Over the past year and a half or so, I’ve taken up yoga, dabbled in meditation, pored over books about getting quiet inside. I not only read but practiced The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron and, on the recommendation of a Buddhist friend, I’m reading A Path With Heart: A guide through the perils and promises of spiritual life, by Jack Kornfield.

It’s a book written by a man trained as a Buddhist monk, and yet I was bothered by the word “spiritual” in the subtitle. I don’t like the word. I never know what it means. One could certainly make the argument that I’ve been on a decidedly more spiritual path over the past 18 months than ever before, but the word itself makes me uncomfortable. It sounds religious. Or new age. Or just sort of woo-woo. I am none of those things.

I’ve always been turned off by the stories of monks living austere and enlightened lives within the hallowed walls of monasteries. They can sit for hours without moving, answer riddles of the heart and soul, slow their pulses to just above dead, but to what end? If I am in search of a more spiritual life, give me one that sends me out into the world, where the goal is not self-control or even personal enlightenment, but connection.

I love this quote from A Path With Heart: “The things that matter most in our lives are not fantastic or grand. They are the moments when we touch one another, when we are there in the most attentive and caring way.” The question I want to be able to answer positively at the end of my life is simply this: Did I love well?

Give me a spiritual life that adds value to the world, one that allows me to connect with others through a fearless, even reckless, sort of love. One that allows me to fight for what I believe but doesn’t leave me unmoved by the humanity of those who disagree with me.

I don’t want to be quiet. I don’t want to turn my other cheek. I don’t want to sit still, or be solemn, or rise above the fray. Instead, let me get down into the thick of things, let me make messes, touch, be touched. Let me believe in ordinary miracles, in the power of community, in that whole (goofy, wonderful) hopey-changey thing. Let me believe that people are worth believing in, and we are all connected…

As I was typing this post, trying to articulate what spirituality means to me, I received an email from my friend Karen that said simply this: “Just wanted you to know that I’m in my house….just walking around believing in you.”

To me, it doesn’t get more spiritual than that.

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