I once spent time with a group of serious spiritual seekers who were devoted followers of the instructor leading our week-long retreat–an expert on the practice of contemplative prayer. In the middle of every sacred tourist attraction in Assisi we practiced our meditative prayer in pursuit of a personal experience of oneness with the big “G.”
Later, back in the meeting room, much grousing ensued about all the “tourists” invading our meditative space (read: our group plopping down on floors in front of the main attractions or monopolizing a beautiful view for our personal use while crowds tried not to step on us). Seriously, how is one supposed to experience oneness with all, with all those pesky people in the way? Can you imagine the nerve of those tourists, at the height of vacation season in Europe, trying to enjoy the sites and gettin’ all up in our spiritual grill? Jesus!
By day three of the retreat, I was referring to our public displays of spiritual entitlement as OCD, “Obsessive Contemplative Disorder.” It didn’t take long for me to be labeled “unenlightened” by my brethren. Many a pitying eyebrow was raised in my direction followed by a dismissive shoulder shrug. “What are ya’ gonna do . . ?” they seemed to say to each other, “. . . obviously metaphysically challenged, poor thing.” I had misjudged the self-deprecating humor level of the group. I was blind, but now I see. Hallelujah.
I must confess, I have been all the people in this story at one time or another. I have at times taken myself and my spiritual journey way too seriously. I have experienced feelings of both spiritual superiority and inferiority. I have worshiped teachers I believed to be wiser than me and I have judged myself “further along the path” than others. All valuable observations of my ego jockeying for position in an imaginary race to enlightenment–nothing more, nothing less.
What I did learn at my retreat was that a lot of humility and a little irreverence can take you far on any journey of spirit. As a matter of fact, I’ve found my most holy moments often happen in shared laughter—usually at myself—when I just enlighten up a little! I think the big “G” enjoys the laughter as much as I do. Can I get an Amen?
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