the entire human race rested on your shoulders alone. That
humanity's evolution out of brute self-interest depended entirely
on your willingness to transform your consciousness, to rise above
your smallness, to evolve beyond your negative conditioning, and
become an exemplar of humanity's highest potential for the world.
Imagine, in other words, that for you, evolving beyond ego became
an evolutionary imperative.
Would you approach your path any differently? Would the energy you
brought to your spiritual practice intensify? Would the quality of
awareness and care with which you approached your interactions with
others become more profound?
Would you find yourself reaching with inner muscles you didn't even
know you had to be awake to the depth you've tasted in your most
profound spiritual moments?
If you knew it all rested on you, would you have any choice but to
The Indian sage Ramana Maharshi once said that the spiritual
aspirant must want liberation like a drowning man wants air. But
the painful truth is that even when we recognize that we are
drowning spiritually, most of us don't care enough to struggle to
keep our head above water.
The challenges of authentic spiritual transformation are so great
that most of us will choose to continue suffering in our smallness
over feeling the pain of allowing that smallness to die forever.
But how many of us would do the same if we realized that it wasn't
only our own suffering we were perpetuating, but the suffering of
the entire human race?
Now, you may be thinking to yourself, "That's a nice thought
experiment. Sure, it makes me realize I could be more earnest on my
path, but what does it really have to do with me? I'm no
megalomaniac. I know that my transformation alone isn't enough to
liberate the human race."
And it is here that I would ask you to reconsider.
Modern science has in recent decades been verifying what the
ancient traditions intuited long ago: that, in both tangible and
mysterious ways, we are all interconnected, and any one of us can
have a profound effect on the whole.
And, if you accept the perennial mystical teaching that, at the
level of consciousness, we are not only interconnected, but are
actually one Self seeing through many eyes, then it should be clear
that, like it or not, in the way we conduct our inner and outer
lives, each of us is in fact always having an effect on the whole.
Add to that the reality that we are evolving beings living in an
evolving universe, that we are all part of a grand, cosmic
evolutionary process, and the question of our obligation to the
whole starts to cut close to the bone.
To reframe my earlier question: What would you do if you realized
that the entire human endeavor, the evolution of consciousness
itself, depended on your willingness to evolve your own
How would it affect the choices you make every day if you knew that
those choices were, in a very real sense, either contributing to
the evolution of the whole or holding it back?
At this time when it seems that our very future depends on our
willingness to evolve as a species, would you have any choice but
to act in alignment with the greatest evolutionary good?
The point I'm trying to make is that when we take a closer look at
what spiritual transformation is actually for, it quickly becomes
clear that the path of awakening is not primarily about freeing
ourselves from suffering and securing our own happiness.
Sure, that's a nice by-product. But, as long as that's all we're
seeking, we probably won't get very far.
Where the spiritual path really begins to get interesting is when
we recognize that transforming ourselves in the deepest possible
way is in fact an evolutionary imperative with profound
consequences far beyond ourselves.
When we begin to embrace the fact that our lives really are not our
own to do with as we please, that in everything we do, we are in
fact accountable to the Whole, something truly miraculous begins to
Faced with the palpable responsibility to transform for a greater
good, we find that we suddenly have access to a seemingly infinite
source of energy, intention, passion and courage to confront
whatever challenges present themselves on our path.
What's more, all of the personal issues and problems, all of the
fears and doubts and resistances that once seemed so insurmountable
begin to seem a lot less significant.
Why? Because our attention is now captivated by something much
bigger than ourselves.
Ignited by a noble calling to participate in the grand adventure of
conscious evolution, we find we no longer have time to worry about
ourselves. And in this freedom from self-concern, before long we
discover that the deep inner peace and joy we were seeking all
along has become the very ground we are walking on.
To get a taste of the liberating context I'm pointing to, try the
1) Before you meditate or engage in any spiritual practice, take 10
minutes to reflect on the profound significance of your practice.
-Why do I need to awaken for myself?
-Why do other people need me to awaken?
-Why does God/evolution/humanity (your choice) need me to awaken?
Allow yourself to feel deeply into the most authentic answer you
can find. Then, invite that deeper answer to come forward as a
clear and present intention to engage your spiritual practice
wholeheartedly, as if the universe depended on it. And engage your
practice from this deeper intention.
Notice how this exercise impacts the quality of your spiritual
2) When you encounter a challenging and emotionally charged
situation in your life, before you respond, take a few minutes to
-What is the most enlightened or evolved response I could have in
-Why is it important for my own evolution for me to respond in the
most enlightened, evolved way I can?
-Why does God/evolution/humanity (your choice) need me to respond
in the most enlightened, evolved way I can?
Allow yourself to feel into the larger significance of your
response to this challenging moment. Ground yourself in an
intention to show up as an exemplar of humanity's potential. And
then respond from this deeper intention.
Notice how your perspective on the situation and your ability to
show up changes when you approach it in this way.