Archive for October, 2008

Spirituality for smart people

The title of this article is paraphrased from Steve Pavlina’s Personal Development for Smart People.This recently published book is in close alignment with the values of this site, and indeed the final chapter is devoted to spirituality. Throughout the book, Steve challenges us to be honest with ourselves and to face the realities of how we live and where our path is taking us. For those of us truly committed to growth, this book is highly recommended.

Steve strikes to the heart of spiritual inquiry when he declares that “a sound spiritual philosophy must be rooted in truth”, and that we must “strive to perceive reality as accurately as possible”. People so often choose their beliefs based on what is convenient and appealing, or by following their family and society at large. Yet beliefs can only be based on one guiding principle, and that is the principle of truth. Therefore, we must have the courage to strike out on our own and discover what we truly align with. We must recognize, as Steve says, that “there’s only one true authority in your life, and it’s you”. These principles – truth, courage, and authority – are just three of the seven principles described in the book, and together they empower us to tackle every area of our lives.

Steve also discusses the importance of exploring different belief systems and considering unfamiliar perspectives. When our goal is open-minded spiritual inquiry, it is clearly foolish to limit our perspectives to the few belief systems with which we are familiar. In the past, religions have sometimes warned against exploring other faiths. Such an approach is based on insecurity: we are afraid that by considering other beliefs, we will realize that our own beliefs are wrong. However, remembering that our primary goal is the pursuit of truth, this possibility should excite us rather than scare us.

Perhaps this fear of discovering our own beliefs are wrong results from a discordance from the principle of power. Our beliefs do not define us, and “one of the most empowering choices you can make is to decouple your spiritual beliefs from your identity”. As Steve points out, this does not only limit our ability to grow, but it also makes it harder for us to connect with people who hold different beliefs. Rather than holding to ideas such as “I am a Christian”, or an agnostic, or whatever, we must examine reality from multiple viewpoints, making it easier to see the big picture.

These lessons are not restricted to spirituality. They are representative of Steve’s approach to all personal growth. Be it our spirituality, our finances, our relationships, or our health, we are foolish to limit our thought to fixed preconceptions, and we must have the courage to be honest with ourselves and to seek out the truth. Steve challenges us to explore different viewpoints and to rethink every area of our life. More importantly, he teaches us how to do this rethinking.

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