My view of spirituality was revolutionised when I discovered that it is not a product of my thoughts or emotions. I accept that our spirituality has a profound connection with our mind and body but this connection misinterpreted can be an inhibitor of spiritual development.
In the 1990s after more than a decade of believing that spirituality was actions or moral codes I came to a new understanding. I began to recognise the distinct difference between my thoughts and my inner spirit. It was as though my intellect needed to give-way to the spirit in me and so began what I now refer to as moments of pause. The word pause helps to remind me that there is a place beyond the reach of my thoughts, a place that needs a different approach. I saw that our thoughts can be more of a barrier to spirituality than a doorway.
Hungry for a deeper spirituality I changed some of my thinking patterns on praying and being spiritual by reading what those at the edge of the faith community had to say. I discovered that whilst I was not alone many seem to take the path of withdrawal from the wider community – monasteries being the obvious one. I’m happily married and enjoy being around people, so I explored another way.
My journey continues to be a challenge, but the adventure is exciting and real and transcendent. I cannot look back.
Approaching spirituality through the prism of the Christian faith I came to appreciate and recognize the value of the differing paths to discover what it means to be spiritual. Part of my own journey at first was to dare to look over the internal fence at other Christian traditions and then beyond. What I discovered is a simple universal reality – To be human is to have a spirit within. As our dialogue around spirituality broadens our suspicions of the other are laid to rest. This in turn allows us to operate from principles rather than precise rules and prescribed pathways. Pause – A Spiritual Power is a first step to exploring the nature of and encounters with the spirit within us before any discussion about God, and all that that might mean.
Taking as a core principle that we have a spirit within us Pause – A Spiritual Power explores how we identify and challenge the position of dominance our mind and the body have in our spiritual quest. Pause is a core principle that helps us to seek out ways to create room in our life for the spirit within us to be present in a way we can know. Spirituality has a power because at the very centre of our being sits our spirit not as an appendage but a primary power. John Scouts wrote a prayer in the eighth century in which he describes God as ‘beyond space and time yet within them.’ I wonder what we would uncover if we accepted that there is a part of being that is beyond the mind and body and yet fully within us?
“But where do I start,” is the question I get asked a lot and I answer with these three broad principles.
Try just sitting and listening. It is that simple – until you try. Of course, to sit in ancient woodland, allowing the gentle voice of a nightingale to ease you into a spiritual encounter, can sound appealing – A nice idea but… For the most part we live in busy towns and cities and our reality is hard noise and concrete.
A great starting place is to accept that where we are is neither idyllic nor likely an ancient woodland. There is, however, on the other side of our windows and doors an open invitation to sit still and listen. Consider the rhythm of traffic going by. Amazingly the sound of car tyres is often methodical, and rhythmic enough to allow us to focus and be quiet. The desert dwellers of the third and fourth century went into solitude to deepen their spiritual depth. Their early experience was that they had left the city or town noise behind but found a greater noise in their thought world.
In all of us is a cry from our intellect as it plays with ideas and thoughts like a cat playing with a ball of a string. So, no matter whether it be rolling tyres on tarmac or the soft shrills of the nightingale or the warm wind in the desert, we need something to distract us from the whirring noise of our own thoughts.
Wherever we are is fine for us to sit and listen because eventually the rhythms of any background sound will ease us into the presence of our own spirit within. In time we come to pause the dominance of the mind and body and we enter moments of spiritual encounter.
The spiritual journey is a bit of a mystery tour and some of us like to know where we are going. I used to cycle a lot and hated the idea of riding back home the way I went out. That said at first, I would turn back the way I came if I wasn’t sure where the road would take me. In time I developed several circular routes to take me 50 or so miles starting from and circling back to my front door. At first, I had a map on my handlebars that I kept looking at. After a while I put it away until I came to a junction that I was unsure about and out came the map. Eventually the map stayed at home, and I had several routes in my head that helped me to enjoy a spontaneity and freedom not possible when I kept checking where I was. Strangely, I could cycle the same route many times and always find something new.
Pause – A Spiritual Power explores how we can create some familiar spiritual exercises that free us up from constantly stopping to check how we are doing. At the heart of my circling back principle is that of removing the things that hinder our exploration of the spiritual journey. Spirituality is not a tap you can turn on and off when thirsty, it is a never-ending fountain that seems hidden at times and visible at others. By circling back around the same worn paths, we build a sort of subconscious map to the spirit within us.
Many sports stars have been faced with the outcome of a game hinging on their next kick or throw. “Don’t overthink it,” says the coach, while the crowd shouts, “Don’t miss!” I recall when younger my friends and I would dare each other to try and touch the bottom of our local Olympic diving pool. Holding my breath and with all the energy I could muster I swam to touch the floor of the pool 5 meters below – often unsuccessfully! We would push through gallons of warm water aware of how alien it was, not having gills. Pause – A Spiritual Power is all about moving through the resistance around us like those rational thoughts or negative friends pointing out the improbability of a spiritual world or ‘other dimension’.
A powerful influence on my own spiritual journey has come from sharing with others and allowing myself to be shaped by their stories. Moments of spiritual encounter can leave us unsure of what happened or what to do with the encounter. It is a bit like holding your breath to reach the bottom of a swimming pool. I remember that when I did eventually touch the bottom of that pool, I was so exhausted that I returned to the world of air above so quickly that the experience below left me faster than it arrived. Pause – A Spiritual Power tells the story of myself and others, many ordinary people, who found ways to encounter and enjoy the spirit within.
Pause – A Spiritual Power by Rob Wykes is available form www.o-books.com and from wherever books are sold.