Archive for 28 August 2021

31 Days of Lunasa: Days 24-26 — Three for Contemplation



From a recent workshop:

What is a spiritual experience to you? What are you looking for, hoping for?

What helps you open the door to more spiritual experience in your life?

How do you recognize and embrace spiritual experience?

I love how these questions circle back and forth. I start with any one of them, and I’m drawn in to the others.

Given their particular quality, I find three days is about right for contemplating them. I need space for thought to echo.

How do I recognize spiritual experience? Are there things I label and refuse because they’re “not spiritual”? Is that because of a habit of fear that serves no purpose any longer, or a useful boundary I can rely as I travel prudently through my life?

Is a “bad habit”, for instance, a spiritual experience I can explore and re-discover and mine for insights? After all, it keeps knocking at the door. Instead of guilt, fear, self-blame, mechanical response, secret or not so secret indulgence, rigid fasting, purification rites, prayer, why not explore it? What can I learn from this companion of my days?

Is the sore muscle in my shoulder a “spiritual experience”? I know part of it stems from lifting far too many containers from the shop-vac I used over the last few days to deal with a flooded basement. Does it help to tally the number of gallons I vacuumed? Maybe. “Pain is often the creator of awareness”, says a Wise One.

“What’s your prime goal in life?”, I asked one of my professors, whom I particularly admired. “The avoidance of pain”, he replied, gazing at me steadily.

But is that really a useful goal, given how our lives tend to run? What will I miss, if pain is my chief criterion?

My wife left about half an hour ago for a girls’ weekend with friends and a high-school reunion in another state. We’ve found intervals like this are good for our “couple-hood”. They give us time apart, time to re-appreciate each other, time for an extended period to do what we want, or have simply needed an uninterrupted stretch to achieve. I’ve got from now through late Sunday to enjoy a “spiritual retreat” that I’ve planned since her own weekend away took shape. What will I use it for? What does “spiritual retreat” mean to me?

The habit of journaling about any of these things often shows its value most over time. I can pick up the threads of a past experience and turn it over in thought and memory like a sea-shell or piece of quartz or hawk-feather found on a walk. The moment, the experience, comes back in technicolor, with surround sound. I’m back in it.

Yes, the words are part of what evoke it, but only part. Senses kick in, too: scent of pine, roar of waves, sand between the toes, mosquito-bites, sore muscles, tent in a thunderstorm, faces in a workshop, tastes of lunch with friends. All the surround of an event that was the supposed “focus” of the journal entry, but drags with it other things that may be useful, even more important, to recall now, at some distance. No experience is ever “over”, is it? It has its own shape and integrity, surely, but also takes on color and value and meaning from its place in the weave.

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Posted 28 August 2021 by adruidway in Druidry

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