Isn’t it time that we move beyond religion and rules and belief into honest spirituality which is based on personal experience? Religion offers community which feels comforting and guidelines for behavior which build character. But true spirituality requires an adult’s presence to her own experience. Thinking about what an authority tells us is at best a jumping off point for us to assume our own authority.
Developing your personal spirituality means that you choose to participate with Life as an adult. You own your responsibility not only for your behavior but for your thoughts and for conflicts lying just below your awareness. You know that at your core you are a spiritual being having a human experience. You accept that this lifetime is a gift for you to learn some truths and, wisely, you surrender. You know that change is constant and you release your hold on everything, appreciating in this moment what you have been given but not demanding that it continue.
The emphasis is on attending. What am I supposed to learn from this frustration? What is my lesson in losing what I had loved? How am I gifted by the obstacles that block my hoped for path? And we pay attention to the details of our lives in a non-proprietary way.
Through our surrender we see pattern in our experience. We learn to listen to Life and to trust its tugs. We notice that we are asked to submit and receive. We practice presence. We experience everything, inside and outside, and we release it. We practice gratitude, especially for what we don’t like. ‘Thank you for the opportunity to learn patience while I sit at this red light.’ ‘Thank you for showing me the part of myself I hate in another whom I find irritating.’
And we notice that the details of the day lead us deeper within ourselves. When we pay attention to what happens to us, we are led to what happens within us. We learn more by observing than by attempting to direct.
When we appreciate the unity of the outside world and the inside world, then we truly experience our own spirituality. Spirituality is oneness. It isn’t light and joy and beauty and otherworldly music. It’s the baby crying and the cat messing on the new carpet and the car that stops on the freeway and the job that doesn’t materialize. And it’s saying, ‘Yes, thank you. Now show me the next step.’
When we embrace our spirituality we say ‘Yes’ to everything that happens because we know that we are one with everything. Our lifetime is not an opportunity to run our will. We are not on earth to see what we can make of ourselves. When we accept life as an adventure and know that we are the students, then we open to learn. Openness, attention, and surrender are the hallmarks of a mature spirituality.
Ruth Cherry, PhD, is a clinical psychologist in private practice in San Luis Obispo, CA. Her specialty is midlife when psychological and spiritual dynamics merge. The power of the unconscious at midlife to heal and to transform is tapped in meditation. Besides writing about meditation, Ruth leads guided meditation groups weekly both for the public and for inmates in a state penitentiary. Her web site is midlifepsychology.com.