Non-attachment, sacrifice, surrender, presence. These concepts are at the heart of spiritual development, at least in its more sophisticated forms. What could be more simple? And yet what can possibly be harder? Eventually you have to give your self over to something bigger than yourself. No-one escapes it. We come in to the world naked and with nothing, and we leave through the same door. But taking on this ‘condition of complete simplicity’ while alive – there is the challenge of a deep spiritual life. The condition of complete simplicity, costing not less than everything.
Psychotherapy and personal development work helps people to grow and to become present and full in their lives. Psychotherapists help ‘self-building’, delineating the ‘me’ from the ‘not-me’, facilitating clarity about boundaries, powerfulness about desires, resourcefulness around creativity, and delight
around embodiment. We strive to be completely here, to find ourselves as bold, passionate, effective beings. This is vital, soul-building work which takes years of demon-battling. The objective is to ‘touch down’ in life, get our feet on to the earth and become people of substance.
But then there is another stage. As Eliot says in the section from ‘Little Gidding’ quoted below ‘We shall not cease from exploration/And the end of all our exploring/Will be to arrive where we started/And know the place for the first time.’ In other words, there can come a point when we awaken, in the middle of our life, to an entirely different way of seeing things, a more spiritual viewpoint. And this is where the energy of non-attachment starts to reveal itself as the path. This is a great mystery, and I really like the way that Eliot expresses it in Little Gidding (a re-read of the Four Quartets from which this is taken, is a therapy in itself). Eventually we have to give up everything. This might be through our death. It might be before. It is not easy. How do we discern when this is a moment to step in to life and fight, and when it is a moment to step back from life and let-be? And when and how do we balance those two? It is in the balance that the magic really happens.
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where were started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, remembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always –
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.
TS Eliot (from Little Gidding)