Will Spiritual Manifestation Bring True Happiness?
By Tasha Friedman
You are the author of your own life. The divine power of creation and dissolution is in your hands: how will you use it?
In contemporary environments, genuine spirituality has been conflated with, and mostly overshadowed by, popular interest in spiritual manifestation.
This term is somewhat amorphous, but generally trends towards using spiritual understanding to create a different reality in the earthly manifested realm.
Many practices and concepts have been co-opted as tools for personal fulfillment: learn to control your mind and the subtle workings of the Universe so you can attract the right partner, more money, build your “conscious business,” or express yourself in art with a spiritual flavor.
All well and good, but is this really the point of spiritual practice? Or does the path lead to something far more profound?
What Is the Goal of a Spiritual Life?
It’s helpful to look at established traditions when dealing with questions on the meaning and goal of spirituality, not just at what people are talking about now or what’s been shared in recent years.
The spiritual drive is as old as humanity. Searching for something beyond ourselves, for meaning in the chaotic movement of the Universe, for a more profound truth—this impulse is inherent to our nature, perhaps what makes us human to begin with.
So much alienation and suffering in today’s world comes from the denial of this impulse. We want to be clever, sophisticated, modern people, exalting the intellect over superstition and the confines of traditional religion. But, if we lose that sense of mystery in the process, we also lose the beauty and wonder of life.
The great spiritual teachers and masters left directions for us to follow in their footsteps, sometimes clear and detailed, sometimes more cryptic, but always pointing to the same truth.
Ramana Maharshi described the spiritual path very simply and directly:
“We loosely talk of Self-realization, for lack of a better term. But how can one realize or make real that which alone is real? All we need to do is to give up our habit of regarding as real that which is unreal. All religious practices are meant solely to help us do this. When we stop regarding the unreal as real, then reality alone will remain, and we will be that.”
The Buddha also emphasized this awakening to the reality of existence as the most important aspect of human life:
“Better it is to live one day seeing the rise and fall of things than to live a hundred years without ever seeing the rise and fall of things.
“Better it is to live one day seeing the Deathless than to live a hundred years without ever seeing the Deathless.
“Better it is to live one day seeing the Supreme Truth than to live a hundred years without ever seeing the Supreme Truth.” (Dhammapada, 8:112-115)
You will find little about manifesting your best life or living your dreams in their words. The point of these teachings is precisely the opposite: to go beyond the “you” who wants to manifest things, who desires, and who has a personal agenda.
Going beyond Personal Desires
The Buddha (and many others) taught that desire is the root of suffering. Desire itself arises from ignorance of our True Nature. When we don’t feel this completion within ourselves, we seek it in external objects, running after the things we want and away from things we don’t.
Disappointment is inevitable when we make our happiness dependent on something outside of ourselves.
But what does it mean to go beyond desire? Are we supposed to become cold and indifferent?
Not at all! Desire is the force that motivates all action. We will never be devoid of it, nor should we be. In Tantric yoga, desire is the Supreme Goddess Herself: the pure will to exist, to create, and to manifest the Universe, from which everything is born.
If we want lasting happiness, we should simply let go of the personal aspect of desire.
Drop the attachment. Drop the running after ideas and projections. And drop the belief that any object or experience can in itself make you happy or unhappy.
How many desires have you already fulfilled in your life, whether through spiritual manifestation, sheer effort, or good luck? How many of them are still bringing you enjoyment at this very moment?
How many only brought more suffering?
How many times have you postponed your happiness, feeling as if you can’t enjoy life until you’ve achieved this or that?
Drop the “me” who wants this or that, and exist as you truly are: Pure Awareness, Pure Love, the open space of the Present Moment without boundaries or limitations.
Life Unfolds Free from Goals and Desires
Life will not grind to a halt without the ego’s involvement. It continues to unfold just as it always has, only without effort and struggle. Things simply happen, in a mysterious dance of grace.
You can still make plans, have projects and goals, and create. You can laugh and cry, fall in love, make great art, heal yourself, heal others, and quit your job and move to a new country if that’s what you want.
The only difference is that somehow these external expressions cease to be the most important thing. They are beautiful and meaningful within themselves, but they lack that weight and solidity that made you contract around them.
Whether your plans go perfectly or end up in shambles, that peace and freedom within you remains all the same.
Longing for Dissolution or Embodiment
Some souls want to be free, and nothing else will satisfy them.
You might feel you’ve been on the merry-go-round long enough and that you’re ready to get off. You may recognize that although all those projects and dreams might be joyful and exciting, they are not what really matters.
Your heart is set on something beyond all of it, something you can never describe, but beside which all the concerns and the things that other people care so much about fade away into nothing.
You don’t care about accomplishing any goals or even being happy in an ordinary sense: you would throw it all into the fire just for one touch of Truth.
Does this speak to you? Look bravely and honestly into yourself, beyond what you have learned to want.
Maybe this longing is alive in you, or just germinating from seeds under the other desires you still hold. When you find it, you might also find your whole life shifting to orbit around it.
Or maybe your deepest longing is to live your human life to its fullest: to have an open heart, to express and create, to bring more love and joy to this world, and continue the journey one step at a time, one foot in front of the other.
This is also divine, when it comes from awareness and authenticity. We are all born into a different karmic configuration, with a different path and experience to play out. There is no point in trying to walk a path that is not your own.
Just be willing to look, look again, and keep looking.
Honoring the Depth of Human Life
Yet even if your heart isn’t yet leaning towards that total transcendence, your life will only become more beautiful by detaching from your ego and its stories.
Let your breath be taken away by the simple beauty of nature and the people around you. You will see more clearly, and you will be more present, more loving and compassionate towards yourself and others.
When you manifest whatever comes from the depth of your heart, you will be a clear channel for that gift to flow into the world. You can watch it take form and dissolve, holding it with love and detachment, as an expression of the divine dance of creation—while at the same time, you can see beyond it all.
This life is a precious gift. You can use it to create anything you can imagine and be anything you can dream of. Yet most precious of all is the possibility to be no one: to be absolutely free, unlimited, and alive in the deepest sense.
The invitation of human life, which all genuine spiritual traditions lead towards, is to recognize this potential and settle for nothing less. All other dreams and desires come and go like passing seasons. This one alone remains beyond the fluctuations of the mind and emotions, beyond even the confines of life and death.
Tasha is a Hridaya Yoga teacher and a frequent contributor to our blog. You can read all of her posts here.