Church is not for everyone. Even for those who like it, there are as many distractions as attractions to the spiritual life there. I thought of entitling this post “spirituality for loners” because I want to suggest eight ways of experiencing spiritual community outside of church!
Read. I enjoy the most diverse, stimulating, informed, and wise spiritual community on my bookshelves! Fiction and non-fiction, sacred and profane, fantasy and factual—you name it, all connect me to other people, places, and things with whom and with which I may feel a spiritual kinship. Newspaper and magazine human interest stories, op-eds, obits, and news stories also open me to relationships often more spiritually intimate than possible in ordinary life. All are opportunities for witnessing spirituality at work for those who have eyes to see, fingers to feel Braille, or ears to hear recorded versions.
Pray. Immediately, praying puts us into a global and probably universal community of those lifting their hearts and their loved ones and even unloved ones to God, the eternal, the sacred, knitting our hearts with those with whom and for whom we pray. Prayer, meditation, and reflection make us more attentive to those we care about or want to care about, welcoming their presence in deeper ways.
Watch. Being mindful of surroundings wherever we are with all of our senses puts us in community with the material world. Matter matters. The touch of a fabric, the fragrance of a plant, the sound of rain, the vibration of a machine, the breath of a lover, the view from your favorite chair or mountain ridge—all remind us, in Madonna’s lyrics, that “we are material girls” and boys. And watching films and documentaries can take us to people and places and events we otherwise might never meet or visit or experience.
Walk and Roll. I was asked this week what I would do if I knew I only had 24 hours to live. Promptly I replied, “I’d go walk in the park.” A leisurely stroll or roll on foot or wheelchair through parks, forests, beaches, neighborhoods, downtowns, and more give us an opportunity to relax and be part of something greater than ourselves. An acquaintance gave up city life and lights to work remotely in the countryside just to be able to spend time gazing at the planets, stars, and galaxies each night as earth strolls through the universe.
Communicate. Writing letters or blogs, sketching or painting, playing instruments or sharing CD’s, making videos or recordings, performing or cooking or phoning—finding ways to tell our stories, proclaim our “gospel,” give our viewpoints, share our talents—these are some of the diverse ways we may offer ourselves to spiritual community.
Volunteer or Vocation. Giving time, energy, talent, money, and possessions for a cause, concern, or a calling connects us to other volunteers or coworkers but also to those for whom we do what we do, whether a movement, a non-profit, a community in need, or the environment.
Receive. It may be more blessed to give than receive, as Paul quoted Jesus in Acts, but being receptive is also a gift to those who want to offer us something of themselves, from company to caregiving. Gratitude “in all circumstances” may open us serendipitously to community.
Breathe. Breathing slowly and deeply and consciously is a common way to begin meditation. Spirit is in the very air we breathe if we are paying attention, if we imagine it, if we believe it. We take in the molecules ancestors breathed, brothers and sisters breathe, posterity will breathe. Every breath connects us with them.
No one should beat themselves up for not going to church, not joining a monastic community, or not belonging to a religion or religious organization. Spiritual community is to be discovered simply by attending to the spiritual life, that which connects us to all.
Copyright © 2013 by Chris R. Glaser. Permission granted for non-profit use with attribution of author and blogsite. Other rights reserved. Check out past posts in the right rail on the blogsite.
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Chris will be leading a free public workshop on Just Love entitled “Body Boundaries and the Question of Consent” Saturday, April 27, 2013, from 10 a.m.-1:00 p.m. (free lunch follows) at St. Francis Episcopal Church, Macon, Georgia. It will explore the spiritual dimension of physical encounters.
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