I became a spiritual teacher 24 years ago, once I found what I was looking for. Up until that point, I had been a deadly serious seeker -- an ardent meditator, as well as a dedicated student. I sought out companions and teachers who shared my passion for Spirit. Typical of my generation, I looked to the East to find illumination rather than to the West. After two and a half years in India, I met my last teacher. He liberated my soul when he uttered 10 simple words: "You don't have to make any effort to be free." Upon hearing this, I made the transition from seeker to finder.
For any one of us who is moved by spiritual inspiration, it is important that we seek wholeheartedly until we find. And once we begin to seek, we must not stop until we are convinced, at the deepest level of our being, of the mystical reality that God, or Spirit, is our own true Self. For some, that might occur in an explosive revelation; for others, in a very quiet moment. However it happens, we will know. And it is at that moment that we have to be willing to take the most important step on the path to liberation: to give up the seeking process forever. There will always be more for us to experience, to understand and to realize. However, once we are convinced of the reality of Spirit, at a soul level, we are no longer seekers. Therefore, we have to take responsibility for what it means to be finders.
As finders, we don't need any more evidence. To use theological language, we no longer have the right to demand that God prove him or herself to us over and over again. It could even be considered unseemly, greedy and, in some cases, immoral for individuals who have been blessed with a direct glimpse of the miraculous to continue to insist on more experiential proof. As I see it, the purpose of mystical experience is to convince us, at a soul level, that our true nature is Spirit -- to convince us so deeply that we are liberated from existential doubt. Why? So we will finally be available to participate, consciously and wholeheartedly, in the greatest gift we've been given... which is the life we are already living right now.
I was deeply struck when Mother Teresa died. Her journals revealed that this remarkable woman, who so many millions revered as an expression of the highest compassion in action, had been living in a state of spiritual torment. While early in life she claimed God had spoken directly to her, since then, her inner experience had been like living in a spiritual desert -- agonizingly apart from her chosen God, bereft of connection to the living source of her very own faith. But did she stop her extraordinary work and demand more proof of God's existence? Did she insist on needing to feel God's love in order to express that love to those in need? Her powerful example reveals what it really means to be a finder.
When we are finders, we no longer have any doubt about who we really are and why we are here on Earth. In our own direct awakening to Spirit's true face, existential doubt dies a sudden and irrevocable death -- liberating an infectious confidence that is rooted deep within our souls. A true finder may or may not continue to engage in spiritual practice. If he or she does, it is motivated only by the desire to continue to evolve for the sake of the evolutionary process itself. Indeed, in evolutionary spirituality, making the noble effort to catalyze our own individual and collective higher development is recognized to be the very raison d'être of human beings at the leading edge. We can only begin to do this when we have given up seeking forever. Then, and only then, will we stop reaching for a spiritual epiphany to convince us of something. We instead make the effort to evolve because we are in love with life and are committed to unlocking its highest potentials through our own development. I have discovered that this potential will only come to the fore when we are no longer trying to become enlightened -- when we have let go of any other option other than to be the expression of the highest we have seen and experienced, in all our imperfection, right now. That's what it means to be a finder.
Andrew Cohen is a Spiritual Teacher on Facebook.