The spiritual discipline of non-discipline
I listened to On Being last week, an interview with the author and “stillness activist” (my affectionate term) Pico Iyer, and wrote down this quote:
Our outer lives are only as good as our inner lives. If we neglect our inner lives, we incapacitate our outer lives.
I have committed this quote to memory and it continues to roll around in there, bearing fruit and stirring reflection days later.
Pico Iyer, a deeply spiritual man and leader through his life and writings, also shared with a laugh that although he has made a life of practicing stillness and attention, he doesn’t formally meditate. He shared this with a near-apology, though the delivery was confident and self-assured. He made quite an impression on me with this admission.
Once upon a time my religious discipline was just that- disciplined. In all of the ways that I felt I should have been “practicing” in my life with God, I was faithful, and it was a good solid time in my life spiritually. But years of transition, deepening, wrestling, and expanding have yielded a free and flowing crop of experiences that cannot be pinned down or scheduled. Sometimes it feels as if I have become a harvester of Spirit itself, in daily, small-and-humble ways.
I’m not sure how or when exactly this practice-by-intuition happened, but it has now firmly set down roots. I appreciate and employ the many types of prayer at my disposal– silence, art, prayer beads, meditation, journaling, dance– but they are no longer the means to “get somewhere” in my faith life. Instead they are intuitive responses to invitations from beyond me.
It’s important, I believe, to break down the structures we have crafted around the mystery of prayer. Often when someone meets with a spiritual companion, they are searching for new ways to express themselves to this God who is infinite, both within and without, when old methods have ceased to provide meaning and connection. Sometimes the person simply needs another traveler on the path to echo the place deep inside them that is whispering, “Come,” giving themselves the permission that God has already provided.
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