The other day I read an article in which the author left the U.S. for a job and found acceptance for her introverted personality in another country. Through working in a different culture, she discovered that her way of being in the world was not universally applicable. Here in America, she explains, extroverts are celebrated, and introverts are criticized. Moments of quiet are often viewed as problematic; they are filled in with noise as quickly as possible. In her new home, it is the other way around. Loud, grinning people are looked at with suspicion.
I could totally relate to this, but in a spiritual way. Culture/personality and spirituality are intricately linked. The religions that arise out of a particular culture contain features of that culture. For example, the expressive worship practices in native African religions, and in African-American houses of worship, reflect our deeply spiritual and expressive tendencies. The more quiet and introspective religions of the East reflect those cultures’ tendencies toward quiet introspection and formality. And, as I mentioned in another post, the Law of Attraction spin-offs appeal to the American tendency toward consumerism, individuality, and self-fulfillment. This is why when invading nations try to impose their religion on their subjects, it is, necessarily, a difficult and tedious process. The conquerors are forcing people to change their cultural personality, their entire ancestral way of viewing the world. It is a (spiritually) violent process.
Fortunately, in America, freedom of religion is the ideal. There are a smorgasbord of spiritual disciplines to choose from. I recently left my former spiritual home for several reasons. But the primary reason was that I found myself trying to force my square self into a round hole. I was in a Law of Attraction type group. However, my personality is more suited to the spiritual practices of the East. I am a long time meditator. I am an introvert. And I am totally absorbed in the process of spiritual growth. I am not fascinated by outward displays of success. I tend to crave quiet and frequent solitude. I do not feel it is necessary to scream or shout in order to demonstrate my enthusiasm, and I cringe when I’m asked to shout on command. As an introvert, I often have to fake extroversion in order to make other people comfortable, and I can do that. But in my spiritual home, I do not wish to fake anything. I want acceptance in an environment that will also push me to become my best self.
In my new spiritual home, a Buddhist temple, I am able to be my real self. I can be friendly without being “bubbly.” I can express my gratitude to the spiritual teacher with a hug or a bow and a “thank you,” without being asked to scream or stamp my feet. And I can give whatever time and money I desire, without the suggestion of what percentage I need to give in order to get “returns.” All spiritual paths contain some truth. But in order to mature spiritually, we must practice the one that nurtures and supports who we are and what our goals are. My goal is enlightenment, also known as Ultimate Happiness, and I am on a path to achieve it.
But it can still be hard to leave a spiritual home that we have outgrown. Like a bad relationship, there is a comfort level that comes from hanging out, even in dysfunctional situations. However, life is brief and this current human incarnation is very important. Like a plant needs the right soil, we too need to be planted where we can best grow, and serve. There is a special feeling of freedom that comes from being at home. I wish this same freedom for all of you.