“You are never going to be able to fill the whole in your heart. That you can’t do. But what you can do is cover your heart with all this Love to protect that sacred hole.” Francine Wheeler
What enables us to move through our darkest days? When faced with tragedy, how is it that some people manage not only to continue living but create something even more beautiful and life affirming from their despair?
From listening to parents enduring the unimaginable loss of a child, and reading Viktor Frankl’s experience during the Holocaust in Man’s Search for Meaning, I can’t help but feel that it may just be essential to our survival to have “something more” to believe in.
Many of us, religious or not, crave “something more.” We yearn to feel connected to a unifying force greater than ourselves. We desire to move past small talk and experience depth in conversation. We want to feel accepted, loved and free to be our true selves. We want to know with our whole heart when we feel like a big wave has pummeled us to the bottom of the sea, that somehow, someday we will slowly find a light again leading us back up to the surface of the ocean for a deep breath.
“It helps not to think of spirituality as some rigid concept with procedures and rules. The form of spirituality is a matter of choice – it can be religious in a traditional sense, or not.” – Dr. Judith Orloff
I believe spirituality in its essence is about believing in something more. But truthfully, I have to practice believing this. I did not find my spiritual beliefs in a book or at a place of worship though both have helped me feel connected to a sense of community and universality. But after seeking answers externally, I realize daily that the only way for me to feel spirit is to first acknowledge the manifestation of spirit in me, my very soul.
“Because there is no way out of one’s inner life, one had better get into it. On the inward and downward spiritual journey, the only way out is in and through.” – Parker Palmer
Perhaps this path inward is about seeking kindness, truth, purpose, understanding, light, solace, and most importantly I think, unconditional love. Maybe the “more” is about finding answers to our existential questions about where we come from and where we go when we die. Maybe this delving stirs the waters and brings up more questions than answers. But when we invest in inner work, we receive glimpses of an undying light and love that makes our present as well as our presence a treasure to behold. And this lasts not only for our lifetime, but long after we are gone. Making our flame stronger makes this whole world shine more brightly.
What does inner work look like? In the words of Parker Palmer:
“First we could lift up the value of “inner work.” That phrase should become commonplace in families, schools, and religious institutions, at least, helping us understand that inner work is as real as outer work and involves skills one can develop, skills like journaling, reflective reading, spiritual friendship, meditation and prayer. We can teach our children something that their parent did not always know: if people skimp on their inner work, their outer work will suffer as well.
I used to think this kind of inner work was self – indulgent. But I realize it is much more selfish not to address our inner world. If I want to be of sincere and authentic service, it needs to come from a place of fullness and not depletion. As meditation teacher and author, Jack Kornfeild writes, “There is no separation between inner and outer, self and other. Tending ourselves we tend the world. Tending the world we tend ourselves”.