This is a label which at times, I would certainly have applied to myself.
In fact, just this morning as I was thinking of catchy, short descriptions of myself to put in my social media biography, the phrase popped up. (Is this indicative of the times, that we think of ourselves in terms of how we’d describe ourselves on social media or for a blog, as if a human being can easily be summed up in catchy, single words and short phrases?!)
It’s what sparked this piece.
In the past, I would have been fine with the term and found it apt. After all, I’ve sought deeper truths my entire life, have read, thought, meditated and practiced yoga asana and pranayama all in service of of seeking spirituality for as long as I could remember.
This morning, though, it just didn’t sit right.
It jarred with so many realisations that have been percolating in my mind lately. It seemed more aligned with societal notions of goal setting and getting than with something more profound. Think of the pursuit of happiness; this chase to which we are all entitled. A paradigm which leaves us ever nipping at the heels of something which is just out of reach.
The term Guru comes from the word roots ‘Gu’, darkness and ‘ra’, to cause the restriction of. As such, a Guru is said to be the one to dispel darkness. I think it is fair to say that we are ever more aware of our own responsibility to find our own Guru within. This is not to negate the idea of finding someone further along the path than us to guide us to places we might not have otherwise come to. In fact, it seems to be an essential part of the path to me. However, the Guru without is useless as well as entirely unlikely to appear until we have awakened that guidance within ourselves.
In light of this (pun intended), the notion of the ‘spiritual seeker’, as I considered it this morning, felt to be one of the person clutching around in darkness. I am reminded of being at a seminar with the late Brian Klemmer as he talked about the idea of commitment and how many people suggest that they will ‘try’ to achieve a goal or be present for an important event. He asked the room to stand and said, “Now try and sit down. Really try. Try harder.” For me, this trying to sit down felt like hovering my bottom off the chair while at the same time getting in my own way and trying to stand up. It may seem like a silly exercise, but with things which are commonplace and simple, we never try, we simply do or we do not. We’re all aware that I could quote Yoda here, but I’ll let you take care of that.
“But”, you may say, “Finding truth is hard. Connecting to spirit is hard. According to the tradition, people go through many thousands of incarnations to attain ultimate liberation, ultimate connection to spirit.”
Is it though? Or is this, perhaps, just a paradigm? Are we more attached to the notion of spiritual seeking than of actually finding peace and presence?
I wondered this some time ago while reading a dear friend’s post about how hard yoga is, how hard the physical practice is, how hard adhering to the Yamas and Niyamas of classical Yoga is. While reading it, I had this thought: Is it though? I have certainly made it that way over the years, but had to wonder if that is truth, or simply how I have chosen to view the path.
These are, of course, my questions. I’m not suggesting that I have let go of the idea of seeking and dropped into a profound state of realisation.
No, I’m all too human and could certainly be present in the thought of how far I am from any such goal.
I have to ask myself, though, if it is utter peace and presence in the moment which I truly seek, or is it seeking itself which is what is sought? Enlightenment, in the Tantric tradition, is said to be potentially as close as our next breath.
Maybe it is a long way off, but maybe it’s not. And maybe, in the absence of the celestial choirs and radiant light levitation experience we’re imagining, dropping into presence in the moment, feeling held and healed within our breath and body is enlightenment.
Author: Martin Collyer
Editor: Caitlin Oriel
Photo: Author’s Own (Photographer: Trent Mitchell Photo)