Spiritual? Sick?

“They were so spiritual, she was not supposed to get sick…They are the last people that deserve something like that.” These two sentences say so much about the assumptions we make about spirituality and the consequences of living a “good” or a “bad” life. What happens if we unpack these assumptions? Well, if I’m spiritual enough, or good enough, bad things won’t happen to me. If bad things do happen to me, then somehow I deserve it. To further unpack this, I have to look at what we generally mean by good and bad when describing life events. We label bad anything we don’t like and label good anything we do like. So, if something happens to me I don’t like, I did something to deserve it, whether consciously or unconsciously. And, if something happens to me I do like, than it must be evidence of my high spirituality.

What happens then is that we judge others and ourselves based on external life events. We often judge others from a sense of spiritual self-righteousness. Sometimes this masquerades as spiritual pity—he doesn’t know the truth of himself. Begin to pay attention to how often you think those thoughts. How often you judge others or yourself based on what happens to you or to them. If you’re honest with yourself, I am guessing it’s pretty often.

The next step is to begin looking at beliefs you hold around the notion that if you live a spiritual or self-actualized, or enlightened life, things you label bad won’t happen to you any more. You will never get sick, be tired or grumpy, you will never smell bad, step in dog poop, be angry when someone cuts in front of you, never have a bad hair day, will never argue with your loved ones and on and on. How do those beliefs trip you up? How do they keep you from being truly kind, loving and compassionate? You see, I believe to be fully human we have to experience the full range of life without trying to will or wish anything away. To do otherwise is to remain eternally a five year old, throwing temper tantrums when the world doesn’t go your way.

What if instead of spending your time judging your behavior and the behavior of others, instead of worrying about anyone else’s spiritual development or consciousness, instead of trying to figure out how to be good so bad things don’t happen, you instead focused your energy on fully experiencing each moment as it comes? When was the last time you experienced a moment without analyzing it in some way? When was the last time you had a conversation with someone without thinking of your response while the other person was talking? When was the last time you were sick and didn’t judge yourself for your circumstances? When was the last time you were fully present with someone else who was sick or injured, unemployed, homeless, rich, poor, wildly successful or an abysmal failure and didn’t make judgments or comparisons?

Those of you feeling self-righteous right now, who think I don’t do this I see the good and the love in everyone. Think again. Get honest with yourself. Do you ever get angry, impatient, out of sorts? Do you ever want others to behave differently than they do? If so, than this applies to you. Even Thich Nhat Hanh says he struggles with despair. You are here to have a fully human experience. Don’t waste it.

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