Experiencing Spirituality as Radical

Experiencing Spirituality as Radical June 23, 2022

Andrew Lang Seattle Tacoma Spirituality
Patrick Mueller/Unsplash

Another way we might think of spirituality is as a radical process of seeing what’s underneath the moment right in front of us – of touching upon the inherent dignity within everything, available to us all the time. And I mean radical; in a culture of nonstop doing, producing, and reacting – a culture of the status quo and of “going along to get along” – practicing presence and seeking to see beneath the obvious is a radical act.

I’m sure you’ve heard this before but the word radical means to “get to the root” of a specific issue, problem, or topic. The word has its origins in botany as people would refer to that which came from roots – hence why we have radical leaves and radical tubers. (For those who don’t know – those are real things.)


Radical vs. Extreme

A common misconception nowadays is that the word radical is more or less the same as extreme. It isn’t. 

Being extreme is about being outside the norm; it is focused on the output. Is this person a liberal extremist? Is this person a right-wing extremist?

But being radical is process-oriented; it is about the depth that someone is willing to go to connect with the root of an issue. We need to address housing insecurity in a radical way. Here is a radical way of seeing this.

If extremism is about how far you’ll go one way or another, being radical is about how deep you’re willing to go and how honestly you’re willing to look.

And so when we talk about the inner life, being radical is a question of how real we want to get with ourselves. Are we interested in deep, sustained examination and engaging in practices that might open us to new experiences of ourselves or would we prefer the steady and safe-enough status quo?


Engaging the Inner Life as a Radical Act

In her book The Interior Castle, Teresa of Ávila describes engaging one’s inner life as exploring a house of “many dwellings” within one’s soul. She says that we first have a choice to make: to knock on the door of this castle or to turn away, opting instead for the securities of our known daily life, however much tension might live there.

And should we open the door and walk through it, how deep are we willing to go into the many rooms of our interior castle? Are we comfortable taking off our shoes and hanging out in the entryway or are we prepared to wander into the hallway and see where it goes? Do we have a circle of trust – a friend, a therapist, or a group of people – who can help us continue in our exploration, no matter what we might find trailing along with us or waiting for us around the corner?

This is the work of spirituality – it is the radical act of going to the depths and coming into contact with the inherent dignity of the moment, with the Divine, with one’s true self, whatever language works for you.

It has nothing to gain by conspiring with those in power or concerting control over anything or anyone. Any “spirituality” that is more centered on dominion than depth isn’t radical – it is simply the status quo masquerading in spiritual language. And we don’t have time for that.

About Andrew Lang
Andrew Lang is an educator in Tacoma, Washington, an alumnus of Richard Rohr’s Living School for Action and Contemplation, and author of the forthcoming book, Unmasking the Inner Critic: Lessons for Living an Unconstricted Life. Along with blogging regularly, he facilitates workshops helping people to navigate their inner lives and explore their sense of identity and spirituality. You can read more about the author here.

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