A Human Being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.
The spiritual journey is a path of waking up our awareness. It demands that we trust our experience, become friends with our burning. It does not matter if your hunger is a different hunger than mine: you must trust your own hunger. Sufi mystic Rumi writes that our hunger itself is proof of the existence of bread. Our thirst is proof that there is such a thing as water. If we trust our deepest inner hunger it will lead us on our own spiritual path.
I cannot tell you what your spiritual path must be. I can only offer you some gleanings, some sparks of light for your spiritual journey from my experience of following my own burning, and my experience of being in community with the people of my congregation and other spiritual searchers. Someone once described our faith community as a hallway with many doors to the holy. One temptation is to get stuck in the hallway, celebrating the freedom to choose whichever door we want, rather than to open any of them. There is a Buddhist parable that says we can’t find water by digging many shallow wells. To begin a spiritual journey we must actually open a door, and walk through to where it leads us.
Albert Einstein’s questioning hungers led him to open a door into scientific experimentation and mathematical reasoning, and he followed that pathway more deeply than most minds are able to fathom. Was that a spiritual journey? I think so. He became a friend to his own burning. His vision has inspired and changed our lives, even if most of us could not explain the theories he developed.
Spirituality is not an escape from the world. Spirituality is about experiencing more deeply our relationship to all that is. Spirituality is awakening to awe and gratitude for all that is. We don’t have to be a Rumi or an Einstein to enter a spiritual doorway. We only need to become friends with our own burning.
Frederick Buechner says,“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments and life itself is grace.”
To be spiritual means to pay attention to our own experience of the mysterious reality of which we are a part. I am inviting you to take a risk—to befriend your hunger, to pay attention, to go through the doorway, to see what you might experience about our miraculous world.
To take that next step through the door can be difficult. We might be suspicious of what lies on the other side. We may be drawn to mystery, but uncomfortable with the irrational or unproven. We might discover old wounds triggered by the symbols or language from difficulties in our religious past. How do we heal? How do we re-imagine or reclaim our own connection to divinity?
For now, I invite you to notice what is in your heart. Notice the hungers you feel, the questions, the passions, the fears. Notice, just notice, any wounds you may carry that surface when you approach a doorway into spirituality. Make a list. Explore what triggers those wounds, and let yourself remember any painful experiences from your own religious past. I will continue to explore these questions in future posts.
There are only two ways to live your life.
One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as if everything is a miracle.