Years ago, while driving across country, I stopped in a healthfood store in Amarillo, Texas to purchase some provisions.
Standing next to me, in the bulk-foods’ section of the store, I observe a tall, slender woman of extraordinary beauty–beauty-pageant beauty, helping herself to some of the items in bulk. Yet, something about her seems sad and less than strong or vibrant.
Just as I am about to turn away from her, to finish collecting my own purchases, she begins a conversation with me.
“I am dying,” she tells me. “My body has rejected the breast implants they gave me. I thought I would be improving my appearance, and what I have done is ruin my health. My body is completely toxic, and there is nothing they can do for me. The negative cascade of effects to the implants is not stopping, eventhough I have had them removed. Do not ever do this to your body. Do not do to your body what I have done to mine.
“Love yourself as you are,” she concludes. “I am telling as many people as I can. It is the least I can do.”
Nodding my head in acknowledment, I utter some insufficient words of compassion.
Later, back in my vehicle in the parking lot, I take a moment to digest what she has shared. While collecting myself and under my breath, I ask Holy Mother to tend to this woman’s kind and gentle Soul, concluding, “Please grant her safe passage.”
Everything possesses at least two appearances: the physical and the spiritual.
Most of us attempt to judge or discern things about situations, circumstances, neighborhoods, homes, people, plants, objects and animals based upon their surface or physical appearance. Yet, except for the physical items where surface appearance may be altered by–say–a coat of paint, most of us do not have a great deal of choice about our given, physical form.
Spiritual appearance is that aspect of something or someone, which is the more important of the two “appearances” to observe. It is also the more changeable form of appearance and, potentially, the most able to becoming bright or fully luminescent. Spiritual appearance is capable of changing in a heartbeat, depending upon the place we find ourselves abiding—in our consciousness—and in our activities, as well as depending upon the purity of our intentions.
Spiritual appearance is a little more difficult “to see” with the naked eye; but, it may be glimpsed as a form of radiance or glow, permeating and sometimes extending beyond a physical form. But, before concerning ourselves with the physical or spiritual appearances of others, we need to work on growing our own Light.
One of the most accessible means through which we may grow our Light is by establishing a dialogue of well-wishing and positive intentions toward ourselves and others.
There are a great number of recommendations and books devoted to prayer and “how to pray.” Yet, what if we were to simply make our greatest care and focus the continual wish, for ourselves and others, for that which is in everyone’s greatest good or highest Light? There is nothing—no prayer or wish—simpler than this. Right action follows closely on the heels of an open, unencumbered and working heart.
In Quaker tradition, there is a turn of phrase a speaker may use when meeting someone with a highly divergent opinion: “That Light has not yet come to me.”
The statement is a simple, respectful acknowledgement of another person’s current, working truth, as well as a polite way of maintaining the working truth of the speaker’s opinion on an issue.
In Advaita Vedanta, as in Quaker tradition, there is the understanding that there is one Truth, binding us and residing in all of our hearts. That Truth may be accessed when we, as individuals, come into alignment with our inner Light (or Atman in Sanskrit). Living our daily lives from the space of this awareness causes us to affirm not only our individual life and sacred place on the planet, but it also causes us to honor the Light of creation in others.
So, for today, bow–internally and with reverence–to all of those whom you meet as you travel, no matter how their external circumstances may cause you to respond initially; and, with this practice, your lamp will burn brightly and Grace will support you as you move through your days.
All of what I do professionally centers around my intention to assist others with the process of rediscovering and reseating individuals into the seat of their inner Light—because we are, ultimately, whole within ourselves. In fulfilling this intention, I function in several roles professionally—writer, consultant and program leader.
Earlier, in my role as consultant, I joined a local networking group. As a member of this group, I wanted others to become aware of my services. Our networking chapter was part of a larger, local whole. While attending a special event at a local convention center, one day, I was helping to unload a truck of props and goods when a man from our local chapter gave my hand an extra firm and lingering squeeze.
As an energetic consultant, I read this physical gesture as an inappropriate act of “spiritual seeking.” At the time, I reasoned that there must be some profound emptiness in this man and/or his marriage in order for him to “reach out” in this manner, because–when we touch one another physically–what we are soliciting is a more direct experience of another person’s unique, personal energy or Light.
Individuals who are in their wholeness generally approach the desire for physical intimacy as a sacred act, occurring between two consenting adults. And, the inquiry that accompanies consensual touch is presented in such a way that there is time and space for the person receiving the inquiry to accept or decline.
In the case of this specific incident, wishing to spare this man and myself further embarrassment, I decided to ignore his physical gesture by moving the process of unloading the truck forward. I simply asked that he hand me another prop to carry and ignored the hand squeeze.
What many people, who solicit adulterous contact or who engage in adultery do not realize is that adultery is usually an attempt to fill a void or emptiness within themselves or their existing primary relationship. And, quite frankly, it is a form of energetic theft.
For many of us, the emptiness we carry inside can cause us to seek outside forms of “gratification” or would-be fulfillment, which are off-the-mark, sideways or otherwise inauthentic and, although temporarily titillating or seemingly pleasurable, will ultimately prove unfulfilling. (The only exception to this is when a pre-existing primary relationship becomes spent and should be ended formally prior to beginning a new intimate relationship.)
Lurching forward to fill the heart’s emptiness through non-optimal or inappropriate experiences can, not only cause us further pain and separation from our Light, but it can also cause us to place others in difficult, compromised or uncomfortable situations. “Gratification” is not something to be filled outside of ourselves.
Genuine, spiritual gratification stems from rediscovering and honoring a place of fullness that already exists in our hearts.
In spiritual awareness, when we become physically intimate with another, consenting adult, we may actually be requesting permission to take our Light to rest for a moment in the sanctum of another person’s heart.
So, the next time you feel the desire to reach for something or someone outside of yourself, pause and take time to ask yourself where that impulse is coming from. Ofttimes, the thing we need most is a recognition and honoring of our own Light—communion with the Self.
When our hearts first open to the awareness that we are a small, significant part of something much, much larger, one of our initial impulses is to cast about and begin collecting the objects which would identify us as observant adherents to our deeper spirituality.
In other words, we begin to look for and collect “stuff.”
Physical objects, in and of themselves, are generally energetically neutral. Venerated symbols of our deepening spirituality, especially those that we wear or carry daily, can serve as reminders of our place on the path. Thus, unless an object’s production disrespects labor in some way or causes environmental harm, objects can help us remain true to our Light in thought, word and deed.
Still, the most critical shifts and changes for us, spiritually, are not of the external “stuff” or object-based variety. The most critical changes are those which transform and cleanse our hearts internally.
Before speaking or acting, we need to be asking ourselves some questions:
What is motivating me to act thus?
What is causing me to speak in this way?
Why are my thoughts rolling out in this format, and what does that tell me about how I should proceed?
For this internal work, the physical-object requirements are quite basic: a modest sheet of paper and a simple writing tool. Write plainly, letter boldly or calligraphy in your finest hand what you would like to focus upon. Post the questions of your inner-most heart around the space in which you live. Make a small scroll to carry with you in your pocket during the day.
There is nothing more you need to do, in order to come closer to your inner Light and to help it grow—because, then, what will become obvious and external is your most authentic Goodness.
So much of our time, in our spiritual yearning, is spent reaching out to grasp at the coattails of the Divine or in voicing a multitude of litanous petitions to God, when what we really need to be doing is becoming internal to clear painful, past impressions, distracting narratives or stale footprints from the sands of our Being–by paying attention to the gift of our very own Spirit and breath.
The rhythmic cadence of our breathing, moment by moment, moves as surely as the waves of the tides do, sweeping away the clutter of ancient confusions to grant us fresh landscapes, across which we may choose to travel.