In a UCLA study sponsored by the Templeton Fund, researchers found that almost 80% of college students say they are “searching for meaning and purpose in life,” and that fully a quarter of them are “actively engaged in a spiritual quest.”
And not only college students want to find the answers to the mysteries of life – many surveys show that millions of middle-aged and older adults also have a deep longing for a sense of wholeness and meaning, and continue to seek it.
In fact, many researchers believe that humanity has never lived through a period of such widespread spiritual search. In one recent poll in the United States, for example, a third of the adult population described themselves as having no religious affiliation, but being “spiritual.”
So how do you know if you’re a seeker on a spiritual path? Here are a few signs:
Most people who look for something more in this existence than its simple physical pleasures often find themselves desiring more depth – in their relationships, in their thoughts, in their lives. When shallow conversations or interactions just don’t suffice any longer; when your consciousness craves something more substantive; when you start turning off your electronics occasionally for some inward reflection; when you long for the thought-provoking more than the mind-numbing; you might be a seeker.
If you find yourself dreaming more often or more intensely than usual – either at night while you sleep, or even in daydreams or meditation during the waking hours – that could be a sign of your inner consciousness, your spirit, asking you its profound questions. The great psychologist C. G. Jung said: “The dream is a little hidden door in the innermost and most secret recesses of the soul… “
Do you feel unsatisfied? Do you reject arbitrary authority and question your society’s traditional values? Most true seekers go beyond cultural norms and search for a renewed sense of purpose. That healthy desire to rebel usually means you want something more out of life than what you’ve been able to find so far.
Do you yearn to spend more time in nature? Does our world’s natural environment appeal to you more and more? Do you desire solitude, silence, a sense of the sacred? Do trees, canyons, mountains, the wilderness and the ocean all make you feel closer to the majestic, the awe-inspiring, the creative force of life? Every seeker finds peace in the power of the natural world.
5. Heightened Sensitivity
Bored with the mundane, trivial parts of existence lately? Are things that used to be fun no longer enjoyable? Can’t bear to subject yourself to another store or mall? Increasingly uninterested in the material, the conventional, the common wisdom? Your sensitivities may be changing. If you feel a newly-emerging sense of what’s important in life, and if the standard ways of experiencing our physical world just don’t seem to fulfill you as much as they once did, your heightened spiritual sensitivities are working. They could indicate progress toward a new level of consciousness, where the mystical, the numinous and the spiritual realities become more important to you than the mundane details of everyday existence.
Do these feel familiar? The presence in your life of any one of these indicators, or all of them, reveals a strong inner desire to search for more meaning and spiritual insight.
In the Baha’i writings, Baha’u’llah says beautifully that this awakening inner desire to search for something more initiates the first step on the path to enlightenment and wisdom:
Only when the lamp of search, of earnest striving, of longing desire, of passionate devotion, of fervid love, of rapture, and ecstasy, is kindled within the seeker’s heart, and the breeze of His loving-kindness is wafted upon his soul, will the darkness of error be dispelled, the mists of doubts and misgivings be dissipated, and the lights of knowledge and certitude envelop his being. At that hour will the Mystic Herald, bearing the joyful tidings of the Spirit, shine forth from the City of God resplendent as the morn, and, through the trumpet-blast of knowledge, will awaken the heart, the soul, and the spirit from the slumber of heedlessness. Then will the manifold favors and outpouring grace of the holy and everlasting Spirit confer such new life upon the seeker that he will find himself endowed with a new eye, a new ear, a new heart, and a new mind. He will contemplate the manifest signs of the universe, and will penetrate the hidden mysteries of the soul. – Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 266.