Monday, June 02, 2008

Life And Spirituality

When I went to bed on Saturday night, after attending another family graduation party, I tossed and turned for what seemed like hours. After I finally fell asleep it seemed like only a few moments before my eyes opened and I stared at the ceiling to see the time reflected in large red numbers. It was 5:57 AM and I needed to rise at 6:00 AM to get ready for a drive to the monastery. I very slowly rose from my bed and headed for the shower. It always seems like I feel my worst on days I must make the one hour drive to the monastery. I knew that once I got moving I would be fine. I jumped in and out of the shower, got dressed, and quietly left the house. I stopped at a convenience store, bought an extra large coffee, and headed down I-65. It was the first time in quite a while that it was already daylight as I began the trip. It felt muggy and moist and when I finally turned off the Interstate the sun was shining bright as fog hung in pockets throughout the hills. I sipped my coffee and settled into a peaceful drive on nearly deserted highway. Before going to monastery I stopped off at the home of my friend, Father Dennis, for more coffee, cinnamon muffins, and conversation. Time with Dennis is always fun and we made some plans for a longer visit later in the summer. When I pulled into the parking lot at the monastery I thought there were an unusual number of empty parking spaces. It turned out that the retreat house was full of Buddhist and Christian monks who were at the monastery for a week of discussions on spirituality and the environment. There was an article in yesterday's Louisville Courier-Journal newspaper in the Metro Section if you want to read about it. It's titled "Environment fix a matter of faith".

This past Friday was a slow day at the office so I was able to get away at lunch time and go to a cookout of my father's nursing home. The staff had prepared an outdoor lunch for families of the residents. It was a great experience. When I arrived a nurse was wheeling my Dad down the hallway. I was the first family member there so we sat in the community room and waited for other family members. Eventually we were able to get Dad outdoors where he could feel the sun and wind, not to mention experience the aroma of hamburgers cooking on the grill. Because of his Parkinson's disease poor Dad has been forced to eat all his food only after its been pureed. Trust me, a hamburger and a bun that look like two piles of different colored mashed potatoes is not very appealing, especially when you can smell the various aromas and everyone around you is eating cheeseburgers and hot dogs. Eventually a very kind and patient therapist sat next to my and worked with him to try some more appealing versions of food. He did very well, chewing and eating very slowly, so he will have some dietary changes that will give him a little more quality of life. My father's always had a dry sense of humor which I believe I have inherited. It seems to be blossoming in spite of all the trials and tribulations of being elderly with Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and the other challenges of old age. I think Dad is handling his current situation with great dignity and humor. The staff at the nursing home seems to love him and I am happy he is getting such good care.

Life and spirituality cannot be separated. You can't have one without the other. We have a tendency to compartmentalize our lives and this is often based on the many roles most of us have in our day to day living. Stop and think for a moment about all the roles you fulfill in life. In my life I am a son, a brother, a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a friend. I am also the daily thoughts guy, the run off to the monastery guy, the rock and roller, the employee, the son in law and the brother in law. Occasionally I am nothing and I enjoy this nothingness with its lack of expectations. All of these roles as well as all the nuances and flavors of my personality with my good qualities and sometimes annoying dysfunctions make up who I am. All of these roles combined are my reality. Spirituality is allowing the Spirit into your reality. The "Spirit" in a generic sense can be represented by your personal belief system whether it is Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim or whatever. It's not necessarily the one hour a week you might spend in a church, temple, or mosque. That can certainly be part of it but it is not enough on its own. If spirituality is allowing the Spirit into your reality, then you cannot separate the Spirit from your reality. Your reality is your life. When your reality changes, your life changes with it. The Spirit will adapt to your ever changing reality but it will never be separated from it. I think mature spirituality is when you are not even thinking about it anymore. It becomes like breathing. If I had to consciously think about every breath I took all day I would not have time for anything else. Thank God our brains take care of our breathing and other bodily functions that run 24 hours a day. In the spiritually mature, the "heart" is to our spirit what our brains are to our bodies. If your heart is full of the Spirit, it will guide you in your daily living.

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