We seek knowledge of the spiritual life to keep from living the life that is ours to live. But, that IS the spiritual life! Our LIFE is spiritual when it is lived aligned with our (that word again) destiny. When we reduce the spiritual problem to it’s simplest form it comes down to the matter of getting us together with our life, the life that is our life to live. Spirituality is a two part process. There is you and there is your life. Our spiritual work is getting us together with our life. It is not easy.
Our life comes in three manifestations. There is the life that is our life to live, our destiny. There is the life that we wish were our life to live. And there is the life we think we have to live. We have to work out the life we actually live from among these three possibilities. It is no wonder we put off the work that is ours to do: getting together with, living aligned with, the life that is our life to live! No wonder we seek knowledge, read books, sign up for retreats, take pilgrimages! Anything to put off the work required to ferret out the life that is our life to live and live it!
We seek the advanced degrees in spiritual development to keep us from doing what is ours to do: Living the life with our name on it. We drag it out, having to get ourselves square with life, putting the life we wish were our life to live aside, and aligning ourselves with the life that is ours to live. That’s the work. That’s all there is to it, but it’s too much for us. So, we demur. We defer. We put it off. We read another book. Sign up for another workshop. Go to another lecture. Take another pilgrimage. Anything to avoid doing what is ours to do. Anything to not have to worry about living the life that is ours to live.
No one can decide for us what is ours to do, or do for us what is ours to do. No one can relieve us of the burden that is ours, knowing and doing what is ours to do, but we seek relief! "Mama Guru! Tell us what to do!" And, of course, Mama Guru doesn't want to do what is his, hers, to do and is glad for the distraction we provide and happy to tell us what to do. Mama Guru’s are everywhere with advice and counsel. They will read your palms, or your tea leaves, or your stars, or your dreams and tell you what to do.
None of us does what is ours to do, and when someone does we call him, her, a bodhisattva or Christ or Buddha, for doing what is theirs to do, for living their life. Because we recognize the wonder of it, and are blessed by it, but we turn away from doing it ourselves. It’s too hard, too demanding, too risky, too much fraught with uncertainty and insecurity and instability. Who knows what might be asked of us, or might happen to us, or where we might wind up?! Of course, if you think about it, those are the ingredients of a Great Adventure. But, we don’t think about it. We look away. We look for Mama Guru.
Call me Mama Guru. Call me your Mama. And listen to me. It is not hard, really. What is really hard is to NOT be who we are, who we are called to be. How would it look, say, from your death bed, to think of the life you didn’t live because you wanted to be safe and secure, insulated, protected? Why don’t you see how much you can live of the life that is yours to live in the time left for living? Come on. How about it? I’ll tell you all you need to know.
The only knowledge required for spiritual development, growth, is the knowledge of what needs to be done and what of that is ours to do. Simple. Nothing to it. Being clear about the next step is all the clarity you will ever need. Knowing what to do next is all you need to know. Knowing what's important is all you need to know. Knowing what needs doing is all you need to know. You can save a lot of time for living the life that is yours to live in the time left for living by not worrying about all the advice from the experts. Stop reading. Start living. The knowledge that is required for spiritual growth has nothing to do with concepts and doctrines and beliefs and ideas. Know what to do now! Do it! That’s all there is to it!
We can miss the point of our lives all our lives long. We keep missing it denying that we are missing it because it's too painful to confess that we are missing it, have missed it. But don’t think you can’t go back and pick something of it up, of the life that is yours to live. You can! There is time yet left for living. See what you can do. In the church of our experience this is called sin (missing the point) and repentance (turning around). It is getting back on track. Getting back on track has nothing to do with doctrine or belief but with finding our way to the life that is ours to live and living it.
We have the rest of our lives to get together with the life that is our life to live, the one with our name on it. You know what that is called: The search for the holy grail. The holy grail is the life that is our life to live, the container of us, the vehicle of ourselves, the carrier of who we are, the shape of our self. It is who we are built, who we are called, to be.
And, how do we know who that is, who we are called to be? How do we know what life is the life that is ours to live? Glad you asked. We know when the potato salad is too salty and when the tea is not sweet enough. And we know when we are living the life that is our life to live, and when we are not. Joseph Campbell says, “We know when we are on the beam and when we are off of it.” We only have to know what we know. That means we have to pay attention. We have to be quiet and listen.
The kind of listening that is required in the search for the holy grail is prayer. Prayer is not usually thought of as listening. We do anything BUT listen when we pray. We talk, talk, talk, hardly stopping to breathe. Confession, petition, intercession, praise and thanksgiving. Those constitute the five types of prayer. Nothing about listening anywhere. But, we have to listen for what we have to say. Then we have to listen to what we have to say. Then we have to listen for what else there is to say. Listening is the ground of prayer, the environment in which prayer is prayed.
Prayer is seeing, hearing, understanding. Prayer reveals all, exposes all. We can’t hide anything in prayer. Who do we think we are kidding? Prayer is not diplomacy, positioning, posturing, flattery, sweet talk, smooth talk, or adulation as though God is some powerful old fool. Prayer is the plain statement of all the truth we are capable of telling at every point in our lives. It is our way of hearing what we have to say. When we pray, we over-hear what we have to say and, holding nothing back, explore what else there is to say to the point of seeing all.
We pray ourselves to the point of seeing, hearing, and understanding, and, thus, knowing. We follow that up with doing and being. We live to become the person we know we need to be, living the life we know we need to live out of the awareness that is generated by prayerful listening to all we have to say. There you are. Seeing, hearing and understanding call for the realignment of ourselves with our lives. Seeing how things are, we know what to do about how things are.
And don’t even think about what’s in it for us. The what are we going to get out of it, out of living the life that is ours to live, is the deal killer. What do we think there is beyond having lived the life that is ours to live? The photograph is what I get out of photography! Life is what we get out of living! What more could there be? We spend our lives getting ourselves together with our lives. What we have to show for our effort is an interesting, meaningful life.
This is to say that no conditions apply. We do not negotiate or bargain our way to our destiny! No “If then therefore” clauses! We step into the rest of the time we have for living bent on living OUR life, the life with our name on it, no matter what! We hand ourselves over to our life and allow it to have its way with us. Anything is possible with everything on the table. So, everything is on the table. Nothing is off limits.
The butterfly has to escape the cocoon, has to escape the caterpillar, has to move beyond what got it to where it is, in order to be itself. We have to grow beyond what got us where we are if we hope to be who we are and live the lives that are our lives to live. Spiritual growth is a painful dying to what has gone before in order to live as fully as possible in the time left for living. May we do it with our eyes dancing and our arms spread wide!