Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Damascus Road

Last weekend at my class, the instructor used the story of the Saul on the Damascus Road as a metaphor for discovering the purpose in our lives. What was the "AHA" moment that brought Saul to Paul?

Through the entire class, I kept thinking that it's not something we "discover". It's not an epiphany. It's something we recognize when we choose to be available.

I don't believe personally that there is a deity who has a perfect design for each of our lives individually. I believe there is a deity who designed a way of life. When we live that way, our lives work. When we don't, our lives don't work. And it's all about availability, integrity and responsiveness.

The assignment for this week is to write about the way we want to approach God about discovering our "personal plan for spiritual growth".

We can't be available when we are self-centered, obsessed with discovering our own uniqueness (if everyone is unique, what's so unique about that?) and we can't be available if we are unwilling to look outside ourselves, our lives and our experiences.

Maybe I'm too jaded or just too old, but I no longer believe that we have sudden, magical transformations. Transformation is hard work. My personal Damascus Road was a desert, an empty desert with no plants, no water, no nurturing, no comfort, no color and no meaning. My Damascus Road was brutal and heartless. My Damascus Road often included only me and a bottle of booze, lamenting the emptiness and unhappiness of my pitiful existence. (yes, I was very good at feeling sorry for myself. I was a horrid drunk!)

It was rough, no doubt, even though self-imposed and self-created. On the other hand, I can recognize now why I needed it. Through that experience, I've come to understand certain things about spiritual growth.

We can not grow spiritually when we stay in our comfort zone.

We can not grow spiritually when we think like children, believing that things appear magically out of nowhere with no effort on our own part.

We can not grow spiritually if we hang on to the belief that God has nothing better to do that micromanage every aspect of our lives.

We can not grow spiritually when we refuse to face our own prejudices, our own fears and our own stagnancy. If we're not willing to change, we will not discover purpose.

We can not grow spiritually if we're not giving to others. If we only look for what we can get, we'll get "the desert". I learned this the hard way.

We can not grow spiritually if we don't have passion for something. I have passion for other desert-dwellers, those who are alone in the world because I was once there and know what I would have given if there'd been someone to reach a hand out to me in true understanding of that experience - in a similar context. A good coach, friend or mentor who would have given me a well-needed spiritual kick in the ass would have been good, too.

We can not grow spiritually if we don't understand that our "desert" may be someone else's rain forest. (Exhorter, exhort thyself! This is mainly a reminder to myself. :)

We can and do grow spiritually when we stretch ourselves, study new things, learn new things, see the divinity in others and be available. Just. Remain. Open. And then respond.

So this is what I will be sharing with the class next weekend. If you have any other thoughts, I'd love to hear them.

Picture credit

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Moving forward... literally and figuratively

I have not dropped off the planet, died or completely slipped out of contact.

Over the past few months, I've made a conscious effort to spend less time on the computer and more time learning new things and trying to expand my horizons from this one little studio apartment to include the outside world a bit more.

I'm getting ready to move which takes considerable energy. The first step is getting nearly everything I own into a storage unit so that I won't be overwhelmed when I choose the place I will live. It will allow me to gradually empty out the storage unit. As always, it's about avoiding becoming overwhelmed and bringing out one of my worst qualities which is to ultimately hit the "f*** it" switch.

I've just begun Life Coaching classes which take 10 or so hours a week. This coming weekend will be from 4:00-9:00 on Friday evening and 8:00-4:00 on Saturday. Even though that is a lot of concentrated time, I'm really feeling "shackles off" as Martha Beck would say about these classes. All told, they will take until December to complete. After that, I will choose some new classes.

The classes are wonderful because they're providing me with an opportunity to learn something useful that I can share with the community. Thinking back, I can't tell you how much I would have loved having a "coach", someone to hear me out and help me develop a plan to create the life I would have preferred to live. Giving that to someone, particularly those who are unusual and not quite legitimized in this culture, is just the greatest way I can imagine to spend my time and energy.

There are too many people out there with an agenda and they try to cram people into boxes where they'll never fit and never find fulfillment. Unfulfilled people do not have the energy to give to their community. I was that way, too, and had nothing to offer because I couldn't even manage to build my own foundation. There are so many people who are in the same position.

I'm still reading lots of new books and have plenty of recommendations. Hopefully I'll be able to put some of them up here.

One in particular though.... "Quaker Summer" by Lisa Samson. This book changed my life. The two sisters in the book became "life coaches" of a sort for me and helped me to understand that all the philosophizing in the world, all the professions of faith, all the activity in the world, means absolutely nothing if it doesn't come from the heart and if it doesn't change the way we do things. If there's no passion behind our activities, thoughts and beliefs, they're hollow. And, as the book says, "there are too many exhorters in the world". There comes a time when we realize that all the shouting about how rotten the world is and how we think it should be different is just vanity. (Pardon me, Solomon.) The underlying message, for me, was "just do it".

Anyway, the book is cheap on Amazon and I highly, highly recommend it. It doesn't matter what religion you practice. The message is the same for all of us.

Enough for now!