Conversations (And Vows) For Embracing A Spirit-Led Life
What is needed for us to live a more spiritual life, to make wiser choices, be more forgiving, and at the same time, be “real” by not ignoring our primal urges? Interested? Come find out! ~ Val Jon
Blessings to you and I hope you are well. As we approach the year’s end, we are yet again coming full circle around the Sun for what I fondly call another “annual orbital adventure.” With each passing year, it becomes ever clearer to me that the life I’ve been granted is a sacred and yet very short gift. Youth has a way of overlooking this reality, as does being distracted by the many survival issues that naturally arise from simply being alive, no matter our age.
On my walk this morning to buy my ritual cappuccino, I caught myself musing over the disturbing dilemma that life is both a gift and a threat. Curious about this paradox, I asked my inner guide or “Agent of Being” (refer to my book, Travelers Within) “Why is life organized this way? If it’s such a ‘gift’ why are there so many struggles and dangers?” The response was immediate . . . “Val Jon, The cosmos is an infinitely vacuous place and quite unwelcoming to life. Think of the gift of life as a “protective bubble” floating within a vast sea of lifeless empty space and you will understand why it’s paradoxical.”
Unsatisfied with the answer, I pressed in further . . . “But couldn’t it have been arranged by Creator Spirit in a way that life’s bubble existed everywhere in the cosmos rather than in bubbles of potential annihilation?” At that very moment, a bit distracted with the exchange, (and without checking both ways) I stepped off the curb to cross the street and nearly got run over . . . I chided out loud, “Hmm, time to accept that answer and move on VJ!”
Because my inquiry involved the intent of “Creator Spirit” (my term for “God” or the omnipotent) when I returned home, I looked up the definition of Spirit and was reminded of its simple, yet profound definition. From Latin, “Spiritus” means “breath of life.” This respiratory-based gift is a paradox in that the two opposing movements of inhaling and exhaling are also one integrated movement.
Placing my palms to my chest, I felt into the rising and falling of my breathing. Closing my eyes, I decided to reaffirm a vow I had made many years ago . . . a devotion to staying “out of the way” and letting the movement of Spirit lead my life. This “Spirit-Led” vow is what I want to discuss with you in this post. Perhaps you too have made such a vow and have faithfully lived true to it. Or maybe you committed to such a sacred promise but haven’t honored it. Or perhaps you haven’t considered making such a vow at all. Regardless of where you are, I believe what I have to offer will be of use to you. There are three essential practices for living a Spirit-Led life. Let’s explore each of them.
> Embracing the paradoxical challenges that being alive presents to us.
This practice may, at first seem like a given for those on the path to higher spiritual awareness. But looking deeper into it, we human beings have a hard time with paradoxes or contradictory dilemmas that are not easily understood in black or white terms.
Let’s take the devastating experience of deep sadness or grief as an example. Most of us have not expanded our scope of emotional presence to be able to simultaneously embrace both of grief’s opposing facets of painful loss and appreciative gratitude. Rather than arising within us as a dual-interconnected experience, we typically linearly react to grief, (e.g., being consumed by the painful loss). It is only much later that we arrive at the threshold of appreciative gratitude. More likely, however, many of us never complete the initial devastating loss and thus fail to access the accompanying oasis of gratitude. (Just like breathing, if we fail to engage in either the inhale or the exhale fully all breathing stops. Nothing kills the feelings of gratitude . . . as well as all other feelings . . . faster than death.)
So how does one master this paradoxical practice? Through Spirit-assisted conscious intent. The next time you face a devastating loss, open yourself to Spirit and “breathe” into the painful loss with the awareness that by embracing it fully and allowing Spirit to move with(in) you, you will reach the paradoxical oasis of gratitude. With repeated practice, your capacity to simultaneously embrace both the pain and gratitude will become available and subsequently expand. This ever-expanding capacity to fully embrace the many paradoxical challenges of being alive is the essence of a Spirit-Led life.
> Traveling into and learning to navigate our inner depths and heights.
This practice is a natural extension of our ever-increasing capacity to hold paradox. As we mature our ability to engage with life’s challenging dilemmas, we also nurture into being our willingness to explore both the depths and heights of our psyche or “inner terrain.” Coming into accord with our light and shadow aspects is essential to living a Spirit-Led life.
This is so because Spirit is not just the light, but also the dark. One cannot exist without the other just as inhaling cannot exist without exhaling. An important point to understand about the human psyche is that whatever we are unwilling to consciously accept that may be dwelling within our depths is what will manifest as detriments and betrayals in our lives.
What this means in terms of day-to-day practices is being “real” about our basic human instincts and our higher spiritual virtues and learning how to balance and include them both. A good example is rather than trying to attain the unrealistic goal of “unconditional love,” it is more authentic to our paradoxical nature that we instead strive to “return to love” the moment we realize we’ve denied it. This is a very different practice than attempting to reach the “guru-status” of loving unconditionally. And finally, it means being more accepting of our mistakes and short-comings, being more forgiving, and treating ourselves the way we would treat Spirit if we were to meet her face-to-face. (For guidance in mastering these challenges I suggest reading my book, Travelers Within as it outlines essential principles and practices for the needed inner journey work.)
> Surrendering our self-importance and delusion that our life is “ours to live.”
This is perhaps the most challenging of the three practices. Everything we’ve been taught since birth reinforces that our life is our own and that we can do with it whatever we want. Even the most mature mentoring that advocates the important caveat that we can do whatever we want . . . as long as it doesn’t negatively affect others is good advice but doesn’t come close to addressing the “ownership” issue that most of us unthinkingly assume about “our” life.
Rather than assuming our life is our own to live, what if we shift the notion 180 degrees and instead consider that life lives through us, and that we belong to life rather than life belonging to us? In this way, we empower ourselves to be agents of life, sacred vessels, and flesh and bone vehicles who are charged with the wonderful gift of allowing life to flow through us. How contrary to mainstream status quo this stance is, yes? The detriments we commit against one another and the natural world are driven by what can simply be called “self-importance,” or “getting in the way.”
Practicing this reversal, and fully becoming an “open space” for life to move through us must be approached in stages. One must also take into account the degree of selflessness they currently occupy. Humility is the first step in the process. Here are some quick-start guides: Ask rather than tell. Acknowledge your part in every breakdown or success in your life. Forgive yourself for mistakes and simply up-level rather than negate yourself. Realize that every effect you experience stems from a cause you previously initiated. Be angry if you must, but get under it to the disappointment and sadness that drives it. Be more interested in making contributions than wanting credit.
These three practices coupled with the vow to living a Spirit-Led life are not easy to engage with and master. But my philosophy is that unless we are willing to engage in extraordinary practices we cannot expect extraordinary results! Feel free to post comments on the blog as I and the other members of our online TWS community want to hear from you. Feel free to pass this blog post along to your friends! ~ Val Jon