Those who have known me since high school in the 1970s will know that pursuing the spiritual is not something I chose later in life or as a turn after a crisis. Even as a child in the mid-1960s, my favorite season of the year was Lent, because it was structured by prayers and spiritual practice. When I was interviewed at ASU in 1991 and was asked by then university president, Lattie Coor, what motivated me to do my work (if indeed it was true that the tenure & promotion system did NOT), my answer to him was that it was my spiritual life that motivated me. I have always appreciated how he was able to hear and accept that response.
When disappointed or hurt by friends or family members, abused physically or psychologically by men who claimed to want to be my spouse, or accused of absurdities by angry students or colleagues, it has always been my spiritual life that has “worked.” Not dreams, promises, or any particular lifestyle or relationship.
After my traumatic brain injury in 1987, and throughout my years of struggle with a damaged capacity for sequential memory, as well as my ongoing challenges with PTSD from the horrors and pains of repeated encounters from childhood through adulthood with men with “power” who would wield that power, its coercion and rages to get what they wanted or wage hostile revenge when they didn’t… through all that, the silent, still refuge of spirituality remained steady and constant, “a very present help in trouble.”
My spiritual practice and spirituality is without narration, although my spiritual life can be shared in story. It is the place “out there” of which Coleman Barks translated Rumi as saying, “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”
My spirituality isn’t an army or the following of a guru, theologian, ethnic path, historical tradition, or doctrine. It is more powerful than religion, and that which enables me to appreciate all faiths in their capacity to stir the spiritual. It is also the most powerful force IN my, and perhaps THE force that IS, LIFE.
I did not choose to “be” or “become” a mindful heretic. I found the label, like a stone I pick up on a path to remind me of the experience. Like nature, the spiritual cannot be forced to be other than it is. And if in mindfulness I am held steady by the spiritual reality always present within and around me, no orthodoxy can ever offer me more. In the stillness of the reality of what is, nothing is more powerful, and it will always be heretical to be more powerful than socially constructed illusions, even the “good” ones
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