No time like the present to wake up to life and see the divine connection in everything
I stood with mug of tea in hand, my warm breath condensing in the near-freezing air, looking up to the summit of the mountain as the first rays of light began to paint it golden.
Slowly, very slowly, the shadows receded as the sun rose, bathing more and more of the peak in sunlight. The air was clear and still, the sky above cobalt blue, and the scene before me looked like it had been painted on a canvas. Every rocky crag, crevice and pine tree picked out in detail.
It was a wonderful experience. For me, it was a holistic experience. In that moment I felt a connection, a oneness, and a deep sense of completeness somewhere inside.
Somewhere inside, I was feeling something.
It’s only when I think back that I wonder at those feelings. What was taking place? Was it a spiritual experience, or was it purely physical? Was it both?
Mind, Body and Soul
I spent many years in a church environment that taught the (apparently) biblical notion that the physical and the spiritual were two different worlds that never meet. In fact, it was our goal to leave the physical world behind and seek the spiritual world with all our heart, soul and mind.
But that’s not really a Christian idea, it’s a Greek one.
It was the philosopher Plato, contemplating life, the universe and everything hundreds of years before Jesus, who came up with the idea that the mind and the soul are infinite, of the divine, and that the role of philosophy itself is to prepare us for death, when we leave our mortal body.
That neat separation of body and soul, physical and spiritual, is entrenched in modern evangelical Christianity. This is where we get the notion of the corrupt body having power over the pure spirit. There’s a battle for control. But it hasn’t always been that way. Ancient Jewish teachings point more to a wonderful union of body and soul which make up the human being. Almost as if the eternal part that is us, being partnered with physical being, is the ultimate spiritual journey.
And I wonder about that, because that is what I sense whenever I feel love, or happiness, or joy, or elation.
Life is now
I wonder if, without this physical body, these spiritual experiences can actually be experienced. I wonder if, standing there watching the mountainside bathed in light, there is any other way for us to be.
It says in the opening pages of the Bible that God created humankind in his image. Even if it’s only a poetic way of looking at how we came to be, it seems clear that the writer believed we are a package deal — breath of God and dust of the earth taking on form.
What this means to me is that spiritual enlightenment is a here and now thing, not a there one day thing. It’s not about removing ourselves from the corrupt and dirty world, but rather fully embracing the wonderful fusion of spirit and matter that is in everything.
And realizing that we have only one way of experiencing this thing called life.
Through our everyday connection
With people and nature and art,
With a smile and laughter
Or a walk in the park,
With holding hands or holding a cup,
This is life happening now,
So we’d better wake up.
The French Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin took the view that we are spiritual beings having a human experience, rather than human beings having a spiritual experience. It’s a nice idea, but I think Pierre made the easy mistake of falling back on this old Greek way of thinking about the spiritual and the physical.
We love to separate the two. Maybe we shouldn’t.