- along a wilderness trail -
The purpose of engaging in any form of "spiritual discipline" is to connect to greater truth and deeper wisdom. A spiritual discipline pulls us out of our limited ego-self into an awareness of transcendence.
Of course, there are many spiritual practices like prayer and meditation that can help us do this. Yesterday, while reading some articles in the Buddhist magazine, Shambhala Sun, I came across a new spiritual practice for me, one that I had never really thought about before: the "Practice of Identity Action:"
Recognize that when you do anything, you are not, and cannot, do it alone, solely by your own power. Every action you ever take involves others and a world of support. You engage in the "Practice of Identity Action" when you become intentionally aware of this in whatever you do.
Every morning, when I get out of bed I always start my day by drinking a cup of coffee. I normally do this mindlessly - I drink from the same mug, sitting in the same chair in the same place in my house. It is a morning routine to help me wake up. So this morning in light of my reading yesterday, I tried to be more intentional and aware of my routine morning coffee by practicing "Identity Action."
I was actually quite amazed at what this simple act of mindful awareness elicited in me. I did indeed wake up to the fact that drinking a cup of morning coffee is not something I do alone. In fact I cannot drink it alone even though I'm the only one sitting on the chair with a cup in hand.
My awareness first went to the mug I was holding. I bought this from a local artist at a street festival, so suddenly he was sitting there with me this morning as were all those other people who produced the glazes he used on his pottery along with the people who made the kiln that fired up the clay.
I then became aware of the coffee itself- all those hundreds of farmers who grew the beans and produced the coffee, airplane pilots and truck drivers who carried the coffee to the stores, those who sold me the coffee at the supermarket. I also became aware of the fact that there is no coffee without water, and so then I thought of the thousands of people involved in making clean water available especially out here in the desert. Now the web was getting very complex - lots and lots of people were sitting with me in my room helping me drink that simple cup of coffee.
Then my awareness focused on my own body sitting their on my favorite chair in my house. I became aware of the fact that my body is kept alive by the food I eat every day and of course there would be no food without the thousands, maybe millions of people who make that food available; and of course there are those who made the chair on which I sat and those who built the house in which we live. The more I thought about it, the larger and more complex did the web of interconnectedness expand - all there with me, all of us sitting there together in that one simple act of drinking a cup of morning coffee.
It all reminded me of a little note card I keep in a drawer of my office desk that reads:
Pull any thread and you'll find that it's attached to the rest of the world
My morning coffee did more than wake my body up today; it also helped to wake up my mind and my spirit - that's what spiritual practices are supposed to do.
The contemporary theologian, Elizabeth Johnson, has so wisely observed:
Woven into our lives is the very fire from the stars
and genes from the sea creatures,
and everyone, utterly everyone, is kin
in the radiant tapestry of being.
It's funny how drinking a cup of coffee can make you aware of this profound truth.