A focus on the material world is described in many spiritual circles as a distraction from enlightenment, but in my opinion it’s only as much of a distraction as we let it be.
If you’re open to spirit and you’ve found some way to expand your consciousness on a regular basis, then the material world will only distract you to the extent that you let it.
The material world is neutral. It can help or inhibit evolution depending on what we focus on while we’re here, and when I’m in nature, I’m never distracted from spirit even though I’m technically focused on the external world.
It’s because I’m also focused on my internal world.
I don’t feel disconnected from my soul when I’m doing something non-‘spiritual’ like spending time with family, because my sense of spirituality remains intact.
We’ll only forget about the spiritual side of life if we forget to let it in, and we can be open to it in any moment no matter what we’re doing.
Enjoy the World but Keep Spirit in Mind
Living in the space between thought is key to being part of the world without letting it take away who you are, and I recommend keeping the spiritual side of life in mind with everything you do and everyone you encounter.
This especially applies to when life tests your centeredness, and part of our job is to learn to handle the stress, tenseness and anger that bring us out of our center and away from what we seek.
As I mentioned, spiritual teachers throughout history discourage focusing on matter over spirit. However, they agree that Source can be found in matter because all creation, including matter, comes from this space.
It’s more fruitful to seek Source in things that require you to look within – meditation, art, music, other forms of creativity, the natural unfoldment of the higher consciousness found within – but why not enjoy the material world while you walk this path?
There’s no need to get lost in this impermanent material world, but there’s no need to avoid or ignore it either.
“Peace in a World of Pain”
The Buddha explains the ‘way of purity’, which is to look within for life, love and spirit. The material world will eventually cease to exist, but the consciousness experiencing it is eternal.
“He who knows and sees [that all created things perish] is at peace though in a world of pain; this is the way of purity.” (1)
In a quote you may recognize from Jesus in Matthew 6:20, we’re encouraged to ‘lay our treasures in heaven’ rather than the material world.
“Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.” (2)
Reliance on the Internal World
By ‘lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven’, this verse refers to shifting from reliance on the external to the internal world. Reliance isn’t an inherently negative thing, but it’s given negative connotations due to addictions and other severe problems related to it.
The only problem with reliance lies in where we direct it. If we direct it toward the world, we may end up with addictions that require a long road to recover from.
If we direct it within, we’ll discover so much vibrant inner territory that we’ll realize we need nothing else. In the sense of survival we obviously need food, water, shelter, etc., but in the mental, emotional and spiritual sense we’ll need nothing at all.
Relying on spirit rather than matter frees us from the pervasive and incessant idea that we need something outside ourselves to be happy, and in most cases it requires a dramatic change in perspective.
It’s not easy to stop relying on the external world, but the more open we are, the easier it becomes.
Is Matter ‘Dead and Unconscious’?
Ramakrishna describes matter as ‘dead and unconscious’ and discourages seeking Source in the world:
“Matter is dead and unconscious, therefore God must not be sought in matter. We must seek him in consciousness, that is, inside our own self.” (3)
However, in this next quote he describes how matter and spirit are united:
“The attributes of matter are superimposed on Spirit, andthe attributes of Spirit are superimposed on matter. Therefore when the body is ill a man says, ‘I am ill.’” (4)
I could maybe agree that consciousness is absent in inanimate objects or certain lifeforms, but in my opinion the spark of life is present everywhere – including the building blocks that form our reality.
I can’t agree that matter contains no consciousness, but I can agree that finding Source within is more fruitful than seeking it in the world.
Worship Within and Without
Despite that he didn’t think Source could be sought in matter, Ramakrishna encouraged worshiping the world as Source’s creation.
“There are two schools of thought: the Vedanta and the Purana. According to the Vedantic this world is a ‘framework of illusion’, that is to say, it is all illusory, like a dream. But according to the Purana, the books of devotion, God Himself has become the twenty-four cosmic principles.
“Worship God both within and without.” (5)
He also expresses in this passage that Source lives in everything:
“The most advanced devotees say that He Himself has become all this — the twenty-four cosmic principles, the universe, and all living beings.” (6)
Paramahansa Yoganada describes what he calls the lifetron:
“The lifetron (like electron) [is] the finest ultimate unit of intelligence and energy. It is finer than electrons, of which all matter and consciousness are composed. Each microcosmic lifetron contains in miniature the essence of all the macrocosmic creation.” (7)
Understanding the concept of lifetrons might help you connect with the life force energy, which for me is another way to refer to higher consciousness.
Higher consciousness gives life on a level most people have yet to experience; perhaps we take in lifetrons during meditation and other activities meant to induce it.
These quotes shed light on the permanence of the inner spiritual world and the importance of finding fulfillment here rather than in an outer world that, while fascinating and worth exploring, will disappoint you if you rely solely on it.
It helps to remember that spirit, lifetrons, the life force, higher consciousness, etc. are already with us at all times. We don’t need to seek them; only to bring our awareness back to them.
We can do it by slowing down the mind, connecting with the space between thought and opening our heart to the bliss that’s rightfully ours.
The world will never provide the quality or quantity of bliss found within, so let’s return to our inner space and share the spiritual wealth with a world in need of higher consciousness and the reminder that despite the chaos all around, everything is okay.