Being religious and being spiritual are two different concepts. In some instances they overlap and in other cases they don’t. I think it’s good to get that disclaimer out of the way because this post is not about religions nor any particular faith-based institution.
Yesterday, while collecting trash and litter from the street, the vacant lot next door, and my front yard, I felt sadness about people who have so little respect for our home planet that they toss garbage out of their vehicles. In my view, trashing our living space is a symptom of spiritual illness. I doubt that most of the people who litter do not intend to deliberately degrade the environment and inconvenience their fellow citizens. However, that is exactly what they do.
Littering seems to be one of the symptoms of selfish disregard of others. Harming our environment comes as a result of shortsighted lack of mindfulness about living deeply, and richly. Littering is one of the symptoms of spiritual illness and emptiness. Trashing the environment is a cynical form of selfishness. I could go on and on about how litter and pollution harm flora and fauna, but that would just be redundant.
One more symptom of spiritual illness is the amount of stress a person suffers. My friend, Jorge, pointed this out one day after listening to a mutual friend of ours complain about how stressful her life is. All we could do was listen to her describe her problems. She was not seeking advice from us; she simply needed to vent her frustrations. Jorge remembered hearing somewhere that the degree of stress in one’s life is determined by the amount of energy one spends resisting human life.
There is a lot of wisdom contained in that statement. In a nutshell–stress is resistance to flow, with flow being used as a synonym for spiritual acceptance. Flow, or deep acceptance, goes beyond mere tolerance because tolerance implies going along to get along. Resistance is an ingredient in tolerance in the spiritual sense. Going with the flow in the spiritual context is a highly pleasant state of mind and is an enabler of joy. When the stress of resistance is absent, a person feels expansive, inclusive, and joyful about living.
This is not to say that we should be dismissive of the profoundly ill society of today. It is spiritually unhealthy to condone prejudice, fear, greed, cruelty, dishonesty, planetary degradation, destruction, and killing. In my opinion, calling out and acting to improve life are exercises in spiritual health. Spiritually healthy people are not well adjusted to the profoundly dysfunctional status quo.
“The compassion we feel normally is biased and mixed with attachment. Genuine compassion flows towards all living beings, particularly your enemies. If I try to develop compassion towards my enemy, it may not benefit him directly, he may not even be aware of it. But it will immediately benefit me by calming my mind. On the other hand, if I dwell on how awful everything is, I immediately lose my peace of mind.”–the 14th Dalai Lama
Some people overlook empathy and compassion because they dismissively associate these assets with religions and pop-psychology. Of course, one need not obey any particular religious creed nor be an armchair psychologist in order to value empathy and compassion. These are two values that transcend belief systems and other institutions. We understand the importance of empathy and compassion when it is absent from our lives and the lives of others. Spiritually healthy people have an abundance of empathy and compassion because they are the sources of our well-being.
I’ll keep this post short because anything else I might add, could degrade it to sermonizing. The main purpose of this little article is to provide seeds for contemplation and meditation.
I hope you have an abundance of robust spiritual health.
The Blue Jay of Happiness ponders a proverb from the Ancient Roman lawyer, statesman, philosopher, Marcus Tullius Cicero. “Diseases of the soul are more dangerous and more numerous than those of the body.”