Alone or Together
The title for this inspirational piece could also be written in a different way. I could have chosen to say “alone and together.” In either case the question in my mind is how people in general and how I in particular practice the spiritual journey. On one hand the answer is obvious. My spiritual journey is mine alone. You cannot do my spiritual journey and I cannot do yours. From this perspective to pose the question, alone or together, is senseless. It seems like my spiritual journey is done alone.
There is no way I can speak for the majority of Americans who actually would say they are on a spiritual journey. However, I would guess that many, if not most of them, are doing their spiritual journey alone. I would say this even knowing that a significant portion of people on their spiritual journey are folks who go to church, attend a synagogue or mosque.
I say this because I do not consider going to worship---in whatever tradition that happens---to be the same thing as being on a spiritual journey. In fact, I think it is very easy to go to a worship service, participate in that service and be on no spiritual journey whatsoever. A journey is a daily spiritual walk. Worship is seldom that for so many of us. Worship is usually for an hour; the spiritual journey is for a lifetime.
It is worth offering some details about the nature of a spiritual journey. A spiritual journey is an intentional, directed way of living our lives. For me personally, the journey is tied to my conviction there is a Higher Being---a God---who has a desire for me. God’s desire for me is to grow more and more into a loving human being. To do so only means I am beginning to fulfill the purpose for which God created me. I am to love God and to love my neighbor as myself. That is the simple definition of the spiritual journey. It is an intentional journey into love---growing from someone who can choose to love into someone who is by definition love. To be love means I am loving at all times with all people in all situations.
Clearly that is an ideal. But the ideal does not mean the same thing as impossible. Because the ideal is possible, I can aim for it and grow toward it. I know I have to do this on my own. In that sense I do go it alone. Either I do it or the spiritual journey is merely an idea. I have to put it into practice. And because it is a journey, I do it today and again tomorrow.
I do it alone. But I wonder, is that it? Is there no role for any other person in my spiritual journey? When it is posed that way, the answer seems fairly clear. Of course, there is a role for others to play in my spiritual journey. As I look back on my journey, there have been a significant number of folks who have been together with me on the journey.
Sometimes it has been one other person. At other times, it was a small group of people. Most of the time it has been a group of people I call community. Community has been crucial for my spiritual journey. In fact, without community I probably would have ditched or, certainly, failed in my journey alone. There are just too many temptations to quit or go down blind alleys. On my own I am probably too helpless, hapless and hopeless!
I am not so naïve as to think that the community does it for me. They do not take away my choice to practice the spiritual journey. I chose to keep on the journey. Community supports, cajoles, encourages and cares for me along the way. I do the same for others with whom I am in community. In this sense we are all in it together.
We are all in it together, but we each have to do our journey by ourselves---alone. I do the practicing. I do the loving. I do the serving---all these are basic components of the spiritual journey. In the beginning I posed the question whether the journey was done alone or together? I recognized an alternative, namely, it might be alone and together. After thinking about it, I realize it does not matter.
What matters is choosing to transform life into a spiritual journey. Finally, that is likely the only way that life will have ultimate meaning. Until I make that choice, nothing spiritual is happening. The choice and the spiritual journey are mine and mine alone. No one else can do it for me.
Having said that, I also realize that I do the spiritual journey together with others in my life. I like to think about these people as my spiritual community. They respect that I am on the journey alone---just as they are. But I also am deeply grateful that they are there for me to be with me. I can’t imagine making it any other way. I am on the way---but I have a long way to go.