In response to a request to elaborate on our post Millennial Problems: An Open Letter to My Generation I'm expanding upon some suggestions made for Millennial's (or anyone else) on how we can support ourselves in our goals of reaching greater self/spiritual fulfillment. I don't proclaim to have all the answers, and I'd love to hear further suggestions from readers on how you think we can further achieve the level of psycho-spiritual and martial success we seem to desire as a generation. The following are things that have worked for Aaron and me, and others we have met on the path to deeper self-actualization. As with everything we write in this blog take what you want and leave the rest, there's plenty to go around.
1. Abandon Arrogance
We are an arrogant generation. Some of it is deserved. We're good with technology, have an eye for design, and a penchant for knowledge and information. However our arrogance about what we know and our sheepishness about admitting when we don't know is self-defeating. When we move to a place of intellectual arrogance we close down to possibilities. Part of being an adult is about owning your knowledge and expertise, so some of this is age appropriate.
We often consider ourselves wise without the openness that accompanies wisdom and the result is superficial intellectualism without the heart or grace to explore wonder. When we move to a know-it-all space we move into a restrictive mental position where ideas, concepts and possibilities are impossible.In reference to spirituality and self growth this means allowing the wisdom of that which we may not be familiar with to penetrate our mental constructions.
Go to a workshop about something you know nothing about (not related to marketing, technology or social media). Read about the opposite spiritual or universal philosophy than the one you subscribe to (without reading it skeptically). Approach a new idea with wonder instead of intellectual arrogance or skepticism. Admit that you may not know, and then see how much you learn when you drop the know-it-all bit. Synthesize new information with what you already know and find the similarities rather than highlighting the differences.
I touched on this in the original post but I thought it was worth revisiting. We hate to spend too much money or time on knowledge or wisdom. Trust me, I get it. We want our hard earned funds to go toward something with some kind of tangible enjoyment or result, and many of us have spent many many hours in high school, undergrad and graduate school and we think "enough is enough!".
Some of this is a condition created by growing up in a consumerist society, but some of this relates to our belief that information of all kinds should be free, easily accessible and distributable to the masses. This belief has stemmed mostly in part due to the Internet, where all kinds of information is free but while some of it's great, a lot of it sucks.
When talking about gaining knowledge for spiritual growth, there is always a cost. I mentioned in the other post that if one is to grow spiritually one must sacrifice something of value. In non-western cultures spiritual wisdom was earned through commitment to a guru, teacher or practice.
The kind of knowledge that was dispensed was not meant for the masses, it was meant for the serious student. We don't like "teachers" or "mentors" and many books have been written on the Western abandonment of the spiritual guide. Most agree that the result is a bunch of uninitiated spiritual generalists running around feigning spiritual depth with little dedication.
In the Western world in particular we value our time and our money (although as more cultures become capitalistic this is changing globally). We're quick to buy a new iPhone or gadget but hesitate to pay for things like a self-growth workshop or spiritual or mental health coaching. We sacrifice for the material while neglecting the inner world. Millennials are notorious for wanting everything for free. I also recognize that some of this is economically motivated since many of us are new to the workforce so funds are naturally limited. However, much of this is ideological and indicative of our entitlement. They don't call us the "me" generation for nothing.
I speak from experience on this one, I hated paying for information or knowledge (why pay when you can find it online right?). But when I met my spiritual mentor I had to come face to face with my generational entitlement when presented with my first opportunity to go to a spiritual retreat in France. I wanted the information and the experience but I wanted it for free.
I was actually upset that my mentor had the nerve to charge for this spiritual wisdom and experience that she could have easily given me in one of our coaching sessions (failing to recognize that she had already given me so much already). When I figured out how to sacrifice a little of my immediate comfort and face my entitlement head on I realized I was risking a lifetime of knowledge and wisdom for the sake of my comfort.
Now having attended multiple workshops, seminars, retreats and hundreds of hours of my own personal coaching and study I've never looked back at the money and time I've dropped to gain access to that invaluable esoteric and spiritual wisdom. I value what I've learned through the trainings, workshops and retreats I've had with my spiritual teachers and spiritual family more than any possession I have because it feeds my soul.
We are a generation of drifters. We don't like to commit to much of anything for too long because we are riddled with ADD. We've been spoiled by a television and ad culture that fed us rapidly shifting images so that we never had to stick with anything for too long. We want what we want quickly and then we're done with it once the shine has worn off.
I'm totally guilty of this when it comes to material possessions, I want the new phone or whatever when it comes out just as much as the next guy. However, I learned that when we practice the same kind of flippant commitment phobia in reference to our personal or spiritual journeys we really do ourselves a disservice.
Aaron and I spent many years chasing after some kind of deeper meaning through every imaginable system we could get our hands on (yoga, postmodern philosophy, Vendanta, personality theories, shamanism, astrology, integral theory) you name it, we chased it. I'm grateful for that searching process because it exposed us to many different ways to approach our own personal spiritual journeys and has afforded us a wide range of knowledge in different traditions and disciplines in order relate better to clients and people in general.
However, when we found our true spiritual paths via the empathetic and compassionate guidance of our spiritual mentors (one that incidentally successfully integrates all of our previous interests) we were still reluctant to commit ourselves emotionally and mentally to deepening that practice because we realized we were trying to circumvent disappointment.
I think this fear of disappointment is something everyone in our generation (and in general) can relate to. We don't commit because if we become enmeshed in a spiritual practice we fear we will be let down, misled, or duped. Embarking on any kind of journey takes commitment and courage. So whether you are planning that trip to India or thinking about starting a daily yoga practice commit. The more we half-ass the less benefit we will receive.
Set the intention to pour yourself into something and put the energetic focus into that thing. If it's not right for you, you'll know (if you're in touch with your intuition). This doesn't mean you don't remain open.
I think modern spirituality is about synthesizing multiple perspectives, but beware of superficial spiritual "tasting" and never committing to a meal. It's fine to sample, smart in fact, but you miss the richness of the full course if you never sit down and commit to the feast.
4. Rediscover Wonder
Spirituality, self-help and personal growth have become cliché's for our generation. Some of this is due to the Tony Robbins version of spirituality that is really just a repackaging of the "pull yourself up with your bootstraps" American "go-get em" rhetoric we've heard for years. Self help and spiritual growth have been Inappropriately associated with a highly commoditized culture full of aspirational one liners and superficial quick-fixes. Unfortunately spirituality in the West has been boiled down to "the power of intention" so that you can "manifest" whatever you want (which is usually self-serving and monetary).
So I can understand why pursuing spiritual or personal depth can seem well...lame. But I think we've thrown the baby away with the bath water. Our cynicism and skepticism due to the commodification and trivializing of the spiritual journey will have a lasting effect.
My fear is that we will be a generation without deep meaning and when we're 70 won't know where to turn to reconcile the mysteries of life because everything was discarded or thrown out. One way to reprogram the "spirituality as bunk" trope is to demand depth in spiritual and self help information.
Don't fall victim to the spiritual quick-fix myth. Recognize that spiritual and self-development is a life-long journey, not a 350 page read or 2 hour webinar. Be open to discussing your philosophical or spiritual questions with trusted friends. Don't be afraid to look unintellectual when you want to discuss supposedly irrational or scientifically implausible phenomena. Work with a spiritual guide, mentor or teacher you trust or respect. Be vulnerable and fearless simultaneously.