Planning Your Way to Enlightenment

I’ve been trying to manage God.

I want enlightenment so badly. I want to merge and disappear into the Holy Spirit so much it’s almost a physical ache. So I had been trying to plan out how to achieve that, keeping a strict eye on the horizon to make sure that I’m staying on course and that I’m progressing fast enough. As though developing a relationship was as simple and linear as reading a book. But it isn’t.

The only way to achieve intimacy and enlightenment is to do as that old Christian song says and let Jesus/the Holy Spirit drive the car.

The only way to take the next step is to let go. We are finite and we don’t know the path to enlightenment. God does, and he wants us to reach it even more than we want to reach it ourselves.

So do what you know is good for you (ex. pray, meditate, learn, practice), but do it without keeping an eye on your progress.

Trust that if you go where God leads, he will lead you where you are meant to go.

Your Body Knows

Last night I had a chocolatey treat that I haven’t had for almost half a year: a single-serving brownie in a cup with melted chocolate chips.

I used to eat these almost every day, but when I went to Japan, the supplies for them were either extremely expensive or nonexistent, so I stopped.

Now, having it again, it’s too much for me. Like, WAY too much for me. Too much chocolate, too much sugar, too large a serving. I started to feel bloated and headachy and in the end, I wasn’t able to finish it.

As I washed out my brownie mug, I realized that I used to feel this way more often than I do now. I just never registered that maybe it wasn’t a natural way to feel.

Our bodies know instinctively what is good for them and what isn’t. But sometimes their sensors get warped from being flooded with toxins (too much of a good thing is bad, but too much of a bad thing is worse). More often, we hear the alarm but we just don’t listen to it.

I believe our spirits have the same alarm system. We just have to know what to listen for.

 

 

Religion vs. Spirituality

It seems to me that, while religion and spirituality go hand in hand, they are not the same thing.

Spirituality, in the broadest term, is the conscious recognition that things exist in this world. Whether you believe in a spiritual realm or whether you believe that the physical is all that exists, everyone has their own spirituality. Everyone understands that the world has many facets and that these facets work in a specific way.

Religion, then, is the practical application of this understanding. What do we do with this knowledge? What is the healthiest way to live, taking all of reality into consideration? What is the balance of discipline and relaxation that best allows a person to live to the fullest?

That is the real question. There are probably a few objectively right answers in there, but not nearly as many as people think.

When everyone’s special..

“When everyone’s special, no one is.” –Syndrome, The Incredibles

I’ve been thinking about this quote a lot lately and specifically how it captures the spirit of a recent trend: the need to out-special everyone around us.

I see it everywhere, as people take on more and more labels that separate them from “normal” society, ranging from reasonable to completely fabricated, wearing them like badges of honor.

I used to do this too, but as I’ve experienced more of life and people, I’ve taken on an increasingly “who cares?” worldview about it all.

At the end of the day, we are all just chunks of incarnated spirit, and we will succeed or fail based only on how we take care of that.

We work so hard to prove to people and to ourselves how great we are but deep down we suspect that we are actually uninteresting and useless. We are afraid of being basic.

The thing is, though, we can’t truly know who we are inside until we strip off all our decorations and disclaimers. When we do, we’ll find that, while our core really is small and quiet, it holds more life than anything we tried to cover it up with.

It’s acceptance of that core that resonates with other people, and it’s that acceptance that allows us to love and enjoy ourselves.

Barn Cats

I grew up on a farm in the country where we had a large population of barn cats: cats that lived outside, caught mice, and generally managed themselves.

If barn cats are good at one thing, it is multiplying. There were always kittens around, who then grew up into adult cats, who then had their own kittens.

You’d think we would have eventually been overrun with cats, but we never were. And the reason awes me even to this day.

The cats would go through seasons of increase. Kittens were born, cats were living to old age, and the population was climbing. But then, when the population reached a certain number, there would come a season of decrease. Cats would die from sickness, get hit on the road, die from freak accidents, or just disappear altogether.

I don’t know why births and deaths didn’t just happen alongside each other: for every kitten born, an older cat dies. But they didn’t. They happened in seasons.

Nature is governed by seasons. In the summer, grass grows and fruit ripens. In the winter, everything dies, clearing the path for new growth.

Life seems to work this way as well.

I don’t know why it’s this way, and sometimes I wish it wasn’t. Especially when I’m in the season of death and clearing.

But I know that once the clearing is finished, there will be new growth in its place. And eventually, that new growth will become old and another season of clearing will commence, to make way for new new growth.

And in that way, nature manages itself. In that way, there is balance.

not like this

My best friends’ dad died today. He left a wife and four children, two of them in middle school.

As I was trying to get ready for the day, weeping, I heard God speak. “This is why you are going back (to America),” he said, “to be there for them. Improve your empathy, because they will need it.”

I like finding out what my next step is, but not like this. Not like this.

Acceptance

Reality works like a mirror. Whether you take this as literal truth or just a helpful metaphor, it still holds true.

This is why some people seem to have good luck and some bad, and why people who like themselves often end up being liked by others (and vice versa). There are endless applications of this on every conceivable topic from relationships to health.

For me, now, it has been showing up with regards to my self-image. The more I learn to accept and enjoy myself, the easier it is for me to accept and enjoy other people.

I used to be very prideful and very cynical. I disliked people, as a species in general. (I still do a little, if I’m honest.) And the fact that I was part of this species felt like a dirty secret to me. I always wanted to tack on a qualifier in my mind. “Yeah, I’m part of humanity, but…”, or “Yeah, I’m a girl, but…”

Qualifiers do more harm than good, I think. It’s only in taking them away and accepting what and who I am that I have been able to see more clearly what my true potential is. And by extension, that of other people.