3 Psychological Skills I Learned From Spiritual Mystics That Made Me Indestructible

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I’m an atheist. And I’m highly spiritual.

It baffles people around me, especially religious people.

When they hear my philosophy of life, they can’t understand how and why I’m an atheist. Some even claim that I’m actually religious — I just don’t know it yet. And this in turns baffles me.

Is there some inherent link between spirituality and religion? And is a “Spiritual Atheist” an oxymoron in itself?

I think not.

Atheists can be spiritual because spirituality has nothing to do with God. It’s simply about connecting with something bigger than you. It’s simply accepting that you’re not the center of the universe.

Religious people connect with God. I connect with the universe. And the reason is simple: I know that the universe exists. I don’t know if God does.

At this point, one could counter, “Who do you think created the Universe, dumb*ss?” And the answer is — I don’t know. And I’m okay with not knowing. Because the existence of the universe in all its glory gives me all the benefits of religion, without being religious. It provides me with:

  • Hope.
  • Awe.
  • A sense of spirituality.
  • A rational belief in destiny.
  • Evanescense.
  • And guidance to goodness.

“How — exactly?” would be the next question. The answer to that is an essay for another time. Today, I just want to cover some psychological skills I’ve learned from the many spiritual mystics I’ve learned from over the years.

RELATED: 4 Buddhist Principles That Made My Life Completely Zen

Here are 3 psychological skills I learned from spiritual mystics:

1. How to transform your emotions through deeper awareness

People believe in a duality of emotions. They think that some are negative — like jealousy — and some are positive — like sympathy.

However, spiritual mystics claim that there’s no such duality. Emotions are just a form of energy — they’re not negative or positive. They just seem negative or positive based on the direction they act in. And a seemingly negative emotion can be transformed into a seemingly positive emotion through deeper awareness.

For instance, take jealousy. It’s an intuitive emotion that one would tag as ‘negative’. And when you’re jealous, someone might tell you — “Don’t be jealous!” (as if that advice ever works).

But it’s not actually negative — it’s just not transformed yet to work in your favor. And you can transform it through deeper awareness. Here’s how.

When you’re jealous, be completely aware of your emotion. Have this conversation with yourself:

  • Q: Why do I feel jealous?
  • A: It’s because that guy is better than me.
  • Q: But why does that make me jealous?
  • A: Because I want to be that good too!
  • Q: Is it possible that you can ask this guy how to get better or maybe observe and learn from him?
  • A: Holy sh*t! Yes, I can. Why didn’t I look at it that way before?

You were jealous of them. But suddenly:

  • You’re happy — because you found a source you can learn from to get better.
  • You’re inspired — because you know that being better is possible.
  • You’re curious — because instead of being jealous, you actually want to know how to get better.

All seemingly positive emotions — arose from ‘jealousy’ — a seemingly negative emotion. In reality, it was a seed for other emotions that would work in your favor.

It might seem like you suppressed your jealousy and grew curious, inspired, and happy. But that’s not true. In reality, you didn’t suppress your jealousy but transformed it through complete awareness of your emotion.

The same holds for anger, insecurity, guilt, hate, etc. It’s not possible to cover each emotion — that’s an article in itself for another time. But knock yourself out. Perform this exercise for other ‘negative’ emotions — and let me know your process of transformation in the comments.

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2. How to see the deeper running oneness you have with everyone — especially the people whose guts you hate

Love is an intuitive response to the similarities that we have with other people. We connect with people who have similar tastes and beliefs as us.

The opposite is true for hate.

Hate is an intuitive response to the differences that we have with others. We dislike and hate people if we lock horns with them on issues, beliefs, and ways of conduct important to us. Take for instance a Democrat hating a republican and vice versa.

However, when you think about it, you’ll realize while such conflicts are very real in the material world, they’re actually pretty superficial.

But when you go deep, you’ll find a deeper running oneness even with the people you hate. You’ll realize that even this person you hate has similar desires as you:

  • They need love in their lives— just like you.
  • They like being heard and respected— just like you.
  • They crave peace and happiness — just like you.

So when you ‘hate’ someone because some of their superficial choices and even deeper beliefs don’t align with yours — dig even deeper. Connect with them based on the basic human elements you both have.

Think to yourself:

  • This person must have parents who love him despite his flaws — just like mine.
  • This person too has dreams and aspirations in life that he’s unable to fulfill and they keep him up at night — just like me.
  • This person too must occasionally look at pictures of his ex, and sob internally with a heavy heart filled with memories — just like me.

Realize that your choices differ only because of the very uniquely different combinatorics of genetics and experiences that you have. But deep down — you’re essentially very similar.

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3. How to surrender your ego to be a true learner

Imagine this.

You’re being given identical — and indistinguishable career advice:

  • By someone younger than you.
  • By someone older than you.

Would you be receptible to both in a similar way? I think not.

When a teacher you respect tries to teach you something, you have surrendered your ego. You’re like a valley. There’s space, and you allow the lessons to flow within you. The words penetrate your psyche. You’re like a womb ready to receive the fetus — the lesson — and for it to grow in you.

But if a younger person tries to teach you the exact same lesson, your ego will intervene. You’re like a peak; a hill. You’re taller than others. You have an ego. No lesson can penetrate — because there’s no space. There’s no surrender of ego.

Now, a superficial mind might differentiate these two instances on the basis of the source of advice. However, when the advice leaves the person, it’s exactly the same. Then why does it flow through you in one case — and not in another?

The true difference is whether or not you have surrendered your ego.

You can learn only be a true learner when you know you have something to learn; when you know the world can teach you something. For that, you have to be receptive. For that, you have to surrender your ego.

I’m not saying that you must not test the credibility of the source of knowledge. I’m simply saying don’t let ego intervene with your learning. Surrender it. Be a perpetual learner.

A quick recap:

  • Don’t suppress your negative emotions. Instead, transform them into positive ones through awareness. Always remember, emotions themselves are not actually negative or positive. They just yield negative or positive outcomes based on how you perceive them.
  • See the deeper running oneness you have with everyone — especially people you hate. If you don’t connect with them on superficial choices, connect with them on your deep similar human elements.
  • Surrender your ego to be a perpetual learner. Learn to be open to learning no matter what the source is — don’t let your ego intervene. This does not mean that you must not test their credibility.

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Akshad Singi, M.D. has been published in Better Humans, Mind Cafe, and more. 

This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.