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Sunday July 24, 2005: Spiritual Comfort Zone

        There is a time in life where you are busy building a home, a family, a career. It’s hard to work in a spiritual life, to not be temporarily distracted by duties and responsibilities. This may be the reason some people chose to renounce the secular world, focusing exclusively on spiritual development. Do they actually make more progress? Perhaps without the hustle and bustle of life with three children I might have achieved some spiritual insights faster, but I am inclined to believe my progress came because of the stresses of marriage, parenthood, and a secular career.

        I am the type who finds quiet solitude and becomes at peace with God. I can stay in that mode for long periods, until the secular world once more breaks in. I suppose some would consider this state (radiating love and harmony, keeping God’s presence before me) to be the blessing of a life focused on spirituality. Yet, I admit readily that the times that gave the deepest insights, that provided the most spiritual growth, were times when the outer world most interfered with my ‘spiritual comfort zone.’

         I learn from crisis. Give me a life where things are running smoothly and what happens is that I don’t go back to challenge old and established attitudes and habits. I need to be in a crisis, or at least an uncomfortable situation, before I stop and ask myself why I’ve fallen out of spiritual awareness. The cause of negative emotions is usually a flaw in my own thinking, some defense system still lying in shadow, some resistence to accepting the reality that lies before me.

         To find a negative emotion suddenly bubbling to the surface serves to point out areas I have not yet addressed, or issues where I’ve hesitated taking a stand. Each time I wrestle with an underlying and inaccurate belief structure, the end product is me reaching closer to authenticity. To respond honestly (to myself and to others), to not be pressured by established social habits and patterns, takes persistent attention to clues of unexpressed emotions. For some reason, I don’t do that when life is running smoothly.

         Today I find mild irritation growing and realize I’ve neglected my own needs. While on vacation and trying to fit in with others’ schedules, to work around their needs and interests, I’ve totally forgotten the need of an introvert to just have quiet personal time. I verbalize the need and, surprise – no one objects. It seems easy enough to say I need time to write or sing or be by myself; everyone nods and understands I will work it into the day’s activities.

        Yet, I’m disappointed in myself – why let issues go until I’m feeling off kilter? I wonder if I can be busy, focused on outer world obligations, and still stay in tune with more subtle inner feelings. I’m being hard on myself. At least I’ve noticed the imbalance early this time and taken action to restore equilibrium. When I find time to write, I begin thinking over the challenges of secular life.

        Watching Randy’s grand-kids, I remember the turmoil of parenting young children. I never saw it as an obstacle to spiritual development. Each child showed a different way of approaching life, each required a different response from me or raised different frustrations within me. Who knows better than a child (other than perhaps some spouses or your own siblings) how to push your buttons and knock you off your spiritual center?

        I found it a wondrous thing – having my buttons pushed. Not at the moment, of course. Appreciation came when I realized a red flag was being waved before my eyes. Only then did I have a concrete reason to look at an uncharacteristic emotional response. Why change my life when I was happy, when everything seemed right with the world?

        My past brought me to this moment of time, to incredible insights that came about because of difficult and painful challenges. I never bemoan the time spent rearing children or struggling to make ends meet. I never regret the lack of structured time for spiritual disciplines. If I was too busy and tired to set aside a specific time for God, then my only other choice was to bring God into my daily routine.

        There was (and is) tremendous power to finding God in the mundane. Find God in the smallest and simplest activity, in the most insignificant object, in the most objectionable individual, and doors are opened. Find the moments that block off that awareness and the heart opens. If I am going to be a skeptic, I may challenge the insights and the conclusions that follow, but I will never challenge or regret the need to be forced outside my spiritual comfort zone.

Posted on Sunday, July 24, 2005 at 12:42PM by Registered CommenterThe Skeptical Mystic | Comments1 Comment

Reader Comments (1)

Hardship has taught me to detach (or to try; I haven't mastered that skill yet!). But a funny thing happened while I was mired in frustration and worse: I became able to write scenes I never thought I could.

Years ago I'd seen my inability to write from my shadow-self as a shortcoming -- tried to do it and got scared. I marveled at other writers who conveyed levels of grit I didn't think I could ever touch.

Somehow, during my years of not writing (multiple shift work, family crises, etc.), something seemed to happen "by osmosis." When I finally started writing again I could touch that level I'd thought was beyond me. I can only assume that being outside spiritual (and other) comfort zones allowed me to better cope with my "shadow self" as I learned to cope with the outside, secular world. Spiritually it felt like a windfall.
July 24, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterElissa Malcohn

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