What's Wrong with the Standard Spiritual-Not-Religous movement Part 1: "Life Flows Effortlessly"
WARNING: What follows is just my point of view. I share it in hopes of helping others like me who want an alternative to the typical standard spiritual-not-religious point of view. If you're happily satisfied with those teachings, this might not be for you.
This is the first in a 3-part series about ways the "standard spiritual-not-religious" movement gets it wrong.
UPDATE: The series has now been posted in its entirety. Each post in the series takes on a typical teaching from the Standard Spiritual-Not-Religious textbook. The posts are:
First, the common ground: I believe in the beauty and value of sitting down at the table with many religions and traditions. In studying and living by underlying principles, rather than confining myself to one religion's doctrine.
And I believe in standing up and speaking my truth.
So you be the judge and see if what I say rings true.
The SSNR Teaching
For this first post, let's address one of the main ideas of The SSNR: the teaching that life flows effortlessly, and that's how our lives are meant to be, too.
Flowing effortlessly, just like life.
Just like the rivers flow and flowers bloom and waterfalls fall, your life, too, will also flow effortlessly - if you will only allow it. Your job really is to let go and receive the abundance of Life. If you can just do that, success and ease and grace will unfold because you are flowing - Just Like Life. That's how the teaching goes.
Occasionally, sometimes, little warnings are given along with the advice. Warnings like it's simple, but not easy.
Generally speaking however, the OVERWHELMING attitude is that the experience of struggle or hardship is a symptom of not flowing with life, and therefore not natural. Struggle is an unnatural state, The SSNR says. Exertion is seen as less spiritually evolved, less mature, less enlightened. The general stance is that if things are easy and flowing, it's because you're tuned-in to a higher level spiritually; and if you're struggling, you're operating at a lower spiritual level.
This is the whole attitude that arises out of the teaching that Life flows effortlessly, and that's how our lives are meant to be, too.
Unvolitional and Volitional
The problem is: that teaching is a sloppy oversimplification and mis-use of the word "life."
The problem is: there are at least two different aspect to "life."
And heck, probably/maybe more, I don't know. I'm not claiming to have a lock on Understanding Life, but what I see is that it has at least two different aspects. One's flowing, sure. The other, not so much.
Back to the lesson...
Let's call the first aspect of life the Unvolitional. Unvolitional Life is stuff like...
- your hair growing
- your heart beating
- the caterpillar transforming within the cocoon
- the chick forming in its egg
It just happens whether you want it to or not. You don't even have any say over it, really. It's unvolitional. Of your own volition and will, you can't control it. So it's 'effortless' on your part.
From our human perspective, this Unvolitional aspect really does just flow without us doing anything.
We really do just receive it.
If we had to give it a generalized label, it's the Feminine aspect. Flowing, graceful. The softer, quieter aspect, in the sense that it just does its thing without a lot of grunting or high-fiving. It's more passive, receptive.
Now don't get all femi-Nazi on me and say I'm using condescending anti-woman stereotypes, okay? I'm a woman, for god's sake. I'm trying to have an intelligent, grown-up presentation here about two aspects of life. Call the two aspects yin/yang, feminine/masculine, unvolitional/volitional. I'm just using these terms because they communicate a vibe, an energy, an overall quality of existence and attitude.
So, we've established and observed something great and cool and true: Unvolitional Life does exist and it does flow.
That's only one aspect of life.
Now let's look at Volitional Life, which is JUST AS MUCH A PART OF ACTUAL LIFE.
Volitional Life REQUIRES conscious effort, exertion, force, and struggle.
Volitional Life is stuff like...
- going through physical therapy after surgery
- exercising vigorously to increase your health, quality of life and life span
- salmon exhausting themselves to swim upstream
- the chick breaking out of its egg
It does NOT just floweffortlessly. It demands effort.
And it's just as essential and important to sustaining and birthing life.
Speaking of birthing, I've never given birth, but it sure seems like it doesn'tjust flow effortlessly.
The movies all show the woman screaming in pain and pushing really really hard. If that's effortless flow, then effortless flow is pretty much the most painful, difficult thing a person does.
And how weird is it, that even though the female gives birth, this having to push really hard through pain is...the Masculine aspect. (I don't know why, I don't know everything, but isn't that interesting?)
Masculine: hard, gritty, strenuous, active.
Sure, the baby grew without mom's volitional effort (Unvolitional Life), but mom's gonna have to work like hell to finish the job (Volitional Life).
Both aspects are REQUIRED. That's just how life is.
The Unvolitional AND Volitional work hand-in-hand.
Here's one more example.
What happens when you break an arm and it gets put in a cast?
The bone heals itself -- that's Unvolitional Life. Awesome. It's amazing and I love it. Wonderful! It flows, without conscious effort on your part. You just allow it.
The muscle atrophies and starts dying because it wasn't required to put in effort -- that's Volitional Life. Your arm is shriveled and weaker because it wasn't exercised in the Volitional aspect.
To get your arm back to FULL Life and function, and strength, you need the Unvolitional (flowing) part AND the Volitional (work your a** off) part.
BOTH Unvolitional AND Volitional Life are FACTS of life.
How The SSNR Gets It Wrong
The problem is The SSNR is making an assumption.
The assumption is that "life" consists only of the Unvolitional, the feminine, the yin.
It's blind to the Volitional, masculine yang.
Which is why I say The SSNR is overly feminine. It's blindly biased towards the feminine.
And of course in that blindness, can't validate the masculine, Volitional aspect.
This is why The SSNR teaches: life flows effortlessly, and that's how our lives are meant to be, too.
In fact, the assumption throughout the SSNR is that if your life is 'not flowing,' then something is wrong, something is out of whack, unnatural.
- If your business has a set-back, it's because you're not flowing with life.
- If your relationship is a struggle, it's because you're not flowing with life.
- If your health is on the rocks, you must not be flowing with life.
- What you need to do is receive and allow.
In other words, The SSNR solution is: pour more of the feminine on there, get more feminine, you're not being feminine enough yet.
The Alternative: Firekeepers
What I propose is a study, a culture, and community that acknowledges and honors BOTH aspects of life.
Both aspects as legitimate, noble, and honorable to experience and engage in.
In this study and community, there is no judgement of someone whose life or endeavors don't seem to be 'flowing.'
Hardship doesn't automatically mean you're doing something wrong, or are out of the 'flow' of spirit.
In this study and community, it's acknowledged that life is difficult at times -- and that's normal.
It's the way actual life truly is. It's what the human experience truly is.
In the spiritual community I imagine, struggle and hardship are not seen as evidence of spiritual failure, but as spiritual training.
Struggle and hardship is seen as training the masculine aspect. Strengthening and honing our volition.
I have a vision for a community that's holistic, honoring both the Feminine and the Masculine.