In an age of spiritual awakening such as we are going through, there are more and more people who are spiritually awakened and they would like to lead a spiritual life. Somehow they are dissatisfied with their present state of life in religion and want something more relevant in their lives. There is a sense of uneasiness and spiritual hunger in their hearts. This is just one of the signs of a spiritual awakening happening right before our very eyes.
The traditional churches are mostly empty in North America and in Europe, places where once religion mightily flourished even to the shedding of blood. Why? Because people are looking for something substantial, something they can truly make use of in these times of exploding information overload.
And rightly they turn to spirituality. And they seek spiritual leaders, men and women who are leading a spiritual life.
This article describes what leading a spiritual life is. Hopefully the reader will realize that this is the kind of life she is searching for. And she will have some ideas how to lead it herself.
By showing what a thing is not, we may be able to easily grasp what it really is.
Leading a spiritual life is not the same as leading a religious life. There are many religious people who are not manifestly leading a spiritual life. If you are a Catholic, just observe the many daily church goers, attending Mass every day, whose lives do not show any improvement in the way they deal with people, even with their household help.
If you are a Protestant, observe how many of those who go to a preaching service also go to the midweek prayer sessions. Very few indeed. And still observe those who go to the midweek prayer sessions. Listen carefully to what they speak and how they speak. They do not talk about their Lord but about this and that thing which needs to be done, to be improved, to be changed.
These people are religious indeed, but manifestly not spiritual.
Leading a spiritual life is not the same as leading a moral life. A person may be totally morally upright according to human standards and yet not be spiritual. He may observe all the commandments he knows but fail to be spiritual.
The best example I can think of right now of a person who was moral but not spiritual is Immanuel Kant. He was a totally upright man as far as human standards are concerned. He put forth a moral maxim which he faithfully followed and I render it here as: So behave that your action becomes a norm of universal law. This means that if you follow this maxim you are always following moral laws, the best of moral laws, because they are part of the universal law. And Kant just did that. He never hurt anyone, did not bother anyone, and most probably did not also love anyone. He died a bachelor.
Leading a spiritual life is not the same as leading a theological life. There are many theologians who day and night ponder over the Bible and their volume upon volume of books. But many of them are not necessarily spiritual. How do I know? You approach them and they begin to talk to you and spin out so many theories related to theology. But they leave your heart empty.
Leading a spiritual life is not the same as leading a philanthropic life. You may be giving millions of dollars to the poor or not so poor, but you may not be able to give them your heart.
Leading a spiritual life is not the same as leading a healthy life. There are many saints of God who were poor in health but spiritually they were rich.
Leading a spiritual life is not the same as leading an intellectual life. There are many scientists and philosophers who devote their lives to intellectual pursuits, to research both speculative and practical, but their lives are not necessarily spiritual by this. Some of them do not even respect life. They want to change our life processes by the so-called genetic engineering.
So, if leading a spiritual life is not all this, what is it? In a sense the answer is very simple, and yet it cannot be understood by someone whose mind is not attuned to spiritual reality.
Leading a spiritual life is being concerned with the things of the spirit.
The religious person is concerned with the doctrines, practices and rites of her religion, the moral person is concerned with morality, with living uprightly, the theologian is concerned with the fine points of theology, the philanthropist is concerned with how to distribute his wealth, the health fanatic is concerned with keeping herself young and active, the intellectual elite is concerned with discovering more and more knowledge.
They are all concerned with something that is not necessarily spiritual. But the spiritual person is concerned with the things of the spirit and she leads her life accordingly.
And what are the things of the spirit? Basically it is loving the self and others as they ought to be loved, to care for them, to have compassion for them. This is easily said than done.
So simple and yet so impossible to do, because we have a fallen nature. Fallen nature simply means that we are naturally concerned about ourselves than others. Perhaps too overly concerned about ourselves. We are pre-occupied with our Ego in capital letters.
That is why we need a guide to lead us out of ourselves to the needs of others. Because even the most fundamental needs of others we cannot know unless the eyes of the spirit are opened: the need to love and be loved. But those who are willing to lead a spiritual life are now ready to wake up spiritually.