The other day I wandered here and there on the Internet for several hours as links clicked to other links, all with a common theme of spirituality or creativity, most often both. As a seeker and a writer, I felt like I’d eaten too much chocolate or been presented with too many choices.
One site had so many links on spiritual topics, so many reviews, options, links, that I began to want to turn away altogether. They offer an email program of spiritual practices that they will send you daily, for free, for 40 days. I guess the thinking goes, “if one spiritual sound bite is a good thing, then 40 must be even better!” The email messages arrive daily (yes, I signed up!) and I read them, close the email, think on them for a bit, then I move on to the next one.
This is spiritual consumerism at work, washing over us with some of this, some of that, then receding with the tide.
Several years ago I began studying, practicing, and writing about what is loosely referred to these days as “spirituality”. As I’ve explored the different manifestations of spirituality as presented in our culture’s literature, media, music, internet discussions, articles, essays and so on, I’ve come to some interesting conclusions about myself as a seeker and creator.
First of all, while I am attracted to a multitude of images, icons and rituals that are commonly connected with the concept of spirituality, in actual fact I incorporate very few of them into my conscious practice in any regular way. I’m referring to everything from aromatherapy to walking the labyrinth. I don’t spend much time trying to put these practices, icons, or images into any sort of hierarchical order, having learned not to judge too quickly what is or isn’t an authentic experience or expression of the spiritual.
Yet, attracted to so many (the colors, the scents, the shapes, the movement, the sound, the sheer beauty!), I yet find that my loyalty to these manifestations rests lightly and soon fades. I fall in love with the “stuff” of spirituality the way I fall in love with the multitude of suggestions out there for writing practice: an attraction that often intrigues and sustains me for awhile, then passes with the arrival of some new beautiful thing, promising some wonderful result, an endpoint on the journey.
I move on, a traveler. Yet I crave commitment, and restlessly seek a creative and spiritual path that beckons me beyond the surface of pretty things, clever ideas, simplistic explanations.
I believe that we must construct for ourselves a creative and spiritual vessel that is both lightweight yet durable, allowing us to both explore and anchor ourselves. This is the challenge and the great joy of our freedom as creatives and as spiritual beings. We both get to choose (the blessing), and we have to choose (the no-getting-around-it), and having chosen, (if we choose wisely), then we must commit ourselves to the rewards, challenges and consequences of the outcome in order to live authentically.
After I finished my Internet surfing, I realized after much reflection, that what I most want to do, both as a writer and a seeker, is to go deep. Rather than skim across the surface of the whole wide ocean or play in the waves, I want to dive down, to explore the caves, canyons and waves of my own soul’s cove, swim out beyond the swells, and explore the tide pool of my spiritually-creative life, a particular location on humanity’s compass that is nevertheless interconnected with all other points on the compass.
I want to construct an anchor against the tides of consumer spirituality.
I don’t need to be chained to old traditions, binding me to the past, or to a narrow strait. Faith and creative vision are the ballast that let me steer a true course. I find much of what I need in the Christian tradition and some in other traditions, but mostly I find it when I go straight to the source: through prayer, through creating, through loving others, through wilderness places.