Thereâ€™s a quiet part of me that doesnâ€™t get to speak up very often. Itâ€™s the part that tries to find some spiritual identity, an awareness of the importance of an inner life, balance, centeredness, love, and thinking beyond my own life and problems.
Spirit. I donâ€™t really like names for things so complex and abstract. But what else do you call something as big as our whole inner life? These days many of us are trying to figure out who we are deep down. I thought I’d share some of my thoughts, since I was so bold as to put spirituality in the description of my blog. So who am I deep down?
Iâ€™m not religious. I have read a lot about Buddhism and itâ€™s thinking. I was really into Zen for awhile, probably because of its quietly passionate detachment. And more recently Iâ€™ve learned about the thinking, spirit and practice of yoga. One of the main yoga texts is the Bhagavad Gita, which is an amazingly universal and powerful spiritual text, and it’s centuries older than Christianity. But I donâ€™t really practice any of these regularly. I like to think I donâ€™t need to lean on any religion or spiritual practice. That I can manage by my own wits. But a little voice, a very quiet one, manages to whisper to me once in awhile, â€œPlease donâ€™t ignore meâ€.
Itâ€™s a voice that exalts in beauty, wonders at rainbows, falls in love, is thankful, really thankful for what I have. Itâ€™s the calming voice of a soothing mother, comforting me in times of doubt. It tells me that if I did my best, I can feel good about it. But it also tells me when I could do better. When to forgive myself. When I need to change a behavior, when I need to apologize for something. I guess the conscience could be a spirit of sorts. But so is the wind.
This soft voice is at times much more powerful. When I allow the time to dwell upon it, muse on it, it tells me I am timeless, that all history passes through me, that I am a part of something magnificiently huge. It tells me I am connected, all the time, with and by something I will never understand. That I am safe no matter what happens to me. That my weaknesses are forgiven, that my strengths are gifts, but are not mine to own. I believe there is a scientific explanation for all of the above. A great read about that is “Concilience” by Edward O. Wilson. But the mystery will always remain as to who made the science, who came before the egg or the chicken. In my humble opinion, the more we know, the less we know, and the smaller we get. Humbling.
It tells me that all things, living and otherwise, are mysteriously interwoven, that our planetâ€™s health is crucial, that helping others is not charity, but duty. That compassion is the key. That any power I have is a tool to benefit all. These thoughts are known to be patterns of survival for humans. We all benefit from nourishing our surroundings and ourselves and each other. It worries me that this common sense is lost in all the ideological shouting that seems to go on about religion.
In a nasty and chaotic world, I often feel torn. How do I reconcile so much need in the world with my own self fulfillment? I seek balance: between action and inaction, between self fulfillment and selflessness, between inner and outer life, stress and relaxation. I my case it means flowing toward forgiveness, especially for myself. I often feel I’m not doing enough, for others or the world, but if I get sick over it, the unbalance doesn’t help anyone.
Iâ€™m starting to realize that a certain amount of selfishness is not a fault, but fuel to get to the core of our true self. To a place where the fire burns close, where the inner and outer lives feed off each other, rub together, warmed by friction. Personally, I have trouble getting close to the fire. I protect my inner-self, mostly to keep from getting hurt, but it really imprisons me. I only limit myself by keeping my soft self hidden from the outside. Maybe that’s because it’s terrifying to be vulnerable. Does anyone else feel that way?
So if we force ourselves to help others, we are denying that devine friction to fuel our goodness, and we begin to resent those we help. If we cultivate our inner voice and listen to it, we may not find a particularly charitable spirit inside. But through gentle, forgiving honesty with ourselves, we find natural goodness, which hopefully will reach out in some way to benefit others. This can be family, friends, neighbors, strangers, even enemies. That depends on how much youâ€™ve opened your heart. It can’t be faked, really.
I used to feel alone when alone. Now I feel connected, infinite.