Spirituality is about seeing—seeing things in their wholeness, which can only be done through the lens of our own wholeness. That is the key! It’s about taking responsibility for our way of relating to things rather than aiming for any kind of perfect results or necessary requirements. Once you see skillfully, the rest follows. You don’t need to push the river, because you are already in it. The One Life is living itself within us, and we learn how to say yes to that one shared life, which includes both the good and the bad sides of everything. This Divine Life is so large, deep, and spacious that it even includes its seeming opposite, death. This one, great life does not end, it merely changes. This is true in the entire physical world, and Jesus tells us it is true in the spiritual world too.
My life is not about me; it is about God, and God is about love. When we don’t know love, when we experience only the insecurity and fragility of the small self, we become restless, violent, and hateful. But in contemplation we move to a different space where we see the illusion of separateness. We experience what my recently deceased friend Sister Paula Gonzalez referred to as “a self surrounded by a semipermeable membrane.” There’s a constant flow, in both directions, through that membrane.
The older we get, the more we’ve been betrayed, hurt, and disappointed (and this is “part of the deal,” according to the Buddha!); most of us learn to put up many barriers and resistances to love without even knowing it. This is why the healing work of spiritual practices is so necessary.
Notice how most of Jesus’ ministry is about healing people (yet I grew up in a church that hardly used the word “healing”). Notice also how many of those healings have to do with blindness, chosen blindness (John 9:41), the gradual healing of blindness (Mark 8:22-26), and the distorted worldviews that come from chosen blindness (Luke 6:39-42). Why? Because the contemplative mind is able to see fully and freely, which is to be healed of its hurts, unforgiveness, and agendas which always get in the way.
For years, I would begin my classes on the contemplative mind by repeating the same sentence twice: “Most people do not see things as they are because they see things as they are!” Which is not to see at all. Their many self-created filters keep them from seeing with any clear vision. The whole of life is almost perfectly calibrated to get you out of your own way, which is normally achieved by having to give up control or through a persistent sadness, pain, or fear. Notice how the blind people invariably cry out to Jesus “Lord have pity on me” (Luke 18:39). From our pitiable state, what the recovery movement calls “powerlessness,” we can often recognize that we are our own worst enemy, and from that humiliation, we can learn how to see and love things as they are—and not just as we want them to be.