It truly is an extraordinary time to be alive. There is so much going on in the world and as the macrocosm of our national and international events grow larger and their effects trickle down into ordinary lives our spiritual fortitude seems tested more deeply by the day. For this Quaker, spiritual life is quite necessarily at the forefront of and the prerequisite to much contemplation over both small and big issues, ideas and everyday decision-making (um... most of the time). My spiritual self has been tremendously important to me in recent months and years. I've gone through a great deal of change on a personal level and have felt tides of change reshape our very world on local, national and international levels. I will say this about sustaining a devout spiritual practice over a period of years, after prayer and meditation had become an ingrained part of my daily life and my everyday decision making process had integrated a kind of automatic spiritual consultation, decisions seem to be a bit less strenuous. Not only do decisions seem easier, but when I sincerely include spiritual consultation in my daily life, the one thing that truly flourishes is my faith. It literally grows... at least for me. In my experience, active spiritual consultation throughout the day is the fertile ground where my faith is nurtured and continues to expand.
You may ask: "what exactly do you mean by spiritual consultation?" The answer to that question is as deeply personal as it is vastly diverse. I also believe the experience is universally common even if that sounds slightly contradictory. I will explain or define spiritual consultation as it applies to me.
Spiritual consultation for me is equivalent to surrender. Surrender of judgment in all forms or maybe I should say the suspension of judgment to the best of ones ability. When I go inside myself and feel the Love that I absolutely know dwells there I say as simply as I can "God, I turn this over to you in all ways. Please guide me in whatever way you need so that I may best reflect your Love, your light and your guidance. Please allow me to fulfill the function that you ascribe to me and my life at this time." The times that I can successfully sense the actual act of surrendering within myself, I feel plump with a sense of correctness and confidence, as though I'm truly letting go and doing the right thing. And there it is... my faith and what I believe to be a universal experience – faith in God as a result. I have (and feel) faith that I will be moved in the right direction or that I will make a right decision or modestly do the right thing.
Simply stated, the opportunity to express Love will no doubt show up. Quite often, it has and those events in my life were (and are) no small things from where I'm standing. I attribute many things to this process as God has touched every part of my life from family, work, home, relationships, etc. We've all heard the term "Let Go and Let God." I like that.
Spiritual life for me is a tremendous paradox. The more I realize just how little I know and the more I simultaneously surrender, the more I feel myself being taken as Love's apprentice and the more God shows up. In my heart of hearts I believe a few things about Spiritual Life - that our truest and deepest sense of joy is laid within the confines of surrender – that if we were to truly give up our own ideas and follow that "still small voice" within our hearts that is forever whispering to us and do it constantly, the joy experienced would be inexpressible with mere words alone. That is my goal. I think the very purpose of life is this seeking to commune with Love itself or with God. As you may guess, I also think that path is wrought with paradox. Essentially, the more you give up the more you gain, or maybe I should replace the word "gain" with "the more you realize just how loved you are."
I've done my best to adopt a way of thinking that considers life to be filled with "Loving Opportunities", especially during the last few years due to so many personal life changes. And as committed as I am, I've failed miserably at this surrendering business. Fortunately for me, the rare occasions where I could apply authentic surrender, I've been afforded the experience to feel the deep peace that comes with Love's touch. This has somehow made my failures well worth it. For me, Love's opportunities lie within my problems, my obstacles, my challenges, my decisions and yes within my desires as well. They are the fuel in my spiritual engine.
I've heard it said that Sufis will create a juicy problem if no problem exists. Reason for this is that they might further develop their spiritual tools, thus moving in the direction of "growing into God." I like that, too. How would we ever grow without challenges and problems? We live in a world of duality or as some say, a world of opposites. I feel that God often utilizes that mechanism of duality in enabling our evolution. How would we ever learn the remarkable power of forgiveness if we never needed to forgive? How would we ever learn of our uncommon inner strength if we never had to overcome adversity in all its forms? Have you ever "gotten over" something or met a challenge and knew beyond the shadow of any doubt that you did it successfully?
At the end of the day and with the greater life experience, I gain with age, I am developing an appreciation for the difficulties life throws at me. I am more aware of their presence these days and very slowly but oh so surely, their presence combined with my desire to apply spiritual truth to my life is changing me. Outward adversity readjusted will transcend and is perceived more truthfully as inner opportunity.
The more I age, the more my beliefs are turning inside out. Humility is creeping into the hidden places of my heart. Pride is becoming less and less important. The desire to serve is gaining momentum while the desire to have is feeling more superficial. Do I still want things? Of course. Do I still feel pride for those I love and do I want them to be proud of me? Absolutely. I can't quite explain it but while those desires, wants and wishes still exist and are very much there, they "feel" different than they did fifteen years ago prior to spiritual seeking.
And, you know what? With all the authenticity I can conjure up within myself I am grateful... truly grateful to have realized that I always have a choice because I have tremendous faith that there is an ocean of joy within which we live and is always available to us. I know it's there, I've dipped my toe into it. Loving God is a funny thing and will certainly make you question everything and even lose your way completely. But for me getting lost is very much needed so that I might be shown a path that will make me aware of Love's presence and provide a sense of purpose of which I could never find, much less materialize by myself.
In the words of Marianne Williamson, "God is so much better at being God than I am." I like that, too. It gives me perspective but most of all in provides a delicious flavor of humility to my thoughts and my actions. Yes, it truly is an extraordinary time to be alive. Wonderfully, beautifully, paradoxically extraordinary.