He paged through the book he just purchased. Thoughtfully, he looked up at me and said, “Spirituality it something important. I really believe that. I can see it in the lives of other people and the difference it makes for them. I hate to admit this, but I really don’t know what it means for me. I grew up Catholic but now I don’t know what to call myself. Agnostic, I guess. I believe that there’s something more to life than we see. But I just don’t know what it is. I think your book will help me figure it out.”
While I was glad my colleague purchased a copy of my new book, Stumbling Into Life’s Lessons, and while the stories of how I integrated spirituality in my own life more fully may provide him with some insights, I don’t think that he’ll find what he’s looking for in a book, whether one of mine or some other ones. Much like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, he already has the answer he’s looking for inside of him.
A great spiritual teacher, George Fox, the founder of the Society of Friends (the Quakers) taught, “There is that which is of God in everyone.” While Fox’s words reflect a basic tenet of the Judeo-Christian tradition, that the Creator breathed Divine life into the first human, thus making humanity in the Divine Image, Fox was able to convey this notion to his followers in simple language. In each of us, there is an inner light, a Divine spark. An awareness of the inner light that it illuminates our lives is the heart of spirituality. Or, as I say it today, spirituality isn’t outside of us but in us.
To understand spirituality in our lives doesn’t require us to read lots of books, listen to seminar leaders or spiritual teachers, or travel a great distance to be with a great guru or famous TV evangelist. Instead, understanding spirituality requires that we pause in the midst of our busy lives and pay attention to what’s deep inside of us. When have we felt most alive? Are there times in life when it seemed that everything came together in the right way? Have there been moments that provided some insight, awareness, or knowledge that led to some kind of transformation in life?
I remember sitting with a woman who told me of an experience that transformed her life in a profound way. Prior to that experience, it seemed as though her life were falling apart. She had a young daughter who died an untimely death. The girl had drowned in the backyard swimming pool quite by accident. The woman’s husband blamed his wife for the accident. That led to a bitter divorce two years after the daughter’s death. She was depressed, and medicated, and thought her life was hopeless. One day, while driving along an interstate highway, the woman crested a hill and saw the sun beginning to set on the far horizon. The experience overwhelmed her and she pulled off the road to watch the sunset. This was not something she would typically do. As she watched the setting sun, mesmerized by the colors streaking through the sky, a great sense of peace came over her. That’s all it was: a very profound sense of peace. After the sun set, she got back on the road and continued on her way. Something within her changed. The peace stayed with her. She no longer blamed herself of her daughter’s death. The depression lifted. She began to reorganize her life in new ways.
Most people don’t have profound experiences like this woman’s sunset. But most people don’t experience the level of trauma she had lived through. Yet, she found that this experience marked a transformation, a new beginning in her life. As she looked back on the experience, she came to label it as a spiritual awakening. In an identifiable way, she woke up from her depression and found that inner spark that grew to illuminate her way.
I know from talking to the man who recently purchased my book that he has had moments of clarity in life when he gained insight and experienced a calm that stayed with him for a time. Those are the roots from which a more developed spiritual life can grow. But he will need to tend to them, nurture them, and integrate them so that they move from being occasional experiences to a regular part of his life. From time to time, he experiences that inner spark. With proper attention, he can add a bit of fuel to enable that spark to ignite and provide light for his journey. But only he can do it.
© 2010, emerging by Lou Kavar, Ph.D.. All rights reserved.