particularly gnarly wounds that form the root structure for addiction, there is one simple yet extremely powerful tool that does the job every time – our own compassion.