Last year, I started this blog project after the election. I’d been working on a book about my family and it was killing me (no surprise). I found myself asking: How do people not die in this world?
How do we pay attention to the beauty and the pain of the world, both? And then how do we not die with all this mess and despair around us? How do we pay attention, but not go under?
So many of us want and need something but we’re not sure what.
I grew up in a family where they dropped us off at church. And I was glad to go. It was like visiting a wealthy, well-organized foreign nation. Like Canada.
And I didn’t believe in all the things they talked about at church, but I wanted to. I wanted something.
Church appealed to me for the way people dressed up to go there – patent leather shoes and button down shirts. White crocheted cardigans over the girls’ dresses.
We weren’t the kind of family who could dress things up very well, but ohmygod, I wanted to be. From my nine year old point of view, BEING ABLE to shine things up on a Sunday morning seemed as far away as things being ACTUALLY SHINED UP on Sundays, and as good. God, I thought, I’d take it. I’d take it.
At that time, I didn’t even know there was a difference between things looking good and things actually being good.
But I’ve never gotten the kind of faith some people seem to have – rock hard. Certain. And that’s ok. I don’t really trust that kind of certainty, anyway.
Instead, I’ve got a God of mystery. A vast, vast mystery. And I trust that.
But I’m practical. I’ll use whatever helps me in the moment.
There are so many of us – secret pray-ers. People who need to work hard to keep their heads above water emotionally, spiritually.
So, how do we connect with our spiritual lives right in the midst of our actual lives as we live them? Right in the middle of the shoes piled by the door, and the laundry still in the bin, and last night’s dishes?
How do we connect with our spiritual lives in the midst of all our unfinished tasks, spread out across all our unresolved questions about our lives, our purpose, the world? How do we reach out, reach in, and connect? Despite all the mess we find around us, the constant doing and undoing in our lives?
Any time I look at articles about spirituality, they always begin with a requirement that I set up an altar.
My heart sinks.
Now, I’m sure altars are a great idea. And any pagans out there, or practicing Buddhists, you probably have lovely, impressive altars. Amazing, centering altars.
But any altar in my tiny apartment would have to start with me going to Ikea to buy a shelf because there is absolutely no clear counter space here.
Then, a year later, after I’d actually hung the shelf (or someone had hung the shelf, let’s be real), it would function as an altar for exactly 6 hours before my husband emptied his pockets of change and keys, and scraps of paper onto it, and I’d kind of forget what it was, and would leave a dirty Kleenex there and then perch my library books on it, and pile on some army men I grabbed from the hallway floor.
My altar would immediately become another mess that needed my attention. Another small failure. Basically the opposite of an altar’s job.
So, I need a spirituality that’s both pocket-sized and world-sized. No altar needed. No meditation cushion, no special bell. Just me.
My heart. My breath. My body. My people.
A window. A walk. The refrigerator hum and the sound of a train in the distance. My pen and paper. My own heart and brain and spirit, my life, the only tools I need.
I’ve started a Facebook group called Real Life Spirituality where we can talk about these matters of spirit. Click here for more information.
How do you keep your head above water? What tools are working for you? Where are you finding gratitude? Where have you lost it?
If you’re interested in connecting around these matters of spirit – from any faith position or from none – take a look at the group’s guidelines, and see if it appeals to you.
And welcome. I’d love to see you there.