The current hunger for spirituality produces shelves of new books and provokes not infrequent conversations. Given the life-squeezing pace and the goods-suffocating materialism of our culture, the yearning for simplicity, clarity and passion in daily life is fully understandable.
Yet, the same rapid pace and rampant materialism that makes spirituality so desirable is also the impediment in embrasing spirituality. For spiritual techniques become one more commodity that is packaged, purchased, shoe-horned into an overly busy schedule, and then discarded. Dieting provides an illuminating example. We choose to go on a diet each time we crave weight loss. Immediate loss is usually the result. However, additional weight loss requires persistent attention and determination, and it is usually at this point that we abandon the diet and watch our former state reassert itself. Like dieting, a spiritual practice works its way, giving us a measure of presence and inner peace. Frustration, though, sets in with the plateau we reach and the realization that much attention and determination is needed to progress. It is at this point that we usually abandon our attempt to be more spiritual.
Irrespective of our inability to maintain a spiritual practice, our need for depth, direction and desire/passion (my definition of spirituality) is essential to the real life most of us crave.
No simpler or more accessible pattern of spirituality can be found than "practicing the presence of God," a name given to the insights of Brother Lawrence, a seventeenth century French Carmelite lay brother. He wrote of waking up to the Divine in our daily journey and allowing -- through imagination and intellect -- a consciousness of God to permeate our moments and hours. Being so aware is to acknowledge the One in whom "we live and move and have our being." Expressing gratitude for the new day, acknowledging the divine in each person one meets, appreciating the frequent consideration and forgiveness others grant us, delighting in the sparkle in another's eye and praying for those in whom the sparkle is absent are just a few of the ways in which a consciousness of the Divine is constantly maintained. Although 'practicing the presence' is exceedingly simple, such consciousness is exceedingly difficult to sustain throughout the minutes and hours of each day.
Such simplicity is not attractive to consumers who place value on
that which is nicely packaged and has an expensive price tag. Such spirituality
is not attractive to dilettantes who want something that they can easily
tuck, as one more item, into the multitudinous tasks of each day. Obviously,
gaining genuine depth, direction and desire/passion in our lives is not
for the faint-hearted. No doubt for that reason, the yearning for spirituality
produces great books and animated conversations. Unfortunately, seldom
are they matched by transformed lives.
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