Spiritual practice has little to do with doctrine, rituals, stretching, or crystals
“I like to find
what’s not found
at once, but lies
within something of another nature…”
From, “Pleasures” by Denise Levertov: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/171229
I like to find healing imbedded in raw flesh in an internal wound.
I like to find hope basking in darkness.
I like to find a golden vein of truth lodged in legend.
I like to find the traces of God in routine ordinary.
I like to find stunning beauty in unquestionable ugliness.
I like to find veins of peace in the fierceness of struggle.
If you ask me what being spiritual is all about, and what makes for a spiritual person, I would say that it has to do with perceiving the mysterious presence of God, the holy, in the ordinary.
If you asked me what the most important skill of a spiritual life is, I would tell you it is the ability to see. It is the ability to perceive beauty where others only see the hideous, to observe movement where others see stillness, and to feel presence where others feel nothing.
This capacity is developed from two distinct efforts: first, looking underneath what we expect to see, and secondly, looking at everything with an expectation for anything.
It is a universal human limitation that we see what we expect to see.
How many times have you lost something in plain sight? You just know for certain you put your keys in a particular place and so you don’t see them where they are because your mind insists they are where you expect them to be. Literally, we blind ourselves.
The mind is so very powerful that it is capable of eliminating perception when we expect to see something different from the actuality. So if we train ourselves to listen to our expectations, to be highly sensitive to what the mind is expecting in any given situation, and then to remind ourselves that nothing in the present moment may be as we expect, then we will build our vision (along with our imagination).
If we are “big picture” people we may have resistance to observing the details of any given situation; and if we are “detail” people our resistance may be in tracking the relationships at play in the big picture. Whatever our proclivity, we need to train ourselves for keener powers of observation in our lesser field of vision.
We need to practice developing keener powers of observation where our resistance is the greatest even as we build our capacity to root beneath our expectations. When we practice the art of seeing underneath our expectations and developing keener powers of observation in our secondary field of vision, we perceive more of what is around us all the time: the ordinary presence of the holy.
That is the thing about spirituality: We think it is spooky or magical or otherwise visited upon us when in fact, it is like any other human capacity – expandable, able to be strengthened, in need of practice and intent.
Increasing our capacity to see and hear and holy in our midst is also highly pleasurable. There is exquisite beauty, spectacular paradox, and such delicious irony to be discovered every place we look, even within ourselves, and we will be rewarded by the pleasure of it all.
“I like the juicy stem of grass that grows
within the coarser leaf folded round,
and the butteryellow glow
in the narrow flute from which the morning-glory
opens blue and cool on a hot morning.”
Anyone who has looked closely enough to see subtlety like that has been rewarded with the sensation of joyful pleasure. And that, spirituality aside, is its own reward.