What is your spiritual path? How do you discern it, and what practices and principles do you call upon to walk it? Is it necessary to follow one faith tradition, even though you may employ tools from others? On the other hand, can you create an independent path, calling upon the wisdom of all? Either/Or? Both/And? Let’s jump into these questions as we each find our path.
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TRANSCRIPT OF TALK:
(this is an automated transcript – be forgiving)
How are you today? Thank you for coming.
So today we’re starting our series on finding your path.
That’s a bit of a misnomer because we’re all already on it, right? I mean, it’s not that you’re wandering aimlessly – we are all on a path. Our goal is to walk it with intention and awareness. What I want to talk about this month,
follows up on last month, which was Experiencing the Sacred. This month, I just want to invite us all to think about what the elements of our spiritual path are. Because sometimes we think of finding your path and it’s really kind of a large kind of aggregate thought – if you’re like me, it’s kind of like a big goofy thought, you know, I know it when I’m on it, but I can’t really identify the elements. What I want to talk about this month is what are some of the elements. Today is just a bit of a
of an introduction and an overview. Next week
our talk is going to be entitled, “should I stay or should I go?” There’s a school of thought that teaches that you need to remain in a particular faith tradition, and go deep. Or if you pick from many faith traditions, you’re engaging in what I’ve heard called transformational tourism, which is, a little bit of this and a little bit of that. What is best? I think each of us can only answer that for ourselves. But that is a question I want to look at, because that’s a question that has been on my mind, and I think about it. And folks have written some interesting things about it. So I want to talk about that.
Then the next week, we’re going to talk about what some of the elements are on your spiritual path. And then the last week we’re going to have a discussion. \Between now and then, I invite you to really give some thought and maybe some journaling or some writing to what are the elements of your own spiritual path.
Now there may be some changes you want to make down the road. So we are very lucky today – we are kind of lucky. And we are also burdened, because we have so many options. I grew up as an Episcopal, and that was the option. You go down to the Episcopal Church and you go to confirmation class. And, you know, I have no recollection of what they taught me. But I didn’t have a lot of choices. That was it. Now, my gosh, all I have to do is open up the Google and there are experts telling me how I can find enlightenment in 30 days. Oh, go listen to him. Listen to her and I can find enlightenment over here. How do we tell the difference between the sages and the snake oil salesman? I mean seriously, because anybody who has a mic is telling you something true. And it may be true for them, but it may not be true for you or they may be doing it just to get you to buy their DVD or come to their next workshop. And it may not be anything that really advances you down your path. Who knows? We have so many options and the only message
we get, and this is a message which I urge you to reject, is that somebody else knows better than you. Right? It is your path no matter what people tell you, no matter what I tell you. It is an inside job. The Buddha said find your own light, be your own light, find it for yourself and doubt everything.
We tend to subliminally get the message that everybody else knows more than we do. They don’t. There’s a lot of wisdom out there for us to pull from and learn and take in. But at the end of the day, your path is your path,
and it doesn’t have to look like my path or like the path of the person sitting next to you.
The only invitation that we are given is to have one. Why? Because our inner life and I’m going to use the term spirituality but for some people that is really not tethered to any notion of the Divine
Nor does it have to be,
our inner life, our awareness of our consciousness, our foundational ethic, our view of the world gives us a foundation, it is the floor upon which we build our house. Without it, we can have the best job, we can have the best relationship, we can make more money than anybody we know. It doesn’t matter. We still feel
in my experience, [interruption from noise outside]
However you regard it, that unifying power that that thought that ethic, what till it calls your ultimate concern is the basis upon which you live your life. It’s the way you see the world around you. It’s the way you experience what happens to you. If you don’t have one. If you don’t build it with intention, then I
suggests you’re at the mercy of stuff that happens to you. You are just kind of being buffeted by this bad thing, or taking pleasure in this good thing, or just kind of careering around like a pinball from one event to the next. Unless you have a philosophy of spirituality and ethic of having experience and how to interpret what happens to you, these awarenesses this way that we look at what is our lives, they give the weight and the meaning to the choices we make. They are a way to mirror back to us who we are, how we’re unfolding. Whether that decision we made was the right one, whether we have been kind, whether we have been compassionate, whether we’ve been small, or vino, we have to have these foundational understandings of how we should live our lives in order to create meaning in our lives. Now I use the visual of a path. I probably do that because everyone uses a visual the path but it’s not a bad thing because it
gets us from point A to point B. It gets us through the brambles on either side, it keeps us safe. It’s known even though our many of our spiritual paths if yours is anything like mine has been anything but known, but it’s really not a path. It’s a way of living. It’s a philosophy. It’s a way of articulating and interpreting your experiences in this world. It’s more than that. It is
the way you see things. It’s the prism through which you see your life.
It’s about this awareness helps us build a life that changes us remember Karen Armstrong said, she said I love this quote, she said, I’m going to get it wrong. But she said religion is not about believing 20 improbable things before breakfast. Religion is about doing things that change you. It’s about doing things that change you. And that made you into the person you are here to be and you can substitute religion. You can substitute spirituality, you can substitute ethics you can substitute philosophy wherever you
What, but how we structure our lives with intention is about structuring them in a way that we are changed. For the better to build lives of what what is it we’re looking for equity livity, peace, kindness,
that feeling that we know it when we have it right? When we hit the sweet spot, if you’re a tennis player, or when we hit that harmonic of just knowing that we are in the flow of the universe, and that we are living in accordance, what is it? What is it the Dow the Dow was called in the way we are living the way we are meant to live? It’s about doing things that changed us.
You know, it’s so funny. We’ve all seen people
who seem kind of more to such a philosophy. These folks and they’re sitting in this room are grateful every day of their lives. We’ve seen that haven’t we? Why? Because they have a way of looking at experience.
We see the same experience happened to different people. And they completely are. Sorry for themselves. They are mad. Let me give you an example. It’s about my sister who’s sitting in this room. Last summer, she took me on a vacation to Maine. It was very nice of her. She thought I needed a vacation. So she said you’re going to Maine. Okay, so she rented this room in this nice place in Bar Harbor, you know, in the ad is it’s got a big view of the ocean. It’s really nice. So we walk in, and then had a view of the parking lot. I opened the window and there’s like a grill. And I said, Tori, look out the window. She and she, up in the very right hand corner, there’s a sliver of ocean. She goes, Oh my god, I can see the ocean.
That is a true story. Okay.
I couldn’t say it any better. What do I see? I see a grill. I see a parking lot, and it’s the ocean
because we had a different
way of looking at that experience, we had a different way of welcoming the experiences of our lives. That was a wonderful lesson.
As we build our spiritual lives, that is the structure that we are building, that is the foundation on which we build our experiences. It’s the foundation on which we build our joy, our compassion, our ability to connect, our ability to find meaning in what happens to us and what happens around us. Now, another thing that is important is it has to work for us in our everyday lives. I say that all the time. We cannot divide the secular and the sacred. We can’t. This is our, well, we can, I guess, come here and be how we’re supposed to be for two hours. This is one reason I love One World – I say we come here and we live how we’re supposed to live all the time for two hours right here. But the invitation is to practice it here and take it out there.
We are here because we want to do things that change us. Our view of the sacred has to include everything, our view must be whole, we must understand, I suggest, that there is no rupture between the secular and the sacred. So you can sit in a church and you can say, this is beautiful. Look at these windows, look at the cross, or you can sit in any house of worship. But when you can go sit in nature, when you can go sit on the beach, and you can have the same feelings, then you know that it’s all sacred. Our spirituality leads us to that. It’s not a philosophy for Sunday’s only. It’s a philosophy that enables us to know and participate in the sacred in all of life. It’s also not linear, it’s not predictable. I may feel very awakened right now. I may be lying in a fetal position tomorrow, under
my desk wondering where this all went? Well come on. I’m not the only one. So
I’m not gonna ask for a show of hands. One of my favorite authors is Anne Lamott, who here has heard of Anne Lamott? She’s great. She wrote this book, she said, there are only three types of prayers that really matter. They are help. Thanks. And wow. And her book is called Help, Thanks, and Wow. And it’s a wonderful book, and I recommend it highly. This is a quote that she wrote on the development of her faith journey. She says, My coming to faith did not start with a leap, but rather a series of staggers from what seemed like one safe place to another, like lily pads, round and green. These places summoned and then held me up while I grew. Each prepared me for the next leaf on which I would land. And in this way, I moved across the swamp of doubt and fear.
Does that resonate with anybody in this room other than me? It’s like, oh my god. You’re just kind of learning
from one moment to the next, from one awakening to the next, from one epiphany that holds you up through the next trough of despair and doubt until the next one. Our spiritual paths are not
smooth. They are not always even uphill, but they do go forward. And that’s the good news even when sometimes they appear to be going backwards.
The structure we build –
and this is part of the reason that One World to me is a valuable community – because the structure we build includes a view of the Divine that works for us. I’ve heard it been said that if you have you have a God that does not work for you invent another.
Why? Because it’s your own personal understanding of the Divine. It’s how the divine speaks to you, how the divine interacts with you. We are invited to build a view of the Divine that works for us.
our understanding of Universal Mind is big enough to include that.
Saying that, we shouldn’t reject a notion of spirituality because we think it has to include a god. I was talking to Asha last week. And I said, I really wish because the notion of the word God has been so kind of pummeled, I wish I could stand up here and say, I don’t want to use the word God for a year. I’m just going to use another word, I’m going to use another concept. And that is the thought that continues to turn in my mind. So if anybody has any words for God, they want us to substitute throw them out. And let us know because that’s that word is sometimes off putting, because it summons up the image of a separate guy with a beard that you know, the traditional God that some of us have said in the past does not work for us. But our view of a personal philosophy our view of life
Even our view of ultimate reality does not need to comprehend any traditional view of God. For example, think of the Buddha. the Buddha did not use any of his time teaching about God, or about ultimate reality. If you were to ask him what he thought about that, he would say it was not skillful. It doesn’t matter. Because what he did is he spent 45 years teaching people how to live, because in his view, the main problem of human existence was suffering. So what’s the fix? Teach them not to suffer? So what did he teach? He didn’t teach about metaphysical stuff that he thought was a waste of time. He gave us the Eightfold Path, right to eliminate suffering, right view right intention, right speech, right action, right mindfulness all the way down the list. When you live in this way, you will find a path to avoid suffering. You don’t need to believe in anything out there. You just need to follow these
principles and you will elevate yourself to a place of Nirvana. The Greek stoics. Another reason I love stoicism, you can believe in God, you cannot believe in God, they do not care. Because there is a philosophy of living that elevates the human soul that brings us up that makes us shine. As the people we are here to be no matter what you believe in, it’s a course of doing. So what I’m suggesting here is our spiritual path. In addition to gathering wisdom, I’m going to talk about that more in a second is also a way to act. It’s a way to be and as a community of practice, which is what we are, we value that because we take the wisdom we learn, we take what we internalize, and we go out and we put feet to it. And that is what makes all the difference.
We live a life that reminds us that we are surrounded by the sacred all the time, because that is what permits us to go out and
be wonderful. That is what gives us the juice to go out there and make a difference. Emerson in his address to the Harvard Divinity School. This is the address by the way, the guy who booted out of Harvard for 30 years, so
be careful what you say. He chastised formal religion for its misplaced emphasis on what he called Super what he thought were supernatural miracles he wrote, The very word miracle as pronounced by Christian Christian churches gives a false impression. It is a monster. It is not one with the blowing clover and the falling rain.
So what’s he doing? He’s inviting us to see the miracles out there. In the blowing clover, which is the image I love and the falling rain, his personal philosophy, his personal spirituality, saw miracles in that. Imagine how our lives would be uplifted. If we did too. If we went out
So miracles there, the reign of face,
the wind, the sea, the moon,
it helps us to see the sacred and the secular are not separate, that there is no contradiction. So, as I was preparing for this talk, I gave some thought to the elements that I believe, and I just invite you to think about this list. This is my list are a part of building this foundation, the building blocks of our spiritual foundation. One is wisdom,
wisdom, look at the resources that we have. We are lucky enough to have all the world’s enduring faith traditions at our fingers to read and it doesn’t mean that these folks even were necessarily more advanced or more wise, it means that they have had these insights. they’ve written about these experiences and we can read them and you
be taught Yes. But more than that we are reminded, because it’s all in here when I read wisdom that somebody writes, I’m like, Yes, I knew that if I remember, right, and it just is, it just turns that little light on in my brain reminding me of something that I knew the wisdom, the experience the insight of generations and seekers before us. And the good news is, we can take what we like we can take what resonates, and we don’t have to take the rest. That is not transformational tourism, if we do it deeply. If we study if we read, if we reflect on the wisdom that these folks share, what we can do is build a path with the tools that work for us. For example, reading. Reading, is a spiritual practice. If we just take 10 minutes a day to read
Read a book that uplifts us to read a book that reminds us that sets us on the path. I challenge you to do that this month if you are not doing it already. And in our discussion, I’m going to ask, has it improved your life? Has it changed you in this past month? 10 minutes a day. If you’re like me, I have this watch or this phone that tells me way too much. Okay, so every week and pops up, and he says, it says, You have three and a half hours of screen time this every day this week. I have never asked anyone to tell me that. But I don’t know how to turn the stupid thing off. Okay. But what it tells me is that we all have 10 minutes a day, to read something spiritual, something uplifting and it doesn’t have to be a scripture. It can be Emily Dickinson. It can be a poem. It can be anything that just lifts you up and reminds you that the world is a joyful place. And you are here to be joyful art look at a painting by Georgia O’Keeffe. Look at anything that
just lifts you up.
That is a spiritual practice.
When you are looking at these wisdom traditions, one of the things that helped it helps me to remember is that we can take what is written as a scripture, and we can make it different to speak to us.
One of the books of the Christian scriptures, actually the Hebrew Scriptures, that has been challenging to a lot of people are the songs, right? Because a lot of them are, you know, judgmental, a lot of them are harsh, a lot of them read in ways that do not speak to us. But there are ways instead of just saying, I never want to read the Psalms using that as an example, I’m just not gonna waste my time. I came across and I’m just using this as an example of the point that we can take these scriptures and we can
them the wisdom that speaks to us. There was a Hindu scholar and economic Ishwara on and he taught a practice he taught for years the United States, he taught a practice called passage meditation. And we’re going to do that during the meditation here. What he did is he would ask you to select a spiritual passage. And he would ask you to, you know, sit and be peaceful and focus and read it slowly. And then just let it keep reading it and let it sink in, like a good meal. Right? I can cook you a meal, and I can make you something delicious. Well, maybe not. But somebody could make you.
And when you eat it, I’m not going to digest it for you. That is your job. You take it in and you make it your own. And that’s what the practice of passage meditation does to sit and ingest. And just make it part of your DNA. And in doing that, you take the wisdom and what you read and you use it to grow your own wisdom. You use it to build another bowl.
lock in your house, you use it to make you one step further in your spiritual growth. And what I want to do is I want to give you an example of how looking at scriptures and just thinking about them and reading them in a different way might work. So the book I’m going to use is this one. It’s called psalms for praying. It’s an excellent book. It’s by Nan Merrill. And what she did is she takes the Psalms, and she rewrote them. She rewrote them in a way that speaks to her that takes these ancient scriptures and opens her heart and takes her further down. So listen to this. This is Psalm 27, out of my New Revised Standard Version, and this is a beautiful song. I’m not dissing Psalm 22, Psalm 27. I love it. For generations, people have loved it and used it to grow and awaken but just the purpose of this is for you to see what she did with it. So this is Psalm 27. The Lord is my light and my salvation approved
Michel I fear the Lord is the stronghold of my life of who shall I be afraid? When evildoers assail me to devour my flesh, my adversaries and foes, they shall stumble and fall, though an army and camp against me my heart shall not fear, no war rise up against me, yet I will be confident.
This is Nam Mero her interpretation of Psalm 27 love is my light and my salvation of who shall I fear? Love is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid? When fears a sale me, rising up to accuse me, each one in turn shall be seen in love’s light. Though a multitude of demons rise up within me, my heart shall not fear, no doubts and guilt to battle, yet shall I remain confident. One thing have I asked of love that I said,
Ever seek, that I might dwell in the heart of love all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of my beloved, and to know love’s plan.
And so what she did, instead of reading the song and saying, that just doesn’t speak to me, she sat with it, and she let it change her. And then she rewrote it in a way that speaks to me. And that gave meaning to a scripture, which initially was a bit challenging for her. We can all do that. We can all take this wisdom in the Hebrew Scriptures, the Christian scriptures, the Gita that you punish the Koran, the Torah, it doesn’t matter and just let it give us what is beautiful, and what speaks to us. So that is wisdom. There is so much
Chapter I see that we’ve started this is great a lending library. One thing I’m going to do is I’m going to start a list of resources that we might want to share that we might want to get together and talk about or you might want to read on your own. That has worked for me and I will invite others to add to it. What wisdom Have you found what books speak to you? poetry or whatever, music doesn’t matter. The next element that works for me in building a spiritual foundation is silence and reflection. And I’ve already talked about this a little bit. Why? Because this is the way we take what is given to us and we internalize it. This is the way we digest that meal. We make it part of us. We are, we reflect we listen for that voice. We listen for our intuition.
We need to give a whole month on intuition because that is a huge skill, which too many people including me, just kind of ignore, but we listen for the guidance that we discern when we sit with a wisdom
That we take in.
The next component is action.
Because that’s how we put feet to it. If we just have a spirituality that is just a sitting and kind of gazing at the wall and thinking deep thoughts, that is a dry spirituality, we need to get up and put feet to it, we get up and we connect. We find ways to develop empathy. It leads us to greater compassion. One of my favorite authors is you know, he is Richard Rohr. His center is called the Center for action and contemplation. And there’s a reason for that they go together. True spirituality has feet. True spirituality gets out and makes a difference. Why? Because we go out and we serve the world and in doing so we change ourselves is an element of how we change. The next element for me is ritual.
When we do that, whatever your ritual is my ritual in the morning is going into my
Little office and lighting a candle and reading and praying. You may have your own ritual some people do it in the afternoon Some people go out and take a walk, something that is a portal for you into sacred time and space. That helps you because we all need reminders and we all need help to connect with the divine that reminds you This is the moment when I remind myself that I am of God. I’m going to take this 10 minutes and just be in that energy because it will change the way I approach the rest of my day whatever rituals you have
that work for you. I encourage you to develop one and stay with it another thing to try this month this is going to be a fun month.
Okay, the next is community. Okay, now at the beginning of this talk I said this is an inside job which it totally is. But we we share it in community we grow in community what happens in our discussion
We hear the wisdom that each of us has I go, yes, what a great idea. You’ve reminded me of something else. That is wonderful. I’m going to try that I so celebrate you for doing that. We are meeting makers and we find meaning together, we find the divine in relationship. So community is so necessary for reinforcing the awakenings that we achieve individually for giving us additional awakenings. So community is the next. And the last one I have written down is just wonder, just wonder just all at how amazing life is. And sometimes we have to remind ourselves of that because sometimes life does not seem so amazing. I’ve had some weeks where I’ve stood up here and said, I’m just amazed that I’m dressed and I’m here. But we have to remind ourselves
and this is one way where community helps us. That life is wonderful and we are here to celebrate it. So what I invite you to do this month
As we go through this series is just ask yourself, maybe write it just ask yourself, what are the elements of your spiritual life? What are the building blocks of your awakening? And just think about that and when we come back at the end of the month, we’ll share some of those things.