As I write this first sentence, my biggest fear is that my head will explode by the time I finish this. This ain’t gonna be an easy one, folks.

But this topic is so central that I am willing to put billions of innocent brain cells on the line. You’re welcome.

Alright, enough complaining. Onto the show…

When most people think of spiritual growth, they view it in terms of something that is attained. We could also use the word achieved. And we could frame spiritual growth in terms of something we strive for.

What kinds of things do we do thinking they will help us attain this growth? We meditate. Practice Mindfulness. Surrender. Let go. Pray. And do manifold other spiritual practices.

We already have what we’re striving for

But the truth is this: There is nothing to attain. Why? Because that state we’re striving to attain already exists within us. And we can’t attain something we already have.

That being the case, the spiritual path comes down to one endeavor: Realizing the conscious self that already exists within us. That’s it. Game, set, match.

The preceding few paragraphs form the core of a slew of teachings of spiritual masters. I would include Eckhart Tolle among that group.

Ramana Maharshi and self-realization

But it was the 20th century Indian yogi Ramana Maharshi who is most credited for teaching that self-realization need be the only pursuit of spiritual seekers. He taught that everything would come from merely realizing the true ‘I’ inside us.

The obvious question is, how do we come to realize who we are? What it comes down to is removing the obstacles that shroud our ability to realize this self.

We’re not adding anything. We’re subtracting those things that lead us to believe in our false selves. Essentially, we’re burning off the fog that prohibits us from seeing our true ‘I’.

Subtracting the ego

What is that false self? Mostly, it’s the ego — all those fears, insecurities and sensitivities that we build up from early childhood into adulthood.

But that false self is also believing that you are your body, your role (mom, dad), your job (astronaut, accountant, minister, professional tennis player)…None of that is true.

We are the consciousness underlying all of those things.

Ramana Maharshi’s only technique

And how do we remove all those egoic layers shrouding our true, conscious selves? Ramana Maharshi’s one and only technique was to meditate over and over on the question: “Who am I?”

The goal isn’t to answer the question, but to ponder the silence that follows. It is within that silence that we come to realize who we are.

We also do some or all of the practices I listed above: Meditate, practice mindfulness, let go and all the rest. The difference is, we do those practices in order to shed the ego, not to attain some distant, difficult spiritual state.

The subtle diff

Therein lies the subtle difference between attainment and realization. Now do you understand why I thought my head might explode on this one?

I’m going to err on the side of brevity on this piece because diving further into explaining and analyzing the nuances of this concept will only serve to complicate the matter…Not to mention destroy my ever-dwindling supply of brain cells.

The takeaway

Two points I hope you’ll take away from this article.

First, I hope you’ll realize that you’re already at the end of the path. Your true, conscious self is already there. To realize that reality, look inside, not outside.

Second, realize that this is great news. You don’t need to go to the four corners of the Earth trying to attain some grand spiritual state.

It’s already within you.