Do You Have A Sense of Progress in Your Walk?

For many of us, days pass by and we often find ourselves ‘going with the flow’. Sure, we might make plans for the future. We might even have plans about where we want to be financially in five years, or plans about our hobbies, and so on. But how many of us have a sense of progress and planning when it comes to our spiritual/contemplative path – or, when it comes to our development as a person?

By a ‘sense of progress’ what I mean is a sense that we are working on something – a project. This would be a sense that where we are today is hopefully going to be different than where we are in the future. I mean this in terms of our habits, our character traits, our knowledge, our wisdom, our kindness, our compassion, and more.

How is such progress made? Learning may be an important first step. Reading worthy materials, joining in discussions (not debates), talking with and asking questions of wise people, and thinking about all of these ideas are essential. But all of that is merely ‘data’. It is raw information resulting in nothing more than book knowledge, and as beneficial to your ‘soul’ as reading about exercise would be to your body. The real “project” is in what you do with that knowledge.

This is where practice comes in. Here we seek to apply those lessons in our lives. Practice doesn’t just mean specific practices with names, like: meditation, negative visualization, existential deliberation, and so on. It also means mindfully putting into practice the mindsets and ideas we read about as we go about our daily activities. More importantly, that by doing so, those become habitual to our character and natural inclinations.

These are things with which I still very much struggle. When people refer to me as knowing a lot about some philosophy or being a ‘something-ist’, I feel rather silly – because I know that all of the reading and writing I do on these topics is worthless. Only the degree to which ancient and modern wisdom is applied in our lives, and the degree to which they shape our character, matter. The rest is vanity.

The recognition that there is a natural-based, rational, and beneficial function to development of character habits and application of contemplative practices is what Spiritual Naturalism is all about. We may find that we fall out of these habits (wander off the path) many times. And when this happens, it is nothing to become upset about or blame yourself about. As with each breath in meditation – simply reset your intentions and take the next. Don’t let failure to be perfect deter you because, in the long run, no matter how long you have been off of a path, you can still get back on and make progress!

 

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1 thought on “Do You Have A Sense of Progress in Your Walk?”

  1. I’m still fresh on “the path” of Epicureanism, about 3 years in, but with ol’ Epicurus, the path has been joyous and motivating from the earliest stages. The hedonic argument was a lightening rod for me to start living well. Most of my progress has been in taking better care of my psyche in recovering from chronic mental affliction. Most of my deeper practice has been with IFS, Expressive and other Drama therapies which were spiritual operations I only really ultilized with my therapeutic relationship because when I tried ritual outside of that context it felt too messy and inconsistent in delivering pleasant results. I’ve also dabbled in having a household shrine but it’s mainly been something I would just fiddle with and eventually became a place to house tea cups for my attempts at a hospitality ritual and candles for dinner.

    I’ve slowly been getting into the habit of somatic related practices over time as I cultivate better eating and drinking habits. Over the last year I’ve completely rearranged my work life to maximize pleasure while working and maximize recreational time with my kids. I’ve also reshuffled the deck on homelife, introducing a host of new rituals from family meetings, to building lesson plans for the kids to just having more meals at the table together. I’ve been keeping up with my hedonic regimen which is mostly reading Epicurean philosophy and listening and dancing to my select artists that bring me delight. In the last 6 months or so I’ve really felt like I’ve been experiencing ataraxia most of the time; unperturbed, and in a deep abidding joy.

    What I’d like to cultivate in the future is heightening my experience of Eikas which I often don’t feel prepared for and often passes without event and building on my appreciation and gratitude to the Epicurean Sages with some appropriate practices. I’d also like to develop some sort of Epicurean parenting material, though core tenets of the philosophy and practices can be baked into ones parenting style, I am contemplating with my own kids when I ought to introduce them to overtly Epicurean writings and concepts. But it is always in these practices that involve other people participating that progress has been slow, which is understandable… Anyway, cheers!

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