Friday, January 24, 2014

Spirituality as a Hobby

"Morning Meditation"

Yesterday I read a passage from the Gospel of Matthew in the Christian Scriptures. It was one of many Gospel stories that depict Jesus' invitation to would-be disciples to come and follow his spiritual path (many Christians will be hearing this story if they go to church this Sunday). 

When I was reading this particular passage yesterday, one word really leapt out at me. In the story, Peter and Andrew are fishermen casting their nets into the sea. Jesus comes up to them and says, "leave your nets behind" and follow me. The two fishermen then"immediately" leave their old way of life to follow along the Jesus' path.

That word "immediately" speaks volumes to me. Jesus invites would-be disciples into a new way of seeing the world. He invites them to walk along a path of compassion, love, forgiveness, mercy and reconciliation. The path is so attractive and so inviting that they don't even have to think twice about whether or not to follow- no hedging their bets, no "cost-benefit" analysis. They just "throw caution to the wind," as they turn away from their old lives, and "immediately" walk along this new spiritual path.

After reading this story about Jesus' disciples, I also read some of the stories about the disciples of Buddha. 

The disciples of Buddha likewise made a radical turn away from their old way of life in order to follow in the Buddha's path.  Many of those first disciples came from royalty and wealth. They led lives of luxury and even opulence, and they "immediately" gave it all up to follow the path of enlightenment to which the Buddha pointed.  They shaved their heads. Their only garment was a patched-up saffron robe. They went around begging for food and slept under trees because they had no homes.  The Buddha's path they embraced was so attractive, so filled with peace, that they willingly gave up their former comfortable lives without a second thought in order to follow that way of enlightenment. 

In my morning meditation today, I have been thinking about these parallel stories about the disciples of Jesus and the disciples of Buddha.  For me, whenever I read any stories in any scriptures, I never think of them as being historical accounts of past events that happened to people long ago. These scripture stories are always "icons" and "templates" - never confined to a particular time or place, they are universal stories providing wisdom for anyone who walks on any spiritual path. 

As I see it, many people today treat their religion or their spiritual path like a hobby to be toyed with from time to time, but not really taken all that seriously. 

Religious people may attend church on occasion, but for many by the time the service is over, it's back to living "real life" in the everyday world, and the time in church is put on a convenient shelf out of sight and out of mind. 

Today lots of people do not identify as being religious but they do label themselves as "spiritual."  As I see it, far too often non-religious "spirituality" is also treated more like a  convenient hobby to play with from time to time rather than to be taken too seriously. A morning meditation, quiet time on a yoga mat - all laudable practices, but after the quiet time, it's back to the real world-  and the mat gets put way on a shelf for another time.

The parallel stories about walking on the spiritual path found in the Christian as well as Buddhist scriptures teach me that spirituality is not a hobby - it's  a way of life.  

You don't have to shave your head and don saffron robes or join the priesthood to fully embrace a spiritual path.  But as I see it, if you walk a spiritual path, that pathway serves as the very foundation and basic direction for how you live every aspect of your life.  You don't just dip your toe into the spiritual life.  

Throwing all caution to the wind you dive into it.

This morning when I woke up, I put on my contact lenses (I'd be rather blind if I didn't do this). Everything I see this day is seen through the lenses of my glasses.  As I see it, my spiritual path is like these lenses. I see the world through the lens of the path I have embraced -everything I think or do or say is viewed through the lens of the path I have chosen to follow.  

I have chosen to follow the path of the Christ. I leave my old nets on the shore and without a second thought, I "immediately" follow his way. 

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  1. thank you paul
    i love ur idea of in religion and still untouched.
    the teachings of fear has made quite difficult to think against the prototype GODS but
    with better thoughts ,and a receptive move is helping again to feel the omnipotent.

  2. I read this ages ago but had trouble commenting from my phone.

    I really enjoyed this article - spirituality, at its essence, is something that should naturally seep into our lives. It should be reflected in our words, actions, and even in our thoughts.

    I grew up in a Catholic family, I was then non-religious for some years until converting to Islam. Now, I am one of those people who reject the association with one religion (I see the good in all of them), but am nonetheless a yoga-practising, meditating, spiritual being.

    I believe we are *all* spiritual beings, though we each express our spirituality in different ways - religion, art, music, writing, and - of course - daily life.

    A thought-provoking post. Thank you.