While most people have a reasonable grasp of what is meant by mind, many may argue about what is meant by soul or spirit. Psychologists have come up with many words such as ego, id, self, consciousness, sub-conscious, all trying to express different aspects of our inner self. When I talk about 'spirit' I mean that aspect of us with which we identify as 'I', that what thinks, feels, and speaks, when we do so. More importantly, it is that what drives us to action, i.e. that what makes us actualize, express our 'selves'.
Our spirit has a 'will' to live, to act, to do, to make things happen. It has an 'attitude'. It is 'happy', regardless the circumstances. It is, so to speak, free from body, emotions, and mind. It is as if, when we are born, we are encapsulated in this tiny little body, that we have to train to make it serve us in our quest. That quest is in our spirit. The body we were born with, our circumstances, our environment all make up our karma. It is the task of our spirit to match our quest with our karma, so they work harmoniously together, instead of throwing us into confusion, fear, and anger.
There is only one problem: What is our 'quest'? It takes all our life to find out 'who' we are, to 'know ourselves', to find out 'what we are to do', 'what we came for on this earth', i.e. 'what our quest is'. Our spirit knows the quest, but cannot put it in words. It puts it in inner voices, feelings, desires, wants, sensations of comfort and discomfort, happiness, uneasiness, attitude.
What do we make of our life and how we look for self actualization depends on how we permit our spirit to speak up. Also, on how we listen, how we let it guide us, on how open we are to its quest. We are driven by our spirit to act, to develop ourselves, to learn. Inaction, in contrast, is paralysis, which leads to stagnation, to waste the time we have in our life to accomplish our task.
Learning about spiritual development is a mental exercise, done by contemplation. But applying it is spiritual actualization. The latter is done by meditation. Meditation can done in many different ways. Essential in each method is to bring the mind to a state of quietness, emptiness, so we can listen to our spirit, and find out about our quest and its relation to our karma.
"Balony", I can hear some say: "you are the product of your inherited traits, and your environment, what you take for your spirit is nothing else than the sub-conscious residue of your mind's notions." "What drives you is what you have programmed your mind for, in earlier stages of your life." And I will agree that often that is what drives us, what motivates us, what makes us act, most of the time.
'Mental hygiene' is the exercise of cleansing the mind from old and especially detrimental programs. Positive thinking is the exercise of removing negative thoughts that have been programmed in at various times in our life. We can reprogram ourselves to operate in a more agreeable way. So what is the difference between the program in your mind and your spirit? Is spirit that what guides us in developing our own new and improved program?
Again, only meditation can tell, which brings us to our next topic.