Being Spiritually Centered (And Tips On How To Get There)
Author: Michael ‘Blackthorn’ Furie
Witches are taught that life is an intricate web of interconnected forces; that we are all one and that each piece of the microcosm can influence the whole. We are also taught to think for ourselves (a bit of an oxymoron, I know) and that every living being has its own destiny and right to exist. Furthermore, we are told that everyone should be able to believe whatever they choose and that all beliefs have validity even if only for their respective adherents, since one’s perceptions can influence their reality. This I believe is a true but potentially dangerous teaching if not framed in the proper context.
Most of us are taught how to “ground and center” in the moment as part of proper preparation for ritual or at least as a stress relieving technique however, an increasing number of us haven’t been given instruction in the necessity of, or the way to becoming, spiritually centered beings. I have known several people in my life (some Pagan, some not) that struggle with a feeling of spiritual emptiness and unrelenting frustration. They feel abandoned by the universe and whatever concept of Deity they hold dear. They don’t understand why so much of their life is filled with chaos. They feel continual conflict, both in the outside world and within themselves. I myself have suffered from this ailment and have struggled to find answers as to why. I have come to identify a reason for this chaos and conflict: a lack of being spiritually centered.
Being spiritually centered is a powerful tool that we have to truly embrace who we are as people and how we approach life. If you study spiritual gurus or masters of any faith, one key factor keeps presenting itself; they practice what they preach. In other words, they live their lives according to a set of clearly defined beliefs that they adhere to without exception. They leave no room for inner conflict or hypocrisy.
Psychologists have identified a state known as cognitive dissonance, which is defined by the American Psychological Association as: a state of despair that is induced when a person holds two contradictory beliefs, or when a belief is incongruent with an action that the person had chosen freely to perform. Because this situation produces feelings of discomfort, the individual strives to change one of the beliefs or behaviors in order to avoid being inconsistent. Hypocrisy is a special case of cognitive dissonance, produced when a person freely chooses to promote a behavior that they do not themselves practice.
I believe cognitive dissonance to be one of the greatest social ills faced in human society. When people feel driven to hold a belief because it was instilled in them as a child but they personally feel that the belief is either too restrictive or wholly invalid, a frustration and dissatisfaction with life builds within the mind. We’ve seen the results of unrelenting cognitive dissonance on a societal scale many times in the past.
When a group (let’s say the Puritans, for example) feels compelled to hold personally restrictive beliefs that are too difficult for even themselves to comply with, they then feel a gnawing sense of inadequacy, guilt and despair, now known as cognitive dissonance. This would then result in a large number of spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically unfulfilled people which, (I guess) is fine if that is their free choice.
If however, another group of people is nearby that practice a different set of beliefs (let’s say Native Americans, Pagans, Less restrictive Christians, well anybody really…) and those people appear happier and more fulfilled than the former group, the inner conflict only grows. To ease this conflict they have only three possible courses of action: isolate themselves away from the less restrictive people and continue in their ways, change their own restrictive beliefs and live a more relaxed life, or persecute those that live more freely than they, in order to reinforce their own sense of values and ease some of their secret feelings of inadequacy.
Sadly, this last choice seems to be the one that is most often chosen. Far too many people throughout history (in my opinion) have mistaken the sense of power felt when they convert people to their beliefs for true spirituality and religious fulfillment. Instead of becoming spiritually centered themselves, they choose to force their values on others; attempting to stamp out other belief systems in the hope that this will reinforce and ‘prove’ the supremacy and truth of their own beliefs to themselves.
This is why at the beginning of this article I stated that I believe that the fact that everyone’s beliefs are valid on at least some level because a person’s perceptions can influence reality, can be a dangerous teaching. If a person believes that inner conflict and a feeling of spiritual emptiness are ‘the way it must be’ then, they are living in needless misery and becoming potentially dangerous to those around them that do not share in their narrow outlook.
With all that being said, I shall (finally!) come to the point of this article and discuss becoming spiritually centered. In order to be spiritually centered, you must know who you are. You must have ‘found yourself’ as they say, and you must be comfortable in your own skin. This requires a process of evaluation and conscious acknowledgment of how you think and what you believe. The first step in this process is to ask yourself what you believe. Take a notebook and write down everything that you believe. No, seriously! Make the list as complete as possible; write down your entire Spiritual, cultural, political, and personal beliefs, both positive and negative.
After this list is complete, consider each item and determine whether you hold this belief because you truly believe it or, merely because someone else told you to believe it. Now, consider each item and decide whether or not you want to continue to hold that belief. Those beliefs you no longer desire to keep should be crossed out on your list. It is vital that a truly Spiritual person be free of clouded judgment and the weight of other people’s beliefs.
To hold any belief only because someone else claimed it as fact is a giving up of personal control to that person. A belief should only be held if, upon personal examination and experimentation, you find that it truly speaks to you and enriches your life.
Any shame or fear-based beliefs must be thoroughly examined. Truly determine whether or not any guilt, shame, fear or doubt is based on genuine wrongs that you may have committed or rather, based on unfair labels and projections placed upon you by others. This no doubt, will be an emotional journey but I assure you it is definitely worthwhile. Depending on the nature and severity of any emotional issues, therapy may be required to properly resolve them. In that case, I would highly recommend it but use your best judgment. Just remember that we are all human and prone to mistakes. One of the great challenges in life is to learn from and grow beyond, our mistakes. Let go of shame and fear.
The next step is, create a new revised list (I’m big on lists) of your personal beliefs and scan this list for any conflicting beliefs that you still hold. As I previously mentioned, hypocrisy is just another form of cognitive dissonance and will continue to keep you away from your centered self. Remember, there is a difference in being able to see both points of view in an argument and never being able to give a singular personal opinion on anything because you don’t feel able to take a definitive stance on any issue. The latter results from continuing to hold conflicting beliefs that keep you bound in shame and guilt and blur the lines so that you can’t find personal truth.
When you are centered, you are able to speak your truth with a clear and proud voice because you know deep within your heart that it is your truth and you will be unwilling to abandon it.
Once all your beliefs align, there is only one more step in becoming centered…actually living according to those beliefs. Remember that it is just as important to ‘do’ as it is to understand and feel. There are three aspects to our personalities: thinking, willing, and feeling. We need to utilize all three as equally as possible in order to live fully. Thinking and (hopefully) feeling have been involved in the process so far, but never forget the power of the human will. It is connected to the fire element and is that special spark that is only gained through actual experience; contemplation, evaluation, intellectual understanding and emotional connection are only parts of the process.
To be complete, we too must practice what we preach.