Spiritual (not religious)
Presented by Rich Hayes
Unitarian Universalist Gathering, Housatonic MA

Grace Note:The contemplation of celestial things will make a person both speak and think more sublimely and magnificently when he descends to human affairs. Cicero

“I believe in God, but not as one thing, not as an old man in the sky. I believe that what people call God is something in all of us. I believe that what Jesus and Mohammed and Buddha and all the rest said was right. It's just that the translations have gone wrong.”  ― John Lennon

Carl Sagan said, “Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality.”

According to Pew research, better than 30% of Americans describe themselves as spiritual but not religious (SBNR) and the numbers are growing.

Spirituality is a personal experience/understanding of the deeper aspects of the self and something Greater than the self. Spirituality is about finding the Sacred in the commonplace and making this a part of your everyday experience.
This may or may not be found within religion.

Religion tends to have clear lines and definitions and although it deals in faith, it also claims certainties.

Spirituality can be very changeable, based in personal experience as well as ancient traditions and teachings. A healthy spirituality embraces mystery.

Ann Hillman wrote, “To Live Sacred lives requires us to live at the edge of what we do not know”

A spiritually connected life will at times lead us to the edge, the place where we don’t know the answer or what to do.
For some folks the edge is where its at!
But often it is the place where change first begins.

The difficulty for most of us is that we don’t like change-we get used to how things are (even when they’re not all that hot!) and at least we know them.

We like to know what to expect. It’s the human being in us.
Again, religion often gives us this through a structured approach to what is ultimately the “Unknowable”.

But how secure can anyone feel living at the edge of what we “do not know”? And most of us seek security.

Yet walking the spiritual path is allowing yourself to embrace unknowing and to let go of beliefs and certainty.

That’s a tall order. Especially because so much of our lives are about learning things and becoming proficient at those things we do.

Our successes and accomplishments have been based on this!

What I hear in this is the Buddhist invitation to beginner’s mind or Jesus’ urge to become as little children.

The call is for us to step out of our comfort zone, to stretch our self, to die to the old self (to be born again).

If we look at our lives we can see that we have been called many times to do just that. It’s a big part of being young and growing up, and I’m sure everyone here this morning can recall some incident they’d rather forget…and I hope others that make you smile and feel proud.

But I think what happens to some of us is that once the “grown up” part happens, there is a settling in. We find our “place”- our groove if you will. We’ve done all that unpleasant stuff: being foolish, failing, struggling and now we’re finished - we’ve arrived and this is the reward for having done the education and hard work.

But of course this isn’t true. It can’t be true because no matter how much we wish, or how hard we try, we cannot stop the passage of time and the changes it brings. In many ways our education is just beginning.

Django Reinhardt, the famous guitarist had achieved success as a musician when he was involved in a horrible fire and lost two fingers. As he began recovery he didn't know how he could ever play again. But he did. He actually developed a whole new way of playing and with this a new genre of music often called "Gypsy Jazz". This never would have happened had he not been pushed to the edge.

A former patient of mine, Sid*(not actual name), was a man who'd been a professional musician and had to give this up in his 50's due to arthritis. This has been his passion. But within a few years he discovered another: painting. And by the time he was 70 he was a well known artist displayed in galleries all over the East coast. When I attempted to "soothe" his grief over all he'd lost he simply smiled at me and said he had to have had them in the first place in order to lose them and he was so grateful for all he has had.

If, as some say, our lives are like a school for the soul, then these men had made it to their Masters or Phd. I use them as a reminder. And I have seen similar things with so many remarkable people I've met through the years who have been handed things they never would have chosen, yet they rose above, transcended and transmuted these challenges and left a trail for us here to follow.

The more we cling to what “was” or how things “used to be” the more we miss the things presented to us in the Mystery at the edge where “known meets unknown”, also called “the now”-
it is the
present contained in the present.

Every season of life brings with it Mystery and the unknown. And as the reading reminds us, we live at the edge of this whether we recognize it or not. But to do so consciously and with awareness brings life into the realm of the sacred.

You may think to yourself that you'd like to become more spiritual. Well, in reality there is no "more" to become-you already are spiritual! It’s simply
what you are. You can no more become more spiritual than water can become "more" water-full”!! What you can do is increase your awareness and your connection to this part of you.

And then your life isn’t just about going through the routines, keeping things in order and going through the motions, it’s about making your life a sacred experience.

Your spirit longs for the sacred-it is in its “DNA”. And the more you strengthen your connection to the spiritual part of you, the more you will find yourself able to stay balanced as the sand shifts beneath your feet.

And the nature of life is to shift the sands constantly.

We are all being pointed in the direction of Mystery.
Embrace it and your life will expand and fill with experiences.
Many you never could have imagined.

Engaging with the mystery and the unknown draws you deeper into this experience of living. It will pull you to the very depths of your own being and at the same time you will sense the connection to all that surrounds you-everyone and everything!

What is the greatest Mystery? Life itself!

Why are you here?
How did all of this come to be?
Why now?
What does it mean to be alive?

Do not fear. I believe the most often repeated phrase in the Bible is “fear not”. It is good advice - embrace the mystery!

Spirit lives in the Mystery and we are not human beings having a spiritual experience, but more correctly, we are spiritual beings having a human experience. Always remember this. It doesn't really matter whether you believe it.
Spirit is spirit, just as gravity is gravity. Whether you believe in it or not it still operates.

But making a commitment to connect with this part of you-the most real part of you-pays great dividends. Take time daily, invite stillness, Do the things that feed your spirit. You know these by that certain feeling you get-that tingle or sense in your chest when you hear a special piece of music or see something beautiful, like a golden ray of sunlight illuminating a leaf or flower.

Your spiritual self waits for you in everything and everyplace.

Joseph Campbell said the following:
"What each must seek in his life never was on land or sea. It is something out of his own unique potentiality for experience, something that never has been and never could have been experienced by anyone else." 

And this from Catherine Garland:

And I’m glad I was not told
any of these things
else I would not have grown as tall
nor stretched as far.
I am glad these things were kept hidden from me
until I could open the gate to taste and touch,
to smell and feel, and
to discover my self along the way.

And finally this from Rumi:
“Knock, And He'll open the door Vanish, And He'll make you shine like the sun Fall, And He'll raise you to the heavens Become nothing, And He'll turn you into everything.” 

Thank you.
Wash me from all that I think I am:
My struggles, my stands, my cherished opinions,
My soaring dreams and deadening fears.
Leave me only Your purity and Your peace.

Wipe away the masks of judgment I have placed
On Your children.
Show me the faces made in Your likeness, so
That I may see my own as well.
Brush aside all shrines to the future,
All altars to the past.

Give me Your golden present,
A home in You, unmovable and eternal.

Still all voices within me,
Fill me with the hush of Your peace.
Now You are my thoughts, my purpose, my way.
All I need and all I am is You.
-Hugh Prather