Richard Harvey—Psychotherapist, Author and Spiritual Teacher

Richard Harvey

connecting psychotherapy and spiritual growth for human awakening
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Potential, Capacity, and Spiritual Inclination

You have a capacity, a potential, and a depth of expansion to fulfill in this life that you can discover by going “into yourself.” For this, follow the advice of the poet Rilke: “Go into yourself and see how deep the place is from which your life flows.” Whether or not you fulfill it is another matter, but at least you can see, through looking within, the depth of your capacity. Look without judging and it may surprise you. Then live to fulfill that potential and expand into your innate capacity.

If you are really interested in Reality, in truth and love and wisdom and the liberation of all beings in all times and places, my encouragement is this: consider your potential, your capacity, and your inner nature, for they are all distinct and different. Your potential is the latent possibility of all you could become, your innate abilities, and the powers you possess. . Your capacity is the size and scope those possibilities and abilities may extend to, the proportion and degree of your innate contribution and attainment. Your inner nature is the ancient dictum from the process of self-discovery: know yourself. Know yourself in your limitations, with your personal challenges, your individual flavor and distinctive authenticity, because there is no other way to proceed. All that is true and precious will come from your dedication to truth within yourself.

If you have an intuition of God, if your instincts told you when you were young that there was more than this changing world of appearances, then you have an impersonal, immaterial nature, with an inclination toward the spiritual. Probably you have this, as you bought this book, and as you have arrived here reading this sentence. However, it is important that you revisit this aspect of you and meditate on your inner nature and intentions.

If you chose to embrace spirituality, you need to know that it is not enough to have spiritual tendencies, not by any means. You must apply yourself, make life decisions, adhere to your inner commitment, persist, and above all practice spiritually.

More crucial in spiritual practice than what you do is how you do it. Doing anything at all can be done with a purpose or for its own sake. We tend toward an objective when we engage in any activity. Arguably we become so focused on the outcome that we miss being present in the moment. So, to put it plainly, you can walk in order to experience the walking or you can walk in order to get somewhere. When you walk in order to experience the walking you are present in each successive moment, but when you walk in order to get somewhere you are likely to be unaware of the moment because you are intent on the outcome of your walking. Life arises in each moment and you may meet it with absence or with presence.

Spiritual teaching can so often seem so confusing, because the profound is deeply hidden in simplicity. For example, if I say to you just do what you’re doing, you find it hard to hear, hard to understand. You prefer if I give an exercise that promises a positive outcome. Why? Without dissatisfaction, without the ego-accomplishment of achieving, constant journeying, to arrive, to get there, to struggle and seek, the ego withers and dies. This very process of working toward something is the ego in its fertile soil. You are hoping that reading this article will satisfy some ego concern. You think perhaps something you read will spark it off, elevate you, get you thinking in some way different from how you think currently. None or any of these possibilities has anything whatsoever to do with the spiritual, the transcendent, and the Divine. It is all to do with ego.

Just do what you are doing, whatever it is, and dedicate it to your enlightenment, to your awakening, to God, or to yourself. Nothing you do is likely to be so awful that it cannot be consecrated as sacred practice.

My neighbor’s seed shed is rather like the business of soul-caring. Yes, it may be that each of us has a soul, but do we look after it, nourish it, care for it and develop it, grow it, nurture it, and realize it? Yes, in a sense everyone has a soul, but so what? You can have emotions, but plenty of people live an emotionally unengaged life. You can have high aspirations, but plenty of people die without ever realizing them. And you can have a soul, but unless you dedicate your activities to soul pursuits, to sacred and spiritual practices, what difference would it really make if you had one or not?

Of course ego defeating may be seen as a positive outcome of sorts – this is not untrue. However, the goal of defeating an illusion is an illusory goal.

So, if you are inclined to spirituality, you may commit yourself to real spiritual practice and discipline, as serious matters deserve to be taken seriously. You cannot take spirituality less than immensely seriously. If you do, you are either deluded or you are involved in something which is not spirituality, so it will not lead you into a sacred life, an aware life, or the enlightened life. The enlightened life demands everything of you. Nothing can be left behind. It must all go over time; all attachments, all traces of character, personality, and ego clinging must go.

Today many people think they are interested in the spiritual, but they are not. They are interested in caring or sentiment or beautiful ideas or the romance of sadhana or spiritual practice or an idealized thought of enlightenment. There is nothing as insidious and damaging to spirituality than a false image of spirituality that obscures the authentic reality. In the superficial, popularized, and commercialized version of contemporary spirituality false prophets and inauthentic teachers abound, because faced with truth and falsehood, the truth is indistinguishable to most people.

Spiritual practice has been embraced and saccharine-covered with cream and chocolate sprinkles. People speak of beauty and peace and love as if these were the signs of an authentic deep spiritual practice. As anyone who has seriously engaged with spiritual practice will know it is nothing like that. It is a sacrificial fire, a burning ground, a burial site where you walk over the bones of your old self, your deeply-held beliefs, and fantasies of certainty and security, and watch as they rot into the earth and you cry and you rage and call out for mercy, sympathy, anything… as the pain of selfhood and of attachments appears to cling to you like an old skin being slowly peeled off you by the Divine.

Spiritual practice is not merely challenging or hard, it is appallingly confronting of everything in you that you hold dear. Over time, if you see it through, if you are genuine and serious, it brings you to liberation, transcendence, and divinity. Through a serious commitment to spiritual practice you yourself are forfeit, you yourself are not an object of aggrandizement anymore. The price of the liberation and the transcendence is yourself, because the belief in yourself as a separate entity is healed in you. Through sincere spiritual practice, the sense of identity or ego-self goes full circle. You are no longer separate from existence, you are merely a drop of water temporarily separated from the flowing river, suspended for a moment in midair before it falls back into the raging torrent and dissolves into the river on its way to the sea.

Whether meditation, psychotherapy, or some other discipline or practice, inner work puts you at tremendous risk! You are facing the tremendous hazard of changing everything that you thought was real, that you depended on, that you built your life around. Naturally, you are afraid when you first come to inner work. Fear is crucial, fear is natural. You are about to begin a process that will result in the loss of everything you hold dear. So long as you are sincere, you don’t need to worry. You are poised on the edge of a revolution in consciousness.

This article is an excerpt from Richard Harvey’s book Your Divine Opportunity.


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This article was published on this site in January 2024.

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