I confess I am a little amused when people ask me if I am ‘spiritual’, or a ‘seeker’, or ‘a ‘healer’, with a deliberate emphasis on the air quotes. Not because those words do not carry meaning, but because of the way in which they are discussed today. Language has its inherent limitations of course. The same words means different things to different people and while some people are as addicted to spiritual jargon as an alcoholic to his spirits, there are still others who run at the mere mention of anything that seems remotely esoteric to them.
I tend to prefer the middle path. For me, inquiry is a natural component of daily life. I did not set out to seek ‘Nirvana’, nor was I looking to achieve any form of ‘spiritual’ stature. It was a pragmatic attempt to be conscious and aware of my own response to life as it happened, and to find a way to be peaceful in the midst of what often felt like overwhelming circumstances. Perhaps that is what still keeps me grounded in day to day reality. I have no urgency to get somewhere, or be ‘no-one’, be ‘enlightened’ and so on. I am happy with finding my Sparkling Stillness and remaining rooted in this space.
After one has learnt to survive crushing pain, helplessness, despair and loneliness, in my opinion, aloneness becomes a welcome sanctuary. It is easy to drop into effortless peace without the challenges of other interactions or dramatically changing surroundings. So if someone says that they know there is a lot they want to work on in themselves, or they do intend to explore ‘spirituality’ or ‘philosophy’ in depth, at some distant point in the future, I wonder at this retirement plan.
Wouldn’t it be more useful to dive into those questions now? Because this is where we need to be more mindful – in our daily, busy lives – full of it’s challenging relationships, financial hardships, health issues and a general lack of contentment.
After having been at the beside of those dying and consoling the families of those who moved on, I can assure you, that those who include their inquiry as an integral part of their daily life and living, are the ones who can let go of life most easily. Those who know how to welcome death and impermanence are the ones who embrace all of life as it happens. It is the practice, when you don’t need it, that serves you best when you do. A last minute sign-up for ‘What is the meaning of life?’ is not going to enable change in the way life went, bring about magical reconciliations with loved ones, or a sense of peace and fulfillment that can only come from the knowing that it was a well lived life.
For all this comes with a greater awareness today. A commitment to a higher consciousness right now is what will determine the experience of your life to come. Why would you want to leave it for when you are retired? Is it something to park aside for when you have the time, or have you been given the time for this reason?
I once met a Buddhist monk with whom I exchanged life stories. He routinely goes off into the mountains for months, to meditate and perform other practices in the most trying of circumstances. It sounded challenging, and I said as much. To which he replied, “Oh but you have used your life so well! That is what the teachers say – use your life, don’t waste it!” He went on to say how the priority should be to use any and all circumstances of life for our personal evolution. Coming from completely different backgrounds and lifestyles, it was interesting to see how we both adhered to the same guiding principles.
My point being, it does not matter whether you live in the city or in the mountains, whether you have a 9-5 job or freelance, are married or single, live with family or live alone – and so on… none of these are factors that limit your commitment to your own spiritual growth and evolution. Only a small part of the population is going to choose to become a monk, or move into some other form of spiritual retreat. The majority of us are going to live these same lives that we lead, and together we comprise the world we experience. Wouldn’t you like to be the change you want to see?
The more distant and grandiose our idealistic vision, the more we seem to procrastinate.
The more present and real our being and actions, the more we realize today.
One small step today is better than a plan for a thousand steps tomorrow.
So there is no compulsion to wait for retirement, you can get started today.
Photo Credit: Tanushree Vaidya Photography (all rights reserved)