Many of the people I know who engage in some kind of spiritual practice do it because they want to feel better.
Maybe they have physical or emotional pain in their lives. Perhaps the suffering is too much to bear. They might look to a practice to find some kind of meaning in their lives. That what they are going through is worth it. Many of us are simply worried about the biggest question of all--what happens to us after our bodies die.
My own practice I think has gone through at least a couple of phases. The first phase clearly offered that kind of physical and mental relief. Meditation made me calmer, and it made me better able to cope with the stresses of human life, both in and outside of work. Fears that I had subsided. I slept better, and I felt more calm.
But there seems to be a second stage, too. And this stage also is about feeling better, but in a different kind of way.
The first stage seems to be about feeling better in the sense of unpleasant physical and emotional sensations feeling less intense. We are better able to cope.
The second stage is about feeling more. "Feeling better" in the sense of getting better at feeling. We get less and less resistant to fully experiencing life. We open. We find grace in both the high notes and the low notes, and accept that both are an inseparable part of the human experience. And we begin to see the patterns that have caused us pain. Whilke this can be painful in and of itself, there is also relief when we see those patterns begin to change and fall away. When what we once saw as the very foundations of our lives begin to shift from underneath our feet. There seems to be no end to this part of the process. Most people who are much further down this path than I report that these patterns continue to shift and change.
We may start down the spiritual path thinking of it as an anesthetic, and it can be that. Some people can even get stuck there (in what is called "spiritual bypassing," people use practice to avoid dealing with the rest of life). But life, in its wisdom, can also bring a surgeon's scalpel to us. And transform us in the process.