Beyond the Ego: Spirits and Spirituality

Written by on September 21, 2014 in Conscious Evolution, Conscious Living with 0 Comments

Arvick Baghramian | all things healing

Shamanism is humanity’s oldest spiritual practice. But what do we mean by that? And what do we mean when we say that we are spiritual or trying to live a spiritual life? Spirituality has always been one of the focal points in my shamanic workshops, and I want to address this subject not with my own words and thoughts, but with the spirits and the messages they have given to two of my students in their shamanic journeys.

In her journey to ask what spirituality was, Inbal was shown many islands floating around, with a person standing on each of the islands. Each person on each island seemed oblivious to the existence of others around them. The teacher (in this journey, her guardian spirit) suggested:

‘You perceive, that you are alone when you are not. Spirituality is learning to recognize what is, instead of what we think there is. Take this image with you. It means, quite literally, that every single thing is not only alive around you, but is directly and powerfully connected to you, and influences you. Spirituality is the striving to recognize the truth, the true nature of things.’

Next, Inbal walks off the island and onto a path, leading to a large mansion. Along the way, a bandit, holding a large stick, jumps in front of them, and stands in the middle of the path, appearing menacing. He then asks, “Where are you going?” Her guardian spirit proceeded to explain, “Spirituality is also the conquest of fear. Why have you stopped midway, when there is plenty of way to pass? He is just standing here. This is ignorance. Spirituality is the conquest of fear and ignorance. It’s a combination. The fear is standing here to stop you and your ignorance and lack of imagination is stopping you from walking right through it.” Ram Dass once described spirituality as ‘a journey that is a progression from truth to ever deepening truth’. For me, this journey begins by discovering my own truth, having the courage to look into myself, to be honest with myself and others. Most of us find this very hard to do. But why is that? What is it that stops me from being honest with myself and others? What is it that stops me from looking in the mirror?

The two seemingly separate messages in the journey address spirituality in relation to truth and to fear. These two themes, however, are very much linked, as a more in-depth exploration of the messages would demonstrate. Let us begin by exploring the role fear plays in our lives and how it might affect our spiritual growth. The first fear we ever experience is the realization, as young children, that the world is external to us, that we are separated from all that surrounds us. We realize that our mother is not us, that our food is not us, that everything and everyone that surrounds us, in fact, is a separate entity in their own right, existing outside of our control. The first experience of this separateness and fear could be traced back to our actual birth, when for the first time we were separated from our mother – the source of life and comfort. However, this fear we feel on an existential level, the aloneness of being separated from all creation, is actually groundless. The fact is that we are all connected to each other and to everything. This interconnectedness is actually acknowledged today by quantum physicists, and is explained in the journey presented above. We are simply blind to that fact, ignorant to our real state of existence.

Generally speaking, there are two umbrellas of emotions that we live under: love and fear. Most of us live under the umbrella of fear for most of the time. It is this fear that creates jealousy, anger, judgment, hate, guilt and all the emotions that we perceive and judge as bad or negative.

Occasionally we manage to step under the umbrella of love and touch the true soul that is within us. It is then that we are in our true power, experience true generosity, compassion, understanding and all the other emotions that we judge and perceive as good or positive.

But what are we really afraid of? Fear of discovering things we may not like about ourselves, fear we may lose someone or something, that we may appear foolish, that we may not be accepted or liked, fear of failing, being humiliated or abandoned, fear of the unknown.

We are afraid of fear itself and we are taught to avoid it at any cost. Yet in order to truly grow we must dare to confront our fears. On the journey, the only way for Inbal to continue walking on her path and reach her destination was to confront her fears, represented by the armed bandit. If we truly wish to live spiritually, we will have to eventually face our fears, and go through them. If we ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’, if we treat fear as a teacher rather than an enemy, we may learn the valuable lessons it has to teach us, and open our eyes to the truth about ourselves. And when we finally do that, we discover that it is not fear itself that is stopping us, but ourselves. As the spirit teacher said, fear is simply standing in our path. But the truth is that there is nothing that is really stopping us from walking right past them. Fear is actually:

F = False

E = Evidence

A = Appearing

R = Real

Fear is a barrier between us and the truth, between us and honesty, between us and self-fulfillment, because the picture we see of our world and of ourselves is distorted by it. In this light, the islands metaphor given on Inbal’s journey could be interpreted on a deeper level. If we look at it more closely we may realize that it is not only coming to teach us that we are all connected to each other, but also to propose that we simply do not perceive reality as it truly is. Or in other words, by using this metaphor the spirits may be telling us that we all live in an illusion. This is actually a very similar claim to that which many shamans make – namely, that the ordinary reality as we experience it is not the ‘real’ world, that it is a lie, an illusion, and that the real world lies in the non-ordinary realms of the spirits. It is in our ordinary reality that we are bound by the limitations of our ego, our belief system, comparisons and judgments, and ultimately, our fears. They are the tinted glasses we always wear, and through which we perceive and interpret our world.

Spirituality, the spirit teacher tells us, is striving to see the world as it truly is, free of these limitations. And it is when we confront our fears and go past them that we begin to gradually remove the layers of tint from our glasses. It is clear, then, that we must acknowledge our fears in order to grow. But that is only one part of the story. It is also important for us not to judge our fears as wrong. Fear is a natural part of our lives, and to some extent it is necessary. Fear is actually a natural and healthy physiological response to danger. The problem begins when we perceive danger where it doesn’t really exist. Hence, our aim is not to totally rid ourselves of fears, but rather to have awareness of how they operate within us. 

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