Vocation Not Vacation
“Underneath all we are taught, there is a voice that calls to us beyond what is reasonable, and in listening to that flicker of spirit, we often find deep healing.”
– Mark Nepo “The Book of Awakening”
Spirituality is not a vacation but rather a vocation. Meditation and Yoga, were never meant to be a means of escaping the world but rather, a means for entering into life more deeply and profoundly. While both the monk and the pilgrim may retreat from the world for a brief period of time, it’s not to escape but rather to train, to renew, to reconnect, in order to re-enter life more skillfully and with understanding and clarity developed while in retreat, learning to “be in the world more fully, intimately, and without reservation or self-preservation.”
The contemplative is not interested in either novelty or variety. He or she seeks a deeper meaning of life than the cultural or social definition accepted by so many. We train in the spiritual practices to learn “not to be daunted by the things of the world,” so that we can be present to our lives as they are, including our families, our friends, and our neighbors; and to the world as it is, and to the endless evolving and ever-changing circumstances of life, not as a victim of change but rather as a healing and reconciling force of Nature.
Again I refer you to words of the late Pierre Teilhard de Chardin who wrote that, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings immersed in a human experience,” “We are to live our lives or (engage life everyday in every moment) as if our limitations do not exist.” While most continue to have a limited experience of themselves as human beings, constantly in search of that spiritual experience that will bring them more wealth or security (which is another misrepresentation of the meaning and purpose of spirituality), Chardin reminds us that this is not the whole of our existence, and that this has never been the meaning or purpose of religion or the spiritual practices.
St. Paul writes, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” When I was a younger man I pursued both “novelty and variety” as a means of self-gratification, as I matured I realized that, “It didn’t matter if the water was cold or warm if you were going to have to wade through it anyway.” If we are ever going to fully realize all that the gift of the ancient practices have to offer us, we need to give up our attachment to pleasure and comfort, and certainly to this false sense of self. Pema Chodron writes, “One of the main discoveries of meditation is seeing how we continually run away from the present moment, how we avoid being here just as we are,” and with life just as it is. Authentic spirituality is about waking up from a lifetime of ego-delusion, from our conditional and futile efforts spending our lives trying to construct them in a way that we avert the truths about impermanence. We need to stop creating spirituality in the image of our false sense of self, and learn to open our hearts and our minds to the stuff that taxes us. The only time I ever learned about the power and the benefits of fire was when I got burnt.
What The World Needs Now Are Spiritual Warriors
As the future of America continues to unfold everyday from Washington, those who identify with the principles of compassion and loving-kindness; who dream of a world where no one is forgotten; where everyone is equally supported and cared for, perhaps find themselves increasingly challenged to live truly spiritual in the world, by the efforts of those who continue to embrace and reinforce the political and social ideology of Century’s past. Ideology’s which find their roots in Greed, Hatred and resentment, and Indifference to the most vulnerable and the forgotten in our society.
Fr. Richard Rohr, OSF suggests that any “national introspection must begin with self-introspection,” otherwise “solutions and policy fixes will be based in shifting sands.” In other words we are left with “More of the same.” As I have written on other occasions, it is not enough to simply be angry and to express that anger in open forums. It is not enough to simply want to repeal the current dysfunctional model for government and society. We must be prepared and ready to offer an alternative model, replacing the old paradigm if we expect any possibility for any real transformation. Any new paradigm must come from the people, “We must be the alternative and the solutions for the future.”
This will require serious “self-introspection” coupled with the difficult and arduous lifelong work of transforming our hearts and minds before we can ever expect to transform the world. Our message, our motivation, must be more than political. Political ideologies and government programs of themselves alone, have never brought about the collective consciousness shift required for creating an enlightened society; any possibility for sustainability, and a more loving and compassionate world.
In his 2016 article in the Harvard Business Review, Greg Satell suggests that the large groups, such as the ones we witnessed in the streets of America and around the world after the
November elections, derive their strength from smaller groups. I suggest that the smaller groups ultimately derive their strength from the individuals who make up the group. Any effort to ever bring about global transformation must come from within each us. Any effort to transform society or the world, before any real personal transformation, will always prove to be futile. “We get the leaders who mirror what we have become as a nation,” and we get the nation we have either created through collaboration or indifference.
No one is coming, the Voice of ancient past continues to call to us “beyond what is reasonable.” What is required of each of us, is for each of us to stand on our own two feet and make the journey from slavery out of Egypt to the Promised Land. We must make the journey for ourselves and for each other. When the person to your right falls, pick them up. When the person to your left grows weary, offer them a shoulder to lean on. Never stop walking, together: All for One, One for All. This is The Way, the Truth, and the Light which will enlighten your journey all the way home.
I love you,