I am not what you would call a musical prodigy. There was a time after years of practice that I could pound out a reasonably passable tune on the piano. Take away the practice for any period of time, however, and my full repertoire reverts back to a rather mechanical rendition of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” with nary an improvised flourish
And so it is in so many aspects of my life… especially my connectedness with that which I call divine.
Spirituality or faith, that sense that I am plugged in to a higher source of power, takes practice. My mind is like a stage. Unless I am consciously rehearsing spiritual principles, my self-centered, fear-driven defects of character are primed to jump out front and center. When those shortcomings take over there is little room for other actors. Any sense of connectedness is quickly lost.
As I’ve shared with some regularity, on my best days I arise early, read contemplatively, pray humbly and listen quietly. Over the course of an hour or so the direction my day is to take unfolds. Those days tend to run pretty well.
The reason I share this regularly is that I lose sight of the importance of this practice all too often. Many a morning I awake to a blaring TV, rush to shower and shave and then bolt out the door. By ten a.m. I am disconnected and floundering. String too many of such days together and I go spiritually cold—the old emptiness returns and I flounder.
Fortunately I have never starved my yearning to be connected to death. Oh, I have come close. One does not drink alcoholically for twenty odd years and not risk spiritual starvation. But even at my worst, some small part of me flickered with the desire to return home.
Home? Yes, I believe I came from a place of unlimited connectedness—the presence of the Divine. In this mortal life there will always be some separation from that place. But with careful devotion and practice I can catch glimpses of where I once was and where I can return.
Carrying the vision of God’s will into my day I can create situations that feel a lot like being home. A little Heaven on earth if you will. I saw that the other day as I broke free of a rather selfish shopping binge.
Last weekend I was caught up in little shopping spree. I raced from store to store in a vain attempt to fill emptiness with material goods. As this progressed, I actually found myself going into stores with no forethought of need. I just wanted to keep buying.
Late in the afternoon I found myself in a local Albertson’s grocery store. Our pantry and fridge were stocked, dinner was already prepared. I had little reason to be there. Eyeing an Arizona Lottery vending machine I contemplated binging on a few scratchers. Visions of unearned riches danced in my head. Then, fortunately, a few large cardboard boxes caught my eye.
The boxes were labeled with a call to support a local food bank. I am typically rather adept at tuning out such pleas. I can rationalize my indifference with the thought that there are more than enough government programs available for those in need.
But for some reason that day I took note. Peering inside, I observed that many people had made donations. People were thinking of others. I was not.
The sense of spiritual emptiness that had fueled that day’s shopping spree became pronounced. I resolved to restart my day.
I didn’t go on some manic shopping binge. My total purchase was less than thirty dollars. But I picked out an assortment of non-perishables and topped it off with the purchase of some higher-end cookies… I pictured a family’s day being brightened when they discovered this little treat.
As I made my purchase and placed the bags in the cardboard boxes sanity returned. I was actually thinking of others for the first time that day. The selfish spree was over.
Reflecting on that afternoon I realized the importance of feeding my faith with action. As with the piano, I can stare at books all day and rehearse songs in my head until I exhaust myself. But if there is no action on my part I will never learn to play.
Likewise, if faith for me is a longing to feel connected with the Divine, then I must get off my rear and connect with those around me. Readings and mental gymnastics will never replace action.