Somewhere I heard that religion is for people who are afraid to go to hell, and spirituality is for people who have already been there. I can certainly relate to that!
I have also read that one’s search for spiritual fulfillment is very different in the second half of life than it was in the first. And I can relate to that too. Quite frankly, there was only one kind of spirit I was interested in during the first half of life, and it wasn’t the kind you find in church.
So what is this longing for a relationship with a Higher Power? Why do humans feel the need to connect with something more, with a Great Spirit, God, Mother Nature or any number of names we have given to that entity that is bigger than all of us?
While I don’t expect to find the answer by February 29 (thank goodness I have an extra day this year!), I did turn my focus to faith this month.
The first weekend in February, I attended a program by Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest who founded the Center for Action and Contemplation, rooted in Catholic identity, but encouraging ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue. The topic for his program was “FALLING UPWARD: A SPIRITUALITY FOR THE TWO HALVES OF LIFE.” To greatly simplify his message, he states that in the first half of life, we discover our spiritual “container” and in the second half we fill it. Many people never leave the first half of life, choosing to stay bogged down in rules-based religiosity instead of delving deeper into a more spiritual journey. It was interesting to see where I still found myself mired in “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” and where I most needed to grow.
Father Rohr also spoke of the Enneagram, which is defined as “a nine-sided figure used in a particular system of analysis to represent the spectrum of possible personality types.” The week following the seminar, a friend sent me a link to an online quiz that helped me determine my type. To no one’s surprise, I am a Type 1: The Reformer – perfectionist, responsible and fixated on improvement (http://www.eclecticenergies.com/enneagram/type1.php). After discovering my type, I was given the following next steps: “Your spiritual journey is to reclaim a sense of serenity. Even flaws may have a purpose. Recognize that true perfection and spiritual growth will come to you when you realize that all things are inherently perfect just as they are.” Well, that sure gave me plenty to chew on.
Then this week I began reading a book called Seeking Peace by Mary Pipher (more about this in my next book blog post). I was immediately struck by what she said about success and the guilt she felt about not being grateful for hers. Here I thought I was the only one who felt that way! The rest of the book is about her quest for a quieter, more peaceful life – “slowing down, crafting a new identity, and discovering inner tranquility.” Hm, that sure sounds familiar! And the author sounds eerily like a Type 1 on the Enneagram spectrum! Perhaps the rest of this book will teach me some pointers on how to find that elusive sense of serenity … or is that just me being too “first half of life” again?
Stay tuned for more about the journey on Leap Day!