Updated: Jul 14, 2019
“Hey Jim, sometimes I get overwhelmed still, with all these doctrines, theologies, philosophies and different ways of thinking that I forget to listen to that little voice in my own head. I'm constantly reading articles and listening to podcasts and it brings me out of touch with my own reality and it's overwhelms me with information overload! I find myself getting stressed out, and I know that's not what God wants for me. My question is, how do I simplify life in this age of over complication? How can I stop searching for the "right belief" and just learn to be? This is all really taking me out of the moment, I have so much trouble with the here and now when I'm constantly trying to philosophize life. I mean, is it even possible to know truth while we're humans? It seems to all just be subjective opinions. I really look forward to hearing back and thanks for giving us an opportunity to ask questions.”
Thanks for your question. Here are a few thoughts that come to mind.
First off, you should be commended for being a person with highly developed self-awareness. That’s extraordinary! Self-awareness is the first step in creating what you want and mastering your life. There are many things you are aware of: (1) forgetting to listen to that little voice in your head; (2) dependency upon these external sources of spiritual data that leave you out of touch with your own reality and produce feelings of overwhelm; (3) realization that something is off when spiritual pursuits cause stress; (4) desire to simplify your life and spiritual journey; (5) the need to let go of the need to construct “right beliefs” and find spiritual fulfillment from inhabiting your real, authentic and innermost self; (6) spotting the conflict of being present to your life as it unfolds and simultaneously stepping out of your life to philosophize about it; (7) recognition that the whole concept of “absolute truth” isn’t what it’s all cracked up to be.
Well, all I can to all that is: Congratulations! You already know everything necessary to move forward on your journey. Let’s take each of those 7 things you already know and formulate an action step for each one. These are just suggestions. Brainstorm and explore more that are meaningful for you:
(1) Keep a daily “little voice journal” and jot down a few deep thoughts and feelings that bubble up from that place inside you. Perhaps don’t think of that place as your “head” but something more along the lines of your innermost self and heart.
(2) Shift your spiritual focus from consuming data to other pursuits such as: what makes you come alive; what satisfies you most deeply; what fills you up; what brings you joy what centers you; what need in the world moves you to action; what areas, fields, or subjects are you interested in exploring; what makes you feel connected to yourself; what forms of self-expression are the most gratifying; what would your sense of adventure tell you to do; where in life are you inspired to be a tangible expression of love, acceptance, and compassion; what nurtures a greater love for yourself and others.
(3) Whatever you are doing in your quest for a deeper spirituality that is a source of stress, STOP doing it. My only caveat is that some aspects of personal growth can involve getting out of your comfort zone and can be uncomfortable. But I think you know the difference.
(4) Identify and implement 3 ways that you feel would make the biggest difference in simplifying your human existence, approach to life, spiritual journey, or daily routine or flow.
(5) I wrote in Notes from (Over) the Edge,
“Has debating your theological positions gotten you any closer to bringing an end to your suffering? Is there more peace and freedom in your life as a result of being “right”?
You’ve been told the importance of “knowing the Truth,” and how there’s a menu of options to scrutinize and choose from. You’ve been warned to choose cautiously, the necessity of getting it “right,” the consequences of getting it “wrong.” Is the truth behind door #1, door #2, or door #3?
You must rethink your entire way of approaching the matter of Truth. Currently you have it framed in the idea of having “correct beliefs,” and you think this is what matters. But how would you even know if you achieved having “correct beliefs”? Who decides? For the Christian, “correct beliefs” to one denomination or church are “wrong beliefs” to another, and both will argue that their interpretation is the right or “biblical” one.
Forget the heady and ego-gratifying search to “know Truth.” Divest your energy from the drama of being right. Correct beliefs are the Booby prize. What you are after is the end of your suffering.
Dismiss the idea entirely that the road to Truth is paved with correct beliefs. A belief is a state of mind in which an individual holds a proposition or premise to be true. You are not going to uncover the Truth by constructing new beliefs in your head because Truth is not a belief in your head.
Truth is not an idea, a doctrine, a theory, or a position. Truth cannot be found in a book or on a screen. Truth is not a concept in your mind. It can’t be transmitted through words or grasped by the intellect. Truth is not an answer to a multiple-choice, true or false, or fill-in-the-blank question. There is no essay brilliant or long enough to elucidate it.
You cannot know the Truth through your mind. It is that simple. Quit trying.
Jesus spoke of a peace that is not as the world gives, and one that is beyond all comprehension. He said that when you know the Truth you will be free, which includes freedom from the never-ending conundrum of constructing correct beliefs.
If you could have gotten to true and lasting peace through the work of your mind, you would have done so by now.
The fixation of comprehending spiritual things on a cognitive level is largely a Western idea. Westerners insist on packaging up the infinite and unknowable into a system of intellectual ideas, propositions, concepts, and beliefs. It’s a bonus if you can reduce it into a short creed and fit it onto on the back of a church pamphlet.
Westerners idolize the mind and imbue it with powers that the mind simply does not have. We think that somehow the mind defines the limits and boundaries of life. We take offense to the thought that the mind has significant limitations. Outside the West, the idea that God and Truth is something you work out in the machinations of the mind would be considered ridiculous.”
It is fine to enjoy and gain insight from various thoughts and readings that are spiritual or philosophical in nature but don’t make a goal to create a new belief system or pour concrete over your latest discovery. You might also find this useful.
(6) The idea of “being present in the moment” sounds right but can be a little elusive and frustrating when seeking to apply it. It can come across as though one should stop and have some sort of deep or spiritual experience. Instead, consider the possibility that the spiritual life is simply responding to situations as they require. If you need to walk from your kitchen to your bedroom, it’s not necessary to stop at each step and “be present in the moment” and have a “spiritual experience.” Life itself is spiritual and no moment needs you to do anything to add the spirituality to it. There are some moments, such as catching a beautiful sunset, when you experience deep feelings and feel a greater connection to God and life. But no not suppose that such a moment is more “spiritual” than walking from your kitchen to the bedroom. It’s only that the two situations were different, inviting two different responses. Your life is your spiritual path… every part of it.
(7) Rather than become fixated or caught up in the idea of “absolute truth,” let yourself simply be curious and mindful of the unity of knowledge that exists in our universe. I have found that the more I explore different fields of study/branches of knowledge or am more observant and reflective of my daily experiences that I bump into profound and universal truths that are meaningful in many different ways. Don’t make a new religion from what you learn and find, just be grateful and allow these discoveries to become a part of who you are and your experience of the world.
So, the bottom line is this… you’re doing great, you’ll be fine, and you have a level of self-awareness that will help guide you forward. The best thing you have going for you is… YOU! Trust yourself. That little voice has a lot to say. Listen to it.