Áine Órga shared the following insight a few days ago on her blog, Spinning the Wheel (http://spinningofthewheel.wordpress.com/):
“It’s been a few years now since I realized that without addressing my spiritual needs, I was never going to achieve true happiness.”
Wise words that have been rolling around in my thoughts. There are many ways to cultivate one’s spirituality and they are not always the formal, structured ways that first come to mind.
Since early this year (2013), I’ve been experiencing a subtle yet persistent, noticeable and quiet inner voice – a call – toward a particular way of living. I’ve been hearing whispers of the following things that I now feel it’s time to heed:
Since my early 30s, simplicity has been a core value and goal in my life. I realized back then that modern life is often hurried, complicated, and stressful with widespread depression and illusive happiness. I’ve watched too many friends become trapped by dysfunctional consumerist thinking that equates a good life with having more things – they live in beautiful neighborhoods, in cluttered, 4,000 square foot homes – and every family member takes Prozac or Paxil. They spend hours every week going shopping and going to therapy.
Simplicity also advises against excessive busyness. Our culture is inhumanely fast paced. Chronic over-commitment and perpetual rushing leaves many of us exhausted and stressed.
Self-discipline is pivotal to such a lifestyle – in the face of superfluous, 24-7 distractions, options, iThings, and activities it’s important to learn to say “no” and accept that the motto of “having it all” is a myth.
I fell called to more actively embrace the challenge that less is more – slow, simple, mindful living is the progressive answer to our culture gone mad – at least for me. I’m being called to deliberately choose to slow down, unplug more often, and let up on the accelerator, ease the pace, and let life unfold at a humane speed.
Tightening the Circle
I’m an extrovert who believes in the importance of hospitality and friendship. Yet I feel I’m being called to tighten my social circles and examine my relationships for reciprocity. For the past few years my home has been an open place of gatherings, dinners, holiday celebrations, and events. And I’ve enjoyed being able to provide a space of hospitality. Many people have passed through my door.
But I’ve begun to realize that there are many people who come, join in, and celebrate, but don’t reciprocate. The invitation is not returned. Reciprocity is more than hosting – I know not everyone can accommodate or even afford to hold dinners at their home, but an invitation out for a simple evening, or even a phone call or email to say “hi” would be appreciated – reciprocity is about engagement, touching base, and the mutual invitation to share in life. Genuine relationships require such mutual effort and openness.
Fortunately, my husband and I have several close friends who do reciprocate – couples and single people, who have us over for drinks or dinner, or who invite us out, include us in their lives, keep in touch, and share in life’s ups and downs.
The same evaluation and tightening will be applied to the groups and organizations I belong to – is there reciprocity, genuine caring for one another, time offered by individuals, and invitations to individual’s homes, smaller groups, and intimacy? If not, then why invest? I want friends, not membership cards.
I’m being called to tighten my social circle and focus on the people who are willing to enjoy the give and take that genuine friendship requires. The rest I’ll let gently fade away.
More Living, Less Thinking
I feel called to read less formal theology and philosophy, to engage less in deep, extended discussions on abstract matters – and live a little more, have more fun, and engage life a little more actively. I plan on starting yoga classes in the next week or so. I want more time to take walks or be spontaneous. And I plan on looking for more ways to enjoy lighthearted fun.
I intend to carve out more time to simply be. Yes, there will still be books by the bedside, but hopefully the pile will be slightly smaller. I might engage more gently on Facebook and blog a little less, too. The mystery of life is meant to be experienced as well as thought about.
Back to Nature
The focus of my spirituality has shifted, incrementally, but steadily, over the past several years. I once sent my prayers heavenward, into the skies, believing that meaning was “up there” beyond the firmament. I practiced a predominantly vertical spirituality. Now, my gaze is outward, but not necessarily up – and in nature I sense a subtle presence. I encounter this presence here in this world, on my level, and mostly in nature. My spiritual attention has switched to a horizontal focus.
I strongly sense the need to be grounded in nature – to be outside more, to get away from things now and then, to spend time among immersed in nature’s sounds. Thankfully, I live only minutes from woods, state parks, and am surrounded by trees, fields, and open areas.
As summer ends and we head into the crisp air and colors of fall, I intend on living my life a little more open ended, stretching my boundaries, and shaking up my routine. I intend on examining my current commitments to see which ones truly feed me and which ones are worth my investment. I intend on tightening my social circle somewhat, spending more time with people who want to engage.
I intend on listening to the gentle, quiet, wise inner voice for a change and see where it leads me. Wish me well on the way.