I can sometimes convince myself that the spiritual life is as peaceful as an afternoon respite sitting on a moss-covered bank by a slowly moving stream through a dark, cool forest. The only sounds are the chirps of the birds in the trees and the occasional rustle of dry leaves as the squirrels scamper off with their latest discovery of a hickory nut which had been buried earlier in the year.
It can be that way….sometimes. More often the spiritual path has been a roomful of noisy, recovering alcoholics, reeking of the cigarette they just burned while standing outside. Or it could be spending a few hours with a friend reeling from his latest battle with the demon alcohol not understanding how he could have fallen into the depths of a relapse.
Both scenarios are spiritual. The first is a passive opportunity to reconnect with the Higher Power of my life and replenish the bank account which keeps me fully funded in Spirit. For me it is just as important as the fellowship of recovering alcoholics itself. Often I have attempted to go without the daily reading, private time of communion, devotion to inner reflection only to become less enthusiastic in other aspects of my recovery program. Neglecting time alone with the Higher Power invariably leads to confusion and burn-out.
Years ago I led a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. At the time I was sponsoring 3 or 4 pigeons and was on the verge of isolation and burn-out from phone calls at 2:30 AM or knocking on my door when I was just getting ready to sit down with a book I’d been wanting to read.
I chose the topic “burn-out” for discussion. To my dismay nobody wanted to participate with this subject….too negative, they said. Perhaps they were right, but, that topic is precisely why many of us fold our cards and dropout in this game called life. Unless I demand of myself time to replenish my soul’s needs, I will be absolutely worthless to others and ultimately to myself. The God of my understanding cannot use me for the work God has planned for me if I am emotionally and physically drained.
And it’s a result of ego telling me that I am indispensable, the world will stop if I don’t contribute, people will die if I am not there to save them. The inner truth tells me, “Yes, people are going to die, but, life is not dependent on your contribution. The world will go on.”
That’s a tough pill to swallow for me. In one of my first AA meetings, an elderly lady sitting next to me defined the alcoholic as one who, in this production called life, “wants to be the producer, the director, the prop man, the set man and the star actor.” Yep, that was me.
My cat, Max, is approaching senior status in feline years. This amazing companion has taught me more than some of the greatest spiritual leaders I have read or motivational speakers to whom I have listened. First, I have learned from Max, unconditional devotion to another creature. Unfortunately, that is easier to practice with a pet than with people, but, the concept is there. Secondly, Max uses his energy wisely. He still loves the same activities as always such as grooming, chasing the leaf blowing across the front porch, stalking a lizard, and eating. Truthfully, he still devotes as much time as ever to eating. But, Max snoozes more now that he is eleven years old. He has his favorite outposts in the house and more often than not can be found stretched out cutting zzzzzzzzs. Amazingly, when Max is awake he is a purr machine.
I have learned a lot from my cat. I don’t yet purr ( well actually I do simulate a human purr when I’m petting him) but, I do sense a calmness and peace when he invites me into his world.
God has provided for us a wonderful world filled with natural beauty and marvelous creatures. Nature teaches us the cycles of life; birth, youth, maturity and death. But, all to often, we ignore the other subtleties of this Creation which, I believe, can teach us how to live life abundantly.
A passage in the book of John speaks to us of the thief which comes only to steal and kill and destroy. It is written in the context of a shepherd and his flock; however, as with all of scriptures when I view them in a spiritual sense, the meaning becomes so extremely apropos for today’s world if I understand that the thief is the busyness, the chaos, the wars, the violence, the famines, the hate, and injustice which dominates contempory world culture. The life available through my time of spiritual devotion defends me from this thief. Those moments of communion will not change the world, rather, they will change me.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. John 10:10