Month: July 2014

Our Spiritual Nature

Our Spiritual Nature

spiritual art
The Tree of Transformation
by Mary Ann Holley

My nights of late have been filled with dreams of struggle. Arguments, unease, confusion. I am going through a deep change. I can feel it happening in many areas of my life and my dreams seem to be reflecting the movement.

What’s different this time is that some of the dreams are violent. I don’t recall ever having violent dreams like these – along the line of the stuff that permeates our nation’s television and movie screens – and i t makes me wonder if something within me is reacting to the violence in the world.  When we open ourselves to the spiritual world, we may sometimes find that we react more strongly to the negative forces around us, both personally and globally.

I remember feeling the same dynamic some thirty years ago when I was drawn in a quantum leap into a deepening of my spirituality.  A series of events, a mentor, a sense of calling and a deep need to live out that calling, and the next thing I knew I was spending hours reading and meditating on the words of great spiritual teachers and heading to seminary. While my heart and soul were going in one direction, my mind and body were still very much alert and living in the everyday world and culture.

I was a senior in college,  although little older than most at twenty-five, and it was a Friday night. My roommate and I decided to go see a movie that had just come out.  Going to the movies back then was a very different experience than it is today.  We didn’t have a choice of fifteen movies. There was only one, and it generally stayed around for a very long time. A new movie was a much bigger deal and more of an event.  “Death Wish”, with Charles Bronson, was getting some buzz, though I can’t say I read anything about it before going, so we set out to take it in.

I only made it half way through the opening scene. I was so horrified and repulsed by what I witnessed on the screen that I got up and left. My roommate came running after me wondering what the heck had happened. We’d been friends for several years, and she knew I was not particularly naive, or underexposed to the darker side of life. I was a New Yorker, for crying out loud. I spent many a weekend wandering the streets of Manhattan with friends, from Times Square to 42nd Street. We saw it all. This time, it was not what I saw, but how I saw it, that was different. I was not separated from it. It was happening to me and I was repulsed by it as if I had been actually present at or participating in the crime.

I didn’t understand what was happening to me then, or how to handle it, any more than I understood how to handle a similar experience when I was fourteen.  A week at summer church camp had drawn me deep into the center of my spirituality. It was profound, life altering even, and yet, when I returned home, I didn’t have a clue how to share what I had experienced with the people in my life or how to keep the change alive by incorporating it into my every day life. I blamed myself, but really, in spite of being a church goer in a church going family, I didn’t have the tools, or the support to actually guide me in living out of what I only sensed to be something very real and very powerful. I did not have a guide of any sort, within or without of the church, to teach me to manage something so undefinable yet all-encompassing. I was trying to bring a symbolic understanding of life into a very linear, literal world. I find it astounding that as a society we’ve chosen to spend so much time, effort and money educating the minds of our children, but have done nothing to guide and nurture their spirits.  Even organized religion has fallen down on the job choosing to mandate more often than moderate.

As I stood in the lobby of the movie theater that night, I sensed that a new perspective had a hold of me. Again, I did not know how to speak it into the world — the real, every day world and I’m pretty sure Jena was as perplexed by my behavior as I was. I told her I was sorry and that I’d be happy to wait for her if she wanted to go back in and watch the rest of the movie.  I didn’t want to ruin the evening for her, but I just couldn’t watch it. She said she wasn’t all that into it anyway and we went for ice cream instead.

I’ve never gone back and watched that particular movie, but I’m pretty sure it’s tame by comparison to what is on our many screens today.  What I have come to understand about my experience is something that warrants attention, both on an individual level and a cultural one.

I believe that human beings are spiritual creatures by nature. A creative, loving force lives within each of us. Some call it God, some call it our soul or Soul, others Source without source, or the divine.  We are creatures who think symbolically and we understand intuitively, that there is power in a name. It is not surprising that we seek a name that feels right to us, one that is congruent with our beliefs. Whatever one calls it, it is the essence of what it means to be a human being, it is what I call our spiritual nature, that thing or force that fires our passions, erupts in love, and drives our richest, most meaningful creativity.

Our freewill, however, allows us to choose where we focus our passion, the creative force we hold within us. Therefore, we can just as easily choose to direct it toward something finite or evil, as toward something infinite or benevolent. A third option, that I believe to be most prevalent today, is the choice which is actually the denial of choice. We don’t know what to do with our spiritual nature so we do nothing.  We don’t know how to handle it, or what it looks like, or what to do about it, and so we push it aside. We neglect it. We ignore it. We bury it in day-to-day detritus.

The longer we neglect it the duller our awareness of its importance and power becomes. Our spiritual nature will always exist, but our sense of spirituality is deadened and dulled in much the same way that a neglected child loses interest in life and becomes despondent and unresponsive. We fire ourselves up by focusing on superficial concerns and we live with our ego as our guide. This choice is ultimately our own, but in a world devoid of spiritual guidance, such as that once offered in abundance by organized religion, we are easily stymied and at a loss as to how to help ourselves.  Managing the spiritual world, particularly when we live in a cultural that is so potent with its antithesis, is no mean feat.

Organized religion has become irrelevant to the masses, and nothing, as yet, has replaced it.  We have spiritual gurus popping up like daisies, each with their own brand of theology,  each gathering their own band of followers. Not that there’s anything wrong with this, but having a viable spiritual guide or community in ones own neighborhood is rare. We don’t know who, or what, to turn to or to trust.

There’s a great divide between the spiritual and the cultural. Is it any different from the past? I really don’t know. What I do know, is that in the here and now, there is a great dearth of spiritual guidance for the individual, and spiritual leadership with integrity is in short supply. It’s no wonder we find ourselves adrift. It’s no wonder as a culture we become increasingly secular. We know we have outgrown the guidance offered in the past, but our mistake is that we think we need none now.

This is not an issue that is resolved easily for anyone and so I will offer no answers here. Just food for thought in what in my mind is a very pressing question. I welcome your thoughts and reactions.

I Choose to Inhabit My Days

I Choose to Inhabit My Days

writer, poet

 

I was swept away by this poem, posted on a blog I follow called Soul Gatherings. I, like Theresa, have a love of quotes and words strung beautifully together such as Dawna Markova’s poem. For me, words at their best create a symbolic tapestry that calls to our heart, tugs on our spirit and puts voice to our deepest yearnings.  Today, I want to share Markova’s word-painting with you, to extend her heart awakening opportunity a little further.  I purchased one today myself as I have not yet had the good fortune of reading the. I look forward to finding out where she will take me. Perhaps you will do the same.

Creating a New Life

Creating a New Life

tumblr_lv3pwlJfzo1qm3oero1_400Writing is one of my best defenses against the darkness that can lay in wait as I go about working to live a life free of PTSD symptoms.   Too often I allow things to get in the way, like a computer with an issue, or the recent holiday weekend that gave both my husband and myself plenty of opportunity to visit with trauma inducing relatives. There was no way to avoid facing the very great temptation to sink back into old ineffective ways of dealing with such things.

As I step back and look at my recovery over the last three plus years, and his, it’s clearer every day that it is a process that moves forward a little bit at a time. Step by step, day by day, we get stronger, more resilient, more solid within ourselves, more solid in our relationship. Always, however, there are, what I like to consider as opportunities to strengthen our resilience, to go deeper and unearth any lingering misconceptions or to heal those not-quite-yet-healed broken places.

Over the last weeks I have discover that,  indeed, I have become more resilient. I bend when the wind blows, sometimes so far to the ground that I think I’m going to break…but I don’t.  I have tools now. I know what to do when the craziness threatens to overtake me. I no longer live on the edge of hysteria with that feeling that any minute I’m going to lose it somehow, break into tiny pieces, or curl up in a ball and die.

Instead, I go inside of myself. I breathe in the quiet place I have discovered there. No matter where my body is, it is there, waiting, ready to take me in, comfort and restore me and keep me safe. I always find strength and comfort in this place where my soul lives. Always. I need no thing from outside of myself when I am there. I need only to rest, to stay, to breathe and know that there is enough strength within me to survive anything.

After I have rested in my inner sanctuary for a time, when I can, I carry it forward in another way. I might run a hot bath, for instance, pour some Epsom salts in the hot steamy water, light a few candles, plug-in one of my favorite audios (usually something by Clarissa Pinkola Estes) and climb in. I run the hot water just enough to keep the bath comfortable and I sink down into the arms of one of nature’s greatest gifts and as I do I consciously continue to breathe deeply and slowly,  aware of the warm moist air as it washes over, around and through me.  I close my eyes and listen to the loving lilt of Dr. E’s voice as she weaves her words into my hurting places. When it is time, I climb out of the tub, dry myself off and slowly move back into the world.

Every day I become a little more certain, and trusting, about the necessity of creating a new life in order to let go of the old one. It doesn’t seem that it’s necessary, or even possible, to go back and fix the person we became as a result of the past. I’ve spent way too much of my life trying to understand how I got to the places I found myself. It all seemed such a mystery in spite of the years of research and therapy. I’ve come to understand that the underlying impetus for my desperate attempts to understand, was not just that I wanted to rid myself of the pain, though of course I did, but I believed I needed to fix myself.  My basic, fundamental belief was that there was something very wrong with me. I was flawed, broken, not right somehow, and I needed to do something about that.

But, I am not broken. At my core I am whole and perfectly imperfect like every other human being on this planet. I never needed to “fix” myself. I needed to love and accept myself. The need to fix oneself carries with it a sense of shame and embarrassment that siphons life and courage from us like a giant vacuum cleaner. We do not become cleaner and more acceptable to ourselves and the world, we become depleted, empty and vacant.

Though my mind continues to look for understanding and knowledge of the ways of the mind and the psyche, my sense of self no longer rests in that place. It belongs to another dimension entirely, and always has.

Dorothy Sander July 2014