Waking Up to Spiritual Life
I know people who think talking about spiritual life is a great way to put people to sleep.
Some of us experience spiritual life as overwhelmingly complicated and hard to understand. We might believe spiritual life is theoretical, conceptual, and makes no difference in our everyday lives. Others of us get lost in the history and political infighting of religious institutions.
Our eyes begin to glaze over and we lose interest, if not losing consciousness.
We may be convinced we have experienced spiritual life and understand it, finding it predictable. The familiar rhythms of spiritual life lull us into failing to pay attention and we fall asleep.
Many of us assume spiritual life is nice and safe, warm and comforting. If we think about spiritual life at all it probably reminds us of something our grandparents did.
Why would we want to pay attention to something like that? How could spiritual life be about our waking up?
My experience is different.
Waking up to spiritual life may be the most significant thing I have ever done. I am still stretching unused muscles, yawning, and opening eyes which protest against fresh light.
Waking up to spiritual life unfolds before us, rolling out in layers of unexplored truth. We realize we have seen only a thin sliver of the true picture of reality. As we begin waking up we continue beginning for the rest of our lives.
We may have spent a long time asleep to ourselves. Waking up, we begin bringing our dreams to life.
For me, spiritual life is about waking up, not about falling asleep. Spiritual life is not a familiar blanket to comfort me, but a new dawn which reveals fresh truths.
We Are Waking Up to Spiritual Life
Spiritual life inspires us to rest and reflect on deep truths, to know our true selves in new ways. It sparks us to pay attention to each present moment without becoming distracted.
We are able to trust spiritual life, to depend on its power, because it is not transitory. Spiritual life does not come and go, but is always with us. We may experience it as stronger on some days, or in some places, but spiritual life is always present.
Spiritual life does not move away from us or withhold itself from us. We cannot earn more spiritual life, and nothing we ever do can drive it away from us. Spiritual life does not take naps, or Spring Break or holidays away from us.
There can be times when we forget spiritual life, or get distracted by something shiny. We may try to run away from spiritual life, or decide it means nothing to us. Spiritual life does not remove or withhold itself from us, but waits patiently for us to return.
Our lives are an ongoing process of waking up to spiritual life.
Spiritual life surrounds us and fills us, reminding us it is always with us. It is a constant, persistent invitation to explore, to discover more.There may be times when we see ourselves as alienated from spiritual life. We might be convinced we have given it up or put it all behind us. We may believe spiritual life is important for children, but we have outgrown it. Some of us have never given spiritual life any real thought at all.
None of which means spiritual life has abandoned or forgotten us.
Each of us experiences spiritual life in our own ways. Whether we recognize it or not, spiritual life is awake and alive in each of us.
A Spiritual Practice of Waking Up
Spiritual life is not about following traditions or understanding complicated theories. It is not a checklist of things to do or avoid doing, not a list of answers or a clear path toward a goal.
Spiritual life is, first of all, alive. Waking up to spiritual life is about developing a living relationship, not about studying a list of facts.
It is easy for us to allow ourselves to become distracted or grow familiar with the way we live. We feel secure and assume we understand how things work. Many of us begin to take things for granted and stop paying attention to details.
Our minds wander. We are drawn into thinking about the past or the future or how we would like things to be. As we lose our focus on the present moment we begin falling asleep to spiritual life.
A spiritual practice of waking up to spiritual life is how we remind ourselves to pay attention.
For some of us contemplative practices are about waking up to the reality of spiritual life. We may rely on a worship service or an individual retreat.
Each of us is waking up in our own ways.
Are We Waking Up Today?
One of our challenges is when we to depend on our practices of waking up more than on spiritual life.
We need to remember our relationship to spiritual life is alive. Our practice cannot become a list of requirements or objectives. It is not a matter of crossing things off our schedule or touching all the bases.
Our practices of waking up to spiritual life can help us, but they cannot do the waking up for us.
We need to pay attention to the present moment. In addition to any practices we choose to follow we continue to ask ourselves whether we are waking up. It is not enough for us merely to follow practices which do not spark our attention.
Waking up can be a challenge. There will be times we do not feel like waking up, when we do not feel inspired. We practice waking up to remind us how important it is even when we do not feel like it.
We stretch unused muscles, yawn, and open eyes which protest against fresh light.
How will we practice waking up to spiritual life today?
When will our practice of waking up to spiritual life grow this week?
[Image by Luigi Rosa]
Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor and coach in Southern California. He is a recovering attorney 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.