Have you ever told yourself, “If only I would _____, I would _____.”?
If only I’d exercise daily…. I’d know I’m fully aligned.
If only I’d remember to set your intentions… I’d know I’m on the right path.
If only I were making fix figures… I’d know I’ve made it.
If only I had 100K followers… I’d know I’d be living up to my full potential.
Who would you become if you had all of your spiritual ducks in a row, so to speak?
Would you be perfectly healthy?
Would all of your intimate relationships be happy and harmonious?
Would you have clear skin and shiny hair?
Would your next book hit the New York Times bestseller list?
Would you be successful and rich?
We might trace the origins of such an idea to the Christian West.
We have all seen those evangelical TV preachers who say, “Jesus promises you a big house and a big car, if only you would accept him as your Savior!”
A lot of people who consider themselves sophisticated laugh at that, thinking that they are above such silly expectations.
But we are most likely products of that same culture.
Eastern spirituality makes no claims to make you fitter and richer.
Most people have heard of the idea of ‘karma’. But contrary to popular understanding, karma doesn’t mean, “you did a bad thing, and now you will be punished.”
It means that everything is cyclical and interconnected, as opposed to linear or binary.
Eastern traditions say that, even in a perfect spiritual world, there is no “overcoming” of evil by Good.
There is no “overcoming” of illness by health, no “overcoming” of alienation by popularity, no “overcoming” of poverty by fabulous success.
There is no ‘salvation’ and everlasting redemption, because there is no ‘fallenness’, no state of ‘sin’.
You cannot call summer good and winter bad, if you cannot have summer without winter.
You cannot call light good and darkness bad, if you cannot have day without night.
No polarity, no separation.
All is ever-changing, and any state is equal to any other.
Because spirituality is not an ATM machine, there is no quid pro quo of, “Do this, so that you can be rewarded with that.”
If we take a dispassionate stance and observe the world around us, it becomes clear that some of us are successful, others will not be.
Some of us are beautiful, others less so.
Health comes, then illness comes, then death comes.
Empires rise and fall with the faithfulness of the sun.
Being wealthy, healthy and beautiful has nothing to do with anything.
It does not mean; “You’ve really made a good effort; the gods approve and you get an A+.”
It is just something that happens.
Just as, if you are sick and poor and lonely, that does not mean you are a bad person being punished, and you need to try harder.
This, too, is something that happens.
What is, simply is.
In the East, people pray and divine and make offerings in order to see the truth that all things are equal, to take nothing personally, and to be one with the great circle of life.
I keep these truths close to my heart.
Someday, I will be sick and I will be dead. Someday, I might even be poor and alone. I hope and pray not, but life is such that one cannot predict these things.
And I’ll know I’m practicing my Eastern spirituality right when I can say, to my dirty homeless body,
“Ah, it is as it is.”
Simone Grace Seol is an oracular creator based in Seoul. She is descended from Buddhist teachers and shamans who traversed realms beyond death.