Saturday, December 31, 2011

Seven Virtues of a Spiritual Life - Wisdom

There are, I believe, seven core virtues that we see in those who live a truly spiritual life: Patience, Lovingkindness, Forgiveness, Humility, Commitment, Trust, and Wisdom.

The truly Spiritual Person is not defined by the clothes and accessories she may wear.  She is not proven by her quoting of spiritual texts.  The Spiritual Person is not qualified by the certificates on her wall or the number of workshop receipts in her desk drawer.  The truly Spiritual Person may look very different from others or live in a special enclosure; or she may look like everyone else, undistinguishable in appearance, living among us out of the spiritual spotlight.

Yet when we encounter a Spiritual Person, we somehow just know that we are in a special presence.  We sense in that person all of those spiritual virtues discussed previously - Patience, Lovingkindness, Forgiveness, Humility, Commitment, and Trust.  But we sense them not as separate distinguishable qualities, but as somehow all blended together into a larger whole.  Each virtue interacts and melds with each other, informing and shaping and expanding, smoothing the edges and sharpening the content.  All so effortlessly, naturally, without effort, without pretense.  They are “just there” because they are all fully genuine.

In their sum, yet another virute emerges – Wisdom.  The Spiritual Person knows that ultimately it is in Wisdom that we most closely approach our godliness, and it is Wisdom that we are here on earth to develop.  Wisdom is not a “smart.”  It is a knowing derived from thoughts, moving to action, generating reflection, interpreting to learning, repeated in a continuous cycle in every moment.  Learning feeds the Seven Virtues of the Spiritual Person; the Seven Virtues nurture and give life to the Spiritual Person.

The Wisdom of the Spiritual Person is shared, not held jealously within.  This Wisdom is not loud, not pushed out to where it is not welcomed, not overbearing.  It is given when asked, a gift given freely and lovingly, selective to be exactly right for only this person in that particular moment.  Once given, it is turned loose, left to flower or wither in the recipient’s own spiritual soil as appropriate.

In the Spiritual Person, Wisdom is easily recognizable.  It speaks from a depth and breadth of experience and understanding; it is not shallow, superficial, cursory or flippant.  This Wisdom is consistent, oblivious to current time and fashionable circumstances, yet always thoughtfully growing, never completed.  This Wisdom is always mindful of its consequences and impact, spoken fully in this moment but drawn from a lifetime of continual learning.  This Wisdom is at the core of the truly Spiritual Person.

The Spiritual Person is potentially each of us.  We have only to listen to our Wisdom and let it grow in every moment, intertwined with all of the other Virtues.  We let these Virtues grow until they envelop our every thought, our every word, our every action, in every circumstance, inclusive towards all people.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Seven Virtues Of A Spiritual Life - Trust

There are, I believe, seven core virtues that we see in those who live a truly spiritual life: Patience, Lovingkindness, Forgiveness, Humility, Commitment, Trust, and Wisdom.

Trust is a quality we apply to a variety of objects: people, including close family/friends, casual acquaintances, and unknown faces that nevertheless still impact our lives; institutions with whom we engage, some of our own choosing and some not; our near and tangible environment within which we live; and a more distant, intangible spirit which envelops all that enters our life.  Many of us can recite a substantial list of people and instances where we believe our trust was betrayed, our expectations of people or events were not met, perhaps resulting in our perspectives about life and how we would live it being significantly altered.

For the Spiritual Person, such a list of the “untrustworthy” is likely quite short.  For the Spiritual Person has learned that untrustworthiness is not really a measure of others; rather, it is a statement of the perspective we have of the people and things that surround us.  For the Spiritual Person, Trust is not about whether people have lived up to our expectations of them; it is about why we chose to put that expectation on them in the first place.

People are who they are; institutions are what they are; nature is what nature is; God is what Spirit is.  Yet we spend much time and effort seeing these objects as we would like them to be, not as they are.  We put undue trust in things without taking the time to understand the nature of what these things truly are, and therefore whether our expectations (trust) have been properly placed.  People are normally not untrustworthy.  In fact they rarely act outside of their true character.  It is we who did not have correct insight to understand what that character truly was so that we could put appropriate expectations upon them; to understand and trust that they will act exactly as they are conditioned to act, from their own sense of self, not the sense of our self.

So we build homes on island beaches, ignoring the reality of nature’s hurricanes.  We blindly put our trust in corporations who act out of their own profit interest instead of our service needs, or in church leaders who molest children or embezzle donations.  We tell secrets to a known gossip, or try to change a spouse to fit our needs.  We expect God to provide us with a right life, and then continually put ourselves in harm’s way, risky ventures, or destructive actions.  And then we deem people, institutions and God as untrustworthy for not delivering a life that they never promised, for not meeting our expectations that they did not agree to.

We create our expectations.  When we take the time to genuinely walk in another’s shoes, to understand that being or thing fully from the inside, then our Trust can be properly placed.  For the Spiritual Person, Trust is anchored in Truth, not fantasies.  This is not a cynical Truth, but a demand upon us to take responsibility for our expectations of others.  Only when our Trust is well-founded can we live positive lives that can embrace without fear all the things that come to us, rather than shutting down, withdrawing, or being stuck in our angers from our disappointments.  Through Trust, the Spiritual Person does not live in phobic anxiety about all the presumed dangers waiting to befall, but lives confidently and openly knowing that all that comes to us is right in that moment – a rightness perhaps not apparent except in retrospect.

As with most all things for the Spiritual Person, Trust begins and focuses inside.  Trust is not a tool to control, manage or rate others.  Trust is a tool for enlightening ourselves, always grounded in the Truth of all things.