A Spiritual Life
I'm reading Elizabeth Gilbert's new book: The Signature of All Things (it's awesome, of course). It has me thinking, though, back to Eat, Pray, Love - her breakout hit.
Eat, Pray, Love is a little bit of a turning point for me, as it obviously was for her, and for millions of other readers. Until reading it, I'd had a deep down hidden belief in something greater than me. I was certain there was something to this faith, religion, spirituality, God thing. I had known it in my bones since I was a small child. But I couldn't be sure exactly what. I didn't quite know what I was truly doing on the yoga mat all the time even though I was already in teacher training by that point. And I had partnered myself with a man raised culturally Jewish, non-practicing, and somewhat vocally anti-God.
And then I read about Liz Gilbert stuck and crying in the middle of the night on the bathroom floor, praying "You know - like, to God." And I was blown away. Like. Oh, My Goddess... A real live person who is not a priest prays to God. Then I read on and heard of her finding a guru, traveling to India and having deep spiritual experiences and meetings of spirit bodies which healed broken parts of her soul, and I was hooked.
The story itself is one of awakening and is actually pretty simple: girl prays, God answers in God's way, girl follows Heart and continues on the path of awakening which leads to greater happiness, new friends, transformed life, and deep love. The stage being set in Italy, India, and Bali are what make it seem way more fantastical and dreamy. I mean, who DOESN'T want to come to life in all of those places?
But what it gave me, suddenly, was someone to look to who had gone through the process of awakening in her own life.
Finally, I had permission to be a spiritual person. Finally, I had permission to have my own personal spiritual life.
Of course, at the time I didn't realize it, but I was the one keeping that permission back. By reading this tale I released myself back into what I knew as a child: Spirit is real and mystical experiences can happen to anyone at any time. And normal seeming, WASPy girls could have deeply transformative and intimate relationships with the One.
It's been about seven years since I first read the book and gave myself permission to have the spiritual life that had been trying to break down my doors since I put them up sometime in grade school. Even so, I still have no idea how to talk about my relationship with the One. I don't even know how to name it for other people to understand. (I hate saying 'the One' but it works) It's like nothing else I've ever experienced. Talking about it feels both inadequate and deeply vulnerable. It feels like trying to explain my deepest vivid imaginings to a person who only thinks in black and white. Story of my life in many ways, a pattern I'm starting to shift.
I think that's ok. I'm giving myself permission these days to not only have a spiritual life and be a spiritual person, but also neither hide and deny it nor feel like I have to shout it from the hilltops. I think I am not alone out here having a real and intimate relationship with Spirit, and that gives me hope. I feel deeply grateful for those who choose to share their stories. And I feel even more grateful to the mystic poets and artists who find voice and ways to start to spell out the mystery for which there are no words. If anything, maybe my writing it will give someone else permission to start exploring, speaking, or writing about it too.