Cave-Free Spirituality

February 2nd, 2006 by Steve Pavlina

Silly beliefs sometimes steer people away from the pursuit of spiritual development and higher awareness.  One of those is the belief that the pinnacle of spiritual evolution is to become a hermit-like cave guru who’s completely withdrawn from active participation in the world and basically does nothing but meditation and fasting.

While some spiritual seekers eschew the modern world and withdraw into solitude, there’s no reason you must share this type of lifestyle if you choose to pursue higher awareness.  Personally I think withdrawing from the world like that is a cop-out.  How spiritually advanced are you if you can only experience bliss in complete isolation?  I’d give a lot more credit to someone who could feel complete oneness on a Manhattan street corner.

I consider myself a deeply spiritual person, but I have no interest in cave life.  In fact, I absolutely love living in Las Vegas.  You might think Sin City is about as unspiritual as you can get, but I actually find it’s just the opposite.  Just go to one of the casinos and look at all the people praying for the right cards and dice to come up. 

Actually it may surprise you that Vegas has more churches per capita than any city in America.  Perhaps they’re counting all the wedding chapels.

A fun element of pursuing spirituality in Vegas is that you have virtually every human vice all in one place.  Gambling is ubiquitous even outside the smoky casinos – even the grocery stores and restaurants have slot machines, and the Vegas airport is full of them.  Free alcohol flows 24 hours a day.  And of course there are the gluttonous buffets, the topless dancers, the strip clubs, and the call girls.  It’s hard to ignore the presence of the casinos, since the Strip is visible from just about anywhere in the city.  I can look outside my bedroom window and see the Luxor Hotel’s powerful light beam shooting off into outer space; when driving at night, it even acts as a navigational beacon.  But with so much excess, there’s an honesty about it.  Nothing is bad or wrong – it’s all just a choice.  If you want to drink, gamble, and watch naked women all day, no one is going to stop you or judge you for it.  The doors are wide open.  And strangely I find that this open shamelessness makes Vegas a very conscious place to live.  With fewer social inhibitions, fear is somewhat removed from the equation, so what you’re left with is a more pure form of free choice.

I find Vegas to be a truly amazing place in which to pursue spiritual development.  With such an abundance of energy here, it’s a very vibrant place to live.  The vast majority of my local friends chose to move here at some point – very few were actually born here.  And because there was a conscious choice involved (both for those who live here and those who visit each year), somehow I feel this elevates the consciousness of the whole place.

Almost immediately after my wife and I moved here in January 2004, we noted that the people behaved differently than their counterparts in Los Angeles.  This was especially true of service personnel like grocery clerks, waiters, and salespeople.  I’m referring to the non-tourist residential part of town, miles away from the Strip.  At first we thought we were just experiencing some kind of new resident syndrome, but after several trips back to L.A., we confirmed the difference.  The typical Vegas dwellers we met seemed a lot happier and even more aware than people who worked similar jobs in L.A.

I actually feel the vibrant energy of this place has enhanced my spiritual pursuits.  Vegas has been the fastest growing city in the USA for years now, so with all this fresh energy flowing into the city, I think there’s more motivation for people to reach out and make new social connections.  And this greater desire for social connection is something I find has greatly enhanced my spiritual growth.  I found it extremely easy to make new friends here, and this social connection helps drive my spiritual development. 

While it’s possible to pursue spiritual development in isolation, I think it’s even better to pursue it through interaction with other people.  If we’re all spiritually connected anyway, then why not explore that connection through direct interaction with other human beings?  As my wife likes to say, “Everyone holds their own piece to the puzzle.”

Personal relationships can be a tremendous source of spiritual growth.  While it’s possible for us to fall out of touch with reality if we spend too much time alone, that’s less likely with abundant social interaction.  If we become too impractical in our thinking, the people around us will tell us we’ve gone off the deep end.

My opinion is that the pursuit of spirituality is really the pursuit of accuracy, where our goal is to develop the most accurate model of reality we can.  If we fail to include other human beings in this model, we toss away too much potentially valid information, so our model will be doomed to inaccuracy.  Spirituality is really understanding.  The more accurate your understanding of reality, the more spiritual I would say you’ve become.

If the pursuit of spirituality causes you to lose the ability to function in the modern world, then I’d say you’ve taken a wrong turn.  Genuine spirituality should be immensely practical.  If your model of reality is accurate, then you shouldn’t have to escape reality to feel whole and complete.  You should be able to function even better than the average person, especially when confronted with modern day challenges.

It isn’t necessary to pursue spiritual development in isolation.  Yes, quiet reflection now and then is wonderful, as is meditation.  But this should be combined with abundant social interaction.  Allow yourself to gain spiritual lessons both from your inner world and your outer world.  Sometimes your answers will come from silence; other times they’ll come from communication.  Listen to both channels.



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