Are You In or Out of This World?

"They are not of the world, any more than I am of the world." John 17:14

"Be in the world but not of it." For many, this means attuning their lives to a higher purpose than self-indulgence.

Unfortunately, this can also create an unhealthy duality in which people try to escape the world through meditation and other spiritual practices. In effect, they seek to be neither in the world nor of it. Such a separation yields a disconnected, stunted spirituality that appears vibrant in churches and on meditation cushions but doesn't seep into the way we treat each other, much less transform the often-unjust social structures in which we function.

I have often yearned for some sort of monastic-like existence and have fancied myself as St. Francis, walking midst chirping birds and kaleidoscopic flowers, praying, meditating and communing with God without that cares of daily life to disturb my tranquility.

But as my friend Hannah reminded me recently: "People who live in monasteries complain too about how busy they are with prayer schedules and endless chores. A monastery is no escape."

Rather than escape, I intend to bridge the gap between my spiritual practice and the rest of my day. I intend to bridge the gap between the pew and the computer, between the meditation cushion and the staff meeting.

So, how to do that? I'm experimenting with three approaches:

  1. I start each day with a prayer of intention: "I am the I AM presence everywhere, every moment, with everyone, with everything." Different people call that Presence different names: God, awareness, gratitude, Buddha-mind, Christ-consciousness, etc. Whatever the name, it's a simple acknowledgment of our root identity, which I call "I AM Presence". (For a reflection on the "I AM presence", see this previous blog entry.)
  2. I send ahead the positive energy generated in my morning meditation/devotion time to all the activities and people I'll encounter in the day ahead...and to whomever or wherever else that energy is most needed.
  3. I placed a sticky note on my laptop with the reminder: "5%   /   I AM". This reminds me to slow down 5% throughout the day in order to reconnect with my root identity (the "I AM Presence"). I focus that energy on my next activity and commit myself to embody that identity in how I treat others (and myself).  I imagine everyone who might benefit from my next task, no matter how small, and pray/intend that my actions would bless them. Sending that positive intention forward can even transmute an Excel spreadsheet into a spiritual practice!

This is still a work in progress for me. Yet on occasion, it all comes together. When my inner awareness of the Sacred beyond the world merges with my outer awareness of the Sacred as the world I live in, then I am integrated. Whether I am in or out of this world is then no longer a question because my world has expanded to include everything.