I like to analyse things; find the elements that make up things, from cakes to novels and find ways to understand them on my own terms, find the lesson, the quality that makes them special. And being how I am, spirituality could not escape this little quirk of mine. What makes up spirituality; what makes a life spiritual? Not easy questions and I’m sure there is not one answer, for every study, analysis, dissection will be coloured by experiences, beliefs and personalities. Still, today I’d like to share eight elements I have found to be part of my spiritual path, which, hopefully, may inspire you to find your own.
Sacredness. Wherever you understand sacredness as the inherent dignity and value of someone or something; something worthy of respect and care; or a Divine quality attached to a person, space or object, however you understand Divinity, seeing this world, this life and yourself as sacred opens the door for a multitude of insights. Think about it. Imagine that the way we behave in a sacred site, the way you handle a sacred text or image or talked to or about a holy person, we would apply it to our home, our work, our city, our family, friends, neighbours and ourselves.
When we live in sacredness, things happen for us, not to us. Life is in our favour, our existence is meaningful and important, and we thread gently over this land, as we would reverently in a holy site. Our own sacredness serves as guide to our behaviour, to the way you relate to others, not only our fellow human beings, but our brothers and sisters from another specie. Every time we become aware of this sense of sacredness, the world changes a little: it becomes more valuable, worthier, more beautiful, more loveable. From a place of sacredness, the song of a bird that caught our ear as we drank a coffee in our backyard, is a miracle that will never, ever, be replicated exactly in the same way, and we have had the chance to witness it, appreciate it and offer it the reverence it deserves as a beautiful and unique event. From a place of sacredness, we fall so we learn to get up; hearts break to give a chance for our light to come out and other people’s light to come in; enemies are dark teachers; Nature is the ultimate guru and our life a master piece in the making, were we are both artist and artwork. From a place of sacredness, no tear, no laughter, no little act of joy or kindness is ever waste it.
The second attitude in my list, although is not put together in any order, is awe. Sometimes we take things for granted, and we do not stop to contemplate the wonderful complexities that are around us. Take our knees for example. We don’t think too much about our knees until they stop working properly. But consider this: it has taken around a decade for mechanical geniuses in Japan, to make a robot climb up and downs some stairs. Ten years, and thousands, if not millions of pounds, for a machine to do what any three-year-old does, while singing and holding a teddy bear at the same time. Every time we eat an apple, we are eating the energy of the sun, processed by the apple tree through photosynthesis. In that little apple we are eating the child of heaven and earth; we are eating part of the Pacific Ocean that came down as rain. What is more, we are eating that sweet, red, delicious apple, because millions of years ago flowers became ambitious, and wanting to widen the range where their seeds could be spread, decided to created fruits, and made them sweet and colourful. And because flowers did this, mammals eventually developed the ability to see the colour red. Forget about Alice in Wonderland. What more wonder than this world, than that apple, than our knees, than our existence? We, my friends, are walking miracles.
Then we have acceptance. When I was 12 I had a bonding experience with a fox. I was in school, looking out of the window, when I saw it, the first real-life fox I had ever seen and for a moment we lock sights, and it was as if time had stopped. It was, I believe, my first spiritual moment, or my first awareness of spirituality. When the fox came out of the fog, there was such feeling of acceptance for that moment. I didn’t wish for the fox to come closer or stay longer or for me to pet it. It was what it was, and it was beautiful just as it was. We do have a tendency to want to change, improve, fix and yes, sometimes all of this is necessary. But a lot of time, they are not. The more we accept the rain in a rainy day, instead of moaning for the lack of sun, the easier we can deal with whatever inconveniences come with it and the more likely that we can find something to like about it. The more we accept ourselves and others for who we are, and we can do, the less disappointment, hurt and judgement there will be and the clearer we become on what can be enhanced, healed and polished and what cannot. Acceptance is the cure for all those “shoulds” that we are bombarded with, from society, family, peers and ourselves and opens the door for authenticity and genuine living.
Gratitude is also in my list and I’m sure most of you have heard about the importance of practicing I daily. At 12 I was not a particularly spiritual or religious kid. But I knew that the moment shared with my dear fox had been a gift and I was very, truly grateful for it. For what or to whom, I wasn’t quite sure. Yet I understand that it had been a special experience and I was glad I had been there to enjoy it. With the years I have added more reasons to my gratitude. I am thankful for being at the right place and the right time, for the window pane that allowed me to look out; for my own awareness which signal the uniqueness of the moment and for my conscious mind which accepted the invitation of the awareness; for my Dad who study so hard to achieve his master’s degree; for the Venezuelan Air Force who rewarded his efforts with the course in Montgomery Alabama and so forth. Gratitude has the power to not only make us feel blessed, lucky and loved, but to see how the rest of the world interacts and connects to us, and how another’s fortune can increase the chance of our own good fortune. It also helps become humbled, as we realized that we are all standing in the shoulders of people, places, history and no one is really a self-made person, but many other factors contribute to the creation of who we are, which of course does not exclude are own efforts.
It has been said that the unexamined life is now worth living, which does sound a bit too harsh. But one of the attitudes in my list is questioning. For, if I believe that my life is sacred, and things happen for me, then everything and everyone has something to offer to my well-being. Hence, when I say questioning, it is really one question I’m asking: what is this offering me? There are many variations of this question, of course. We can ask, what can I learn from this? How does this make me stronger, wiser, kinder? How can I transform this negative into a positive? What’s the gift of the poison? Why does the Divine of my understanding think that is a good idea for me to experience this? This questioning doesn’t have to be only about things that happen. Anything around of us can be a source of wisdom and inspiration, if we first look it from a place of sacredness and then start asking this sort of questions.
Let me give you a simple example of how applying question can give us some useful insights. I like to think of myself as an understanding and fair woman, most of the time anyway. Hence, I have a deal with the spiders at my flat. I will allow them to have their webs for three or four days and will only destroy the web when they are not around. Because I may be fair and understanding but I also have my maniac “I want my flat to look clean” side. One day I was in my Kali goddess mode, getting rid of the spider webs, when a little voice inside said, “well, that is a waste of time, the spider will weave it back by tomorrow.” But instead of letting the voice annoy me, I did ask, “true, but there must be a positive lesson for me to learn here.” And this is what came up.
When the webs get destroyed, the spider weaves it back again. Maybe not in the same spot, maybe not the same size. The reason is simple: the spider cannot go around mopping about how unjust life is. The spider web is its home, its livelihood, its creation, its soul-purpose. To give up on weaving spider webs is to give up on life. And having a giant woman with a broom or a heavy rain ever so often bringing your creation down is part of the deal. With each potential disaster, the spider becomes a little wiser, a better weaver and a better planner. Now, if a tiny spider can have that grit, that wisdom, that resilience and that determination, so can I. Not because I am necessarily better than the spider, but certainly because I am as good as the spider. I can because the spider and I share so many genes that we are family and hence we do share family traits. And I can because, in accordance to my spiritual views, the Spirit of life loves me and the spiders and is providing the best experiences for us to grow. So, I still clean the spider webs, and the spiders keep on weaving them, but now I am reminded of an important lesson every time the spider and I do this domestic dance of life.
Another attitude in my list is awareness, escaping what I call the “zombie zone” of our mind, where we go about without really looking, hearing and sensing the life around us. We really have to cultivate the habit of stopping, sometimes literally, and force ourselves to become fully present. Sometimes it can turn into a game, such as closing your eyes and trying to remember everything you have seen the past minute. Sometimes is disciplining ourselves, as when we are part of conversation, when we must remind ourselves to hear for understanding not to answer back. I usually mix this attitude with the one I call beauty, or to be exact, the search for Beauty, that is, to find it everywhere, in everyone. Hence, if I am waiting for the bus, I tell myself to look around and find something beautiful. And when I do, I ask for its gift or lesson and thank the beauty for gracing my life. This practice allows me to see dandelions as gorgeous flowers and not as vegetable pests. Very few things inspire me more than seeing a dandelion growing on a pavement crack. What a lesson in strength and determination! The dandelion doesn’t care is people think it’s pretty or worthy. The dandelion knows that it deserves to enjoy the gift of life, that it has as much right to the sun and rain as the rose and it pushes, against all odds, to be what it was created to be: a gorgeous, multi-petal golden flower, flourishing with all its might and enthusiasm, and in doing so, expressing its own connection to life and divinity. If that is not a spiritual lesson, I don’t know what can be.
Last, but certainly not least in my list, is Love. There is a myriad of opportunities each day to express, give, receive and be the love. And I strongly believe that applying all the previous attitudes will certainly open the space for love to grow. So, by preparing ourselves to practice love every day, in one way or another, love will do what love does best: expand, strengthen, unite, inspire, comfort. If we find the love connection in our daily life, the ordinary becomes a form of worship and grace. With love, making dinner becomes an alchemist’s act, were we are healers, magicians, angles, weaving the work of man and the gifts of nature into an expression of affection and nourishment for our loved ones and ourselves. With love we don’t build walls, but homes for families to thrive; with love we are just not separating paper from plastic but helping life to blossom in this planet; with love we are not just buying milk but becoming a channel for prosperity to flow; with love we are not mean harsh parents, but parents ready to wave the easy way out to grant our children the gift of discipline. Love allows to see the stressed soul in the nasty clerk and the insecure child in the vain colleague. Love allows to be joyful for our friend’s success and to find the fortitude to let go of anger and resentment. Love make us super heroes, for what we do with love ripples into the life of many, and each little seed of love that we spread every day, has the potential of sowing a better life for ourselves and others. So, let’s ask ourselves, every day, how can I be the Love today?
So yes, let us climb mountains and visit sacred places; let us kneel in temples and sit at the feet of gurus; let us participate in retreats, services and workshops. But let us also invite spirituality to our tables, living rooms, offices, cars and gardens. Let us connect to the Spirit of our understanding in the little ways and the big ways; let us allow ourselves to be Spirit’s ambassadors in our daily dealings; and let us give ourselves permission to see this life and this world through Spirits eyes, with the glasses of sacredness, awe, acceptance, gratitude, questioning, beauty, awareness and love.
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