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On Purpose: Living Spiritually

It's not about balance but integration

We journey the path of life but are we prepared for Spiritual moments along the road?

“Spirituality, however, corresponds to the development of human qualities such as love, compassion, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, or a sense of responsibility. These inner qualities, which are a source of happiness for oneself and for others, are independent of any religion…And an altruistic motivation is the unifying element of the qualities that I define as spiritual (sic). Spirituality, in my view, consists of transforming the mind.”

His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama (2011). “My Spiritual Autobiography” Rider. London. Pp.105 -106.

This statement from His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama, reminds us that happiness is to be found from within, not from external, material things. This sense of Spirituality, the underlying human qualities, is also shared by the other world religions such as Christianity. Many of the great Saints of Christianity also wrote about Spirituality.

For example, Rev. Charles J. Jackson SJ., writing on St. Ignatius of Loyola, noted that Spirituality is more than religious practice or piety, it requires ‘Internal Cohesion’.

“Spirituality is grounded in a specific understanding about God, about God’s relationship with the world and about the human person in that world…(Ignatian Spirituality) is the understanding that God is an ‘active God,’ ever at work in people’s lives, that animates Ignatian spirituality and gives it its internal cohesion.”

Rev. Charles J. Jackson (ND). “Ignatian Spirituality” http://www.portsmouthdiocese.org.uk/spirituality/docs/IgnatianSpirituality.pdf (Pp. 1 & 7).

In a similar manner, Friar John Cooper OFM Cap., writing on the St. Francis of Assisi and Franciscan Spirituality observed:

“Franciscan Spirituality…(as a) process takes place in contemplation and fraternity. These are not separate, but interwoven like words on a ring they go around and around. In this fraternity is the core reality; it is both Trinitarian in contemplation and missionary in activity. With this goes the principle ‘No action without reflection’.”

Friar John Cooper OFM Cap (2016) “Franciscan Spirituality” http://www.ofsaustralia.org.au/LiteratureRetrieve.aspx?ID=152560

As a Catholic Educator, this author draws inspiration from the writings of the Patron Saint of Christian Teachers, St. John Baptist De La Salle. Writing on Lasallian Spirituality, Rev. Dr. Gerard Rummery FSC., notes that what is core in Lasallian Spirituality is:

1) A Spirit of Community (we live, work and live our lives as part of communities)

2) A Spirit of Faith (seeing everything through the lens of faith) and

3) A Spirit of Zeal (faith in action).

“Lasallian spirituality is, therefore, like all spiritual movements in that it is based on a profound interiority, a relationship of trust and confidence in a loving God who, in De La Salle’s words, “wishes everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (No.193.1).”

Rev. Dr Gerard Rummery FSC., (ND) “Lasallian Spirituality” http://www.lasalle.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/lasallian_spirit_en.pdf

What this leads to, is the notion, as highlighted by the Saints within Christianity and indeed by the Dalai Lama in Buddhism, it is impossible to divorce a person’s Spirituality from the other parts of their life. To work on the spiritual Life, in isolation from your family life, your work life, etc, defeats the purpose of what interior work should lead to, personal transformation. This author writes from the Christian tradition, as he works as a Catholic Educator and a Religious Educator. Not every person is on the same journey as this author and that is, as it should be. However, every person should be on a journey of personal transformation and continual improvement. This isn’t achieved over night and requires a degree of commitment, similar to that given to sport.

There is research and good practice, in the area of Leadership, that suggests ‘Inner-Work’ or leading your inner-self, leads, outwardly, to a more confident and adaptive leader.

“Being still, even for brief periods of time, gives us the chance to listen to our inner voice, gain broader perspectives and thus better serve ourselves as well as our students and staff.”

Mark Bielang, Superintendent, Paw Paw Schools, Paw Paw, Michigan Excerpted from “Words of Encouragement Newsletter, Center for Courage and Renewal” as cited (2014) by Harvard Graduate School of Education. Cambridge, Massachusetts.

At a practical level what does this mean? Arianna Huffington describes the need for integration rather than merely balance, very well. At the centre of our temporal and spiritual existence, is the need for humans that are fully integrated within themselves. The relationship that a person has with themselves and with their God (whatever their conception of God might be), has the potential to impact other relationships, personal and professional. The case for integration rather than balance is somewhat compelling.

“Reintegrating the spiritual and the everyday is the key to fearlessness. But ending this division is not easy when we’ve stopped even acknowledging that we live caught between these two worlds. When we’re consumed with climbing the career ladder or just making a living, the spiritual seems unreal and far away.”

Arianna Huffington (2017) “On Becoming Spiritually Fearless” https://www.thriveglobal.com/stories/15044-on-becoming-spiritually-fearless?utm_source=Thrive&utm_medium=Newsletter&mc_cid=ddad053b73&mc_eid=f6b11b5eb1

What works for this author?

In the quiet of night, often around 10pm, with no other distractions, the following occurs:

1) Light a candle (have sufficient light to read by).

2) Settle into the meditation with an appropriate piece of music. Taizé chants work well.

3) Close the eyes and listen to the music. Allow your mind to become clear of the clutter from the day that has been.

3) Allow the music to end (replay if needed).

4) In the candle light, remind yourself that you are always in the presence of God. Listen for your breathing.

5) In a notebook / journal, write down what you could have done better today, note the people you may need to make amends with tomorrow. 

6) In a notebook / journal, write down all that you are grateful for from your day. This establishes a positive ‘attitude of gratitude’ for the wonderful things that filled your day. Sit with the list of things you are grateful for and contemplate how blest you are.

7) Using your notebook / journal, write down those issues that are worrying you or for which you need wisdom.

8) Sit with this list. Ask the question, ‘what really matters?”

9) Open up your favourite scriptures, either at a place predetermined by you or by random selection. Read that piece of scripture. If you selected randomly, jot down the reference and the sentence that resonated with you. If you are looking for wisdom / ideas, repeat the random selection another 2-3 times, each time writing the relevant section. Does a theme start to emerge here? Why? If the passage was predetermined by you, what did you glean from it and why? (This process can work with a book, poetry, story, etc).

10) Sit with the readings and let God speak to you. This could be through your imagination or through a deeper awareness of yourself or through a break through moment, in which things finally make sense and come together.

11) Reflect on what you hope to be grateful for tomorrow and write that in your notebook / journal.

12) Finish with a prayer or blessing or statement of thanks. If you wish to finish with some appropriate music, that’s your call. It is after all your meditation session. Remember to extinguish the candle.

This is based on the process of Christian Meditation advocated by St. De La Salle (with some adjustments). It can be adapted to suit personal circumstances and need. In keeping a journal, you are recording your spiritual journey over time. Don’t hesitate to seek out the counsel of a Spiritual Adviser from time-to-time. They can really be a valuable resource on the journey. The goal is ‘Personal Transformation’, so that you can be the best version of you possible. Finally, make sure that Spiritual Well-Being is part of your Personal Plan. You can read about the Personal Plan, in my previous article: On Purpose: Living Life Well (see: https://www.thriveglobal.com/stories/14245-on-purpose).

As you go out into your day, think about how the world will be a better place because of your actions today? What will you do today, that will be a blessing?

Now go out there and transform the world for the better, through your own personal transformation. Have a great day!

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