Time For A Little Cha-Cha-Change?

The Same Place

September 1, 2020

The following is an excerpt from an article in The Atlantic by Arthur Brooks.

To develop spirituality or practice faith requires time and effort; there’s no getting around this. As such, it competes with the demands of our ordinary lives. That’s a huge imposition, and the time commitment may be enough to deter some people who are craving spiritual practice but find it too daunting to rearrange their lives to make room for it.

The Hindu concept of Vanaprastha (in Sanskrit, “retiring into the forest”) is illuminating here. Hindu sages have long taught that middle age brings a natural longing for spiritual development. But it doesn’t come without cost; it requires stepping back from the pressures of ordinary life. A person must focus less on worldly ambition to create more space for spiritual practice—prayer, meditation, reading. Only with this commitment can one achieve the next stage, Sannyasa, in which one lives in the bliss of enlightenment during old age.

For the busy, modern adult, Vanaprastha may sound basically impossible—who has even a free half hour every day to read and pray? Who has a block of time every weekend to spend sitting in a house of worship? And thus, we may kick the can of faith down the road of life to an imagined future in which there is finally enough time.

But what if, instead of seeing your spiritual journey as an imposition on your scarce time and energy, you shift your mindset to see spiritual exploration as an adventure in and of itself? For millennia, one way seekers have done this is through pilgrimage.

The pandemic limits a physical pilgrimage at the moment. However, the principle remains even if you don’t leave the house: Reframe your spiritual journey as a research project in which you are the human subject, a pilgrimage that could help you learn more about yourself, and about life itself.

When we think of our identities as fixed and unchanging—I am this kind of person; I am not that kind of person—we’re shutting ourselves off from many of life’s possibilities. Being open to reevaluating our ideas about ourselves can keep us from getting stuck in patterns that aren’t true to our changing selves.

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