Thursday, September 11, 2008

Hitting a spiritual stumbling block - honesty about what we desire

What do you think of when you ponder your aspirations and dreams? How often do you think people with spiritual practices and noble aspirations sanitize the answer to this question even when they are pondering it silently to themselves? I know I do it because there is an idea one conjures of what the noble spirit and enlightened mind is supposed to want - the sacred aspirations of the holy. A favorite movie scene of mine involves God (Morgan Freeman) talking to a truly repentant person named Bruce (Jim Carrey). God asks Bruce to pray:
Bruce: (struggling to think of something) Lord, feed the hungry, and... bring peace to all of mankind. How's that?
God: Great... If you wanna be Miss America. Now, come on. What do you really care about?
Bruce: (after a thoughtful pause) Grace.
God: Grace. You want her back?
Bruce: No (said in surprise as an epiphany dawns). I want her to be happy, no matter what that means. I want her to find someone who will treat her with all the love she deserved from me. I want her to meet someone who will see her always as I do now, through Your eyes.
God: Now THAT'S a prayer.

Sometimes people feel like venting or complaining, because that is what is in their hearts. That isn't a half bad prayer. Yet if we seek to transcend or transform, we have to start where we are, which requires a kind of discomforting honesty in self-appraisal. We can't bear to see ourselves for what we are, wanting to focus on what we perceive as the better angels of our nature. Naturally these are worth acknowledging, and we may even acknowledge a few major flaws to convince ourselves we aren't above admitting we aren't perfect. Yet many of us are reluctant to go where it hurts - where the introspection makes us deeply embarrassed or ashamed.
Some of us may even be brave enough to open up to some some unresolved or buried guilt, and still find it hard to face the hundred little things we rationalize and ignore every day, that habitual acquiescence to our shortcomings to which we become blind and numb (looking the homeless in the eye, standing up for your values when it isn't convenient for you, living simply so others may simply live). Particularly as adults - adults who have learned their priorities (bills, taxes, goods that allow one to participate in society - and the job that pays for it all) from systems where ethics and morality don't often rank among the highest of values. Whether following a sacred tradition or humanistic path, we are generally limited by our ability to be completely honest with ourselves. Honest about who we think we are and who we ought to be and what we really desire. This self-deception can nourish the roots of many of our other stumbling blocks, such as spiritual materialism, insufficient sincerity in and enthusiasm for our practice, demoralization in the face of challenges, and a sense of futile disconnectedness or aimlessness.

On the other hand, some people are more transparent about what really matters to them ('Beer drinkers sue to stop InBev-Bud merger').

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