When spirituality stops working

In 2010, I resigned from my job at a community college because of burn out.  For two years I had worked with a very small team to establish educational programs for adults in rural and often very poor communities on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.  We covered hundreds of miles each week in four counties and started over 50 classes.   It was a time in which I sublimated (this word, meaning “divert or modify (an instinctual impulse) into a culturally higher or socially more acceptable activity” comes to me from an old college professor who LOVED to use it in excess) my own needs, often working unpaid, in order to be successful at that project.  I truly felt it to be service-oriented, spiritually-led work.

On Facebook last week there was a question about spirituality from Rob Brezny. It asked people to comment on their beliefs, specifically if they thought the way of spirituality was one of surrender, discipline and devotion.

If you know anything about Brezny then you’re familiar with his work around Pronoia. Pronoia is defined by Wiki as the”opposite state of mind as paranoia, having the sense that there is a conspiracy that exists to help the person.” I like Brezny because he consistently questions common-held assumptions and approaches to life, and by doing so he reveals the often negative thought patterns that underlie so much of our human experience. I like him because he keeps me fresh.

I learned two very important things working at the college.  The human spirit is very capable of sublimation.  It takes discipline and consistency.  A person can thrive on this.  I also learned that sublimation of the spirit can and will dry the soul.

For me this happened because I fell in to a rigid way of seeing life.  I believed that sublimation was the way of purpose and meaning.  This is true, but it is not the only truth.  And the unfortunate side-effect of a lac of maturity or experience is believing that there is but one way, or a single truth.  That’s what happened for me.  I became very sick in my heart and soul.  My focus on a singular way of being made the rest of the parts of me very anemic, which means  “lacking vitality; listless and weak.”

I quit my job and went the opposite direction.  Moved to the beach, started waiting tables on the water at a Margaritaville Boat Drink style place.  Started wearing high heels and hanging out with single girlfriends.  Went late night dancing three or four times a week.  Did a lot of midnight swimming, and driving home with loud music and warm ocean air and the windows down.  Laughed a ton with my cousins, who made me feel young.  Had Sunday dinner almost every week with my mom and dad.

It’s how I brought my whole self back to life.  It was truly one of the most happy, joyful times of my life.

There’s an awful lot to be said for joy and happiness being a part of a person’s spiritual belief.

At the end of the day, your experience of the sublime is your own.  All I know for sure is I only feel totally alive, alive from the depths of my soul and the sparkle of my spirit, when I am true to my self.  My self is layered, like all humans, with many different parts.  I’ve yet to meet a person for whom their real truth was This one single thing is all I am.

But hey, if there’s anything I try and practice, it’s to stay open.  Maybe that person is out there.  After all, there’s always more to experience–more to learn.

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