Sunday, July 11, 2010

Doing What Is Asked Of Us

Everything comes down to and flows from doing the things our life asks us to do. When the baby needs to be fed, we feed the baby. When the baby’s diaper needs to be changed, we change the baby’s diaper. We don’t shortchange the baby. We care for the baby even when we don’t feel like it, when we aren’t in the mood for it, when we don’t want to. No parent worthy of the title ever told his or her new born, “Come back when you’re 25.”

We do the thing that needs doing. Jim McKenzie has said that the things we dread doing, put off, find excuses not to do (like mowing the lawn and unclogging the drain and preparing our income tax) take no more than a few hours at most to do. You would think we had been sentenced to ten years at hard labor the way we carry on about the things we don’t want to do but must be done.

I said last week, and liked the line so much I’m going to use it again this week, that we have within us what it takes to rise to every occasion, yet we are afraid we cannot rise to any occasion. We don’t want to rise to any occasion. We want to be left alone. We want life to ply us with blessings and leave us alone.

The single most important requirement for spiritual development is doing what our life asks us to do while being true to ourselves. It starts with the way we treat our children. Our children come into the world with all they need to be who they are. We don’t have to tell them anything about how to be who they are. We have a lot to tell them about how to square themselves up with the world while being who they are. But, in order to tell them what they need to know about that, we need to know what we are talking about. We need to be able to square ourselves up with the world while being who we are! But, we want to be able to get what we want from the world and for the world to leave us alone.

And we want to be spiritual, or say we do. My position on the matter is that we don’t want to be spiritual at all. We want a buffer between ourselves and the world. If the world won’t go away, we will. We will withdraw, shrink back, disengage. Spirituality is a great way of escaping the dreads and dreariness of life. We even call them “spiritual retreats.” We get to claim the highest of motives in checking out of our lives. Who could fault us for seeking spiritual enlightenment? Well, here’s an enlightening thought for you: The only value of spiritual development is in its enabling us to do what our life is asking us to do while being true to ourselves, and doing what we must do to be who we are. The only value of being spiritual is finding there the wherewithal to engage our lives—to step into our lives and live them exactly as they need to be lived, changing the baby’s diaper and helping our children and one another, square themselves up with their lives while being true to themselves, while being who they are.

This is the spiritual task, being who we are in the world as it is. This requires us to live in the tension between the life we live “in the world” in order to make a living and pay the bills and do what is being asked of us to meet the requirements of life “in the world,” while living the life that is truly our life to live, the life that exhibits and expresses who we are in the deepest, truest sense of the term. There are two lives to be lived here, the life with our name on it, our destiny, and the life the world requires of us, our fate. We live within the constraints of our fate, the givens and demands of physical reality, as we serve our destiny, becoming and expressing who and how we are as spiritual beings.

This is all there is to being spiritual—doing what our lives ask of us while being true to ourselves, while being who we are. Spirituality provides us with the inner resources to do what the external world asks of us, requires of us, demands of us. Without a vibrant spiritual foundation we have to make it through life on the strength of our own willpower alone. We are left with talking ourselves into doing what ought to be done, with “gutting it out,” with “suffering through.” This is the moral equivalent of AA’s “white-knuckling it,” and it gets us about as far.

We cannot will ourselves through life. This is were spirituality comes into play. Spirituality is the ground of life in the world, of our ability to do what our life asks of us. Here’s how it works. We have within all we need to rise to every occasion AND we don’t want to rise to any occasion. Both the ability and the resistance are spiritual realities. We consciously align ourselves with one while giving full credence to the validity of the other’s position. Of course we don’t want to rise to any occasion! Why would we? What’s in it for us? What are we going to get out of it? There is nothing there that would be better than lolling around the pool sipping something cold, or just lying in the shade and letting the world turn. Of course it is unfair and not right that we should have to change the baby! Who changes us?

Here we get to the heart of the matter of our resistance to doing what life asks of us. It is the infantile refusal to grow up. Yet the opposite infantile motive is also at work in us. We want to be independent and self-reliant. We want to live our own life. We don’t want anyone “changing us”! All of this is spiritually true. We are brim full of mixed motives. Ambivalence is our primary characteristic. We feel very strongly both ways about every important thing.

This “collision of contraries” is a fundamental experience of every conscious being and has always been projected outside of us as a cosmic conflict between good and evil, light and darkness, God and Satan. It is easier for us to conceive and describe the “out there” than the “in here,” but we are actually talking about the “in here” as though it is “out there.” The conflict is within, and we don’t know what to do about it.

What we do about it is step into it and say firmly what we are going to do while validating the opposing point of view. And, we find the strength for this in the inner allies and guides who gather to assist us in the work of becoming who we are. Now, these inner allies and guides are not at our disposal and will not help us live any old life. They assist us in the expression of, the living of, the life that is truly our life to live. We have to be “on the beam,” “on track,” “on the right path,” to avail ourselves of our inner resources, guidance and help. But, the wonder is that as we take up the challenge to become who we are within the constraints and givens of life “in the world,” we discover that we are not alone in this work. The work is to become who we are by doing what our lives are asking of us, while living to express what is deepest, truest and best about us, bringing the spiritual qualities, character, and aspects of ourselves to life in the physical world of normal, apparent, reality. Amen! May it be so!

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