Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sacred Longing

I attended a wonderful Unity workshop last weekend on peacemaking. One of the facilitators introduced the idea of sacred longing, which was new to me and intriguing. I love the idea of it, because it describes a very holy gift in our human experience.

Sacred longing is that deep, persistent need to know the presence of God within us and in all things. It is the profound wisdom that leads us to seek to better understand ourselves, even when we are so busy with life’s details that without that intrinsic longing we would never even realize that there was more to our experience than we can see.

My spiritual path has most definitely been one of sacred longing. Throughout all of the circumstances of my life, relationships that came and went, ones that stayed, job changes, things that were important to me for their time and then faded as new interests emerged, the longing has remained constant. At times its voice was loud and insistent, and I took very definite and intentional actions to learn more about my spiritual nature. I actively sought out philosophies and teachers that felt right. Big jumps in my understanding happened during those times.

At other times, the voice of sacred longing was quieter, not urging me toward big changes but to gentle shifts in my awareness. In those times I felt the need to slow down and listen more, both to my own thoughts and feelings, and to the subtleties of others’ expression.

To me, sacred longing reflects that part of us that is always on our perfect path, no matter what chaos our personal growth may be creating in the moment. It is the beacon within that guides us to the light, even as our human experience feels disconnected from the light. Once we become aware of the unquenchable thirst of longing to know the divine, we must open ourselves to its gentle but insistent pull.

Sacred longing always knows the right next step, and its urgings are infinitely trustworthy. Even though it is not a roadmap indicating the exact twists and turns that we will make, it keeps us moving ever forward in the right direction, and we are never lost.

May you recognize and heed the pull that is your sacred longing, the voice of God leading you unerringly home, and may this tool be a blessing. . .

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Healing the World as We Heal Ourselves

I have recently discovered the writings of Pema Chodron, an American Buddhist nun who teaches in Nova Scotia, at the first Tibetan monastery in North America established for westerners. Her books have provided me with some very practical and appreciated insight from the Buddhist perspective.

In the book I’m reading now, called Taking the Leap, Chodron addresses in her gentle but powerful manner how we often use our spiritual practice as a way to feel better, but could broaden our perspective to allow our practice to teach us the tools we need to help uplift others.

More specifically, she states that “for many, spiritual practice represents a way to relax and a way to access peace of mind. We want to feel more calm, more focused; and with our frantic and stressful lives, who can blame us? Nevertheless, we have a responsibility to think bigger than that these days. If spiritual practice is relaxing, if it gives us some peace of mind, that’s great – but is this personal satisfaction helping us to address what’s happening in the world? The main question is, are we living in a way that adds further aggression and self-centeredness to the mix, or are we adding some much-needed sanity?”

She quotes a story about a Native American grandfather who was speaking to his grandson about violence and cruelty in the world and how it comes about. The grandfather said that it was as if two wolves were fighting in his heart. One wolf was vengeful and angry, and the other wolf was kind and understanding. The young man asked his grandfather which wolf would win the fight in his heart. And the grandfather answered, “The one that wins will be the one I choose to feed.”

The challenge, says Chodron, for our spiritual practice and for the world, is how can we train right now, not later, in feeding the right wolf?

One practice that she suggests in our “training” is something she simply calls “a pause.” Throughout the day, as we are able, she recommends that we just pause from what we are doing, and step back from the mind’s activity for a count of three breaths.  That is all.

I’m finding that when I do this I step back into that space of being the watcher, the I who watches me, the divine within me that is able to notice where my mind has been, but remains forever loving and peaceful regardless of its travels.

Chodron’s belief, as I’m coming to understand it, is that as we step back from the unconscious activity of mind we are able to access our natural intelligence, openness and warmth, and carry that forward into our interactions with others. These are words to heal a world by!

May you pause often to connect with our collective, perfect good, and may this tool be a blessing. . .