Better World & Spiritual Learningsam
By Dr. Stewart Bitkoff
It takes a village to raise a child.
Let us continue with our discussion on how to make a better world.* The premise offered is that a better world is created by creating better people; better people are created, in part, by adding the missing ingredient: conscious spiritual awareness. As this traditional African proverb states: in order to raise a child, a healthy functioning child within their social system, a variety of people and experiences are required. These factors must come together with what is already present in the child; and as these ingredients are added and digested over a period of years, gradually, the child matures into a complete, rounded individual. This unique person is an essential part of the village; bringing individual skills and abilities making their village/world a better place.
In our society, this holistic –it takes a village- approach is considered by many as essential, and as circumstance would have it, also serves as foundation for entrance into a spiritual school; as it was presented to me, upon my own entrance: what is required is an individual who minimally meets the requirements for acceptance into the social system in which they live. This person must have the basic skill set, temperament and sensitivity required for routine daily life yet burn for something else. The individual student must arrive with this dimension present and gradually the missing piece is added.
Through the school, what develops over a period of time is a fully integrated human being who has added conscious spiritual capacity. This spiritual ability is already within the individual and through a guided process of learning, experience and grace it matures. Spiritual capacity is not intended to replace other capacities; it is an additional skill set which helps the others work more efficiently. It is part of our human heritage and for too has long has been neglected, over looked and pushed aside.
Spirituality in Daily Life
Awhile back I wrote on the usefulness of spirituality in everyday life.** The presumption being that if enhanced spirituality is an essential human capacity, as mystics have asserted for centuries, let’s test out some spiritual techniques in a vigorous, modern environment like commuting to work by automobile daily.
I am revisiting this topic, to call attention, to the importance of increased spiritual awareness, called by some- personal enlightenment, and how this awareness can help make our life and modern world a little better. As stated earlier, we hold to the view, you make a better world by making better people. In part, better people are created through human development systems- like Sufism- which lead to enhanced spirituality and individual excellence; in our culture what is required is exploration and use of multiple human development systems which help us reach higher individually and collectively. For many this aspect of learning has been over looked or introduced late in life after significant personal problems have occurred.
In our world the balance has been destroyed; personal greed and corporate and governmental interest have pushed aside concern for others and infected our environment. I do not wish to get into a debate, at the very minimum, most would agree we can do better helping our neighbor and keeping the natural world cleaner and more wholesome. We must look for solutions and we have not fully explored the importance of ancient, human development systems which teach, in part, we are our brother’s keeper.
Many would assert this is the role of the family or the role of traditional religious systems: helping to create honest, hardworking citizens who contribute to their own and societal wellbeing by knowing and doing the right thing.
Figuring out the right thing can be very difficult: requiring an assortment of skills but too often what is not used or developed sufficiently is intuitive spiritual capacity. If an individual is able to develop this dimension, intuitively knowing the right thing, through family or traditional religious training that is excellent; however in my experience it is often over looked or not even considered a possibility. In part, the point of this writing is to help educate, point out what is possible and considered by many to be the essential ingredient in our coming together as a planet.
The Balancing Factor
According to the mystic, the balancing factor in reconciling the needs of the many with the needs of the few (individual) is increased personal spiritual capacity. Over the centuries, with the poor record some religious systems have had in contributing to the overall good, it would be natural for most people to have a healthy skepticism about all of this. Never the less there have been many who have used religion and spiritual capacity to build rather than hurt.
In our modern life, we need an ever growing and changing skill set which minimally includes: an ability to make a living, caring for family, personal maintenance skills, social/recreational skills, computer/electronic skills, personal health skills and countless other daily living skills. With all of these necessary: you wonder, why are we even talking about spiritual skills and an ability to fully understand who we are as human beings? Because spiritual skills and an understanding of our limitless human potential helps complete and mature a person- this dimension helps people think about others; in a world full of competing and often clashing personal and national agendas, we must work together if we are going to survive. Also it is asserted that spiritual skills help create a foundation upon which an enriched and complete life may be built.
In subsequent pieces, we will view the difference between traditional religious form and spirituality, what can be said about the nature of spiritual skills, and how spiritual capacity can help us reach our full potential through human excellence.
Now, try this simple exercise and see firsthand how you can help make your world and your neighbor’s world a little better.
Identify one thing you can do today to make your world or your neighbor’s world a little better, then, make it happen. Some suggestions include: a phone call to see how they are; helping with a chore; or cooking something to eat. If you are not able to do this, do something for yourself that you have been postponing: some quiet time, going for a walk or listening to music. While engaging in this activity consider the possibility: spirituality is of little value unless it manifests into the world, helping others.
If we could look at the work
And know the Master,
There would be no need
For teachers and teachings.
*See Bitkoff, “The Sufi Call, Making a Better World,” http://www.stewartbitkoff.com/the-sufi-call-making-a-better-world/.
** Bitkoff, A Commuter’s Guide to Enlightenment, Llewellyn, Worldwide, 2008. https://www.amazon.com/Commuters-Guide-Enlightenment-Stewart-Bitkoff/dp/0738712639.