Practices From the Inside Out: The Pleasures of Spiritual Life


The Pleasures of Spiritual Life

We live in a world where spiritual life is often a challenge. It is hard work for us to explore and sustain spiritual life today. We may often feel we are struggling to push spiritual life uphill.

Some of us believe spiritual life is threatened and under attack. Other people feel responsible to breathe new life into outdated spiritual practices. Many of us pay hardly any attention to spiritual life at all.

There are people who see spiritual life as a toxic force in our lives. Some people carry out acts of terrorism in the name of their religious beliefs. Others are working to recover from the effects of spiritual abuse or neglect.

The world appears more polarized each day in a war between good and evil.

Even those of us not caught up in the conflict struggle to become aware. We feel responsible to grow stronger in our spiritual lives. Our aspirations seem so distant and difficult to attain.

It is becoming harder and harder for us to see spiritual life as a source of pleasure.

Where is the joy, the laughter of spiritual life? Why does spiritual life apparently make so many people feel bad?

Arguing About Spiritual Life

It can be easy for us to perceive spiritual life as a battlefield. People appear to stake out positions, trying to take and hold the high ground. They stockpile arguments and enlist supporters to help them fight the good fight. People fighting are committed and passionate about turning back assaults on their positions. Dedicated to the importance of their causes, they are willing to fight to the last person standing.

We may believe spiritual life is about the differences between right and wrong. Defending what is right feels as important as defeating what is wrong.

My understanding of spiritual life is different. My perspective has shifted. Spiritual life is not about merely researching and defending the right answers. There is more to spiritual life than analyzing, finding, and arguing a version of the truth.

Spiritual life draws us to ask deeper and more insightful questions. It is more about Why? than about How?

We do not grow or develop in spiritual life through force or arguing. Spiritual life does not need us to defend it or hold our ground. It is more about exploring and going further than about fighting.

We are less inclined to argue as spiritual life draws us deeper. Spiritual life draws us into communion with our true selves, with Sacred truth, with the people around us.

Sacred truth attracts us and helps us become aware of something deeper. Spiritual life draws us past the differences and distinctions about which we might argue.

Holding tightly onto the rightness of our answers, defending them, distracts us. We focus our skills and energies on fighting and winning, not on experiencing spiritual life.

It is easy for us to miss the pleasures of spiritual life when we focus on defending our answers.

Is Spiritual Life Pleasant?

We have created a culture in which pleasure is measured in quantity. It is as if we believe life becomes pleasant when we have more.

The pleasures of spiritual life are about quality much more than quantity.

There are people who assume pleasure is exclusive. They assume the more we have that others cannot have, the more pleasure in our lives. For them, pleasure is about visiting unique places and sampling exotic tastes and experiences. They choose the people with whom they are willing to share their pleasures carefully. The more pleasure they can experience, the better.

Some people treat the pleasures of spiritual life the same way they treat culinary pleasure. They believe spiritual pleasures need to be found in places which are difficult to reach. It is only as they outdistance other people they begin to find pleasure.

For me, sharing is part of the pleasure of spiritual life. We explore together, discovering the treasures spiritual life offers us. As we tell each other the stories of our journeys we come to see how much we hold in common. Watching the sun rise and set is inspiring, but more inspiring when we do it together.

As intense as pleasures for which we need to work hard can be, some pleasures come to us.

The pleasure of spiritual life is as varied and fulfilling as all the pleasure of the rest of life. Rocking in a chair on a porch, sitting in the fresh air, opening ourselves to the life around us. Being with people we love. Reading a well-written book. Biting into something and letting the juice run down our chin. Taking a deep breath. Looking up into the stars on a clear night.

Where Do We Find the Pleasure of Spiritual Life?

There is pleasure in each moment when we pay attention, not to our insecurities, but our potential. As we realize spiritual life fills us and the world around us, our lives become more pleasant. We learn to release our tight grasp on what we think we know and open ourselves to pleasure.

Spiritual life transforms us and how we experience ourselves and the world.

It does not mean every minute will be a happy one. We will struggle to learn to let go of false hopes and find the truth. There are deep lessons for us to learn.

There will be moments of intense pleasure, and moments of struggle and pain. Even our hardest experiences will, with time, reveal the pleasure they hold to us.

Each of us lives our own life. As we find the deep pleasure spiritual life has for us, we are drawn to continue.

We pause, take a deep breath, and reflect on what life has given us today. Spiritual life flows through us, carrying away our desire to fight about what we believe. The deeper we explore, the more sustaining the pleasure. We are drawn into spiritual life and the juice runs down our chin.

Where do you find the pleasure of spiritual life?

[Image by heidinger.janos]

Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor and leadership coach in Southern California. He is a recovering attorney and university professor, and a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is, and his email address is

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