What Sparks the Fire of Spiritual Life?
There are days when sparking the fire of spiritual life can feel like too much of a challenge.
I care about spiritual life and spend a lot of time reflecting on it, and it can be difficult even for me. Some days it seems like more than we can do to get excited about spiritual life.
There are days when we are tired. We may feel frustrated, repeating spiritual practices which do not seem to be accomplishing anything. Some days we feel tired physically, some days emotionally.
It is not unusual for us to experience a letdown after a particularly strong or intense spiritual effort. We may have resolved something with which we have been struggling and feel we need some rest. There are times when even especially strong positive experiences leave us feeling worn out.
Some of us respond to external pressures of spiritual life by resisting them. We are not inspired to demonstrate spiritual life when other people expect us to act in certain ways. Some of us feel the stresses of the holiday season as other people demanding we get into the holiday spirit.
Many of us find spiritual life confusing and uncomfortable. Some of us have little context for putting what we experience of spiritual life into words. We may have had such a negative experience with formal institutions we are not eager to explore spiritual life.
Some of us have been so abused we avoid spiritual life whenever possible.
We may identify spiritual life with rejection of who we are in our deepest selves.
How can we spark the fire of spiritual life within us when the idea makes us uncomfortable? We may feel we have been burned by the fire of spiritual life.
The Fire of Spiritual Life
We all experience times when spiritual life feels far from us. The fire of spiritual life within us appears to have gone out, leaving us alone in the cold and dark. The idea of sacred depth all around us, or even in us, seems ridiculous and laughable.
We believe spiritual life should be comforting and supportive but we do not feel comforted or supported. Each step feels like a struggle. We do not want to let other people down, but we do not feel spiritual life within us.
People try many things to keep the spark in their lives ignited, or reignite it. Some people believe religion is essential to spiritual life. They follow a prescribed path. Some people develop specific practices or disciplines to fuel the fire. They commit themselves to taking regular steps throughout the day or the week. Some people rely on analytical reasoning or intense emotions to spark spiritual life. They believe in what they understand or what they experience.
None of these ways of approaching spiritual life is wrong. None of them is guaranteed.
The fire of spiritual life is powerful beyond our ability to control. Nothing we do or do not do gives us a stranglehold on spiritual life. The beauty and strength of spiritual life is we cannot control it. We cannot determine the timing of spiritual life, cannot schedule our recognition of depth. The fire of spiritual life is a gift we cannot give ourselves.There are steps we can take to spark our openness to the fire of spiritual life.
Being Open to the Fire of Spiritual Life
We begin to recognize the possibilities of spiritual life are beyond what we have experienced so far. The ways we have tried to understand the fire of spiritual life and control it limit what it can do in our lives.
Our first step to spark our openness to spiritual life is appreciating we can be more open.
As we explore ways to be more receptive to the value of spiritual life we find new ways to embrace it.
It seems to take a dramatic event for some of us to try to become more open to the fire of spiritual life. We may need to confront our need for something larger and more powerful than we are.
A particular relationship might open us gradually to spiritual life.
Some of us are first introduced to spiritual life through organized religion. The deep spiritual elements of nature may attract us.
Each of us has our own personal relationship to spiritual life. Some of us need to struggle while others appear to have a more comfortable time.
We approach spiritual life within our own context.
Stillness and the Fire of Spiritual Life
Many of us find deeper openness to spiritual life through contemplative practices of stillness.
We set aside what distracts us and pay attention to the fire of spiritual life. These practices are often designed to encourage us to spend a designated time each day releasing what distracts us.
We practice being open to spiritual life.
As our practices develop we experience them in new ways. They become less mechanical, less formal, and more relational. We feel the warmth and see the light of the fire of spiritual life. Our reflection allows us to understand our experiences in new ways.
We begin to experience the fire of spiritual life as if we were sitting in front of a fireplace. Opening ourselves to the fire of spiritual life is allowing the fire to spark our thoughts and memories. People and experiences we have forgotten come to mind and we see them in new ways.
Watching a fire in a fireplace, listening to sacred stillness, sparks insights and questions within us. We recognize there are people who need our help and practical ways we can help them. It may allow us to see things in new ways.
We do not need to struggle against those days when the fire of spiritual life seems to go out.
Come sit by the fire with me.
What sparks the fire of spiritual life for us today?
How will the fire of spiritual life within us show us new ways to live this week?
[Image by apasciuto]
Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor and 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 StrategicMonk.com, and his email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.