He cheated on his wife with a much younger employee.
She abandoned her newborn baby.
He drinks until he beats his children.
She manipulates her feminine wiles to get what she wants from men.
He took their hard-earned money and then squandered it for selfish motives.
She killed him.
He raped her.
She sells her body for money.
He heads up a sex trafficking ring.
She molests children.
He sells drugs to teenagers.
You might judge all of these people, labeling them as “immoral” or “wrong.” But as I described in my blog about being “spiritual but not religious,” I think spirituality is largely about choosing to withhold judgment, trusting that everyone’s soul is on its own journey, learning what it’s here to learn, and everyone is entitled to their own journey. I’m in no way condoning such behavior, but what if, instead of your judgment, you could perceive these individuals as suffering beings and offer them your love and compassion instead? What if Reverend John Watson was right when he said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle?” What if we all grew our empathy muscles instead of judging?
When I talk to some people about spirituality, they commonly respond with, “Oh, but I’m not religious,” to which I respond, “Yeah, me neither.” Then they look a bit puzzled. The way I see it, every religion is some human being’s interpretation of spiritual principles, and while there’s a lot of overlap in the teachings of all religions that probably points to spiritual truth, I find myself resisting any dogma that says that one way is “The Way” and everything else is hogwash.
Ages ago, I wrote about my “Grab Bag Religion." Some critique such an approach to spirituality, arguing that those who consider themselves “spiritual but not religious” lack the discipline that comes from focus on one religious pathway. Others say that the California-style “It’s all good” approach to spirituality fails to offer clear morals and strict values. This may be a valid criticism. Certainly spiritual practice can deepen one’s spiritual journey, and living a life of integrity tends to accompany spiritual commitment.
I certainly respect those who have found a religious discipline that feels aligned with their truth, but after investigating many religious paths, none felt truly authentic to my soul. Though Buddhism most closely resonates with me and though I’m attracted to the yogic tradition, I still say that Jesus is my favorite. And yet, I don’t consider myself a Buddhist or a committed yogini or a Christian. I tend to resonate with the Buddhist teachings of non-dualism, especially the way Adyashanti teaches, but I’m also attracted to the Divine Feminine goddess worship of the yogic tradition, especially the way Sera Beak expresses it. I also love the Sufi mystic poets like Rumi and Hafiz. Yet, no deity speaks to my heart more than Jesus, who strikes me as perhaps the most loving being to have ever walked the earth in human form. If you mix all those together, you get a flavor of the cocktail of my spiritual inklings. But yours might taste quite different, and I think that’s perfectly okay.
Yesterday, Martha Beck and I co-taught the first of eight classes in our Coming Home to Your Spirit class. We were very excited about teaching something that would give us a venue to discuss publicly the kinds of spiritual concepts we’ve been discussing privately for three years, not because we think we’ve got it all figured out yet, and not because we consider ourselves experts in spirituality, but because as wildly curious spiritual seekers attuned to the vibration of other spiritual seekers, we yearned to create a way to share, learn from each other, facilitate dialogue, do some spot coaching, lean into the edges of our own growth, push the growth edges of those who participate, and call upon the Divine to awaken us all, if such an outcome is aligned with the highest good.
Of course, because we dared to publicly tell the world that we were ready to take on such a momentous task, we wound up finishing our first class and judging ourselves for all the ways in which we failed to be perfect on the call.
We had just finished talking about the "8 Phases of Awakening" and how to start shifting out of egoic consciousness and into other “higher” states of awareness. Yet, the minute I hung up that phone, my Small Self (aka. the ego) had a field day. My Small Self’s rant went something like this:
A year ago, my husband and I decided to break up but try living in the same house for the love of our eight year old daughter. It worked for a while—until it didn’t work anymore. Yesterday, we filed for divorce with our mediation lawyer, and as so often happens during the divorce process, I watched two people who care about each other start volleying for position as we talked about who would get what and how we would divide up the business of me. My Small Self had an inner tantrum. The running dialogue in my head during divorce mediation went something like this (with some of the four letter words removed for the love of my ex):
God dammit. We signed a prenuptial agreement nine years ago so we could avoid fighting over who got what, and now here he is, trying to violate the spirit of our agreement so he can take my money. But it’s mine. ALL MINE. My liquidated retirement account that funded this business. My talent that fuels this business. My painstakingly written books. My teleclasses and speaking gigs and hard earned money. And now he wants a piece of my business for the rest of his life? Mine. Mine. MINE. He’s threatening me. I’m scared of losing everything I’ve worked so hard to earn and having to work even harder than I already am. I have to protect myself—NOW.
Then I heard myself saying things I didn’t really mean because my Small Self felt hurt, betrayed, violated, judgmental, righteous, and frightened. I noticed myself slipping into full on self-protection mode without considering what was best for this man I’ve loved for twelve years. I knew I needed help from the Big Guns, so I called my friend and spiritual advisor Tosha Silver, author of Outrageous Openness. I told her I was trying to surrender the entire divorce to Divine Will but I was having a hard time. I know I don’t want to carry the burden of this divorce. I only want whatever is in the highest good to have room to come into being in a way that is equitable, kind, and respectful to us both.
Here’s what Tosha brilliantly advised.
I’ve experienced a lot of loss this year. Most of the loss has come as my own choice, which in some ways makes it even harder. I can’t even fall back on feelings of victimhood because I’ve brought all this loss upon myself, not because I’m a masochist, but because I’m being called to align with the integrity of my Inner Pilot Light in radical ways. It’s hard and scary and wildly uncomfortable. And it hurts. My heart feels heavy as big changes have uprooted me. I’ve had to really lean into my spiritual practice to stay grounded, avoid the downward spiral into fear, find peace with uncertainty, and allow loss to grow my soul, rather than shrink it.
Eckhart Tolle says that if you’re enlightened, there are three responses to what happens in life—acceptance, enjoyment, and enthusiasm. In other words, even when you’re facing the worst life throws at you, peaceful acceptance can be your baseline. Clearly, I’m not enlightened, because today, a yard full of roots thrust me into despair. The house where I live just changed owners, and the new owner, very well intentioned I'm sure, just sent over gardeners who ripped up every plant in my entire yard, including my beloved rosemary and artichoke plants. I've experienced a great deal of loss this year, and I keep saying that all of my roots are getting pulled up so I'm free to flow to whatever is most aligned for me. But as I came home from dropping my daughter off at camp and looked at the piles of literal roots and the barren, vulnerable nakedness of my front yard, I burst into tears. It's all so . . . empty and ugly and dirty and lonely. I’m sure the new landscaping will be beautiful, but right now, I’m feeling a little tender. Not quite up to peaceful acceptance, much less enjoyment or enthusiasm.