Living and breathing a deeper life

By Fred Cavaiani

"Just as a candle cannot burn without fire, men cannot live without a spiritual life." These are powerful words. They were stated by Buddha about five hundred years before Christ. Some truths resonate profoundly within all of us regardless of what faith we might profess.

What does it mean to live a spiritual life? Reflect on your last peak experience of life and you will begin to understand. It could have been ten minutes of quiet silence. It may have been gazing upward at a full moon. Looking into the eyes of another person can be a spiritual experience. Allowing a song to stir up emotion inside can be another spiritual experience. Having a personal conversation where total openness and honesty prevails in the warm sharing of thoughts and feelings is a spiritual experience. When we can reflect on our thoughts and feelings in a non-hurried and gentle manner we are breathing spiritually. To breathe spiritually in life is to embrace emotion, wisdom and experiences in a receptive manner.

To embrace life with all its joys and sorrows is to live spiritually. Sadness and joy are always part of our everyday life. Success and failures are with us each day. Hope and despair can happen within minutes. All need to be gently embraced because in this embracing we discover peace. Life is more than money, good meals and great homes. It is more than artificial highs resulting from alcohol, drugs or food. It is more than chocolate and Santa Claus.

To live and breathe a spiritual life is to be open to what we cannot codify, organize and trivialize. Living spiritually is to realize that there is something deeper in every moment. Members of 12-step programs begin to admit their own limitations and failures. In this admission they begin to experience a need for Something or Someone bigger than their own personal self. As they progress in their 12-step journey they begin to experience a Higher Power/God. Everything seems to take on a deeper meaning. It is called a "spiritual experience." Everyone in life has spiritual experiences. Honest openness and sincere admissions propel us to experiencing something deeper. Whenever we live and feel and reflect on a deeper level we are living and breathing spiritually.

There is a connection between embracing struggle and living and breathing a spiritual life. There is a connection between listening to another human being with attentiveness and receptivity and breathing in something spiritually. Last week I attended the funeral of a woman who was 100 years old. She lived and breathed spiritually with her attentive listening to everyone with her beautiful smile and loving heart. One of her granddaughters said to me: "My grandmother Anna always listened to me and paid attention at the same time." This woman really understood life. Sometimes when an elderly person dies, there are not many people at their funeral. This was not the case with Anna. The church was filled with many people of all ages who knew Anna because she loved people so very much. So many people had "spiritually" experienced Anna.

Spirituality is being open to the positive energy that is within ourselves and that comes to us from other people. Crying and laughing together is a spiritual experience. Being quiet and listening attentively to God is a spiritual experience. Being quiet, letting go of my ego while I attentively listen to you with an open heart and mind is a spiritual experience.

A spiritual experience is an experience of the "spirit" which is encountering a thought, image and feelings which is not dependent upon a physical description. It is simply an experience and an awareness of something deep and profound. It is like being in love with someone or something. To try and explain it to someone else seems too trivial or too difficult. We feel like our description of the experience of love falls short of what we are really experiencing. We might come close but we really never find the accurate words to describe what we were experiencing. If we can describe love, we have failed. If we can describe our spiritual experience accurately we probably haven't had one. But we know we have experienced something deeper than we usually have. "In Him we live and move and have our being" is a quote that gets a point across that all of us live on a deeper level than we realize.

Elizabeth Barret Browning said it very well: "Earth's filled with heaven and every common bush afire with God. But only he who sees takes off his shoes. The rest sit round and pluck blackberries." She had the concept down very well that every moment can be aspiritual experience. Then there is James Dillet Freeman who said it so very well: "The light of God surrounds me. The love of God enfolds me. The power of God protects me. The presence of God watches over me. Wherever I am, God is."

I have no idea if any of these authors belonged to any church or denomination. They were just ordinary people who tuned into what was most important. They listened, experienced and discovered that life is full of spiritual experiences. Hopefully we can all realize this also.

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Fred Cavaiani is a licensed marriage and family therapist and psychologist with a private practice in Troy. He is the founder of Marriage Growth Center, a consultant for the Detroit Medical Center, and Henry Ford Medical Center. He conducts numerous programs for groups throughout Southeastern Michigan. His column in the Legal News runs every other Tuesday. He can be reached at (248)362-3340. His e-mail address is Fredcavi@yahoo.com and his website is fredthecounselor.com.

Published: Tue, Jan 17, 2012

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