spirit |╦łspirit|
noun
1 the nonphysical part of a person that is the seat of emotions and character; the soul
2 those qualities regarded as forming the definitive or typical elements in the character of a person, nation, or group or in the thought and attitudes of a particular period
verb
1 convey rapidly and secretly

Friday, October 30, 2009

Duality of Personality and Spirit

Dear Darwin,

Does your book cover the concept of the duality between our personalities and our spirits? Do you feel that in order for our souls to evolve, we first must experience tension between our spirit and our personalities; and then from there discover resolution? and then and only then will our souls evolve. Is it the tension that causes growth?

I would love your thoughts on this concept.

thanks,
Patty


As I understand the question, you're distinguishing a conflict between one's personality and their Spirit. I frame this as a "conflict" because, if there were no conflict, then the perception of a duality between the two wouldn't exist (e.g. the personality and Spirit in harmony).

I wanted to be clear on what we define as a personality so I did a quick Wikipedia lookup to find this definition:

Personality can be defined as a dynamic and organized set of characteristics possessed by a person that uniquely influences his or her cognitions, motivations, and behaviors in various situations (1).

Simply stated, one's personality is the makeup of their Mind that guides them through daily life. As such, one's personality comes from a variety of sources such as individual life experiences, generational uniqueness, cultural background, etc. Essentially this is the sum of our learned experiences that result in our actions.

In isolation, the singularity of this conscious experience is the personality of our Mind. Thus we deduce when someone is eccentric or shy that it is their personality that governs their makeup. And because this "personality" comes from years of molding and refinement, we find our personalities to be rather distinguishable. And in trying to sort out where we fit in the world, we categorize ourselves and others into personality types. I'm gregarious, you're shy and she is hot blooded.

We often question our actions and conclude that we are "the way we are" because of our personalities. You might conclude, "I'm just that way and there is nothing I can do about it."

But in connecting to our Spiritual nature, we find that we aspire to be more than the confines of our Mind's approach to life. We regret screaming at someone or not speaking up when we should have. And thus we have this conflict between our Mind's ways and our Spirit's aspirations.

I grew up in Wyoming and I distinctly remember an elementary school field trip we took out to the Oregon trail. The trail had been so heavily trafficked that the wagon wheels cut deep ruts into the sandstone hills of central Wyoming. The ruts were so deep that once the wagon entered, it was impossible to deviate from the rut. With four wheels passing through these steep cuts in the stone, there was only one way in and one way out.

This is how I like to think of our Mind's ways of acting. Those patterns of behavior in our life are so ingrained in our psyche that it becomes almost impossible to change direction. We've acted and re-acted the same way so many times that we often find ourselves going through the same patterns of behavior time and time again. And this is despite our aspiration to act differently.

However I think it is a mistake to convince ourselves that our Mind's personalities are unchangeable like the wagon wheel ruts of the Oregon Trail. These stringent patterns of behavior are simply the result of living a physical existence whereby we allow our Minds to govern our existence. Instead we should aspire to lead a life governed by the harmony of our Body, Spirit and Mind working as a team.

Making this shift from a physical existence to a Spiritual existence is the meaning of mankind's evolution. And hence we all face the question as to how we can invoke this desirable change in our lives. Attempting to answer this question are countless books, gurus and 10 step programs outlining the path to getting out from under our Mind's control.

But entwined in this approach is a fatal flaw. God designed you with a Mind for a reason. Certainly God is capable of creating life without inherent flaws and limitations. My point being that there would have to be a purpose of creating life with a Mind that is inherently flawed. And thus I'm not a fan of any approach that begins by making your Mind out to be the enemy of something that is to be overcome.

Instead we should embark on a journey through life that includes our Body, Spirit and Mind in this transformational process. Our mentally isolated ways are a living example of how not to approach life, but there are countless ways each of us can approach a life in union with the Body, Spirit and Mind.

For example, think of one aspect of your personality that you would like to change. Then list all of the reasons why this personality trait is not good for you and all of the reasons why this personality trait is good for you. For example if you're shy, you miss out on getting noticed, but so too you notice things because you're observing from the anonymity of the crowd. Or if you're hot tempered, you regret yelling at your kids, but you're also quick to stand up for someone that is being abused. There are good and not so good aspects to every part of us.

The personality trait may be the sandstone rut, but your Spirit is the wagon wheel itself. By looking at our personalities in this way we can consider if we're investing energy into the rut or the wagon wheel (Mind or Spirit). If we're investing energy into the rut, then it should come as no surprise that our lives continue to go in the same direction. Instead we can focus on investing energy into our Spirit to free ourselves from the constraints of our Mind.

This is surely not a quick fix or something that can be achieved by repeating a trendy aphorism everyday (e.g. live in present). But by focusing our nurturing energy into a more balanced investment across our Body, Spirit and Mind, we can start to remove the ruts (e.g. conflict) between our Mind and Spirit.

I hope my perspective was helpful. Keep those questions coming, together we can change the world.

Namaste,

darwin

1. Ryckman, R. (2004). Theories of Personality. Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth.

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