Friday, April 25, 2008

Intentional Spiritual Journeys

It's a beautiful morning. As I was driving into work the sky was full of hot air balloons. How could that not be a sign that it will be a great day?

Yesterday I had to run home, well, actually I drove home, during the workday to take care of some personal business. On the way back to the office I had lunch with a friend that had been scheduled and re-scheduled about four times. Every time I thought I was available, eventually I had conflicts. My friend is a semi-retired Methodist minister and is part of the group I belong to at the monastery. In general this group is comprised of people who are similar to me. Well, they're not all aging hippies who still like rock and roll but they are people who are on intentional spiritual journeys. Those of you not on intentional spiritual journeys are on a spiritual journeys anyway whether you realize it or not. One of the things I like about this group is its diversity. There are men and women, young and old, gay and straight, Catholics, Baptists, Anglicans, Methodists, and maybe a few types I haven't identified yet. In spite of our differences, we have much in common. Think of the wheel metaphor I used earlier in the week. I feel like I am sharing the hub of the wheel with all of these people. All of them are, in my estimation, contemplatives. All contemplatives are not necessarily mystics but they are people trying to wake up to the spiritual realities within life. They have "normal" everyday lives in the world living in a variety of lifestyles and situations. All of them are on a spiritual quest in an exploration and immersion in the great spiritual mystery of God. The spiritual journey is more about jumping into the void of the great mystery of God and life than simply going through the motions of religious observance. Sometimes I am accused of being anti-religion. That is not true. What I do believe, however, is that the spiritual journey is much more than religious observance. Religious observance is a means to an end. It supports our journey and hopefully our experience. The experience itself is about mystery and darkness as well as enlightenment and insight to say nothing about transformation. Like caterpillars in our tightly spun cocoons, we must someday be transformed into butterflies. Who wants to be a caterpillar their whole life?

While I was home yesterday I read a reflection about happiness. Most of us know what makes us unhappy and we are often consumed with the parts or people in our lives who make us unhappy. The article I read encourages a slightly different approach to happiness. Who or what makes us happy? What parts of our lives give us the most joy? Keep in mind that happiness and joy are not necessarily the same as pleasure. Eating a great meal gives me pleasure at least until it affects my blood sugar and sends me off the charts. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle makes me happy and feeling good makes me joyful. Some people wear me out and other people make me happy. Having love in my life makes me joyful. Listening to music can do it all. It is pleasurable to my ears. It often makes my mood happy, and in special moments fills my heart and soul with joy. The bottom line of the article was that we should spend more time doing things and being with people that make us happy rather than in obsessing over what makes us unhappy.

Here's a Zen koan for you….

After you hear the music, where does it go?

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