I can say that people interested in following a spiritual path are looking for one or more of the following eight things.
PURPOSE / DIRECTION. Whether you are on the top of the wheel of material life or on the bottom, there is an underlying sense of dissatisfaction, limitation, and emptiness. Some people are sensitive to this, others aren’t, or they try to fill this up by chasing external goals endlessly. Spirituality is a search for meaning, for purpose and direction in life. It fulfils our need to have a foundation for living, a path or way of life in the light of a larger context. It speaks to the need to be “aligned” with something bigger than our body and mind.
ONENESS / LOVE / CONNECTION. This speaks to our sense of separation and incompleteness. Because it is painful, we seek connection and love – either in a community, or in being one with the universe, or connecting with the Divine (whatever shape this may take). To feel complete, we crave to receive and give unconditional love, which brings a sense of total acceptance and of happiness in being alive. This search can also manifest as returning to the source, to God, or to a sense of sacredness.
GROWTH. There is an innate drive in many of us to evolve, to improve, to push the boundaries, reach our full potential. The drive to continuously grow and learn, live a life authentic to our truth, develop our mind, cultivate virtues, and expand our consciousness.
ANSWERS / TRUTH. Questions like “Who am I?”, “Why are we here?”, and “What else is there?” together with a drive to understand how life works and to learn about ourselves. For some this takes the form of understanding, absorbing, and becoming one with the absolute Truth.
HAPPINESS / PEACE / OVERCOME SUFFERING. Suffering is the initial door of spirituality for many people. When our mind depends on external things for happiness, its experience of happiness will be inconstant, unreliable, impermanent – just like external causes are. It has been rightly coined as “stock market happiness”. Since suffering is a mental phenomenon, and spiritual practices are a means to transform one’s mind, it is a wise way of seeking a better life. Hence, there is the drive to seek happiness and peace internally. Or to at least to diminish the suffering that we are experiencing. Spirituality helps us gain balance, independence from external cases, and a greater appreciation of life.
TRANSCENDENCE / ENLIGHTENMENT. Different traditions describe enlightenment differently. But the common theme is that it is a state of transcendence from the human condition, beyond all possibility of further suffering. There is a radical and permanent shift in our perception and experience of the world, and a moving beyond the sense of being an individual, or a person. It’s the urge to experience ultimate peace or freedom, to find the ultimate reality of who we are, transcend the ego, or “merge with God”.
EXPLORATION / MYSTERY. Diving into one’s own consciousness and exploring other aspects of reality is something that speaks to our thirst for knowledge, experience, and adventure. Learning the mysteries of life and nature, exploring the sacred, and living with a sense of wonder.
SERVING. The urge to serve people in a deeper level, making a big difference in their life, and helping the upliftment of humanity.
So these are the possible reasons for exploring spirituality. Having a greater clarity on what is the drive behind your search can be helpful when choosing which path or practices to take.
Some of these things may not speak to you at all, while you feel a great attraction for others. It’s all good – that is why there are different paths out there, to match seekers of different temperaments, stages of development, values, and goals. For me, personally, the pull was always truth, transcendence, enlightenment; though I can see I got benefits in all the other areas as well.
In a way, all these drives have one thing in common: they show we are not satisfied with only the material side of life, and we wish to move beyond this limitation.