Welcome to Real Spirituality
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When I look at my own journey in life and investigate what I might call a “spiritual path,” it's fun to reflect and ask, “what has been the point of this spiritual exercise, this spiritual unfolding?”
What I find to be the most profound thing is that my discovery in spirituality is that it has nothing to do with who I think I am, and everything to do with life as a whole. This, very directly, isn't what I was looking for when I first started what might be called a spiritual path; but, it's what's been discovered.
Life is attempting to open my eyes to what is real, what is true, about everything. The great hindrance I've had in my experience as a human being is a question that asks, “but what about me? What about what I want? What about where I'm going? What about my future?”
More and more, however sincere those questions might be, I've found them to be a great distraction; a great distraction that prevents me from seeing what's actually happening. We can see how obvious this is in our relationships with other people. Have you noticed when you're so concerned about what you want, you're not very available to listen to another person? When we're so afraid of not getting where we want to be in the future, it's like we're not available to listen to someone sincerely.
Have you noticed that in those moments of truly listening to another human being, you don't want anything from them? You're just holding a space for them to be them while honoring the sincerity of their being. I find that this creates a beautiful illustration and how we might approach spirituality, and that approach is one of deep listening.
Retreat is such a great time for that because we can check out of the normalcy of our lives, the busyness of our lives, and really devote ourselves to a new depth of listening.
So, I invite you to investigate an openness within you that not only acknowledges that yes, maybe you have a bunch of questions, maybe it seems like there's a lot of things that you might want, maybe there's a lot of things you're afraid won't happen or will happen, but I'm going to invite a space of trust that even if it's just for these few days, we might be able to lay that down and just listen.
What’s Really Going On?
Spirituality, in some way or another, has been around as long as human beings have been breathing, as long as human beings have been alive. There's been a recognition within ourselves that feels drawn to what we might call the sacred; feels drawn to what we might call “Truth.” It's almost like a question I often hear inside of myself is a soft, yet aggressive, whisper that asks, “What's really going on here?”
Have you ever experienced that? You start to notice commotion inside of yourself, maybe there's a conflict with another human being, maybe you feel lost, confused, and foggy, and there's a depth of sincerity that asks, “What's really going on, what's true?”
We’re led to that question because we are alerted by some sense of disharmony, where something within ourselves feels out of alignment. Where we feel distant or separate from a sense of wholeness we crave. This longing to, maybe, free ourselves from such commotion is a longing that can be found in every single human being. To me, that's just the sweetest thing, that every human being has this longing that says, “I want to go home.”
Spirituality, in all of the different ways that it's presented, attempts to draw a path that points one home.
Our time together is going to be gently examining this path in our lives and in the most beautiful way, see what it has been pointing to the whole damn time. See what it will only point to for the rest of your life.
What is it, to… Be Still?
The foundation of spirituality, in some way or another, is an invitation to be still. Regardless of the spiritual tradition, whatever the spiritual practice, whatever the insight or wisdom, all of it is an invitation to be still. Why do you think that is? Why would every spiritual practice, its focus be, to bring you back to the present moment? To Be Still.
The comedy of which, I see this in my experience and I'm sure in some ways you see it in yours, have you noticed that when you're in commotion when you're with conflict or disharmony, the last thing you want to do is be still? It's like you have to first run around and fix something.
Just notice that the mind says, “Be still? That's the worst advice I've ever heard!” Yet, be still, is the primary invitation from spirituality. Additionally, don't we always find ourselves ending up in stillness after we've exhausted ourselves running around? Again, these things to be recognized and seen, it's not an invitation to judge yourself or say you're doing it wrong.
I invite us to see this, in a very gentle and self-forgiving way, just “yeah, I see that, that when I'm with commotion when I'm hurting when there's pain, the last thing I want to do is be still.” Or “something inside of me believes I can't be still, but yet, that's always where I end up.”
It seems like in my journey over the years, I seem to be going to stillness more quickly. Still doing my running around, but it would seem like I'm getting the message faster.
The invitation of spirituality to be still, is attempting to get your attention so that you notice something that's already here; that you notice something that's already true.
I understand that this can sound like it's the beginning stages or not very exciting, but I just invite you to see that this is what we always come back to. Whether it's when we collapse in our heartache, whether it's we just want to give up; at some point or another, we kind of find ourselves, in some way, bowing to life, surrendering to life.
For me, it's such a sweet visualization to see the broken-hearted one give up and see that they can't do it.
The Human Dilemma
During this retreat, you'll have lots of moments to be by yourself. We're surrounded by an absolutely gorgeous forest. You can take some walks, be alone. In those moments, in a very playful but devotional way, I invite you to recognize the profound difference between what's happening in your mind and what's happening in life. Just see that, make contact with the reality of nature, the reality of life.
Noticed that if you ever feel the tension in your body, if you ever feel any sort of emotional pain in those moments, recognize that you've gone back into the mind. Again, not as you're doing it wrong, just see that.
For human beings, this is a beautiful dilemma, and it's a quite simple dilemma. The dilemma could be said, “We're not even living in life. We're living mental commentary, mental content.” Naturally, the gift of spirituality or the gift of this discovery is simply an invitation to live life; to see what's actually happening. This is where life becomes, or at least it's recognized that life is a magical playground. Life is a beautiful forest waiting for your recognition.
I get the imagery in my mind of walking through the forest and being lost in yesterday’s argument and then you look to your left and you see these beautiful flowers. It's almost as if they smile at you. They say, “We've just been waiting for you to see us.”
That makes a great point. This miracle, this beauty, this love, this everything that you crave, It's already here just waiting to be seen. Waiting to be seen.
If you can recognize that, what we will also explore this week is the question of why don't you allow yourself to see it. It's almost like you're walking in the forest and you're not seeing the magic because something else is so important.
Do you see that? It's like you could see it but you don't. Why? Clearly, there's something else in here (the mind) that's really important.
This isn't always the most pleasant thing to investigate. Quite honestly, spirituality in its charade when it becomes something that it's not, can often just become a distraction. Rather than connecting with its real intent, which is to look at the real issue. This is also a great opportunity to be on retreat, to check out from the normalcy of our lives and say, “Okay, I can take these moments to really look at something.”
Do you ever notice when you're living your everyday life and you're going to work, you start recognizing the conflict, the pain, and you're like, “No, no, no. I don't have time for that right now. I have to go back to my life. I've got to do my things. I can't give that attention right now.” This is the beauty of retreat.
I'm sure in some ways you've told yourself that you were just going to put it off. “Someday I'll look. Someday we'll figure out what's really going on.”
We can recognize that in our everyday lives, the reason we don't want to look at those things is that it's scary. In the most adorable human way, it's scary.
So, as a warning, this retreat might be a little bit scary. It might be time for that and it might not be. Either way, it'll just be whatever it's going to be, and you get to be sincere and honest within yourself.
Quite honestly, one of the ways that spirituality expresses itself is through what we might call self-love. That's a really popular phrase, “To love yourself.” It also points to what we crave as human beings. We crave some sort of love for what we are. That's very, very important to recognize.
Imagine, and we will imagine this way to expose insight, -not imagine as something to capture, imagine you're in the most profoundly loving and secure relationship. A relationship where this person loves you unconditionally. There's no chance in hell they will ever leave and they're going to die after you, so you don't have to worry about them dying. Just completely secure; the love's not going anywhere.
If you had such security of love, you would finally take a deep breath and just be absolutely honest. You'd find it to be the most incredibly safe space where you can just be honest.
I paint that picture so that we might recognize that... to allow yourself to be honest to yourself is one of the greatest acts of self-love. Likewise, even though it doesn't seem like it, but one of the biggest challenges for the human being is to be honest with themselves.
It's scary in the same way that it can be scary to be honest with another person that you love. Surely you've experienced this in some way or another. The fear says, “If I'm honest, I don't know what's going to happen. They might leave, I might hurt their feelings.”
Do you see in some way it says, “If I'm honest, I lose all control.”
Again, very gently, this space is an opportunity for you to explore this hesitation within yourself that might not want to be totally open to yourself. If you don't think it's there, it's there, because you're a human being. Welcome to the club. If it wasn't there, there'd be nowhere for love to flow. There'd be no more expansion.
Have you noticed whatever appearance of progress you've made in your life that has been profoundly meaningful, in some way, it is an expression of courage, to be honest; to be yourself, to be you, and to let go of what other people might think.
It's been some movement of this that your increased experience of freedom has been in direct response of you set yourself free. Allowing you to be you, which is no different from saying, “Allowing you, to be honest.”
There's a beautiful dance between what we might call our humanness and what we might call spirituality. Oftentimes, we want to get away from our humanness and just have the spirituality, but there is actually a very beautiful dance between the two; almost as if they were designed to be together.
All Is Well
You see, spirituality, its conclusion in some way or another, says,
“All Is Well.” Surely you’ve heard that before, “All is well.”
If you’ve had any sort of profound spiritual experiences where you’ve seen beyond the veil and how everything’s connected, it’s all one, which is like saying there’s nothing to worry about at all. There’s nothing to fear, at all. This is that love, and if there is nothing to fear at all, there’s nothing to worry about, what would you do?
You’d be you; completely, totally. Not some grandiose idea of you, but you’d be the human you. The you that you are now. The one that’s afraid to relax in their humanness. You would just relax. Maybe stop striving to get to that better image of yourself. Maybe you would just relax. Maybe you’d see that all other human beings are right where they’re supposed to be. Maybe… all is well.
And you know, for me, my goodness, that’s the real beauty in life, the naturalness, and sincerity of our humanness. The rawness of being human. That’s the real beauty, and I say this because we’ve mistakenly been conditioned that sees the beautiful version of being human as a Photoshop version.
Just like the illustration of a Photoshopped image of a person, you know, that’s not a real person, not a real something. In the same way that to truly love another human being, and I mean truly love another human being, not in the way that you want something from them, not in the way that you’ve captured them, but to be fascinated with their complete aliveness.
What you recognize is a love for all parts of them. However they show up, maybe they get angry and you think, “God, that’s amazing. You’re so beautiful.” Or they get sad and you’re like, “Oh, that’s so cute. So beautiful.”
It’s like looking at all the different seasons in life. Sometimes there’s a raging storm, sometimes there’s a freeze of winter, sometimes it’s just too hot, but you see all of it… is life in its glory. All of it… is magic and aliveness. All of it is beautiful and all of it is profoundly allowed. Profoundly allowed to be what it is.
How absurd that God would say to the storm, “Calm down!” No, God says, “Rage on, bring it, be you. It’s needed.” Life gives full permission for everything that is to fully be what it is in such a way that life is saying, “Please be what you are, be as I’ve made you. Thank you. I see your beauty.”
Even if it’s just for these five days, and maybe you forget it when you leave, but maybe during these days, you’ll see it. You’ll see how beautiful, not only you are, but everything is. Everything. You’ll see how beautiful everything is and you’ll go home and tell people and they’ll think you’re crazy.
In this, we find that, ultimately, spirituality is the celebration of the beautiful. Even though in appearances it can be dark and scary, which is part of it. It’s a necessary doorway so that love can expand. Ultimately, it’s exposing the celebration.
A celebration of what you are, what life is, what other people are, your family, your friends, everything, and everyone.
The doorway to this is being honest with yourself, no longer running, no longer hiding. It’s saying, “Yes, let’s look.”