Personal Spirituality — The Way of The Soul

Parag Shah
5 min readApr 12, 2018
Photo by Paul Gilmore on Unsplash

I have been interested in spirituality for a long time. I have read books from different traditions, tried to follow their teachings, their practices, but I couldn’t make a proper connection with any tradition.

A tradition that has scriptures, a set of rules, authority, and hierarchy just did not feel right to me. Don’t get me wrong. Many of these traditions are wonderful. But still, I had a very hard time seeing myself belonging to a tradition or a lineage. It felt like being in an island cut of from the wider view. Either that or I had not yet discovered the island where I wanted to be. But then I read something which Sri Aurobindo wrote. It’s an answer he gave to an unknown addressee:

There should be no difficulty in that. Difference in unity is the law of the higher manifestation.

Wow!!! That resonated with me! Each soul is connected to the Divine Source but is also unique in its own way. We are all connected and unique at the same time. Each one of us has our own sphere of expression. Our own frequency of vibration. Our own unique orbit around the Divine Source just as planets have their own unique orbit around the Sun.

The interpretation is mine. I am not sure if it correctly conveys Sri Aurobindo’s intent, but I think the Universe is our teacher and we learn from all things. If a quote like this appears at a time when I am trying to figure out my spiritual path, it’s a synchronicity I take seriously. The meaning the Universe brings me at any moment is the meaning I need to know.

Then I read something that The Mother (Mirra Alphassa) wrote:

Take the division out of the heart and then speak, of no division.

Source (The quote is almost at the end of the linked article)

Wow again!!! Things were coming together. I was beginning to understand why I did not resonate with any tradition. I did not like the fact that they were all mostly islands in themselves. I wanted to walk my own path and yet be one with all things.

Even as I write this, I realize that I could be wrong in my conclusions about spiritual traditions, because Zen clearly speaks about being one with all things. But I was on a trajectory where I wanted to find my own way, and so I explored…

Soon afterwards I came across the teachings of a wonderful contemprary teacher called Open. His words resonated with me in many ways.

You are the One; and at the same time, you are a unique expression of the One. If we deny that uniqueness, or suppress it, you can’t ride the wave of the Soul all the way back to the shores of the One within you. You have so very much to offer to life and the world. Sometimes in spiritual circles there’s a tendency to emulate some perceived spiritual way of being. Or to drop duality by dropping the quintessence of you. This is self-defeating, building in itself, subtle spiritual identity. Individuality is essential to expressing the One. There’s absolutely nothing like becoming the fullness of YOU… — The Importance of Individuality on the Path — this is YOUR day!

Wow!!! Exactly what I needed hear! No one could have said it better. You don’t drop duality by dropping the quintessence of you. You drop duality by being who you are and allowing others to be who they are. Thank you Open! You just helped me fit one more piece of the jigsaw puzzle.

No tradition really valued the individual spirit. There was great emphasis on forgetting the small self and connecting with something larger. I am not criticizing these adages. We certainly need to move away from a self-centered attitude and connect with humanity. But I believe that the small-self that is spoken of here is very different from authentic individuality. This is the danger of using words without attaching a clear meaning to them. Small-self will mean different things to different people. In crushing the small-self, some might indeed crush their bestial attitudes, while others — who perhaps don’t have too many bestial attitudes to begin with — might end up crushing their more authentic self. Making platitudes out of words without attaching to them a clear meaning that everyone can relate to is a very dangerous enterprise.

I am not enlightened, so I write this with a disclaimer of ignorance:

As long as a person does not honor their own unique vibration, its own unique sphere of expression, and co-creation, it can never fully honor anything else. In order to truly connect with the larger self and honor All-That-Is, you first have to honor what you are. There’s a balance to be achieved, and being yourself is not the same as being full of yourself.

A rose is not full of itself. It probably doesn’t think too much of its small self. It freely shares its fragrance and beauty without expecting anything in return. Totally selflessly. Selflessness adds to its beauty — as it should. But I suspect a rose will have serious issues if anyone commands it to stop being a rose!!!

Shakespeare said it in fewer words:

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!

I don’t know if Polonius meant this to be spiritual advise. But it doesn’t matter. Another small piece of the jigsaw puzzle was coming in place.

A big question that is confronting me now is — what does it mean to be me? All of us are driven by so many forces. There are inherited tendencies, behaviors and patterns that we picked up in early childhood from our environment, expectations of society that we have made ours somewhere along the way of life, the influence of mass media and so many other things that we may have picked up along the journey of life.

All this is mixed up in this crazy stew of my perceived ME. Will the real ME please stand up!!!

The challenge and the path is to peel the layers of what is not me and get to the real core where I can find my authentic way of being and hence of authentic stance of doing.

Photo by Aubin A Sadiki on Unsplash

‘Life’ wrote a friend of mine, ‘is a public performance on the violin, in which you must learn the instrument as you go along.’ ~ A Room With A View by E. M. Forster

OK then, I guess I will begin with myself. With the simple practice of being with myself and understanding myself. But these are also words. I first need to figure out what it means to be with myself.

That’s where I am starting my journey. To find out what it means to be with myself.