Try The God, I Made It Myself.

 

Talking about God is tricky, but talking about one’s relationship with God is trickier still. I’m not bringing up the topic to convince anyone of anything since the only conviction I have about God is that beliefs in Him, Her, or It, one way or the other, are an entirely personal matter. What interests me most is whether your belief, disbelief, or indifference is serving you, helping you . . . nourishing you in your life.

Religions and churches offering convenient pre-packaged belief systems, rules, and codes of behavior still serve to bring people together by offering a much desired sense of connection and fellowship with like-minded others in their community, those with similar spiritual palates. For some, a homogenized, standardized spirituality served up as an uncomplicated and easy-to-digest “food” may provide all the spiritual calories required to feel satisfied and sated. It seems unfair and judgmental to regard such a church’s offering as “junk food” or “empty calories” since even a fast-food hamburger provides proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and trace nutrients that the body, in all its remarkable bio-wisdom, will make productive use of. The soul’s digestive system has its own wisdom as well.

Some spiritual communities are not and never have been fans of complicated, supposedly-gourmet “dishes” made with exotic, complex ingredients, prepared and served with so much pomp and circumstance that it’s the chef – the pastor or minister – who garners attention. We’re supposed to be impressed by the slam-bang of dishes and flailing knives, the showy, over-exaggerated hyper-activity, the wow factor of the flaming pan . . . My, my . . . look at him go! But when do we eat?

Sometimes the food – or even the chef’s preparation methods – can make us feel uneasy, dissatisfied, like something’s a little off. Too much sugar? Too spicy? Too bland?

Sometimes we just want a turkey sandwich or some bacon and eggs; something simple, familiar, well-prepared and nourishing. Sometimes what we’re hungry for isn’t on the menu that day, and sometimes we don’t even know what we’re hungry for . . . we just know we need to eat.

The “spiritual restaurants” of this world each have their own recipes, menus, and service staff. The appeal and nutritional value of a given menu item in one church can vary greatly from the next, depending on the quality of the ingredients, the method of preparation, and the manner in which it is served.

If churches are spiritual restaurants, then God – the Divine – is the food being prepared and served. The pastors and priests are the chefs, the congregations are customers who may or may not leave a tip, or tithe, when meal time is over.  The degree to which anyone feels satisfied with their dining experience will largely be determined by how the meal was prepared and presented, what a person’s dietary needs and restrictions are, and how picky they tend to be about what’s put on their plate.

In the end, after years of tasting and sampling a wide variety of spiritual offerings, I’ve come to know which spiritual foods support and nourish my soul, and which ones cause disease and illness. There’s been a lot of experimenting, a lot of trial and error, and these days my spiritual diet is a mostly-quiet and simple affair.

God makes for a pretty good stock, and I always keep a bunch on hand when tinkering and tweaking in my spiritual kitchen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sincerity and Spirituality . . .

I keep using the word sincerity when discussing spirituality, devotion, and the search for God because my own experiences have shown me the difference between being merely interested in these topics and being honest about defining, exploring, and deepening my beliefs. Picking up one of my go-to books on spiritual matters and investing some time in keeping my mind and heart attuned to God-like things makes for a lovely, healthy spiritual “snack”. But I’m also aware that if I’m in need of something much more substantial and nutritious – if I need answers, comprehension and knowledge – I’m more likely to gain deeper understanding when I’m sincere in my attempts to know or come closer to God. Without intending to play a semantics game I would say I’m more sincere about my spiritual studies than I am serious. To my mind, sincerety implies that the heart is involved. I can have a serious discussion about a delicate matter in a relationship, but if I can communicate my feelings and point of view with heartfelt honesty I stand a better chance of being heard and understood. Heart-to-heart communication inspires truth-telling, and sometimes the deepest intimacy one can know is to connect with their truth and speak it to another with sincerity.

I also believe that employing sincerity in our willingness to hear and obey our own callings will bring surprising rewards. There’s something about relinquishing or at least calming ego-based desires that allows the small but special things in life to find their way to us — simple things that provide depth and meaning only to those who have lightened their hearts enough to recognize the flecks of gold hidden in the seemingly ordinary.

I’ve often wondered if there’s a Cosmic Law of the Universe stating that a sincere desire to show up in one’s life as authentically as possible, being committed to becoming the kind of man that God likes working through, and asking for the opportunity to be of humble service to something greater than oneself, must eventually bring the day when the depth of one’s sincerity to be such a man will be challenged.

Letter To A Friend

” . . . I’m talking about what can happen when you’ve actively cultivated a relationship with the Divine, and you and the Divine arrive at an understanding that can’t be proved or easily understood, but is so solid and true for you that knowing what life choices to make and when to make them becomes clear and effortless.”                            

— excerpt from Letter to a Friend —

A dear friend of mine recently found himself standing at a threshold between two lives: the one he’d been living, and the one he was feeling called to. The life he’d been living was becoming increasingly uncomfortable and false in direct proportion to his personal growth, his spiritual evolution, and his growing desire to align himself with the longings of his heart. The following contains excerpts from a letter I wrote him, which I later edited to include some additional thoughts I hoped would be insightful for other young men who might be standing at their own unique thresholds . . .

“This is to remind you that the loneliness, confusion and sadness you sometimes feel has to do with your recent entry into a world, a life, that you’ve been calling out for, a life I suspect you’re wanting to build with your own two hands. Metaphorically, this is not a remodel of one small room; this is more like you’re gutting the place you’ve been in for a number of years, wanting to start over, to update, to add some new features and personal touches. You’re in the very early stages of a personal remodel – creating a new life based on you’re willingness to follow what your heart now asks of you. This is excellent news . . .

Home. Think about what that means: “home”. Is it a physical dwelling where you keep all your stuff, or is it an internal sense of feeling centered and balanced in the way you live your life, wherever you are, wherever you go? “Going home” or “coming home” or feeling “at home” can mean many things. You can certainly lie in your own bed yet feel lost, adrift, or even homeless in those moments when life feels messy, dissatisfying, or joyless. 

I’m wondering if maybe a part of you is preparing to look deeply into what it means to be a spiritual man, re-prioritizing your life in a way that allows you to go where you feel called to go, whenever the call comes, aligning yourself with what you intuitively feel your soul is commanding of you. I’m not talking about bullshitting yourself with spiritual mumbo jumbo and clever rationalizations to justify an immature frat-boy life of partying and doing whatever you feel like doing: that’s a trap, and a gross self-deception guaranteed to eventually turn you into nothing more than a clever, selfish asshole. What I’m talking about is the life-transforming power of an earnest, unpretentious exploration to define and discover what it means to be a principled spiritual man who has learned the language of his own heart, then sets out to live his life accordingly, a life that is rich and deeply rewarding . . . 

. . . but not without it’s challenges. Relationships can be very tricky indeed, especially if we find ourselves easily pulled out of our center by a strong-willed woman who also happens to be way hot and smart and wants you bad and you want her. How can you possibly know if any woman you’re attracted to will be a gift or a curse? How do you stay committed to what your soul asks of you – how do achieve balance in being connected with your genius or inner gifts – and still maintain balance and grounding in a romantic relationship? 

I can tell you from experience that these questions pretty much answer themselves – the answers just come – once the commitment to be “the kind of man that God likes working through” has been made. We need to revisit the idea of sincerity in order to get a grip on what it means to align ourselves with what the cosmos would like to see us do with our lives. I’m sure you understand we’re not talking about religion, or some church-like thing where you get your belief system handed to you and everybody gets along just fine as long as you adhere to your ration of beliefs . . .

No, it’s way more personal and private than that; I’m talking about what can happen when we’ve actively cultivated a relationship with the Divine, and you and the Divine arrive at an understanding that can’t be proved or easily understood but is so solid and true for you that knowing what life choices to make and when to make them becomes clear and effortless.

A man who is principled, grounded, and connected to his life purpose is tremendously alluring to women. The danger lies in the conscious or unconscious ways women have historically sought to capture, tame, or tempt such a man out of his center, to get the man to cave in on or abandon his character and principles, “giving in” to her in a way that he instinctively knows is unhealthy for him. And if he does abandon his values, she “wins”: she gets to be The One who had enough “power” to get a principled man to abandon his principles. Bragging rights and ego gratification for her . . . depression, self-loathing and a potential shit show for him. The world is littered with passive, overly-groomed men who have been chewed up and spit out by strong-willed women.

And men have their own version of the same thing; men will see the super-hot chick as a prize to be won or a goal to attain. Then comes the game, the chase, the pursuit, and the ego gratification of being the one the hot chick chooses over the other guy or guys. In the end nobody really wins. More often than not its just a bunch of soulless self-validation and Facebook narcissism.

Relationship dynamics can become a messy distraction in a spiritual man’s life unless a man has a strong sense of his identity separate from his connections and attachments to women. Put another way: the sense of emptiness, disorientation, and/or lack of purpose a man feels when not involved with a woman is inversely proportionate to his lack of being connected to himself; such has been my own experience, anyway. The question becomes: who are you and what do you do with your life when you’re not involved with a woman? To find out, try going a week without connecting with or involving yourself with a woman – no calls to get together or even to “just talk”, no dating, no hitting on girls, no flirting, no drinking with your buddies at the favorite bar where the cute girls like to hang out. Nothing. For a week. Then pay attention to those moments of tension when you begin feeling the need, the desire, to reach out and make contact with a woman, and ask yourself what it is you’re really wanting . . . and why.

This is why the word – the concept of – sincerity can play such a vital, essential role in the creation of a spiritual life: the difference between unconscious self-abandonment and intentional self-examination is the degree to which one is sincere in living their life by an altruistic code of ethics, a spiritual etiquette that helps us feel connected to our life purpose and the living of a life intended by our soul.