Regardless of one’s tradition, using a framework of wanting, giving (which together comprise doing), and being to assess and monitor one’s spiritual development can serve to guide one toward one’s spiritual goals. These concepts work well with behaviorally observable operations of thinking, feeling, and acting making it relatively easy for one to evaluate one’s individual personality, one’s spirituality lived through soul, and one’s spirit as God living in the world.
The spiritual journey is a transition from the conditioned individual self from which one detaches, to the embodied transpersonal collective self. The path may be considered one of dis-identification from our original individual self that wants for itself, to temporarily embracing a self that gives to others (as it continues actively doing), until it identifies with mental, emotional, and subjective being, from which it then acts. Essential skills are acquired through each stage of this progression, mandating that none of them be disregarded or passed over lest there be negative consequences, e.g. spiritual bypassing or materialism (see “Ten Common Pitfalls of Spiritual Practice”).
The ego, believing itself a separate entity in the world, usually knows what it wants, and having exercised sufficient thought it pursues the objects, experiences, and relationships it desires. Its logic is believed to be of its own design, and it is oblivious to the social and cultural conditioning that has determined its values, wants, and subsequent actions.
The feelings associated with ego’s wants and needs are conditioned as well. And they are more confounding than ego mental information because they are of two easily confused types. The first type is emotions like sadness, joy, anger, and delight. The second type is subjective feelings defined as oneself feeling like oneself; meaning is ascribed to the totality of the self’s embodied experience. Subjectivity includes feelings such as vulnerable, strong, confident, and hurt. It also includes a felt sense of holding oneself within a boundary ego has created between itself and others. Useful in understanding the ego’s characteristics and functioning, distinguishing these two types of feelings becomes a necessity in defining self as it expands through transpersonal experience.
As life events move one away from the aforementioned conditioning, the wanting mind begins to think differently, becoming more personally intimate with itself. And it begins to experience a greater range of feelings, both negative and positive, the former associated with life’s hardships, the latter with an expanded perspective on the world and humanity. Social-cultural conditioning begins to weaken, and one moves closer to one’s true and unique self, based on one’s own distinct character, values, and goals. Existential questions begin to be answered, a personal mythology emerges, and one’s self-actualization begins (see “Ten Aspects of One’s Personal Mythology”). Though wanting continues to prevail, now giving begins to emerge.
With the addition of transpersonal experiences one begins the part of the spiritual journey where one genuinely and selflessly gives to others consistently. This results from experiences of transcendence that move one beyond individual agency. There is an expansion of one’s usual subjective contraction and an extension of personal boundary that now includes other. This unitive awareness includes a sense of deepening, that one’s being has simultaneously descended into the depths of reality as it has simultaneously expanded. At these times one no longer feels one is an individual separate from others. One begins to identify with this expanded definition of self, and because one experiences it only occasionally now actively seeks more transcendence.
Spurred on by more spiritual moments one contemplates the world and expands one’s worldview to include interconnectivity of all and the caring emotions it engenders, e.g. love. This results in more benevolent and charitable actions, a more consistent loving-kindness for and compassion toward others, and more service for humanity. This greater dis-identification from the original self (i.e. ego) moves one solidly into identifying with a spiritual self primarily concerned with giving, the soul. This is lived both informally and formally, e.g. in daily contact with strangers as one goes about one’s daily routine and as service to others in a teaching or healing capacity, respectively.
The expansion of one’s mental, emotional, and subjective experience that has resulted in a new identity (i.e. soul) with its giving actions provides the opportunity to evolve into the stage of spiritual development in which doing, exhibited first as wanting and then as giving, transforms into being. And like the previous identities there will be changes in mental, emotional, subjective, and behavioral aspects of ones personality. As being increases the individual functions more and more as a transpersonal entity operating from the singularity or nonduality of reality, first as the witness and then as an enlightened self.
The witness mind combines the formlessness and nothingness of the mysterious creative source with the world’s material, mental, emotional, and subjective aspects. The result is another dis-identification, this time from the soul, and identification with the Source or God. Less often using discursive or integral thought processes, one thinks as God, mentally directly knowing. Emotions are experienced as belonging to the singular collective of the immediate moment, not to oneself or another. And one subjectively feels oneself as being, with being experienced as a complete fearlessness, boundary-less merging with all other, while resting in a vast spaciousness of which one and all else is a part. This being is eternally timeless while repeatedly rising from moment to moment. One is a profound unconditional love and peace while not feeling oneself to be other than what is. All the while there is Spirit, presenting as a witnessing awareness, monitoring being. Especially noteworthy is the fact that one’s awareness does not remain in this state of being, individuality and volitional mind return. With right practice the characteristics of witness’ being simultaneously lead to, and are incorporated into the enlightened mind.
Though similar to the witness, the enlightened state of being is a more thorough and enduring presence of Self characterized by awareness without object. One’s subjectivity is being experienced as Oneself as Consciousness that is the origin of, as well as, all that presently exists. This being perceives all as perfection, lives in beauty, and is the aliveness in and radiance of all. Spiritual principles of truth are more deeply and wisely held, extrasensory perception is activated, and one’s actions are regularly and seamlessly guided without thinking. Direct knowing prevails and action may be described as “action without action”, with behavior presenting itself moment to moment as being, without volition or goal. “Emotions are without emotion”, their unique character nullified because they belong to the infinite and all encompassing field. And also because one’s being is comprised of feelings of delight, peace, and bliss. Additionally, because subjectivity is nondual, not-two agency of world and Self, with mind and matter as one, there is the capacity to manipulate physical reality, e.g. siddhis. One lives as timelessness and eternity with an absence of suffering. Being, having now included and transcended the doing of wanting and giving, has emerged as the leading edge conditioned Self of enlightenment.