“If you aren’t in over your head how do you know how tall you are?”
– T.S. Eliot
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Challenges come to us all, but not all of us have learned to welcome them and allow them to help us grow, let alone actually enjoy them.
In last week’s blog we introduced an alphabet of spiritual literacy developed by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat1. They’ve compiled a very helpful list of qualities to remind us of the power of spiritual expression, and how to turn challenges into opportunities. I’ve taken inspiration from their descriptions and crafted my own.
It’s easy to be grateful when we pause to contemplate the many blessings we enjoy, starting with the freedom and time to read something like this. Gratitude lives at the heart of mindfulness, which is the simple practice of being fully present in each moment.
There are two kinds of hope. Most often, hope is wishful thinking and diminishes vitality. The other kind of hope is based in your personal connection with Love, which acquaints you with the hopeful nature of Love, always expanding at the heart of consciousness.
The Good Samaritan story provides a reminder of the essence of hospitality. True happiness is impossible without helping others. “No man is an island” means that we are all connected. When we help others, we are also helping ourselves.
Einstein said that imagination is more important than knowledge. Sadly, our educational system emphasizes knowledge and rewards linear thinking. Our brightest minds usually bail on formal education, for that reason. But it’s never too late to begin exercising our imaginal muscles and learning how to consciously create our lives in alignment with Love.
Joy is natural. Although our modern civilization has invented countless paths to joy, from shopping to sex, none can fully substitute for the simple joy of living. But we’re impervious to that experience, and vulnerable to the seductions of those substitutes, until we commit to life itself and fully embrace our experience moment to moment… because that’s where joy is always found, here and now.
Justice is not a legal matter, ultimately it’s a term for the “rightness” of life. Some say that life isn’t fair, and that’s true to a certain degree. Bad things do happen to good people. But that doesn’t obviate meaning. There are reasons for everything, well beyond our capacity to understand. Fortunately, we don’t need to. We can be advocates for justice by living in harmony with life and choosing to express Love, as appropriately, in every situation.
Kindness is never a mystery; all of us can recognize it, both when we receive kindness and when we give it. Kindness is a tender gift that can change lives in an instant, especially when it is given into the face of hatred as a powerful method for conflict resolution.
Listening is more than hearing. We know when someone really hears us, which means they are listening for meaning between the words. True communication is always an act of intimacy which can reward our willingness to be vulnerable with unimaginable gifts of reciprocating Love.
Love pervades everything. Those who imagine we live in an unfriendly universe have divorced themselves from this power, this spirit which animates everything. Love is the essence of all, taking form in every form, and filling every moment with the potential for sweet communion, until we finally know in experience that Love is what we are.
In Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl wrote, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” 2 This is meaning. Meaning is not a concept, an achievement, even a belief about oneself. Meaning is proactive, the exercised ability to choose for oneness.
These brief descriptions of ten qualities can remind us of the wealth of inner experience that is available for those who choose to explore those realms. Why? Because we need both inner and outer resources to successfully meet the challenges life brings our way.
Imagine evolving to the point where you can face a challenge with an attitude of gratitude and the learned ability to enjoy every one!
- Victor Frankl from Man’s Search for Meaning