I went to a conference of workshops on various topics surrounding spiritual enlightenment this past weekend. I went alone, as part of my journey into spirituality seems to be that I don’t readily have a gaggle of girlfriends to go to these things with. Much like my yoga retreats, which I went to alone, while it was sometimes difficult to be surrounded by groups of close friends, laughing and sharing, it was also freeing to be alone. I could move around as I pleased, listen without interruption, have a singular focus.
The conference had a somewhat cheesy name: I Can Do It but that message is actually a much needed one. When it comes to spirituality and really getting down into it, it sometimes feels like a path for “someone else”. A monk, a hippy, a cancer-sufferer. I found often over the course of the weekend, I thought Who am I to go more deeply into this stuff? I’m just a regular Joe. Is it ridiculous to believe that I have a life’s purpose? But I don’t think so. What it all comes down to is a decision. Either you choose to go deeper or you don’t. Anyone can make that decision. But it is a big one, so I think most people just postpone it for later (or never). They wait until they’ve become a cancer sufferer, or until they find a group of like minded hippies.
But the more I thought about it, the more I thought, I don’t want to wait. I don’t want to be knee deep in illness or grief or catastrophe, and be struggling to find a connection with God and the answers to the Universe when I feel desperate. To me, it makes sense to seek these things now, while my whole life is ahead of me and my mind is clear. Find my place and my purpose in this world. Anchor myself deeply and then not worry about the waves as they come to toss me around.
When I signed up for the workshops in December, it was essentially random. I had no idea who most of the authors were, had read none of their books. But it was amazing, so much of what I needed to hear, at this exact moment, so many of the questions I’ve been rolling around in my brain, were addressed, directly, by the people I watched speak. It was kind of unbelievable.
Marianne Williamson spoke at length about the difference between denying problems and transcending problems. The exact topic I spent so much time on in my post The Problem with Perspective.
Jonathan Ellerby discussed different methods of spiritual practice and talked about something I’d never heard of called Ascetic Practices. This is the process of finding God by experiencing the lack of something in your life. I had been pondering and contemplating the benefits of lack in a post entitled just that.
I participated in a workshop by Sonia Choquette. In the workshop, she had us dancing, singing, wiggling our butts, jumping up and down and yelling. She had us complete the sentence “If I were unafraid, I would…” to a stranger who sat near us. I had never thought of this topic in the realm of my spiritual growth but its also a topic I’ve given a lot of thought to lately. I have said to numerous people that by the end of my life I want to master the ability to be unafraid of looking stupid. I’ve noted that the people around me who are willing to look silly, be uncool, are the ones who seem to have the most fun. I never categorized it as a spiritual strength, but I do now. According to Sonia, these people are connected to their true spirit. And when you are connected to your true spirit, you can’t be anything but joyous. So it went against my nature, but I danced, I sang, I wiggled my butt, jumped up and down and yelled. I felt stupid, I had no group of girlfriends to hide in, but I did it anyway. And crazy as it sounds, I believe I took a large spiritual step in that workshop. Who would’ve ever thought?
There wasn’t a single workshop, speaker or experience over the weekend that I didn’t feel good about. Happy I’d experienced and glad that I’d come.
The culmination of the entire weekend, if I were to boil it down, was the following key points that I intend to incorporate into my actual everyday life.
- Taking in spiritual information, reading, learning, thinking positive thoughts are all amazing and wonderful and healthy things but they are not a spiritual practice. If you’re really serious about getting connected, going to the next level, becoming spiritual, then you need to start a spiritual practice. And it needs to be a daily one.
I finally felt ready for this information. Sure, I’ve heard it over and over again, but the difference is now I’m ready. I’ve decided to up my meditation to 30 min. daily. I’m going to do it in the evening before bed, if that’s available to me and if not, I’m going to wake at 4 am, do 30 min. and then go back to sleep. Like everyone, I’m very busy and up until this point, I chose not to have a daily practice as it wasn’t at the top of the priority list. It is now, and I have set up a plan to find the time. I’m 2 days in.
- Along the lines of avoiding denial, there was much discussion of authenticity and your authentic self. Many of the speakers discussed authenticity and essential self and figuring out who that is, and living from a place of authenticity.
This has been on my mind a lot lately. Being who I think others want me to be, saying what people want to hear, biting my tongue, it’s all creating an illusion. What is the point of a conversation where I say what you want to hear and you say what I want to hear and neither of us says what we’re thinking? It’s fiction, and what point does it serve? This will be a big one for me. I’ve been doing this for so long, its hard to stop. The need to be “nice”, to be non-confrontational, is a strong one but what am I saying if I’m not saying what I’m thinking? Fluff.
There will be many places in my life where this will be a difficult change to make, but I think its an important one. To come from a place of kindness and non-judgment when I speak but not a place of dishonesty. It’s harder than you think. I can think of 3 or 4 instances in my life where I know I’m not ready. But I’ll start small and work my way up.
- Live from joy, from spirit, and do what makes you happy, regardless of how silly it makes you look.
I have had people in my life, on more than one occasion, tell me not to take myself so seriously. While they usually said it derisively, it is inherently good advice. When you stop being directed by how you look and start being directed by how you feel, I think you will be truly free. I want that kind of freedom. I intend to put this into practice with a rigorous program of silliness. Doesn’t sound so bad, does it? In the name of spirituality, I am willing to make a fool of myself.
One last note that I took away. One of the speakers, and I can’t even remember who because the message was so profound, it didn’t seem to come from a person but from above, was to see people in their innocence. Look at the actions of those around you and try to discern why they feel the need to do the things they do. Look beyond, look inside, and you will understand. The speaker said, if God were looking at that same person, He would say “Hmmmm…I like you.” Try to figure out what God sees that you don’t. So simple and yet so hard. But I’m sure as hell going to try.