Understanding Faith as a Partnership with the Unseen

Recently, I’ve been trying to plan for changes in life that I’m making, and changes that seem to just be happening, and I keep finding more and more information on life changes from other perspectives, each of which has something new and unique to offer as something to consider along the way. At this point, it seems like everything I’ve done this summer has been towards something specific, one concrete change that I expect to signify the ending and beginning of another major cycle in my life. Guidance and inspiration are found and help is given when I am ready to use it, and there’s never a moment of progression that isn’t paired with the perception of another “step” on the metaphorical stairway of renewing self-realization. The philosophy and spirituality I follow and participate in has provided me with a suitable framework for understanding this development, but I have only recently realized what it is that allows the idea and will to be something new to manifest as action and experience in my life.

Reading several articles and posts, and watching plenty more videos and podcasts, I’ve seen a lot of focus recently on the importance of trusting one’s intuition, consciously embodying one’s highest self, and dedicating oneself to the pursuit of your life’s highest goal or one’s purpose. There are many outlets which review the insights of various spiritual traditions or philosophic disciplines, and I regularly engage in these media to learn what others have discovered about the process of life and how one can live life well. Each of these sources express that the most important factor in a life well-lived is the finding and pursuit of a purpose which gives life the meaning that makes it worth living. These sources even provide advice on finding one’s purpose and adhering to the philosophies and mindsets of those who have managed to achieve the realization of their highest potential, but there’s one aspect of this path that has been ever so slightly neglected despite its fundamental importance.

Typically, once a person has a manageable idea of his or her aim in life, which usually corresponds to following the desires of your heart or realizing your passion, the next step is to begin the process of its realization, and actually live a life in accordance with your highest potential no matter which level of development or progression you’re at. What becomes immensely apparent, and thus receives the most attention it seems, is the great amount of work that must be done in order to achieve the greatness one desires. But the road of hardships and milestones is not only work. We often have this idea that we are like Sisyphus, constantly working against the weight of our burdens and demands to achieve our goals, but there are times when we must cease working to rest, when we must cease growing to strengthen and replenish ourselves. However, these times do not comes as clearly to us as it may to a figure like Sisyphus whose tasks are clearly simple, though also arduous. Instead, we often experience times when it feels as if we are lagging behind our greatest potential, having to deal with more conflicts and obstacles than the ground we are covering. These times, if handled wrongly, can be incredibly frustrating and disheartening as they might be perceived as set backs or losses. There may even be some loss that slows us, but just as negativity is not necessarily a sign of something bad, a loss is not necessarily a sign of hinderance.

It’s imperative to keep in mind that everything in one’s path is a step towards one’s goal. Every setback is a chance to recover and improve ourselves, and every heartfelt victory is a sign of true success in embodying our highest potential. What sustains us is not the victories however, nor the compulsion of our potential or ideals, because if we only feel as thought we will succeed in the moment of success, as soon as we are faced with the next hurdle we will again begin to question and doubt ourselves. What protects us from this doubt is faith. Faith that we will achieve our highest potential and grow in order to overcome whatever obstacle is before us. Faith that we have the competence to do what we must. And also, faith that what we need, that we cannot control and make ourselves, will be provided for.

Within Daoism, there is the concept of Wu Wei, meaning “non-doing”. It expresses the idea that once we align ourselves with the flow and natural progression of life, we must and will therefore only exert as much effort as is necessary. No more, and no less. The goal is to not exhaust ourselves trying to “one up the universe” in the words of Alan Watts, but rather, to get with the program and allow our natural passions and desires to manifest at a natural pace. Considering the implications of dualism, which describes aspects of our existence from the formation of our minds to our perception of reality, there are simply things we cannot do ourselves, and more we cannot do alone. If the goal is to spin a wheel, the wheel can only be spun as fast as it allows itself to be spun. Trying to spin the wheel faster than it can spin may end up shredding it with friction. The resistance that slows us is not always our own resistance to be overcome. Just as there are unconscious elements to consciously contend and form a working relationship with, so are there aspects of life that we cannot supersede.

To maintain the state of being of our highest potential, reflected in the state of enlightenment, we cannot forget the nature of our existence in this reality. We have such natural and core passions and obsessions because we are natural expressions of being in the universe. You have a purpose because you have a role to fulfill, and your role is to be your authentic self. The greatest of us, geniuses and master craftsmen, are as great as they are because they are expressing themselves authentically more frequently than most. If the inner voice stops demanding progress, and the compulsion to strive through suffering waivers for a moment, it may be a sign that even your intuitive knowing acknowledges that there is no work to be done at that time. When we lay down to sleep, we do not try to sleep, as the expression of that conscious effort will keep us awake. In order to sleep, which is essential for growth, we must relax ourselves and trust that we will fall into sleep. We trust that the ground will support our feet. We trust that the air will support our breath. Our bodies are collective systems trusting each other to perform each of their roles adequately and appropriately. The best heart is not one that beats the fastest. Likewise, once we have managed to find our path, it is just as imperative to find our rhythm. If we are natural expressions of the universe with naturally unique passions, then wouldn’t it make sense that, as a natural system sustains its parts, the universe will strive to sustain your natural expression? If the unconscious compulsions or the spiritual daemon does not give its demands, there are none to be met. Our goals should not be certain levels of status or specific achievements, whether they serve our passions or not, but rather to live in alignment with our true nature, and this can always be achieved in the moment. Be as you are, and simply enjoy the state of enlightenment.

The meaning of the fact, you see, that everything is dissolving constantly, that we are all falling apart, we’re all in the process of constant death, that’s a great assistance to you. That fact that everything is in decay, is your helper, that is allowing you, that you don’t have to let go, because there is nothing to hold on to. It’s achieved for you in other words, by the process of nature.

Alan Watts

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