I am currently in Launceston Australia at the World view centre for Intercultural Studies. Those of you from the US may be interested to hear that the annual fees down here are $7,500 including accommodation and meals during term time. An amazingly cheap alternative to the American schools and with a dynamic group of students from around the world and a beautiful setting in which to study. All courses are accredited.
My topic for the week is – A Spirituality for All of Life. It is a great opportunity for me to share some of what came out of the summer blog series and reflect on how we can more fully integrate our faith into our everyday lives as well as sharing about developing a balanced life.
Here are a few of my ramblings from the day. This morning I shared a story that i had intended to add as a blog post but never got around to over the summer about the spirituality of raspberry picking. We go raspberry picking every year but this was the first time that we have had a discussion afterwards about where we encountered God during the day.
At one point during our picking I commented on the fact that I was falling behind the others in my picking. One of the other women responded – that’s because you try to pick all the raspberries, I try to leave some for the next person.
What concerned me was that it was true. As I reflected on her comment on the drive home I realized how much even an activity like this is impacted by our competitive worldview which tells us that we have not done an adequate job if there is any fruit left. The third person in the car even confessed that she felt like a failure because she was unable to strip all the ripe fruit from the vine. Why, I mused, should I be surprised at the multinational corporations that strip everything from a landscape in the greed for more when the same seeds lie within my own psyche?
As I shared this story with the students this morning I realized that there are other implications that I had not noticed before. It suddenly struck me how easily we reduce even a fun time like picking raspberries to a pressurized task that must be accomplished successfully. The joy of having a morning off and being together with friends seemed to fade into insignificance. Deep within our psyche we have replaced the need to develop relationships with that great middle class value, the desire to accomplish tasks.
I suspect that our spiritual lives get viewed from the same warped values. We tend to focus far more attention on the tasks we feel must be accomplished to give the appearance of spirituality then we do on the really important priority – the development of a loving intimate relationship with our God. We feel we get kudos for stripping the berries from the vines (commonly called reading the bible) and can struggle greatly when we fail to reach our reading goals. When it comes to intimacy however we have no such struggles. In fact many of us rarely have a deep and intimate conversation with God and don’t even realize that something is missing.
It seems to me that there is a growing separation between us and our God and we have not even noticed. We are so busy accomplishing spiritual tasks that we don’t have time for loving relationships . At the core of the problem I suspect are our middle class values which focus more on doing than being. What we accomplish is far more important than who we are or how we relate to God and others.
Yet the central command of our faith is love of God and love of neighbour – not read through the bible every year. To be truly spiritual all that we do should be focused on how to develop more loving relationships with God and our neighbours. Accomplishing that might of course involve us in a lot of tasks – like working to help people at the margins, but it should also free up time for fun, food and fellowship with others.
When we focus on relationships rather than tasks our priorities change, our focus moves away from ourselves to others and in the process our lives slow down and become more relaxed, celebrative and I suspect far more enjoyable.
Whole life spirituality is relationship oriented not task oriented. Maybe that is why it so permeates so called “primitive” societies but is lacking in our own.
What do you think?