Questions for Reflection and Spiritual Self-Assessment
"I beg you . . . to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then someday far in the future you will gradually, without ever noticing it, live your way into the answer.
— Rainer Maria Rilke
"The questions that follow are not a test. Instead, they are invitations to self-reflection. Whether one has a clear answer, a murky answer, or no answer is as it is. The questions are couched in the first person to indicate that they are posed to the reader, and the answers that matter most are answers coming from the reader's own experience. Most of the questions are enduring questions, and responses to them probably evolve over time. Don't be discouraged if answers don't appear immediately. Return often to the questions, with openness and honesty, and see what happens. It may also be helpful to explore questions of particular interest with a group of spiritual friends that meets periodically for this purpose.
What is my spiritual nature?
"What is my essential nature? Is there an eternal part of me? What is my source? Where does my consciousness/awareness come from? If there is 'that of God' or 'the Absolute' in me, how do I experience this aspect?
"What is spirituality? Is there a part of my experience that I would label 'spiritual'? What qualifies an experience to be called 'spiritual'? Is spirituality a capacity for a certain type of experience? How do spiritual experiences interact with other experiences I have? Is spiritual experience something separate or is it a quality that can accompany all experiences? or can it be both?
"Is there a part of me that is especially sensitive to spiritual experiences? Can the mind have a spiritual experience? the body? How are emotions related to spiritual experience? Is there something in me beyond body and mind?
"Do I have a spiritual center? If so, is it in the body, in consciousness, in the mind, in all three, or beyond all of these, or all of the above? Is there more to the mind than thought? Are emotions manifested through the body?
"Is spirituality a quality of being that underlies all other experience? (Compare a computer program that runs in the background.) If so, how do I know about this aspect of spirituality? If spirituality is a quality of being, are there different grades or shades or levels of it?
"How do I know these things?
"What does it mean to grow spiritually?
"Do I aspire to grow spiritually? If so, what supports this aspiration? What interferes? Does growing spiritually occur in stages or cycles, is it continuous, or both?
"Does the capacity for spiritual experience evolve? If so, what stimulates this evolution? What are 'spiritual practices,' and how do they relate to spiritual capacities and experiences? Is there a difference between awakening and enlightenment? Is there an end point to spiritual evolution? If so, what is it?
"What happens when I die? Who dies? Is death a spiritual transition? If so, a transition from what to what?
"How does my 'story' — my version of my biography or personal history — relate to growing spiritually? How does my personality affect spirituality? How do social biography and social relationships affect spirituality? Who is the doer?
"Is God involved in my spiritual evolution?
"Do I have direct experiences of something I call God? If so, how does God appear to me? What is God's nature? Does God act? If so, how? Does God have will? Is God's will involved in my spiritual evolution? What is will?
"Do I have confidence and trust in my spiritual process?
"Does my experience lead me to confidence and trust in my ways of seeing my spiritual nature and that of my world and acting on the perceptions rooted in these ways of seeing? How do I deal with experiences that cast doubt on these ways of seeing spiritually? Does my process allow me to incorporate new experiences into my ways of seeing? Is my spirituality a resource for coping with suffering? Does my spiritual process lead to joy and appreciation?
"How does my spirituality manifest itself in the world?
"How do spirituality and growing spiritually relate to organized religion, religious culture, or religious behavior? Are my spirituality and religion synonymous, separate, or somewhere in between? Does spiritual experience relate to sacred texts, religious doctrines, or religious rituals? If so, how?"