I’ve learned over the years that when I feel a fluttering of fear when I consider writing about a topic, I should go there. So here I go.
I recently asked a bunch of you who subscribe here, “If you and I were meeting for tea, what would you want to talk about?”
One of you answered, simply, “the spiritual side of life.”
And that got me thinking. What does that phrase mean to me these days – “the spiritual side of life?”
My answer has changed over time.
There have been years of my life when the spiritual life was all about love – opening to that Great Love and doing my best to bring that (and not other stuff) into the world.
At other times, the spiritual life has been principally about surrender – about surrendering my life, my will, to a power greater than myself.
At other times it’s been about creativity, about the mysterious spiritual connection we can access when we create.
I don’t think that any of these are better notions than the others. They all represent different chapters in my own unfolding spiritual life.
These days? What comes mind, when I hear the phrase “the spiritual life” is this:
the vibrant, vibrating, messy, energy-dense life in front of us.
Noticing: slowing down to see the diverse, gorgeous manifestations of life in front of you: a child, an animal, a friendship, a forest, a community, an artistic creation.
Welcoming: greeting them, in your own mind and heart, with a positive receiving. With appreciation, with reverence, with respect.
Trusting: this one is the most difficult to express in words, but it has to do with, at a fundamental level, trusting the innate wisdom and sacredness of life.
This “trusting” part is tricky to explain, because I don’t mean that we go into denial about the darkness and dangers of the world and just trust everything is always for the good blah blah blah.
What I’m trying to express is a trust that is more like this:
Way of thinking #1 (which dominates our culture, education system, and which has driven traditional parenting practices) goes like this:
It looks at the raw materials and expressions of life (the body, emotion, nature, earth, people, children) and thinks: Uh-oh. There is a problem here. We need to fix this, control this, delete that part and add on this part. Out of fear and mistrust of what is, we start making stuff, making shoulds, making systems and rules, and as collateral damage, making judgment and self-hate.
The other way of thinking goes like this: It looks at the raw materials and expressions of life (the body, emotion, nature, earth, people, children) and sees them wholly as expressions of the divine. It perceives their radiance, their glory.
Then, from that place, we do stuff (create, build, achieve) not to compete with, exploit or control life, but to create a world worthy of the innocence and glory of all beings. We create out of love and out of a desire, a longing, to express ourselves and contribute to life. In touch with who we are, we find ourselves full of creative impulses –to build a beautiful new home for our family, or to make a beautiful meal, or to paint the view out the window, or to start an organization to solve a need in our community, or to build deep knowledge of a subject within ourselves. We create, create, create, but out of love for life, not out of fear of it.
Both states are very active, but the roots of the activity are very different.
Lately, this is how I’m thinking about spiritual life: that a part of living a spiritual life is living in that second state of being.
Does this resonate with you?
Take a moment to consider that question, “What does ‘the spiritual life’ mean to me these days. Articulate your answer and carry it with you through the day.
photo credit: Lisheng Chang