I have a friend who was talking to me, and referred to my spiritual interests as being, “into all that zen and peace stuff.” I don’t have anything against him, it’s a misunderstanding. And I’m not even writing this to correct him, but to inform any who may share this misunderstanding.
Spirituality is NOT all about peace, good vibes, love, and positivity. Now, those may be common goals amongst virtually all spiritual traditions. However, living a spiritual life does NOT mean that you constantly dwell in those states. Living spiritually has nothing to do with acting like a stoned out hippie or having a reservoir of peace like a zen monk.
So what is spirituality about then? It’s about a wide range of things, which not everyone is all for. But if you were to list something that every spiritual path shares, it is increased awareness of the relationship between what’s inside a person, and what’s outside of them. There’s an ideal relationship in mind, and the whole work is to try to fine tune our relationships to match that ideal. This takes a great deal of work! Along one’s personal transformation journey, one can experience a whole spectrum of states.
One of the more infamous ones is often called the “dark night of the soul”. This is oftentimes seen as a spiritual depression. Some may feel like they’re going crazy, as if nobody understands them. And some may feel completely forsaken, cast away from the Divine.
A more positive state is one of ecstasy. These states are typically short-lived, but there are some who manage to sustain it for long-term. This may be even a few years.
There are periods of disinterest. In my experience, this is brought on by a combination of tiredness and not being able to handle all the rods in the fire of life.
And there are periods when one has to take up the sword and mantle of a warrior. They have to fight their own inner demons (mostly metaphorical), or they may feel the need to defend their faith from an outside assault. This assault could take on many different forms.
These are just the basic states that currently come to mind. There’s several more that fall between these and some can be a combination of these as well.
So what’s the lesson learned then? When someone calls themselves spiritual, don’t automatically assume that they are all love and peace. They may be going through a negative/rough state that’s causing them a lot of turmoil. On the other hand, they very well might be blissful and/or peaceful. Being spiritual doesn’t mean you’re either one. It just means you’re working on your relationships with the Divine and the world. That’s it!