What Can We Learn About Spirituality from the Example of Others?

Hubble Captures View of 'Mystic Mountain' Credit: NASA, ESA, and M. Livio and the Hubble 20th Anniversary Team (STScI)

Hubble Captures View of ‘Mystic Mountain’ Credit: NASA, ESA, and M. Livio and the Hubble 20th Anniversary Team (STScI)

There are many people who provide examples of how to live a spiritual life. These include not only historical religious figures, but also ordinary people. They demonstrate in their everyday lives what it means to be a spiritual person.

When I heard that the new Pope decided to take on the namesake of Saint Francis, it brought back some childhood memories. I was attending Catholic school in second grade when the class went to the theater to see a movie about the life of Saint Francis of Assisi. I was very captivated by the movie. I remember saying to myself, “I want to be like him.“

I did not want to be a priest or friar, rather I wanted to emulate the way he lived. I wanted to put into action his unwavering humility, selflessness, self-sacrifice and devotion to God. He accepted any and all adversities that God threw at him willingly and without complaint.

Of course at that young age, I had no idea just how hard it would be to imitate Saint Francis. Nevertheless, it became a life goal.

Below is a favorite prayer attributed to Saint Francis that I believe sums up how he looked at spiritual life. This is not a prayer just for Catholics or Christians; it is an approach to spirituality and life that can benefit all of us.

Let us pray:

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.

Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.

Dear God, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Amen.”

What really rang true to me about Saint Francis’ view of spirituality is looking past, and going beyond, oneself. He sought to attend to others without regard to his own needs. To me, the prayer above speaks volumes about what it means to be a spiritual person.

At the same time, there are many quiet, gracious, inconspicuous truly spiritual people with whom we come in contact in our everyday lives who may or may not subscribe to any particular religion. Make it a point to pay attention to what is going on around you and you will see them. We can learn much from watching them.

Doing good and helping others is second nature to them. When they see a need, they do their best to fulfill it. They do it without hesitation or having to think about it. Recognition or gain of any kind never crosses their mind even for a moment. It is who they are; they have found their spirit-self.

How wonderful it is that they have chosen to share their divine selves with us! How wonderful it will be for us to join their ranks!

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To What Doth My Heart Hearken? (Part 2)

I originally wrote what appears below concerning various references we make to the heart before the verse in Part 1 of this topic came to be. I toyed with various titles for the article below trying to summarize in a few words what I was trying to address. Then out of the blue came the title above. This title seemed right, but I sensed that there was so much more in the question that it posed.

Over the next few days, the question haunted me. I kept repeating the question (title) over and over in my mind like I sometimes do when I am trying to remember something or solve a problem. Each time I did so, I felt twinges of emotion that begged for expression and understanding. I found myself searching for an answer to the question that went beyond the sort of worldly aspects of what we call “heart.“

Finally, the constant nagging of this question forced me to sit down at the computer and wait quietly for an answer. Soon, the words started to flow effortlessly and the verse in Part 1 was born.

Here in Part 2, we move from the ethereal plane of thought to more applied, experiential sorts of examples of how our spirit can express itself.

There is a way of speaking with which we are all familiar. It is a reference to the heart that we apply to a variety of actions and emotions. I often wondered precisely what we mean when we say “heart” in these contexts.

Some of the sayings we use are things like:

All goodness flows from the heart.
I love you with all of my heart.
He wears his heart on his sleeve.
That act came from the heart.
That artist paints from the heart.
He/she sings from the heart.
And so on…

I think what is implied in these sayings and situations is that the person has called forth in themselves something beyond the physical body. Inspiration that transcends the body.

I think that by “heart” we intuitively (yet perhaps unwittingly) mean spirit. Although I am likely not the first person to come to this realization, this clarifies for me what was previously a somewhat vague reference.

I believe that love, charitable acts, artistic talents, etc. are expressions of the spirit—of our divine selves. Consequently, these are actions that we find most satisfying and fulfilling.

Perhaps the most common reference to the heart is that it is the source of a person’s love. What is suggested here is that love comes from our spirit. I would go further to say that love is the hallmark of spiritual expression. It is the essence of our divine nature. We are only truly happy when we allow our love to flow, but not just for spouse and family; rather, for all people and all of creation. Listen to your heart’s (your spirit’s) sweet refrain!