WHAT IS THE SPIRITUAL LIFE?
What is the spiritual life? Many professionals in the field of religion, and many practitioners of various religions, often speak or write of the “spiritual life”. I’m not sure what this even means. From our very first story in the Scriptures, we were made in the image and likeness of God. Later, God presents his divinity in the form of a human being, in the form of Jesus who, as we say, is both divine and human, fully, without separation. Did Jesus have a “spiritual life”, the implication of which is that he also must have had a “non-spiritual life”? Is that possible? Metropolitan Anthony (Bloom) writes,
A thought that has been repeatedly thrust at us in the form of quotation from the Gospel or from literature, which somehow clicks in a situation and acquires deep meaning, is no longer a quotation from Shakespeare or from the Scriptures; it is truth that has been put into words which are so significant and so powerful.
Metropolitan Anthony’s point is clear: truth is truth. I would add to this thought that life is life. There is no, or should be no, separation between the “spiritual life” and the “non-spiritual life”. Most of us are not monks or hermits; we are human beings living in a very complex world, one that entails our families, work, friends, hobbies, social obligations, church, and other aspects of our day to day existence. It is easy to compartmentalize all of these aspects of our lives, as if to separate them like slices of a pie.
I often hear people say, “I’m not religious, but I AM spiritual”. Interesting. To me, it sounds like saying, “I don’t have a physical body, but I AM a human being”. It’s not that it’s not necessarily true; it just makes no sense to me.
Life is life. Perhaps our task is to find ways to integrate the various aspects of our lives, to seek wholeness rather than separation. For example, when I am driving down the street and someone – perhaps unintentionally – slows me down, I can get angry, lose my sense of what I am actually doing. I’ve got to make it to my next appointment, and I can’t lose a minute of “my” time. Could it be that that extra minute actually provides a little more time to think about my next appointment, and, rather than spending a minute getting angry, I use that time to simply breathe, to consider what I am doing and why? Maybe I should thank the person ahead of me for slowing me down!
Life is life. There is no “spiritual life” and “non-spiritual life”. Jesus is our greatest example, whether it is at a wedding, with the woman at the well, going off to the desert to have some silence and solitude, his “spiritual life” is simply his life. Ah, but how do we do this; how do we altar our approach to changing our perspective on this issue? When I was living in the Himalaya, my lama would repeat to me, “slowly, slowly, step by step”. Each of us must decide how to do this. Perhaps prayer, some silence, and reflection would be the first slow steps I would take, and I would use Jesus as my example.