Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Life Of The Spirit Is Solitary, Although I Experience My Existence In The Plural

One of the most often asked questions subscribers write to me is about some form of:
  • ·      How do I determine what to do with events or persons that I think are wrong?
  • ·      If my perception of this world is illusionary, why bother with anything?
  • ·      How do I learn how I’m to get upset with events or personalities that occur and still maintain my spiritual balance?  
  • ·      To maintain spiritual balance, do I simply remain oblivious to the events of the world?  Keep my spiritual head in the sand?
  • ·      My instinctive reaction/response is generally judgmental and I certainly don’t want to become my “own worst enemy” – that is, become as hateful and fearful and prejudiced as those I consider my opposition? 

I had quite a few responses to last week’s post about my spiritual reflections on the Zimmerman trial that were asking or arguing this very type of questioning.
These kinds of questions have always been very difficult for me to answer partly because these are questions I ask myself so often. I usually end up answering that we are to be IN this world without being OF this world. I truly believe this is a personal decision and the decision I make today, may not be applicable tomorrow. My decision will change, morph, and evolve. It is not a “once and done” decision.
A friend and subscriber sent me a copy of a recent article from the Unitarian Universalist UU World Magazine. It was an article in the Summer 2013 issue written by Rev. Victoria Safford, the pastor of the White Bear UU Church in Mahtomedi, MN. The article was entitled Bound in Covenants – Congregational Covenants are Declarations in Interdependence. She made the following statement, which resonated greatly with me:
… To what larger love, to what people-principles, values, and dreams shall we be committed? To whom, to what, are we accountable?...How do I decide which beautiful, clumsy, and imperfect institutions will carry and hold…. my ‘name, hand, and heart?’ The life of the spirit is solitary, but our answers to these questions call us to speak, call us to live, in the plural.
What a great statement: The life of the spirit is solitary, although I experience my existence in the plural.
I remembered the tale of a Scottish minister who visited an older man who had stopped coming to church. As the two men talked in front of the old man’s fireplace, the minister gently took the tongs and pulled a glowing ember from the fire and moved it a little ways onto the hearth. Slowly its glow began to dim. He moved the ember back towards the fire and it began to brighten. No words were said. The old man finally announced he got the message. He was in the congregation that week.
My spiritual journey is solitary, although I experience my existence in the plural.
This is very true of my association with Alcoholics Anonymous. I could not live without that group’s support. It is also true about my study group of A Course in Miracles. Both of these groups – and the level of trust I have in them to be as personally honest as possible – keep me grounded and help me keep my ego in check. The level of my serenity is directly proportional to my honest involvement in these 2 groups. I will always surrender my ego to the group, because without that communal support I will die – spiritually and, perhaps, physically.
AA members state this reality in several ways: A lack of serenity is directly proportional to the quality of a spiritual life. Or: Use the degree of your anxiety to measure your distance from God: The greater the anxiety, the greater the distance.
My spiritual journey and my spiritual realities are mine alone. I am not, however, a solitary being. While I am experiencing a human existence, I am not a solo act. I am in community with others – biologically, socially, occupationally, politically, and geographically.  I am an O’Dell. In short, I am a brother, a father, a husband, an uncle, a grateful member of Alcoholics Anonymous, a student of A Course in Miracles, a political progressive, a Texas-Tennessee-American, an independent consultant and author. I attempt to be as gentle and understanding with others as I am with myself. I seem always to be able to find a reason that explains away my behavior, attitudes, prejudices and judgments. So, I look for reasons that will explain away someone else’s behavior, attitudes, prejudices and judgments.
This approach to living is not very complicated: “Do unto others….” I find, however, this approach can be very disturbing and guilt-producing. Sometimes it can be an indication of my distance from God. Sometimes I can just wallow in non-spiritual self-pity. Sometimes I just try to keep counsel with myself, which generally produces rather disastrous results.
My spiritual journey is solitary, although I experience my existence in the plural.
Although these messages are mostly for me, thanks for listening. As always – feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.
#4 July, 2013
Copyright, 2013

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