As with many activities that aim for positive outcomes, distraction is probably the biggest hindrance — a distraction that redirects our energies away from spiritual growth into something else. The subtlety, however, is in just how many forms of distraction there are. Some examples:
1) Gratifying our own ego to feel more important, ethical, disciplined…or indeed “spiritual.”
2) Worrying and obsessing over our spiritual purity, progress, efficacy, etc., to a degree where anxiety and guilt are our predominant emotions.
3) Becoming inflexible, legalistic and black-and-white regarding our certainties: not allowing for nuance, subjective differences, alternate explanations, gradations of truth, etc.
4) Looking for external signs and affirmation that we are “on the right path;” things like synchronicity, affluence, open doors, manifestations of personal will, etc.
5) Becoming preoccupied with future outcomes instead of experiencing the joy of the present moment.
6) Grounding all reasoning, emotions, choices, activities and imagination in an “I/Me/Mine” orientation of self-absorption…with only a veneer of consideration for anyone or anything else.
7) Resisting a felt reality of authentic compassion for self and others, and instead just going through the motions of what generosity, caring and kindness are “supposed” to look like.
Looking outward, instead of inward, for answers.
9) Getting caught up in what everyone else is doing in order to feel comforted and accepted — then rationalizing that it serves a noble end.
10) Operating in “head time” rather than “heart time” or “spirit time;” that is, confusing busyness with carefully considered action, or quickly consuming mass media with gaining wisdom, or rushing to protest injustice with more discerning activism.
11) Forgetting our Divine purpose, and substituting it with the convenient passions-of-the-moment.
So we could attribute some number of these distractions to “the lure of the world,” sure. But would that be an accurate description? Would it really get at the heart of the impedance to what we believe to be spiritual progress…? I think you can probably see the trap here. Our conceptions of what spirituality is “supposed” to look like are just as problematic as other distractions that we attribute to an external cause. Everything that hinders us is a distraction…it is simply a matter of identifying the distractions for what they are, and moving beyond them…letting them go.
Along these lines, I would encourage you to read C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters. He dances neatly through many subtleties of distraction that we often overlook.
My 2 cents.
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