The Proper Mode of Being
Through my practice of meditation I’ve come to the realisation that the true purpose of life is to expand the reach of our consciousness by enhancing the experiential quality of our minds.
If consciousness is at the base of all living experience, then how you feel while doing something is what defines the quality of your life. It’s not so much what you do with your time and attention that gives you a sense of fulfillment in the world, but it’s how you feel while doing it.
If we take a moment to carefully observe ourselves, we will notice that much of our time is spent on trying to improve the nature of our experience. The desire to improve our experience may unravel itself in a countless different directions, most of which only manages to be temporary in nature.
Whether it’s going out to a night club to forget about our woes, mindlessly scrolling through our social media feeds to pass our precious time, or planning a trip to mitigate our stress levels, most of life is a perpetual struggle to improve how we feel about ourselves.
I think it would be fair to say at this point that the end goal of any civilization is to be able to experience as many pleasant states of consciousness as possible. But this leads us to uncovering an important question about how such states of mind can be achieved.
Surely there are many different paths one might take to embark on the journey of self discovery and enlightenment, but is there a mechanism through which we can validate the utility of each path? Is there a way for us to adjudicate which path is the best one for us to take?
In the interest of keeping this article short, I’ll briefly talk about the three different paths I’m most familiar with and summarise my opinion on them.
The Ascetic: This approach to life involves completely abstaining from the pleasures of life and dedicating yourself to a life of solitude and isolation, away from the lures of the materialistic world. Monks who spend their lives meditating in the mountains epitomize this way of living.
The Exploratory: This approach to life can be best characterized as being driven by an almost demented ambition to pursue external goals. When you’re driven by an external purpose that calibrates all your focus and attention on one single thing to the point where you lose all sense of time while pursuing it, you can be said to be living an exploratory life.
The Spiritualist: Many people confuse a spiritual way of living with an ascetic one, but the truth is, they couldn’t be any further apart. A spiritual life combines elements of both an ascetic and exploratory way of living to give a really balanced view on life. It combines purpose driven existence with a dash of mindfulness.
A human being is a complex machine, and within the depths of our minds lay dormant and mystical powers that can only be activated through action. This is precisely why so much of our brains get activated when our survival is at stake. Nothing triggers our brains into action like survival instincts.
But we as a species don’t necessarily have control over our drives, and much of what we do can quickly unravel into potentially hazardous directions. This is where a commitment to a practice like meditation can be of extraordinary use.
Spending our time in silent contemplation can be used as an anchor to tame our most repressive drives and channel them into taking action that contributes meaningfully to our lives. When we are able to better control our actions, we end up contributing to the betterment of society as a result.
From a purely philosophical perspective, there shouldn’t really be any basis for us to establish that a spiritual path is the best one for us to take, because the means should ultimately justify the end. If the goal is to expand the reach of our consciousness, then how should it matter which path we take to elevate the state of our minds?
But to argue in such philosophical terms is to miss the crucial point of the different advantages and disadvantages that they have to offer us. If we are to consider how poignantly widespread suffering is around the world, it would be painstakingly difficult to argue that the manner in which we live our lives is irrelevant.
A spiritual life gives us the best possible hope of not just living a happy life ourselves, but to also actively contribute to society in a manner that mitigates so much undue suffering. A spiritual life gives us the best possible hope of recognizing what is truly important in life and strike a perfect harmony between our goals, ambitions, relationships, hobbies, and desires.
A spiritual life gives us the tools to recognize the nature of our own consciousness and blur the lines between formal practice of meditation and our daily lives.
A spiritual life is the only sort of life that is worth living.