Finite Ways to Practice Infinity
Contemplative practices make some of us uncomfortable. We find them intimidating or overwhelming.
Some of us experience contemplation like being in an ocean. It seems to be vast and powerful. We are afraid it will pull us in and drown us.
The fact is spiritual life is vast, far larger than our everyday lives seem to be. It is beyond our understanding and, by definition, outside our control. We sometimes feel we can handle everyday life, but how could we begin to manage spiritual life?
Spiritual life is infinite. We often have a hard time keeping track of our checkbooks or meeting deadlines. How could we even imagine ways to practice infinity in our regular schedules?
Some of us assume we need to reduce spiritual life down into manageable chunks. Maybe we could boil spiritual life down and cut out all the extraneous, confusing parts. We just need to chop spiritual life up into bite-sized pieces to make it easier to digest.
Many of us have grown accustomed to making our way in a world where we develop skills and overcome obstacles. We believe we could get a handle on this whole spiritual life thing if we found a way to break it down.
The idea of finding ways to practice infinity feels like a little more than we can grasp.
How would we even know when we had accomplished our goals?
Looking for finite ways to practice infinity is probably outside our wheelhouse, beyond our expertise. We probably do not realize we have any experience at all with infinity.
Our contemplative spiritual practices are not intended to make spiritual life easier for us. We are not building spiritual muscles to help us achieve our goals.
Our practices gradually awaken us to the realities of infinite spiritual life.
We Practice Infinity and Intimacy
Some of us experience spiritual life as infinite and concerned with absolute, universal truths. Spiritual life is more than that.
Wherever we set a boundary or find an analogy, spiritual life is more.
What amazes us, and what can be difficult to remember, is spiritual life is also intimate.
While spiritual life encompasses the most powerful energies at work in the universe, it also lives within us.
It is not a matter of how smart we are, or how articulate people are who talk or write about spiritual life. Spiritual life is not something to be measured and analyzed. Spiritual life is not a system. It is a relationship.
Spiritual life is neither a formula we are working to solve nor a test we are trying to pass. It is spiritual.
Spiritual life embraces us and holds us in its arms. It is beyond all our rules and all our ideas. Spiritual life is like two close friends sitting together to watch a sunset. It is more than words can say and no more than we can hold in our hearts.
As we look for finite ways to practice infinity we need to remember and also practice intimacy. We are not simply trying to change our habits or compose poetic statements of what we believe.
We are looking for finite ways to practice infinity which express our relationship to spiritual life. Our practices help shape us into the people we have the potential to become.
What are the finite ways we can begin to practice infinity?
How Do We Practice Infinity in Finite Ways?
Contemplative spiritual practices show us finite ways to practice infinity. Our intention is to get out of our own way and consent to the presence and action of infinite spiritual life in our lives.
We practice infinity in a variety of specific, finite ways. As we listen to sacred stillness or practice deeper ways of reading we become more open to the infinite. Our practice, for a few moments, can take us beyond distractions and limitations.
Spending a short period of time each day helps us begin to pay attention to the infinite all around us. Over time we begin to recognize infinity within us as well.
We sit calmly and breathe deeply, not getting caught up in the distractions of our everyday lives. No matter how we usually experience our days we commit some of our time to practice infinity.
Our practices help us remember infinite spiritual life and appreciate how it permeates our lives. Over time we recognize more and more how spiritual life shapes us and helps us grow.
The most significant challenge we face in finding finite ways to practice infinity is beginning again each day.
Paying Attention to How We Practice Infinity
Each of us has our own personal ways to practice infinity. Powerful spiritual life is all around us and within us, infinite and intimate.
Like an ocean spiritual life stretches out farther than we can see. We may be anxious or afraid because spiritual life is unfamiliar and beyond our control but we cannot change that. There is beauty and power in infinite spiritual life.
As we find finite ways to practice infinity we allow ourselves to be brought into its rhythms. Over time we learn how to pay attention to the ways we practice infinity. We breathe infinity in and listen to its stillness. When we read we begin to find infinity in the words and spaces. There is infinity in the movies we watch and the games we play.
Our everyday lives are filled with opportunities to practice infinity in finite ways.
The challenge for us is not understanding or managing infinite spiritual life. We look for small, finite ways to practice infinity each day.
Each day we choose how we practice infinity and open ourselves to spiritual life.
What are the finite ways we will practice infinity today?
When will we practice infinity this week?
[Image by bdesham]
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.