Dealing with spirituality is something like a good meal. There are various parts to both of them. When we sit down to a good meal, there are different kinds of foods. There may be a salad to start. Then comes the major part of the meal. But again, there probably is diversity. There may be the proverbial “meat and potatoes.” There could very well be a vegetable. Often there is some form of bread. And if we are lucky, the meal is topped off with a tasty dessert.
Spirituality has analogous parts to it. Without trying to match one part of spirituality to one part of the meal, let me identify what I consider to be the “meat and potatoes” for spirituality. That would be the spiritual disciplines. They are the basics of spirituality. Without them, there is no “main spiritual meal.”
In my experience it is not unusual for people to try to be spiritual without actually practicing any of the disciplines. Spiritual discipline is like any other form of discipline, i.e. sports, music, etc. Discipline calls for us to practice in order to get better and to grow. But they take time and require effort. That’s why it is so easy not to be disciplined.
But if we opt not to be disciplined, it seems to me we are hoping to be lucky! Without spiritual discipline, we apparently are hoping that God will engage us and develop us in some kind of magical way. In a way we are saying, “Oh, I am giving no effort to my spiritual life. I am waiting and expecting God to grace me and grow me into the spiritual sage I hope to become.” Good luck!
But if we opt to begin practicing some form of spiritual discipline, I would suggest we are beginning to open ourselves to a predictable form of spiritual growth and development. We are preparing for the “greening” of our souls. We are taking steps to be present to the Presence, which is God.
I don’t do as well with the disciplines as I would like to do. But I continue to try. At least trying does not mean I am hoping to be lucky. I do hope, however, that God might grace my efforts with more Presence than I might deserve. Thank God!
I am encouraged by the words of Roger Walsh, as he reflects on the effect of spiritual disciplines. Walsh assures us that “Over time, spiritual practices work their transformative wonders on our hearts, minds, and lives.” Unfortunately, this is not a quick fix. “Over time” is a phrase that many don’t want to hear. We are used to immediacy. We get mad at the internet when it is too slow. Americans can be an impatient, surly group when something takes too much time.
However, spiritual discipline and practice take time. Who gets ready to run a marathon with only a week’s practice and a few miles? Our spiritual life is more like the marathon than the sprint. We need to get in shape. There is a long haul ahead. But take heart. This spiritual marathon---called life---will yield transformative wonders. That truly is good news.
The disciplines will work transformative wonders on our hearts, minds, and lives. That is great news. Walsh proceeds to tell us a little more. He says, “As the heart opens and the mind clears, we see further and further into the boundless depths of the mind.” That is alluring. I am intrigued that discipline can open our hearts. It is easy to imagine what we are capable of with open hearts. We probably will become caring, even compassionate, people. We will become servants of God.
We also will experience the clearing of our minds when we practice the spiritual disciplines. I like the image of a clear mind. A clear mind is able to see things as they really are. A clear mind is the opposite of a confused or muddled mind. It is hard to imagine the clear-minded person saying, “I just can’t make up my mind!” A spiritually clear mind is a mind centered in the Mind of the Divine One. We are “of one mind.”
This sets us up for a neat ending. Walsh affirms the spiritual disciplines engage us in an amazing process. He articulates it this way. “As the heart opens and the mind clears, we see further and further into the boundless depths of the mind.” To see this as a process is ok with me. Walsh does not say, when the heart is “opened.” Instead he talks about it this way: “as the heart opens…” It is a process---probably a life-long process.
The same way describes the clearing of the mind. We might get a clear mind in the moment, but it is always a process. To live life is to live in a mind-clearing process. I don’t see this as drudgery. I see it as the fascinating way life unfolds. What I see today may not be as clear tomorrow and I re-engage through spiritual discipline the clearing of my mind.
But the whole process enables me and you “to see further and further into the boundless depths of the mind.” The depths of the mind suggest to me the unfathomable depths of Divinity. It is exciting, not exasperating to plumb those depths. It must be a bit like falling into an ocean of Love (which is God). The depths are so immense we will never grasp it all. But it will be so wonderful, we could never imagine wanting to be any other place.
Just think: you get there by discipline. You get to the depths of the mind.