“You have to grow from the inside out. None can teach you, none can Make you spiritual. There is no other teacher but your own soul”

Swami Vivekananda

Spirituality is a personal journey for the transformation of consciousness. You may ask why it is necessary to transform consciousness. Good question! Let us assume that you were born with a blank slate but in time your parents began to write on this slate with what they know about life. When you are of school age and start going to school, the school system also begins to write on your slate with what they want you to know. If your parents are religious and you begin to go to church the church system also writes on your slate with what they believe. When you start visiting the neighbor’s children the children also write on your slate about what their parents told them about life. If you watch the news the news station also writes on your slate with what you should know.
In essence most of the things on your blank slate are all other people’s experiences and beliefs. One of the worst things that could happen to you in this life is abandoning your life experiences for other people’s life experiences. Spirituality comes to the rescue and tells you that you have a life that is totally different from those of your parents, the school system, the church, your neighbor and the media. Spirituality enables you to replace other people’s experiences and beliefs with your own experiences and beliefs.
If you are observant you would also notice that every business idea is directed to you in order to get your money. The manufacturer of soft drinks wants your money for his drinks. The producer of alcohol also wants your money. So does the manufacturer of drugs. In effect all the establishments that produce goods for your consumption want your money. In the main it is not their place to determine if what they produced is good for your body or not. That is your responsibility. They may meet certain government requirements and use a state of the art quality control measurement but that does not mean that what they have produced will be good for you. If you do not first find out from your body if what you are consuming is healthy you could be obese, have mental problems, get sick, develop allergies and even die before your time.
Once again spirituality comes along and tells you to pay particular attention to what you eat and drink. Your body has a finite life and during this period it could be sick or even die before your time if you do not watch what you eat and what you drink
This spiritual journey is usually undertaken with the help of meditation, prayer, journaling, yoga, visualization, fasting, community service, life-long learning, Mindfulness or by just living your life according to the needs of your soul.


Meditation is simply seating in one place and doing nothing but the objective is to calm the mind and to cultivate inner peace. This practice could reduce stress, control anxiety, improve sleep, decrease blood pressure, enhance self-awareness and improve emotional health. It is advisable to include meditation in your life. It is a good practice to meditate once every day.


Prayer is a supplication to bring about a desired result. It could be addressed to a God, to the Universe, to LIFE or to your SELF. In all cases prayer is a solemn occasion. Meditation and visualization may actually prepare you for prayer by giving you the proper frame of mind. Prayer can make you feel closer to GOD or to YOURSELF, prayer calms your mind and gives you peace like when you surrender a pressing issue to GOD.


Journaling is writing down your dreams, aspirations, goals, experiences, thoughts, ideas and reflections in a journal. Currently journaling could also be done online. You can do your journaling in a journal or online; it is up to you but try to do your journaling in a quiet environment without distractions. Journaling helps you to process your emotions and in this way it reduces stress,


Yoga is a combination of physical, mental and spiritual exercises or practices intended to enable the practitioner to achieve wholeness, awakening or achieve unity consciousness. Yoga means union and a yogi is one who has united with life itself. To be united with life means that you are open to experience all the things that life brings to you. In this way you can grow and become a light to yourself and the world.

Community Service

Community Service is work you do for the benefit of others or the improvement of your community without payment. Community service could be voluntary or compulsory. It is voluntary when you help the homeless or when you drive senior citizens or the challenged to service centers. It is compulsory when a judge orders you to perform some community serve for violating the law.

Life-Long Learning

Life-Long Learning is the pursuit of education throughout life. People who devote themselves to Life-Long Learning usually read educational and self improvement books regularly, they also learn by taking classes for self improvement and personal development regularly, and they take seminars in specific areas of life improvement and human development.


Mindfulness is being aware of where you are, what you are doing, what you are thinking and what you are feeling at the present moment. The mind may stray from the present moment but mindfulness helps you to bring it back. Mindfulness could improve your memory, lower stress and help you to be focused.


Visualization is the practice of forming mental images. We can use mental images to enhance performance, get what we want, reduce pain, improve healing, and relieve stress. Visualization has often been used to realize dreams and you can also do the same.


Fasting is abstaining from food for a period of time for religious, psychological or health reasons. Fasting has several health benefits but consult with your physician before you fast. If it is safe for you to fast you can fast once every week say on Thursdays. You can fast from say 6 am to 6 pm and break the fast with a light food like oatmeal. You could also fast from 6 am to 6am the next day; it all depends on your constitution.

Stages of Spiritual Development

There are seven stages of Spiritual Development according to Dr. Sonari’s Stages of Spiritual Development. The Native is born into a particular culture and embraces most if not all the elements of the culture; the Neophyte is a beginner on the spiritual life; the Awakened sees the LIGHT and wakes up from her cultural hypnosis; the Seeker searches for knowledge to make sense of his experiences or to answer the questions in his mind; the Rebel rises in opposition to the established way of life in the culture; the Enlightened pierces the veil of ignorance and understands the way things are; the Savior develops compassion for all creatures and introduces the people to a new way of life.

The Native

The Native is one who is born into a particular culture. The Native usually embraces most if not all the elements of the culture including religious affiliation, belonging to a political party, believing in the God of the culture, drinking beer, cursing and participating in most of the elements of the culture. In essence the Native is a product of the culture and believes in the way of life as the only way. Most if not all of us grow up to become Natives and since we were raised in the culture we have no other way of believing. This is one of the reasons why heroes in mythology leave their place of birth and go to other places to search for what is missing. What they are searching for is a new way of thinking or a transformation of consciousness to help them to learn a new way of life, return to the culture and share what they have learned. The Buddha for instance enjoyed what his family provided for him. He was raised in luxury and never saw the outside world. For him that was the life until he saw the “Four Sights” that changed his life.

This is not to imply that your culture is bad for you. It is not a question of good and bad, instead it is a question of leading the culture to new levels of understanding. When you see an increase in crimes, an increase in homelessness, an increase in discrimination and an increase in unemployment you know that something has to be done. But if you are married to the culture you might not see these problems because the culture has a collective way of making sense of the problems. They might simply say that the homeless people are a bunch of drug addicts and alcoholics and the unemployed are losers. But the hero sees it differently and that is why he has to leave the culture to search for the proper intervention. He might come up with the idea that the homeless are not a bunch of drug addicts and alcoholics but fellow human beings who had no control over what happened to them and what they need from us is compassion and help in the form of food, clothing and shelter so that they could rebuild their lives again.

It is fitting to note here that the stage “Native” does not only refer to Natives in African and South American jungles as some people tend to imply but to all of us who were raised in our cultures. It does not matter where you come from to be labeled a “Native”; it could be in an African jungle or from an Olympian height. As long as you were brought up in a culture and you embrace all or most of the elements of the culture you are a Native!


The Neophyte

The Neophyte is a beginner in the pursuit of the spiritual life. You may join a spiritual organization in order to begin your spiritual journey or you may figure it out on your own depending on your level of consciousness. The Buddha for example figured out that there is more to life after he experienced the Four Sights. As a Neophyte on the path he shaved his head, changed his clothes and took the begging bowl. This is a typical example of a Neophyte and the shaving of his hair, changing his clothes and taking the begging bowl serve as his initiation for the journey.

In my own case it was my friends who introduced me to the so-called mystery schools. Growing up in a Christian home and mostly feeling sinful when you have not even committed any sin was a burden to me and I sought empowerment or some form of development and that development came from the mystery schools. As a Neophyte I really did not know what I wanted apart from the fact that I needed to develop myself. I had no experiences that would compel me to undertake a spiritual quest at the time. I was just there to learn what the organization taught regarding human development. I was introduced to meditation for the first time by the mystery schools including some mental exercises.


The Awakened

The Awakened is one who woke up from a cultural hypnosis. In my own case I woke up from the thought that the Bible is the word of GOD or the God of the Bible is the GOD of the Universe or Jesus is the way to life. It happened after my oral exam and I went to see my minister for some moral support. During the oral exam one of my minor course professors asked what we would do to reduce racial discrimination in society. I told the committee that there was nothing we could do until Jesus came and I quoted the Bible:

“The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.” Bible: Genesis 6:5
My minister supported my answer when I visited him and it felt good but as soon as I left the office and started thinking it seemed that the scales fell from my eyes and I could see clearly for the first time. During this period of thinking and not thinking I asked “if God said the people he created were evil, is he believable?” “Is he believable if this statement is applied to my mother?” “Is he believable if the same statement is applied to the children who always greeted me whenever I passed by their apartment?” With this last question I summoned up the courage and fired my cultural God. This was over 20 year ago and I have never looked back but the experience has exposed me to many sacred texts around the world. In the case of the Buddha his awakening happened after the Four Sights. He realized for the first time in his life that there is a lot of suffering on Earth and his purpose was to find out the causes of suffering and provide a solution.

The Seeker

The Seeker searches for knowledge and understanding. The questions I had in my mind at this stage were mostly religious; I wanted to know who GOD is apart from the cultural elements that were introduced to me. Secondly I could not accept the teaching that some people were chosen and that I needed to accept a cultural God in order to be saved. These teachings did not make sense to me. So after my awakening my effort was focused on finding out more information about GOD and the inequality in creation.

My spiritual Quest began at my favorite thrift shop. I went to the book section and located the books on religion. I ran my finger across the shelves and behold “Deceptions and Myths of the Bible” by Lloyd M. Graham. You can understand how excited I was on seeing this title; I have not read any book that contradicted the Bible before!
Later I got acquainted with the Free Thought Movement after watching Susan Jacoby on NOW, a PBS program by Bill Moyers. With the information I gathered from the program I bought and read books on Free Thought including “Women without Superstition-No Gods-No Masters; Freedom: Quotes and Passages from the World’s Greatest Freethinkers by Leonard Roy Frank; Common Sense by Thomas Paine; The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine and Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism by Susan Jacoby”.
Reading these books helped me to make sense of my position and to realize that I was not alone. This gave me the extra motivation I needed to continue with my quest. Later I took my search to the Internet and visited Free Thought, Deist and Atheist websites. The thought that I might be an atheist never crossed my mind, maybe a Freethinker, but not an atheist! As far as I was concerned I was on a mission and I would not let labels to influence that mission. However I loved the idea of Free Thought but I was still empty!
Next I took my quest to reading the sacred texts but before I continue I want to share a helpful practice to those who are on a similar journey. My studies with the mystery schools introduced me to meditation and fasting and I used both to achieve balance in the midst of my uncertainty. Thus if you are on the same journey I advise you to try meditation instead of choosing another organization, I mean believing that you might be an atheist if you don’t believe in GOD anymore. Avoid the temptation to belong to an opposing organization. For all I know is that you really do not know where this change of heart will lead you. So take time and find out on your own instead of settling!
One of the first sacred texts I read apart from the Bible during this time was the Bhagavad Gita. A copy of the Bhagavad Gita was given to me by a friend in college and I kept it among my valuable books. The first time I read the book I did not learn anything from it so I put it aside and took up the Qur’an. Like the Bhagavad Gita, the Qur’an was also not an easy read for me but I managed to read the chapter on the sacrifice of Isaac. The account seemed to contrast with the story of the sacrifice of Isaac in the Bible but it did not say outright that it was Ishmael that was sacrificed and I learned my first lesson on the interpretations of sacred texts.
Next I checked out Buddhism and started with the Teaching of Buddha by Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai. The first word that threw me off balance was the word “Dukkha”, meaning suffering. I do not know why but I think suffering was not part of my vocabulary at the time. Things are different now because I see suffering everywhere and our challenge is to minimize our sufferings including the sufferings of animals! Some of the teachings that appealed to me were the Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path and the Buddha’s injunction that each person is responsible for his or her salvation. I also love the picture of the Buddha in serene contemplation. The Buddha did not claim to be a God; he was a prince who renounced the world and became a LIGHT to all of us. The fact that Gods do not play a central role in Buddhism helped me to address my reluctance in accepting a cultural God as my personal savior.
The Analects of Confucius was even more difficult to read than the Bhagavad Gita and the Qur’an so I settled for the Tao Te Ching. My choice paid off in a big way. The Tao or the Way is not a cultural God; it is just the way things are! There is no cultural God manipulating the Universe but the Tao pervades the Universe! It is nameless but it is everywhere! The Tao is the Universe! This teaching helped me to put to rest my belief that a cultural God is the GOD of the Universe. The idea doesn’t even make sense but billions of people believe this. The other great lesson I learned from the Tao Te Ching is Wu Wei, the Law of Least Effort. This Principle has guided my life up to this day! Essentially it means doing the minimum that is required in any situation and leaving the rest to the Tao!
Lastly I looked at the Hindu world again and read the Bhagavad Gita several times. This time the text became clearer and I found that some of the thoughts of Lord Krishna were similar to those of Lord Jesus in the New Testament. This is the case of different Gods saying the same thing as opposed to the case of the same God saying different things as with the Tanakh and the Qur’an. However I learned a lot from the Bhagavad Gita, the most important teaching being that of following the path that appeals to you as opposed to the one path for everyone in the New Testament! The Bhagavad Gita addressed a lot of my concerns and conflicts but I was still empty.
The last sacred text I read was the Upanishads, another Hindu text. The Upanishads introduced me to the concept of Brahman (or Ultimate Reality) and by the time I finished reading the text my emptiness was no more! SALVATION AT LAST! One might argue that my body readjusted itself over time but the fact remains that I learned a lot from my spiritual quest. I didn’t just read the above-mentioned texts; I read over 100 religious and spiritual texts during this period! Thus I prefer to think that it was education that finally sealed the hole in my heart! Do not just settle, find out!
Schopenhauer, in The World as Will and Idea was also influenced by the Upanishads, specifically Chandogya Upanishad. He wrote that the Upanishads were the most beneficial and elevating study that the world had ever produced and that ‘it has been the solace of my life, it will be the solace of my death’ and I felt the same way! The Upanishads brought not only solace to my life but also peace, freedom, and unconditional love. It is indeed a liberating substitute for the text with which I was raised! 

Any loss could result in emptiness if we are truly attached- be it the firing of a God, the passing away of a parent, the transition of a friend, or the loss of a pet. There is no difference.  But the individual must deal with it and achieve balance because losing the things we pick up on our journey is a reality of life. There is nothing we can do about it. But there is SOMETHING that we don’t lose at all irrespective of where we are on this journey. This SOMETHING is BRAHMAN!

For me Brahman is UNIVERSAL LOVE because IT loves without conditions and blesses without requirements. IT has no sacred text, IT has no chosen people and IT has no particular sacred place but pervades the whole Universe!.

The Rebel

Generally a Rebel is a person who goes against authority figures and the rules of society. In other words the Rebel rises in opposition to the established way of life in the culture. Jesus is a good example of a typical rebel when he went to the Temple and overturned the tables of the money changers. In my own case I refused to partake in the communion during church service. I was newly married to a Christian and in order to support her beliefs I decided to go to church with her. Usually the Rebel wants to change the world because of his new insights and understanding. The Buddha also serves as a good example of a rebel when he left the palace, shaved his head, changed his clothes and took the begging bowl. The only difference is that his rebellion came after his awakening while my rebellion came after my spiritual quest

The Enlightened

An Enlightened person is informed, aware, knowledgeable, educated and wise. The Enlightened is spiritual, wise and has “pierced the veil of ignorance”. When a group of men saw the Buddha after his Enlightenment and asked him if he was a God the Buddha said that he was no God but he is awake. I will describe this stage of the Buddha as Enlightenment instead of being awake. The Buddha woke up after his encounter with the Four Sights.

The Savior

A Savior is a person who saves someone or something from danger, destruction or suffering. Dr. King, Jesus, Amitaba, Buddha and Nelson Mandela are examples of saviors. The savior has transcended the ego and realized unity consciousness coupled with compassion and love for all creatures. In most cases the savior often comes with a new set of teaching or a new way of life to help the people. The Buddha came up with the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path in order to save the people from suffering.

Transformation of Consciousness

The whole purpose of the spiritual journey is transformation of consciousness. Here is a story I took from Immortal Samsara, a Chinese Fantasy Drama.
Once upon a time Yin Yuan, the Sovereign Lord of a heavenly ream inhabited by deities and spirits was reborn into the mortal real as an orphan to experience trials. He was adopted by Tang Jiang and given the name Tang Zhou and was raised in the Lingxiao Sect.
The sect was established to wipe out all demons and evil, uphold justice and punish evil. Tang Zhou grew up with this mission and became a model Spirit Catcher. In time he became the most popular disciple in the sect and was chosen to become the next chief of the sect. However he had to abstain from love and affection and in order to check his thoughts and actions he had to wear a magical bracelet that would punish him each time he had thoughts of love or affection.
Meanwhile Tang Zhou met Yan Dan during one of his Spirit Catching missions and they grew close to each other. As time went on she became part of his thoughts and he developed affection for her. Later their affair became known to the sect and the sect leader summoned him to appear before the sect and repent from his sin.
Tang Zhou knelt down facing the chief with the rest of the disciples behind him and the chief asked, “Tang Zhou, do you repent from your mistake? In reply Tang Zhou said, “I accidentally hurt my peers out of desperation. I’ll accept the punishment”
The chief said, “If you admit your mistake and cease your affection, I’ll be lenient on you considering your past contribution. Tang Zhou answered, “You’ve misunderstood me chief, I’ll accept the punishment, but I did no wrong”.
What did you say? The chief asked surprised.
In reply Tang Zhou said, “Previously I held to your teachings and stayed away from desire. I thought affection was an absolute evil deep inside me and the Magical Bracelet alerted me to cut it off. However feelings grow from within and my desire won’t stop if my heart is alive. If it is wrong to have feelings I wonder if the feelings and benevolence of human beings in this world are right to exist. I rather suffer from deep feelings and love than to become a heartless person. So I won’t admit it when I am not wrong.”
After his transformation Tang Zhou left the sect and lived for himself. Here are some of the things he shared with his friends:
“Since I was little I had been cultivating to catch Spirits and I always thought that it was my calling but it turns out to be a scam.
“I always thought that I was executing justice at the expense of the lives of so many innocent Spirits. Now that I have lost all my cultivation I don’t know where my future lies. I am no longer a Spirit Catcher”.
You are here to live your life according to your own experiences and beliefs and not according to the experiences and beliefs of others or organizations!

Practices of Spirituality

When spirituality is described as a personal journey for the transformation of consciousness there is freedom and anyone could undertake this journey on his or her own. The practices of spirituality like meditation, prayer, journaling, yoga, visualization, fasting, community service, life-long learning and mindfulness might not even matter; the individual can use whatever method that appeals to him or her to wake up from her or his hypnosis.
Spirituality can also be described as a subjective experience: In the Power of Myth with Bill Moyers, Joseph Campbell wrote about an African tradition in which during a singing and dancing session one of the men passed out. “He experiences what we might call a possession. But it is described as a flash, a kind of thunderbolt or lightning bolt, which passes from the pelvic area right up the spine into the head.”…..This guy had an experience of another whole realm of consciousness!”
Obviously this is an example of a subjective experience of a sacred dimension but not many of us can have this experience because we need to be in the proper environment. But why do I need this kind of subjective experience when I am alone in my sacred place? Who will get the message when I pass out? Subjective experiences may be useful in communities of ancient civilizations but in an age of the Internet where knowledge is literally at out our finger’s tips such experiences have very little significance.
According to the Bhagavad Gita there are three ways to live a spiritual life and they include the Path of Action, the Path of Devotion and the Path of Wisdom. The Path of Action emphasizes performing one’s duty without the expectation of rewards. By performing selfless services to our fellow creatures we can all grow spiritually. The Path of Devotion emphasizes devoting oneself to a personal God or the Divine. By surrendering to the Divine one can attain spiritual liberation. The Path of Wisdom emphasizes a personal journey toward spiritual realization. It involves knowing who you are and the environment around you.
Essentially the Path of Wisdom leads you to pay particular attention to the demands of your own spiritual life instead of following the one that was setup by another person or organization. In the Power of Myth Joseph Campbell wrote that following a system instead of your humanity is a threat to our lives because the system is more likely to deprive us of our humanity. Compare this observation with the experiences of Tang Zhou in the above story. We might say that Tang Zhou was following a system; a system that wants him to kill demons. But in his experiences he found out that not all demons are bad. This revelation coupled with his love for Yan Dan, a Demon, motivated him to get out of the system and live for himself.

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