Sunday, April 21, 2013

What is true spirituality?

     Every group thinks it's got the true spirituality. The born-agains, the 12-steppers, the Jews, the Catholics, the Muslims, the Buddhist, the Hindus, the Mormons the New-Agers. Pretty annoying, isn't it? Or how about this notion that all fundamentalism embraces—follow our doctrine and you will have peace. Well, maybe you will, but it will be a false peace, a peace built on avoidance and fear.
     I once heard somebody on the radio say they were looking for a church that you didn't have to check your brain at the door. Yeah, I thought. That would be a rare church indeed. Imagine a church if the pastor/rabbi/mullah actually told the truth. If they said: "You know I'd like to believe this." Or "It seems very possible that..." Or "You know I'm really not sure about this doctrine."
     Unfortunately I don't think you're going to find too many churches like that.
     And this notion of peace. Dante Alighieri wrote: "In God's will is our peace." A lovely notion I admit. The Divine Being directing your every thought, emotion, move, to the point where you have absolute assurance, absolute peace that you are on the right path. Again, unfortunately, I just don't think it's true.
     Spirituality is not an escape from responsibility, freedom, struggle, and doubt (in other words: life). It is a call to those things. Consider this from Chin-Ning Chu's Thick Face, Black Heart.

For a truly spiritual individual, the path of spirituality is like walking on a razor's edge; it is a diligent pursuit of one's perfection. However, for others, the pursuit of spirituality is merely a vague notion; it actually is a pretext, an excuse to practice inertia and avoidance of life's challenges.

     Now I don't entirely agree with the 'pursuit of perfection' part of that, but in general I think her statement is more reflective of what genuine spirituality is all about.
     You can anesthetize yourself with religion. You can create false states of deep peace. Look at many in the oriental traditions: spending their entire lives chanting to maintain a state of peace. Now I'm not saying you shouldn't have a deep sense of peace about who you are, your core-self. But beyond that, life is about risk and challenge and doubt and ambiguity and confrontation. If you are walking around in a zombie-like state of peace, you simply aren't living.
     Emerson wrote:

There is no sleep, no pause, no preservation, but all things renew, germinate and spring. People wish to be settled; only as far as they are unsettled is there any hope for them.

     Don't avoid life through a phony sense of peace. You'll be wasting your life. Don't avoid life through fundamentalism. God didn't give us minds, reason, discretion and choice to abdicate them all to a doctrine. True spirituality is embracing all that life really is, uncertainties, ambiguities, responsibilities, struggles and freedom included.
     Live yourself. Then you can say: "I lived and this is what I found out!" Not, "This is what somebody told me (or what our doctrinal book said)."
     True spirituality is about living.


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