Three facets of spirituality

Spirituality can refer to many different things.

When I look at the type of spirituality I am most familiar with, I find three facets. And one, two, or three of them can be present at once, it seems, and in any combination.

First, there is fascination. We can be fascinate by many things, including the idea of what we may get out of spirituality (awakening, healing, peace, good rebirth), our own path and experiences (insights, dreams, glimpses), the stories in the tradition (cosmology, teaching stories), the teacher (personality, what they represent), more peripheral aspects such as reincarnation, supernatural powers, and auras, or even more peripheral things such as astrology, foreseeing the future, reincarnation, and also anything unexplained and weird such as UFOs, crop circles, ghosts and so on.

Fascination can be very helpful. It can make us feel good, hopeful, and inspired. It can help us stay with a path. It can be a needed temporary escape from problems. And it brings up projections, inviting us to find here what we see over there.

There are some possible drawbacks here as well, such as getting caught up in wishful thinking, using it as a long-term strategy of escape, and taking leave of common sense.

And there is a remedy: Noticing and working actively with the projections behind fascinations. Perhaps the easiest tool to use is The Work. I can look at where I experience stress, find the belief behind it, and then inquire into it. And I can also find beliefs by asking myself what do I hope to get out of this? Which beliefs do I have that creates this fascination? Why is this (whatever I am fascinated by) important to me? What I am afraid would happen if I didn’t have this (the idea of reincarnation, the teacher, the experiences)? What am I afraid may happen in general?

The second facet is maturing. The aim of healing and maturing as a human being in the world. For me, this is the most important facet. It is realistic. We can all do it. It is here and now. It is a process rather than a specific goal in the future. We find satisfaction, well-being, and a sense of connection and meaning through it. And we live in a way that is of more benefit to ourselves and the wider world. Almost everything we want from spirituality can be found through maturing. It fills the holes we try to fill through almost any hole-filling activity in our life. It satisfies the neediness that often lies behind spirituality and many other slightly compulsive activities.

There are not many drawbacks of this approach. Usually, there are benefits all around.

Finally, for those with a special interest, there is awakening. What we are – or rather, reality – awakening to itself. This is for those who cannot help it. For those where there is that quiet longing for truth, God, or Reality. It may be a more technical facet to work on. It requires more precision. More dedication.

It comes with an obvious drawback. It can become too focused on the awakening, to the exclusion of the ordinary healing and maturing mentioned above.

And the remedy is as above: Working with projections. What do I hope to get out of awakening? What am I afraid would happen if it doesn’t come to pass? What do I see in the ones I think of as awakened? Is it true it is not already here?

It is a path with many possible twists and turns, and yet, we are fortunate since many tools helps us work at all three facets simultaneously. The ones I am most familiar with include: Various forms of inquiry, such as The Work and exploring sense fields. Various ways of working with projections, such as The Work. Allowing experience, as is, in everyday life (can I be with what I am experiencing now?) and through sitting practice such as shikantaza and choiceless awareness. Prayer, contemplative practices, and visualization. Practices for stabilizing attention, which is a support for any other practice we engage in. And living from more integrity.


  • types and effects of spirituality
    • fascination
      • feel good, hopeful, inspired
      • projections
      • possible drawbacks: wishful thinking, misguided, leave common sense
    • maturing
      • maturing as a human in the world
      • most important – find satisfaction, sense of connection and meaning, live more for the benefit of oneself and the wider world
      • possible drawbacks: not many, usually benefits all around
    • awakening
      • what we are noticing itself
      • for people w. special interest, if cannot help it
      • more technical
      • possible drawbacks: if becomes all-or-nothing, if overlook the human side (healing/maturing)
    • three facets
      • one, two, or three may be present at once
    • limited to one tradition, or not


When I look at the type of spirituality I am most familiar with, I find three facets. And either one, or a combination of either two, or all three can be present simultaneously.


Fascination comes from projections, and there is no problem there. But if we get blindly caught up in strong projections, it

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