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Spiritual Guilt & Fear

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This topic contains 6 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  Terence 4 months ago.

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  • #298131

    Zach
    Participant

    Hello Everyone,

    I am going through a significant season of growth and change thanks to a lot of work I have been doing to improve my overall wellness through focused therapy, dietary changes (I’ve lost 120 lbs since last Summer), and some newer habits that I am working on (mindfulness meditation and journalling) implementing. Recently, I have had feelings of guilt and fear surface from my Christian upbringing (Protestant family, Catholic and Evangelical schooling) as I confront my issues with faith and explore Buddhist philosophy. I want to continue moving toward things that improve my quality of life and enable me to be a more loving, kind, and accepting person — that does not include the behaviors or attitudes I have encountered in the Christian faith community in recent years.

    Has anyone experienced anything similar? Any recommendations on how to work through this? Tools or resources? I am open and interested to hear your thoughts.

    Thank you.

    #298139

    Tannhauser
    Blocked

    I’ve gone through this myself. In fact I’m still going through it. I am Catholic myself, and I have news for you which you might find hard to accept. The sad truth is that the Christian faith is not conducive to having a spiritual awakening. In fact, it will offer no help at all, and might even hold you back and keep you trapped in negative feelings of guilt, shame and fear. The more your spiritual awakening progresses, the more you will see Christianity for what it is: a man-made religion based on power and control. It is also entry-level spirituality, and at some point you will have to abandon it altogether, because it just won’t fit with your experiences. I am at that point now myself. My experiences have pointed to Hinduism as being the most truthful philosophy/religion. I occasionally have spontaneous hand movements: the right hand will literally move on its own into various positions commensurate with kriyas or mudras. There is no mention of such things in Christianity, except to demonize them.

    You don’t need any tools and resources except yourself. Being still helps, as does getting out in nature. If you have a garden, so much the better. But you don’t need to listen to any gurus or priests, because this experience is personal to you, and no one can tell you what you should be experiencing. You have to find your own way.

    Best wishes,

    Tannhauser

    #298161

    Zach
    Participant

    Thank you for your thoughtful reply, Tannhauser. It is good to know that I am not alone in having this sort of experience. A lot of what you shared resonated with me — I am at a place in my journey where I feel like I am the rope in an internal tug-of-war. Your post highlighted something for me that I haven’t quite been able to articulate with the concept of no one telling me what I should be experiencing. This part is so difficult for me since I responded well to rules and structure. I want to get to a place where I feel peace and joy in my experience without needing some sort of institutional validation.

    With Gratitude,

    Zach

    #298199

    Tannhauser
    Blocked

    Zach, you have actually helped me too. The ‘tug-of-war’ thing is exactly what I am experiencing, and I feel I am being torn apart.

    The truth is, you are probably beyond the need for rules now, because Spirit is all about love and oneness. Structure, however, can still be useful in giving you a foundation and focus, and keeping you grounded. With my involvement at my parish church, I have found that the happiest people, the ones who get the most out of religion, are those who do not slavishly adhere to doctrine and dogma, but follow their own conscience instead. After all, religion is there to serve man, and not the other way round.

    I too fell into the trap of constantly seeking validation. It can never bring you the peace and happiness you seek, because it is something outside of yourself. You can’t go wrong reading about the thoughts of Lord Buddha on the subject. Or indeed, Lord Christ, who said the kingdom of God is within you.

    Best wishes,

    Tannhauser

    #298303

    Peter
    Participant

    Hi Zack

    I have also had similar experiences with regards to Christianity and Faith. For me it was important to make a distinction between the religious organization, community, religion, theology and the practice.  What I mean is that when we talk about God, religion, community, theology, belief, faith we tend to mix them all up and can get lost in the ‘politics of belief’ = guilt and fear.

    In ‘awakening’ the ego has two roles. The ego serves as a challenge that needs to be overcome and the medium through which that overcoming is experienced. It takes a healthy ego to detach it self from the experience of SELF. What is ‘you’ is not the ego… yet how you experience that realization is via the medium of ego. The ego the medium between the objective and subjective, between consciousness and unconsciousness.

    Religion is similar. Religion acts as both the medium and the challenge. You may have heard the expression that you must lose God to find God. Religion purpose is to guide, yet at the same time, perhaps because religion is also an organization tied to the experience of community, constrains. Pushes you forward while holding you back = pain.

    We desire community, to belong. Much of the guilt we feel as we grow comes from the fear of loss of community. I suspect you may have had the experience of some people responding to your weight loss that left you ‘feeling’ guilty. Witnessing you change causing others to experience anxiety and guilt which because they don’t want to make such a change project it back onto you.

    Its important to understand if the Spiritual guilt and fear you experience belongs to you or is originating from others.

    There is a Zen koan “If you meet the Buddha, kill him”. The Buddha encouraged his followers to find their own way yet having followers created community = conflict. You can imagine the response of a community to ‘killing’ the very thing being sought. You can imagine the quilt one might feel if one think they are objectively ‘killing’ the Buddha… killing Christ… yet it is the death of Jesus that reveals Christ.

    “The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao” (A map is not the territory) Every wisdom tradition including Christianity reference back to this truth, yet in practice tends to forget.

    #298309

    Peter
    Participant

     I want to get to a place where I feel peace and joy in my experience without needing some sort of institutional validation.

    I think that what hurt the most. As you continue to grow it sometime means losing community and we all want to be seen.

    #298407

    Terence
    Participant

    Hi Zach,

    Based on what you have stated, it seems you are on a good path. You have identified certain dogmas that don’t help you. You are able to see a vision of where you want to be.  You have begun some practices that gets you closer to oneness.

    Others have given you some sound advice.  I would like to expand on Peter’s comments.

    At the present stage you are in, it may be helpful to look deeper into the “guilt and fear” you have been experiencing.  The guilt and fear you are experiencing is possibly caused by the constant programming in your childhood that makes your thought process habitual.

    The way out of it, is to unlearn this programming, or let go of the attachment to the fear and guilt.  This may or may not work for you as each person connects differently to different approaches.  Also, timing matters as well.  Meaning, is it the right time for you to deal with this.  How I have dealt with such deep rooted emotions from childhood is the following:

    Although it may sound counter-intuitive, the best time to deal with an emotion, is when experiencing it.  The stronger, deeper and more intense, the better.

    Ask yourself and look deeply into when you first experienced this guilt and fear (as far back as your memory can provide).  Relive this experience and the people involved in this experience. (I would caution that you should only take this path if you can bare the emotions that come out).  After some time calling out the emotions and events, then tell yourself to let go of it.  (ie. That was a story in the past, time to let go and move on. Don’t assign any blame. Express love and forgiveness, etc.)

    You may have to cycle through this process a number of times to feel a change within yourself.

    How to gauge if you are improving is to observe yourself where you would normally feel the guilt and fear, be mindful if the intensity and length of time you feel this start to reduce.  You will know when you have overcome this when it barely causes an extended thought.

    Another approach you can use is to find the trigger to the thought of “guilt and fear”.  Observe yourself, to find out what typically happens prior to the onset of guilt and fear.  If you are able to find a common trigger, then you can go about finding a way to prevent the trigger from occurring.

    It’s quite possible the two different approaches will converge to the same solution.

    For both approaches to work better, mindfulness can be quite useful.  Think of it this way.  Think of yourself being another person observing your own thoughts and emotions.  By constantly observing your thoughts and emotions as an outsider, you won’t have the bias of yourself.

    By adding your practice of journalling, write about this process, the emotions you feel, the process you feel.  Document your process and review it regularly to gain insights into improvement.

    In Buddhism, they say thoughts lead to actions.  As it relates to those emotions, once you are full-on into the emotions, it’s very difficult to resolve.  If the thought comes to your mind, let it go and out of your mind just as easily as it came in.  This way, the action of the emotions manifesting itself doesn’t occur.

    This approach of purification requires a person to know and face themselves.  It can be quite intense.  Thus, use what you think resonates with you.  Toss everything else in the garbage.

    Good luck.

    Terence

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