Spirituality in the Trenches

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Spiritual calm is easy when everything is going great. Finding peace is easy even if things are only going sort of well. Yet spirituality becomes critical in the rough patches, when life slips slowly or suddenly out of control. This’s when calm matters – and that’s when inner peace can be hard to find.

Our troubles are often illusory, but it can take spirituality to see through the illusion.

Think about difficulties you’ve experienced in the past. How many of those would have been greatly relieved if you kept your head? How many of them were not actually difficulties but rather misperceptions?

Overcorrection can cause serious car accidents. The state of Missouri recently identified overcorrection as the leading cause of traffic fatalities.

During much of my life, I responded to problems with emotional overcorrection. Call it overreaction or reactive behavior. It was a matter of not being able to insert the brain between a seemingly threatening event and my response to it.

Spirituality provides a cool pause in a highly charged world – a place of calm when life is on fire.

Spirituality can circumvent damaging emotional reactions and give you a chance to see – even if just for a moment – that the essence of life is peace and love, not threat and danger.

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Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places

What Do We Want? And why is desire such a tricky guide?

Much of what we experience as desire is actually a yearning for connection, and the only connection that truly satisfies is spiritual connection. We desire something we already have: oneness.

As in the line from the country song goes, we’re looking for love in all the wrong places. We look outside ourselves for that which is inside. The connection we seek has always been inside, and it will always be inside.

Our passions and desires can go off the track so easily. Mine have. I’ve followed passion and desire off many cliffs – bad relationships, substance abuse, overeating. It’s not surprising that 12 step programs insist that the connection to a higher power is essential to overcoming the negative effects of desire gone haywire.

Passion is a powerful human force. Desire keeps us moving when all seems lost. Passion is the beating heart of creativity, the force that drives parents to sacrifice for their children. It is also the fuel that propels massively destructive human behavior, from a single brutality to horrifying wars across the globe. All passion.

The same passion quiets and nourishes when we realize we are not apart, we are not alone, and we are not threatened with annihilation. When that realization is true, the body is put to calm. We awake in peace, go through the day in wonder, and rest easily at night.

For the day is eternal and all our needs are met. We have no needs but connection, and we are always connected. We exist in connection because connection is all there is. There is nothing that is not connection. Our passion – once directed – brings us awake to this simple and eternal truth.

Truth Is an Arrow

Keeping to a spiritual path is not as easy as it looks. Meditation, staying in the now, keeping mindful, reading the latest “it” book, reading one of your past “it” books that got you started into all of this. The list doesn’t seem taxing. Yet it can be surprisingly difficult to remain on a clear spiritual path.

On the song, “When He Returns,” from the album, Slow Train Coming, Bob Dylan sings, “Truth is an arrow, and the gate is narrow that is passes through.” The entire album is Born Again Christian spirituality, but the idea of truth as an arrow and the gate is passes through being narrow applies to any spirituality.

I can fall asleep spiritually very easily, and when I fall asleep, the arrow is gone. When I turn my attention back to my spirituality, it is there waiting. It goes nowhere. I’m the one who goes away. At times, I had nodded off for years.

When I’m not paying attention to my spirituality, my life doesn’t go very well. When I’m paying attention, things are fine in my life – most of all my life isn’t really my life any more. The sense of “me” diminishes and the world grows large. I disappear into the arrow. And the view from the arrow shows that everything is cared for.

Getting back to my spirituality is not a climb, it’s a fall. A release and letting go.

The truth is an arrow and the gate is narrow that it passes through. Beyond that lies nothing. Beyond that lies everything.