I submit to you, if you are willing to take your foot off the pedal of your out-of-control, wasteful life, that there is a deep intelligence buried beneath your status anxiety. This intelligence, so familiar to those who have not been ground through the unforgiving gears of the man-machine, yet misinterpreted by those who have, is knowing that things are not supposed to be this way. Work isn’t supposed to suck. Leisure time isn’t supposed to be a “pie in the sky”. The air is not supposed to be saturated with smog.
The Gulf of Mexico isn’t supposed to be drowning in spilled oil. The Pacific Ocean isn’t supposed to be tainted with nuclear waste from the Japan nuclear plant disaster. Money is not supposed to matter more than the heart. Profit is not supposed to matter more than people. Most of all, love is not supposed to be something owned and clung to, but something lived through and then let go of.
If you can let these proclamations sink in –I mean really stop and feel the unhealthy fabricated reality that has been constructed around you without your permission– it will take your breath away. It will, in fact, break your heart. Just remember: there’s nothing wrong with YOU. But there is everything wrong with the unhealthy culture you have been raised in. You do have a choice, however: become the change you wish to see in the unhealthy culture, or become a product of the unhealthy culture. One of the best ways to become the change you wish to see in the world is to go on a spiritual journey. Here then are five signs that a spiritual journey is in order.
1.) You Hate Your Job
“It’s not by accident that the main lesson taught in the publik skools is the skills necessary to survive and advance in a hierarchy: to identify the person in a position to benefit us, identify what that authority figure expects and then do it, to feel a temporary easing-up of our permanent state of unfocused anxiety whenever that gold star is stuck on our paper or that extra item is added to our resume. Those are exactly the skills a job calls for. A job, as opposed to work, involves infantilization: a man with a job is, while on his employer’s turf, a glorified third-grader trying to win Teacher’s approval.” –Kevin Carson
Sometimes a job can make you forget the beauty in life. Hard work is necessary to achieve anything in life, but even hard work can become a block if not done in a healthy way. When we are working at something that we are passionate about, work is a tool that we use to leverage success in our lives. It’s a means to a happy end. But when we have a job, especially one that we are not passionate about, we inadvertently become a tool used to leverage the success of a corporation or boss instead. We become a means to someone else’s happy end. One clear sign we are in desperate need of a spiritual journey is when we find that we have become someone’s tool instead of our work being a tool that we use for our own success.
Like George Carlin ingeniously surmised about what the system really wants from its citizens, “They don’t want people who are smart enough to figure out they are getting fucked by a system that threw them overboard thirty years ago. They don’t want that. You know what they want? Obedient wokers. OBEDIENT WORKERS! People who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paper work, and just dumb enough to passively except all these increasingly shittier jobs with the lower pay, the longer hours, the reduced benefits, the end of overtime, and the vanishing pension that disappears the minute you go to collect it.”
Going on a spiritual journey has a way of putting what we’re passionate about into perspective. It reprioritizes our perspectives, and we become more likely to find out what we really love to do. Doing what we love becomes primary and “doing what we have to in order to pay the bills” becomes secondary. We find that money becomes merely a side-effect of doing what we love instead of the reason why we are doing what we’re doing. It’s not easy, by any means. The rarity of discovering sacred work is at the root of our despair. Going from a typical cog (a person with a job) in an unhealthy clock to a catalyzing cog (a person doing work they are passionate about) who is hell-bent on creating a healthy clock, is no walk in the park. It requires a complete and utter upheaval, exactly the kind of upheaval experienced in a spiritual journey.
2.) You Have Too Many Things, Things, Things
“The Western worldview says, in essence, that technological progress is the highest value and that we were born to consume, to endlessly use and discard natural resources, other species, gadgets, toys, and often, each other. The most highly prized freedom is the right to shop. It’s a world of commodities, not entities, and economic expansion is the primary measure of progress. Competition, taking, and hoarding are higher values than cooperation, sharing, and gifting. Profits are valued over people, money over meaning, entitlement over justice, “us” over “them.” This is the most dangerous addiction in the world, not only because of its impact on humanity but because it is rapidly undermining the natural systems that sustain the biosphere.” –Bill Plotkin
We live in a culture of hyper-accumulation, of hyper-consumption. Our entire lives we have been brainwashed into believing that we need to buy, buy, buy; own, own, own; consume, consume, consume, to no end. An extreme myopia describes our culture’s conquer-control-consume-destroy-repeat mindset, and an even more frenetic myopia cloaks our inability to recognize it. Things build up. The majority of us are just a few knickknacks away from being considered hoarders. Before we know it, the things we own –own us. It is for these reasons that a spiritual journey is in order. Such a journey puts the need-to-want ratio into a clearer perspective and can teach us the secrets of moderation. When we can look at things and ask ourselves if we really need them or not, we become more likely to think outside the box of consumerism and focus on what we really need to be healthier.
Don’t allow your conquer-control-consume-destroy-repeat, knee-jerk reaction to social norms to destroy the world. Get rid of the things you don’t need. Break the cycle. Don’t allow your life to be turned into a commodity. Don’t let humanity become a soul-less, destructive mechanism that suppresses love, creativity and imagination and destroys the environment. Instead, allow your life to become an adventure. Go on a spiritual journey. Be mythological. Sure, it’s scary. Sure, it’s uncomfortable. And surely there will be a spiritual crisis involved. But better an existential crisis than an existing tragedy.
3.) Money Seems More Important Than Experiences
“Choosing happiness or leisure over earning is challenging, in part because accumulation of money is easier to measure than, say, happiness. “You can count money,” Dr. Norton said. “But most of the things that truly make us happy in life are harder to count.” Being an involved parent or partner is not so quantifiable.” –Matt Richtel
Money has become the prominent psychological hang up of our time. It’s a tripwire that seems to trip the human condition itself. Somewhere between working for money and using money as a tool to navigate through a social environment, we somehow become a tool to money enslaved within a social machine built to create money. We somehow become a dog with money stapled to its tail running around in circles. We somehow reach a point where we seem to think that we need money in order to have exceptional experiences, when it’s usually the opposite that’s true. One of the most awesome experiences gained from going on a spiritual journey is the realization that money does NOT make the world go round. Money is an illusion, a stopgap, a cartoon in the brain. Money is a tool, at best. What really makes the world go around is having unique experiences. When money is used to have unique experiences, then it can be a very powerful tool indeed. Unfortunately, money being used in this way is about as common as unicorns.
“People were created to be loved. Things were created to be used. The reason the world is in chaos is because things are being loved, and people are being used.” –Anonymous
Do you want to be loved? Then love experiences, not things. Love people, not products. Don’t use people as a means to an end, use money as a means to an end. Don’t become a tool to money, use money as a tool, a mechanism for achieving more profound experiences with other people. A spiritual journey will put this into perspective: money should only ever be used as a tool, and only ever earned as a side-effect of doing what you love.
4.) Your Relationship With Yourself Has Grown Stale
“Every man dies. Not every man really lives.” –William Wallace, Braveheart
You exist, but do you live? Maybe an entire world of feeling has been closed to you, and in its place you have subconsciously pigeonholed a pale aestheticism. Such one-sided rationality can lead to a one-sided life. Do you wish to live one-dimensionally? Come now. Come to terms with yourself. Do not cleave the subjective and the objective. Make them self-similar inside you. Your deeper instinctive layers have been begging for you to come to terms with yourself; to join your so-called rationality with your primordial unconscious. A spiritual journey is in order. What the journey reveals is the Desert of the Real, which is a scary place to be, but at least there is truth there. At least there you are free to be honest with yourself, however much that might hurt.
A spiritual journey is a self-deconstruction process like no other. Instead of merely going through the motions of living, we become engaged, we become present. We become the proactive ingredient in our own life, questioning things, especially ourselves, to the nth degree. Like Adyashanti said, “Make no mistake about it – enlightenment is a destructive process. It has nothing to do with becoming better or being happier. Enlightenment is the crumbling away of untruth. It’s seeing through the facade of pretense. It’s the complete eradication of everything we imagined to be true.” Such an experience is anything but dull. It might hurt like hell. It might be exceptionally uncomfortable. But pain is knowledge. Discomfort is a reason to move, to change, and to keep pushing forward instead of remaining stagnant. Like C.S. Lewis said, “Pain is God’s megaphone.” It’s our job to listen, lest we grow stale.
5.) You Are Overly Pessimistic
“To live is to suffer and to survive is to find meaning in this suffering.” –Nietzsche
Nothing is easier than dying, just as nothing is more difficult than living. Similarly, it’s much easier to be pessimistic than to be optimistic. Like living, it takes a lot of hard work to be optimistic, especially in a seemingly indifferent world. But if we would be healthy individuals, we must fight as hard to be optimistic as we fight to live. Optimism is an extremely powerful survival mechanism. Look at it like a tool, a psychological tool that you can use to leverage health and happiness into your life.
Nothing puts life in perspective like death, and nothing puts death in perspective like going on a spiritual journey. It magnifies what’s important and necessary while also launching us into Big Mind where we can look at the whole of our lives and get a big-picture perspective that trumps the small-picture thinking we all too often trip over. Big Mind exposes how small-picture thinking leads to pessimism, indifference, and apathy, while also revealing how big-picture thinking can lead to optimism, concern, and empathy. The latter requires a lot of hard work, sure, but it is infinitely more rewarding, and the psychological health benefits are always worth it.
So stay optimistic. Don’t focus so much on being happy, or being comfortable, or being secure. These too can become prisons that limit our freedom. Like Ralph Waldo Emerson ingeniously opined, “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, and to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
About the Author
Gary ‘Z’ McGee, a former Navy Intelligence Specialist turned philosopher, is the author of Birthday Suit of God and The Looking Glass Man. His works are inspired by the great philosophers of the ages and his wide awake view of the modern world.