It’s happened before. I’m sure it will happen again. Each time, I learn something new about myself. While I find it difficult to say that the new insight is sufficient to make it a good experience, I can’t really say it’s been a bad one. It’s just part of the process.
A few months ago, life’s events pulled me away from my regular spiritual practice. To be more honest, it may be better to say that I allowed those events to pull me away from regular spiritual practice. Because of what was going on in my life, meditation and other contemplative activities became very difficult. For example, when I’d go to sit in meditation, I’d experience a number of things I just wanted to avoid. Sometimes it was outright emotional pain. Other times it was more of a sense of anxiety. Still others, silence would take me to a place where I’d just feel blue. It was easier just to avoid it all.
Over this period, I continued to attend church services and sit in meditation with others. There were a few times I cried quietly but mostly, in these group settings, I was numb. I went through the external motions of being part of the group.
I was aware that my lack of regularity in spiritual practice led to other imbalances in my life. Some were physical: I didn’t sleep as well at night. Despite the increasingly warmer temperatures, arthritis pain and stiffness were more noticeable. As I became less centered, my diet also became more unhealthy. I was also less patient with people and generally more irritable. Imbalance in one area of my life led to the next. It wasn’t long before I felt as though I was spinning out of control.
In recent weeks, I’ve found myself to be more regular in prayer and meditation. Starting over again was more difficult than I expected. For several days, when I’d begin a meditation sitting, it felt empty. Keeping silent for five or ten minutes seemed like an hour. But, after some time, I began to relax into the silence. As I found myself to be more rooted in the silence, I became aware of how other aspects of my life were returning to balance. My thinking was more clear and work became easier. I wanted more physical exercise. Overall, I was finding myself more relaxed and patient.
In my book, The Integrated Self, I discuss how each aspect or dimension of our lives is interconnected with the others. While I know that is true, the experience of the growing disconnection that was happening for me helped to make clear how important balance in one dimension in life can be for all the other areas. As I returned to contemplative practice, the other dimensions of my life came back to wholeness.
I noted that the disintegration began as some other things in my life were pulling me in a different direction. I have no control over those other things. There’s much about our lives we have very little control over. These other concerns in my life have been a source of pain and tension. In a way, I gave into them and let them take control. In doing so, I was no longer grounded and centered. However, perhaps if I had been more constant in my contemplative practice, had I maintained my inner grounding, then the situations over which I have no control would not have led to the imbalance I experienced. In other words, by not continuing to engage in contemplative practices that would have helped me sort out the mix of emotional turmoil I experienced, I probably made things more difficult on myself.
What’s the lesson to be learned? It’s a familiar one for many people: spiritual practice keeps us grounded and centered when other aspects of life become difficult for us. That grounding helps to provide balance for every other dimension in life (our bodies, emotions, relationships, and mental abilities) even when there is serious turmoil in life. Regular spiritual practice helps to keep us whole and healthy.
It’s not that I don’t know this important lesson about the importance of spiritual practice in my life. I’m probably like most people: there are times when knowing something doesn’t mean that we always do it. But perhaps this recent experience will help me to do better next time when parts of life grow out of control.
© 2012, emerging by Lou Kavar, Ph.D.. All rights reserved.