The sad truth is that there are more people who fall off the spiritual path than those who finish it. In this video, I’ll give you an explanation of why this happens so often, and how to prevent it, or if it already happened, how to get back on track. If it happened to you, it’s not a problem until you get back on it at some point. But if you forget about your spiritual aspirations once and for all, that’s one of the biggest disservice that you can do to yourself.
Falling off is even worse than not starting at all, because at some point in life, but at least surely on your deathbed, you’ll regret it more than anything. You already had a taste of a higher dimension of life, but you failed to embrace it, and now it’s too late. You know that you should have continued, but life somehow got in the way, and you sacrificed the infinite for the temporal.
To begin with, there are only a few people who become interested in spirituality at all. From these few, only a few will become active seekers, wanting to know more. From these few, only a few will actually make any effort, take up any practice. From these few, only a few will stay on the path long enough to attain spiritual enlightenment. Why is it so?
Well, I’m sure you’re familiar with the concept of the Maslow pyramid, the hierarchy of needs. In short, this idea states that humans have different categories of needs, and they won’t strive for a higher need until they fulfilled the lower ones. The base of the pyramid consists of basic needs including survival and safety. Above them we find the psychological needs such as the need for love, belonging and self-esteem. Next is the need for self-actualization, and only at the very top do we find self-transcendence, the ultimate goal of all true spiritual traditions.
This means that until all other needs are not met, normally you won’t even become interested in spirituality. But even if you’re already on a spiritual path, things can turn worse on the lower levels, so you’ll be prompted to focus on those and forget about your higher needs.
In a sense, the Maslow pyramid is like a house of cards. Certainly, you can’t start building any house from the top down, the roof comes only in the last step. You have to lay your cards carefully at the base, and when it’s standing firmly, only then can you continue upwards. Some people spend their entire lifetime building up just the base, they are stuck at the level of basic survival.
But when your survival is guaranteed, you won’t be interested in survival any more. Your attention can turn to finding a partner, starting family and surrounding yourself with a social circle. Life is a balancing act, because you need to balance the cards on top of each other, and the higher you build the pyramid, the more easily it can collapse.
It’s certainly not easy to build the house of cards high enough to reach the need for self-actualization. But putting the roof in place, finishing the last piece of self-transcendence, is as hard in itself as the whole work you’ve done so far. Laying those two cards together is the most difficult, because you have to balance the whole pyramid at the same time. But if you’re successful, duality merges into one point, the tip of the pyramid, the state of oneness.
However, not only is the last step difficult, but it usually takes much time, too. And in the meantime, you can’t forget about your other needs, about the other levels. If only one card comes out of place, the whole house can collapse. So when you meet a problem at a lower level, you immediately have to turn your attention there, and away from the highest level.
And there are so many things in life that can go wrong, and so many that may feel more urgent than spirituality. A divorce, a marriage, a loss of a job, a funeral, a baby, a travel, new friends, a new home, a new opportunity, and so on and so forth. Attention cannot be divided, and it naturally flows downwards, so in a sense you have to swim against the current to follow your spiritual aspirations.
The second reason why people fall off the spiritual path is that they never intended to finish it in the first place. Most people who get interested in spirituality just want to feel better, and they use spiritual tools to achieve a sense of well-being. They set limited goals for themselves, and when the path takes them to these goals, they naturally have no motivation to go on. Sometimes they don’t even suspect how much more this path could have offered them.
For example, I have a friend who just divorced and became a spiritual seeker. But once she found a new partner, she mostly forgot about spirituality, because she didn’t need it anymore. Another friend of mine wanted to change her bad habits, and when she succeeded, she was off the spiritual path in no time. So, the second problem is that many seekers don’t start with the end goal in mind, the goal of total liberation.
There’s an antidote against both of these problems, but this pill is bitter, that’s why almost nobody takes it. The single biggest shortcut to start the spiritual path with the ultimate goal in mind, and to stay motivated for life, is to think of death every single day. In the face of your own mortality, you’ll have a tremendous drive to finish the path to the very end against all obstacles, hardships and delays.
You see, all levels in the house of cards relate to your ego, except for the very last one. But when your body dies, your ego will die with it too. So all the cards you put so carefully together will collapse in one single moment, and you won’t even know when. But once you reach the state of self-transcendence, you’ll transcend the whole pyramid altogether. I don’t mean that you won’t be hungry again or something like that, just that it won’t matter so much anymore once you know the secrets of life.
The need for transcendence is qualitatively different from all other needs, it’s not a step, rather a jump. So when you keep in mind that no matter how much attention you pay to the lower levels, they will end anyway, then you’ll get a huge boost of motivation to go directly to the top as soon as possible. And you won’t stop at any other level, either.
Reaching your limited goals won’t stop you from trying to reach the unlimited. When you raise the awareness of death in your consciousness, you realize that all your goals, all your needs, your lifetime and even you are temporary. If you don’t reach the infinite before the end of your life, you will not only lose the chance for the unlimited, but everything that’s temporary, as well. Death is your best friend when you fall off the spiritual path.
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