Tag: spiritual direction

Habit, Routine, Schedule, Practice, Discipline – Will They Change Your Life?

Habit, Routine, Schedule, Practice, Discipline – Will They Change Your Life?

Mandala of Unity
Mandala of Unity © Eitan Kedmy Click Image for more details and shop.

“Intention without discipline is useless.”   Caroline Myss 

from Entering the Castle: Finding the Inner Path to God and Your Soul’s Purpose

Habits are, you know, habit-forming! They start as something we do or try, and after an extended period of time, end up as a mindless part of our life, like brushing our teeth, putting on our shoes, putting the key in the ignition or front door, smoking, eating, drinking and a myriad of other activities that have become like breathing air. They can be good, bad or indifferent. Do they have consequences? You bet.

Routines are bigger. They help us flow through life in a mindless fashion. Every morning we get up at 7, eat breakfast at 7:15, walk the dog at 7:30, pack our lunch and leave for work by 8:00. Routines are made up of little habits that have become a comfortable way of life. Changing our routine takes forethought and effort and if done too abruptly may cause us a bit of discomfort.

Schedules are even bigger than routines. They can  be looked at as a variety of routines with a few random activities thrown in the mix in a preconceived pattern. They also help our lives run more smoothly. Like habits and routines, schedules are little decisions that structure our days and our lives. They may make us very productive, but do not necessarily make us better people.

This is the job of practices and disciplines. A practice, in the sense that I am talking about here, is something we choose to do that focuses on an outcome that enriches our lives and makes us better people. They are such things as meditating, mindfulness, reflective writing or reading, silence, meditative walking, praying, and a variety of other similar activities. We call then practices because even if they become a part of our routine they continue to require work and attention. We can always go deeper with them. They don’t contain us, they expand us.

Disciplines are practices that have become a part of our lives in a significant fashion. They require continued effort, focus and a considerable amount of inner strength. They bring us even deeper into ourselves and the world of the spirit.

Which one(s) will change you? Which ones have changed you? In what ways?

 

On Loneliness

On Loneliness

 

It is … only in the state of complete abandonment and loneliness that we experience the helpful powers of our own natures. ”   Carl Jung;  Modern Man in Search of a Soul

 

Much of my life I spent locked in the cage of a deep and pervasive loneliness. It did not matter that I had friends, family or people around me. I struggled with this abiding isolation, helpless to make it go away. I berated myself for not “doing” the right thing, or “attracting” the right people into my life. Why when I married my best friend and was surrounded by children and friends that loved me was I still assailed by loneliness?

Figure at the Window by Salvador Dalí
Figure at the Window by Salvador Dalí

As I grew older, my parents died, my children left home, my husband and i were living with the consequences of a life time of destructive patterns of interaction, was I found myself in a “dark night of the soul”, as described by St. John of the Cross in his poem and treatise by that name – Dark Night of the Soul (Dover Thrift Editions). I saw nothing but endless isolation ahead, and death. I knew that I had to face my fear of being alone once and for all. I knew that I had to face it alone. That was all I knew, and it was terrifying. I believed there had to be a different answer to the problem than I had heretofore found and I became determined to find it.

Coming through a dark night is never easy, but it is always life and spirit altering. In my dark night I discovered a connection to myself and to my soul that now sustains me in a way nothing else was ever meant to do. I understand that now. One cannot escape loneliness through action or connection to others. One must heal the emptiness inside that separates us from ourselves. Only then can we gain true intimacy with others. It sounds simple, It is not.

Carl Jung discovered this as well. He discovered and articulated our need to discover the “powers of our own natures” and to live from within our own creative powers, using our own rich and magnificent resources. We have far more inside of ourselves and at our disposal than most of us ever imagine; more than most of us can even conceive, particularly when we are locked in the fear, dread and scarcity mentality of our culture. To discover our inner strength, the bubbling fountain of life energy that is ever-present to us, it is necessary to disconnect from anything that pulls us away from it and from that which draws our attention to false solutions and weak excuses. Only then, will we discover the richest part of this life we are now living.

Have you experience a “dark night of the soul”? Have you experienced deep and abiding loneliness? What did you discover there?

Unraveling Ourselves

Backwards Thinking

 

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.