Do you know what spiritual exploration is all about? Learn which inward and outward spiritual disciplines are best for your health, and which ones you should avoid. Find the right tools to make you a freethinker.
Spirituality recognizes there is more to life than the senses and moves our attention to the inner world, which involves the spirit and the soul. Many ancient traditions use the terms spirit and soul to describe this element of the psyche. Today, the word consciousness is used to describe the inner observer of our awareness.
The arena of spirituality can be confusing because it includes so many different points of reference. For that reason, we will define the terms we use.
Exploration is one of the primary drivers of human nature. Even when we sleep, we are investigating our awareness. Our dreams are an exploration of our subconscious mind. So inward spiritual disciplines and outward practices are the tools which help us to fulfill this inherent need for exploration. (1)
What Spiritual Exploration is About
We use the terms spiritual and exploration to describe ancient processes which are used to investigate consciousness. We call them spiritual technologies because they enable us to investigate our spiritual nature. Let’s define the key terms we use to describe what we do. It will clarify how we use the words.
“Through the ages, countless spiritual disciplines have urged us to look within ourselves and seek the truth. Part of that truth resides in a small, dark room — one we are afraid to enter.” — Matthew J. Pallamary
There are two reasons we use the word spiritual to describe our mission and the purposes of these inner methods. First, to honor those who pioneered these methods. Second, these pioneers used spiritual language to describe their processes. We did not want to change the tradition or effectiveness of the methods. We keep the original form of the language maintains the integrity of the processes. Besides, there is no need to change what already works.
The word exploration is a journey through unknown and unexplored territory. I think you’d agree exploring the thread of consciousness and awareness is a unique opportunity to explore unknown territory. It is probably the least explored territory for “modern man.” Many people feel the desire for the inner quest. It is the realm of the spirits. To understand what spiritual exploration is, you need to know what it is not. It has nothing to do with religion or the belief in imaginary friends and enemies. It’s all about using processes.
How Many Spiritual Disciplines Are There?
What is a discipline? The term discipline relates to a specific branch of knowledge. It also means the practice of obedience or training people to obey. This latter point, obedience, is the main objective of Western religion. It is easy to get inward and outward spiritual disciplines mixed up because of how religion frames belief and faith as things of merit.
“A farmer is helpless to grow grain; all he can do is provide the right conditions for the growing of grain. He cultivates the ground, he plants the seed, he waters the plants, and then the natural forces of the earth take over and up comes the grain… This is the way it is with the Spiritual Disciplines — they are a way of sowing to the Spirit. By themselves, the Spiritual Disciplines can do nothing; they can only get us to the place where something can be done.” — Richard J. Foster
So, how many spiritual disciplines are there? The list of spiritual disciplines is almost endless. This is because every action could be considered a discipline. Every religion has a list of things they refer to as disciplines.
Look at the behaviors which religion promotes as disciplines. You find they are tools to make you obedient. These tools fall into two categories, pretending and memorizing. Neither of these promote intellectual or spiritual growth. They serve as glue, which cements you into the sect. Some of the common spiritual practices promoted by religion include:
- The Practice of Fasting
- Paying Your Tithe or Contributions
- Communion rituals
- Worship and praise
- Promoting the religion or Proselytizing
- Pilgrimages to sacred sites
- Demonstrations to support religious policies
- The Perpetration of violence in the name of God
The motivation behind these activities is the hope they have some spiritual significance. And, by doing these things, they gain favor with God. They pretend they are chosen by God to perform good and evil.
How many spiritual disciplines are there? Some religions have thousands of specific things which involve almost every waking moment. For example, Hasidic Jews have laws or Chabad, which spell out every activity in the daily routine. There is not one moment of the day that is not governed by some rule or regulation of their religious discipline.
Inward and Outward Spiritual Disciplines
If you can choose the inward spiritual disciplines you practice, this is a privilege. Many do not have this right. The level of your personal autonomy is the freedom on which all other freedoms depend. Many people are born into religious caste systems which dictate their choices.
Here’s the main point to remember.
Religious disciplines are not spiritual, they are tools to keep you obedient. They are tools to keep you a paying customer.
Freedom of religion starts with the ability to be free from religion. If you have the privilege of choosing your path, you are blessed beyond measure. Almost half of the population of the world can not choose which religion they must practice.
Many people live in cultures dominated by oppressive religious barbarian leaders. There are cultures still use public torture and executions. They punish those who don’t obey as an example for others. If you want to be a freethinker, you must be prudent. You need to maintain the outward appearance of obedience. Chose like-minded partners carefully.
Inward Spiritual Disciplines
In the West, when people hear the term the inward disciplines, they think of things like prayer. In the East, people associate this term with meditation. Prayer is pretending that some divine force with intercede on our behalf. Mediation is about using methods to unlock the doors of consciousness. One is pretending the other is using processes. They differ significantly in practice and intent.
Outward Spiritual Disciplines
Outward methods are behaviors. The things that people do, which they believe have spiritual significance, depend a great deal on your worldview and the things you believe. They can also be actions which, in fact, do cause changes in the body, mind, and spirit.
Internal martial arts like Tai Ke and Tai Chi develop the mind body connection. Many healing practices, like Shiatsu and Pejut, use therapeutic touch. All these practices teach us how to generate and direct internal energy.
Outward actions can also be the result of inner changes. These are the fruit of what we plant in the mind. Such fruit includes a vast range of things, from being friendly and showing compassion on one side to genocide on the other.
The Most Effective Inward And Outward Spiritual Disciplines
Cut to the chase. You don’t need the memorization of dogma and pretending in imaginary friends. You need to practice spiritual technologies. How many spiritual disciplines are there which promote health and growth? Here’s a short list of techniques, many of which you can learn by reading the articles on this website.
What Are Spiritual Technologies?
Spiritual technologies are a group of ancient methods for unlocking human potential. They are the result of eons of research by cultures around the world. These processes stand up to the test of science, being repeatable and measurable. So, anyone who can follow a process can use them. It’s like baking a cake. If you follow the directions, you get something delicious. We call the practice of these processes Spiritual Exploration.
There are many ways to list these inward and outward spiritual disciplines. We like this simple method. And, it’s important to note some of these could be in more than one category:
- The first group are inward spiritual disciplines which enhance critical thinking. There are three articles in this category which help promote sound thinking. First is Rational thinking, which summarizes how argument is used to sell things. The 10 Common Logical Fallacies help us spot the common misuse of argument and logic. The last module is the Spiritual Axioms, which outlines the way to avoid common pitfalls on the path.
The Enneagram is an analytical tool that provides insight into our psyche by helping us to understand the mechanisms of Ego, personality, and instinct. Compared Comparison is a structured form of comparative religious study which helps us understand our beliefs by comparing them with others.
- The second major group of tools is the progressions of seated and moving meditation. Seated meditation is the heart of the spiritual practice. This includes a range from basic Mindfulness Meditation through Japa Meditation and more advanced Siddhis of Patanjali.
The practice of moving meditation helps us strengthen the mind-body connection. It is also an important key to our health and wellness. This progression includes several methods of energy collection, like Forest Bathing, Qigong, and Tai Chi.
- The third group of tools is are for expanding and exploring awareness. This progression includes a range of processes, from Observational Skills, Lucid dreaming, the Shamanic Journey and Guided Meditation, to Third-Eye Awakening and Exploring Memories.
- The fourth group is the natural healing practices. This branch includes healing modalities, such as Pe Jet, Reiki, and Shiatsu.
If you can choose which inward and outward spiritual disciplines you can practice, choose those that are not attached to a religion. Choose tools, not dogma. You need tools which open the doors to higher states of consciousness and enhance your rational thinking abilities. This is what spiritual exploration is all about. These are preferred to those practices which encourage the belief in imaginary friends and enemies.
(1) The Spiritual Disciplines as Practices of Transformation: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/315475412_The_Spiritual_Disciplines_as_Practices_of_Transformation/link/5928b62b0f7e9b9979a3659e/download