You are a child of the universe

photo Gina was writing about a new spiritual and physical path recently, and that got me to thinking.

Almost everything gets me to thinking. You’ll get used to it.

She described it like this: “It’s a way to achieve self-healing, inner peace, and happiness. I’m still learning, but I already want to start working on opening my chakras. To do that I need to learn how to meditate. I think practicing yoga will help me towards that as well, teach me how to internally calm myself. Ultimately, I want to reach a peak of spiritual strength. By that point, I’ll have faced and conquered my demons, and have conquered my past traumas. I won’t be held back by them anymore.”

And that made me pause to wonder: what do people look for when they decide to head down the spiritual path?

Of course, the answer to that question depends on who you are and from where you arrived at the religious/spiritual place you occupy. For some folks, their spiritual lives are inextricably entwined with orthodox religions and, as often as not, they are looking for certainty. They did not arrive at that religious faith from any sort of profound life experiences or deep and introspective cogitation. Rather, they arrived from their mother’s knee. Their experience of their religion allows them to know, without doubt, the answers to the questions that trouble sentients, like what will happen when I die? and what is the meaning of my life? Their certainty is what gets them so upset and even offended when they discover that other people have other ideas about the answers to those questions. For thousands of years, that sort of thing has been starting wars.

Which only goes to show that humans are, by and large, frightened little rabbits, aren’t we?

For the record, the most profoundly spiritual persons I have ever encountered are not arrogant or self-righteous or judgmental. Quite the opposite. They have all the humility of someone who has accepted the possibility that they might be wrong about it all. They have all the tolerance of one who really knows their own profound weaknesses and accepts them, enabling them to accept yours and mine as well. In their own eyes, they are not better than anybody and they don’t seem to have anything to prove either. In fact, those folks make me think of the Serenity Prayer:

God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

The key here, for me, isn’t the fact that this brief petition is addressed to somebody amorphously called “God.” Rather, the key, or keys, here are calm, conviction, wisdom, and acceptance.

Also for the record, it is not impossible to find practicing members of orthodox religions who fit this description but I would suggest that they are probably the exception rather than the rule. Not that most people are frothingly self-righteous religious fanatics. I suspect that most people’s religious thought is fairly superficial. They believe in God and go to church and all that stuff because they are supposed to.

But I also believe the real search, whether we are talking about religiosity or spirituality, is for peace. It’s really hard to come by. There is not much in the modern, secular, Judeo-Christian West (if that’s not a contradiction in terms) that can help you get there and quite a lot in this particular culture that urges you in the other direction. It’s full of pressures and implanted dissatisfactions and stresses and materialities, all of which (we are told) are vitally important to our lives and our survival and our happiness and all of which don’t really mean anything at all in the grand scheme of things.

Living your life in your head and avoiding your emotions won’t get you there either. Hyper-intellectualizing spirituality so as to convince yourself that the world’s religiously-minded are sad-but-delusional might make you feel superior but it is no less self-righteous than the most rabid bible-thumper. There are certain emotional states that go along with peace, calm and acceptance, things like faith and love (philos) and that nameless feeling that binds all living things, the one that George Lucas called the Force and the rest of us don’t call anything at all because our uber-rationalist cultural perspective won’t admit its there.

The spirit combines the head and the heart. Maybe that’s its definition.

This is not something I discuss very often because I feel that my spirituality is very, very personal and private. So, I’ll just say that it’s good to ponder this stuff every now and then because it’s difficult to proceed on this journey if you don’t really know where you’re going. How are you going to know if you ever get there?

And I wish Gina all the very best on her journey. I hope we both find what we’re looking for.