The Practical Sphere of Spiritual Life
In some spiritual traditions, everyday life is considered "worldly" -- and "lower." Consequently, the spiritual quest aims to leave practical life behind. But for MOST people, neglecting practical affairs is unwise, and spiritually unproductive. And for ALL people, to have a truly spiritual life, EVERY aspect of life must be spiritualized.
|A solid foundation for a life of truth
There's always a child bold enough to think he could run the country right now. But one cannot succeed by skipping steps. Similarly, a strong spiritual life is built from the ground up -- on solid practical foundations.
The apparently humble domain of practical living is a good place to find and fix errant patterns of thought and behavior. A few years ago there was a popular book entitled, "Everything I Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten." The practical sphere is often viewed as the kindergarten of cosmic schooling. (It is really more like "adult education" however, because children -- and spiritual beginners -- don't take it seriously enough -- yet.) We may not learn EVERYTHING we need to know from everyday life, but we certainly get the essential prerequisites for everything ELSE.
For example, in grappling with ordinary situations, we learn to face and conquer our survival fears, get a grip on tangible self-responsibility, and adapt to the rudimentary ethical demands of getting along with others. All of these nitty-gritty victories are necessary preparations for the high wire dancing we'll do in more in more exalted states of consciousness.
Although handling our mundane obligations is far from glamorous and may sometimes make us shed blood, sweat, and tears, "taking care of business" in the practical sphere gives us a tremendous -- and essential -- head start on our more sophisticated spiritual endeavors.
Implementation is partnering with God
Everyone knows that faith without works is dead -- and that spiritual life, to be true, must be LIVED. Spiritual values worthy of the name deserve -- and indeed call for -- living, dynamic, real-world expression. After all, spiritual purposes of all kinds, both human and Divine, can only be furthered to the extent that spirituality finds active expression in daily life. Likewise, only living implementation allows us to be instruments of God's work here on earth.
The prayer, "Thy will be done," may be the highest of all expressions of spirituality. Likewise, spirit-inspired implementation may be the highest expression of individual human will and personal effort. Spiritual action is, in reality, a cooperative partnership between the child of God and the Divine parent in order to HELP God's will be done. For it has been truly said, "God has a problem: He has no hands or feet." God NEEDS us to implement spirituality here on earth. In doing so, we find our rightful place in the universe as creative and response-able children in the family of God.
Opportunities for spiritual implementation
Ordinary life is ordinary ONLY when one takes an ordinary approach to living. It becomes extraordinary when spiritually lived.
The practical sphere of spiritual life involves bringing spirituality to ordinary life in EVERY practical way. Spiritual implementation takes many forms, including:
Living spirituality in everyday life is not only our responsibility -- it is our joy. Invariably, living spiritual PRACTICE puts fresh Spirit wind in our sails. The soul gains evolutionary traction by implementing, in the theatre of manifest life, what is spiritually known and felt. To the extent that we LIVE what we know, and bring our spiritual inspirations to life, we don't just feel relieved of the guilt of inaction -- we feel Divinely, sublimely empowered, delighted, excited! What could be more satisfying than to bring a ray of Divine light into the world around us!
Healthy life challenges
A yogi in a cave is peaceful, and why not? It is relatively easy to be peaceful in seclusion, but that's no great accomplishment. The yogi has eliminated from his life practically everything he might find irritating!
We all have our own version of the yogi's cave, in which we are blessed with wonderful spiritual experiences now and then. Unfortunately, however, we lack the ability to HOLD that ground of higher consciousness when we return to our ordinary circumstances. Yet isn't that the implicit goal of spiritual practice -- the ability to maintain our peace under conditions that are exciting, distracting, even upsetting? Yes! We aspire to stable, unshakeable Spirit-consciousness.
How do we get there? We get there by rightly embracing the everyday difficulties the traditional renunciant may have excluded. We develop spiritual strength by cultivating spiritual responses to the trials and tribulations of daily living. And luckily for us, life has in store for us many practical challenges -- each of them an opportunity for spiritual growth.
Rise to your challenges! Most people err on the side of cowardice, underestimating their abilities. But excessive caution slows growth. It is good to know your own weaknesses, but never overestimate them, because that only feeds them.
Although some of our challenges are daunting, and victory is never assured, there are three compelling reasons for taking the bull by the horns:
Take God's dare, and you will be glad you did.
Spiritual tests of practical living
There are different ways to view ordinary living. One is, it's a waste of time. That view MAKES it a waste of time. Another view is, ordinary living is a test of spiritual values, soul intention, and spiritual mettle. That view correctly sees the circumstances of so-called ordinary life as a very efficient and effective way to uncover and correct our flaws and to solidify our gains. How but through real-world experience can we measure how far we've come; recognize and repair our weak spots; and see where we've developed competence? In facing everyday challenges, we gain valuable insight into our areas of strength and weakness.
For example, it's easy to "love everyone" while sitting alone on our meditation cushion. But in ordinary interactions at work or at the dinner table, we find golden opportunities to confront and gradually transcend our ego's persuasive justifications for NOT loving this or that particular person in this particular moment. NOW is always the time for spiritual practice. And HERE is always the place to share higher love and higher consciousness with all of God's children.
Some tests we fail, others we pass. But what's really important in all the ups and downs is what we LEARN (and, of course, whether we ADJUST accordingly). Even "failed tests" correct our course, refreshing and refining motivations. Everything is grist for the spiritual mill if we construe it that way.
Passed tests provide confirmation and validation
Spiritual growth is hard to measure -- especially in oneself. We can't just sit there and introspect about how we're doing; we're as likely as not to judge ourselves wrongly. Also, too much internal self-watching is spiritually unhealthy.
Here again, the practical sphere comes to our rescue. We see objective evidence of our progress in our improved performance in the theatre of living. Real increments of spiritual growth may be revealed in practical-life observations like these:
Do as the ADVANCED practitioners do
The importance of the practical sphere of life is one of spirituality's "best kept secrets" -- because so many people don't want to hear about it! A wise man once remarked, "My instructions on the importance of the practical sphere are for my advanced students only -- who else is ready for them?" Spiritual beginners prefer to jettison responsibilities and relationships so they can focus on things they consider to be "more lofty." Experienced spiritual practitioners take their earthly commitments and relations far more seriously.
Which group do you want to be in? The slow-learning group, who look down on ordinary responsibilities, or the advanced group, who recognize that every part of life is "spiritual"? To go to the head of the spiritual class, embrace the practical!