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  • Writer's pictureDavid Carlson

841: A spiritual life is nothing special It's the life that you already live, simply living it fully

Day 841: Tuesday July 5, 2022

A spiritual life is nothing special. It is the life that you already live, simply living it fully, living it with meaning

MYSTICS WANTED! Are you a mystic?

While definitions vary, my own definition of a mystic is someone who seeks out spiritual wisdom through personal experience such as meditation, prayer, or being in nature. Mystics are less concerned with traditional teachings of religion than with trusting their own experiences.

Some of the famous mystics of the past include Julian of Norwich, a 14th century English anchoress, and Rumi, a 13th century Sufi scholar and poet. Both left behind beautiful writings of their own experiences with the Divine.

We may think that the title of “mystic” only belongs to those living in the past or perhaps people who are living in monasteries today. However, I think there are many “everyday” mystics living among us.

Besides, we need many more mystics to adequately confront the many existential crises facing humans today, from wars to shootings to climate change. If not, we run the risk of blindly running in to fix things, perhaps making these situations worse, or experiencing burnout and despair. We are desperately in need of spiritual wisdom for uncertain times.

The pre-condition to be a mystic is to live a spiritual life. I believe that a spiritual life is available to all of us, but how?

As a graduate student living in a city, lately I’ve been feeling that living a spiritual life seems more difficult than ever. My days seem even more harried now, as the pandemic’s grip over our everyday lives recedes. I usually manage a short time for centering prayer in the morning (a habit I’ve carried over from my time as a Starcross volunteer) but much of my day is spent doing or consuming.

Looking for some advice on how to live a spiritual life, I turned to my copy of Sister Marti’s talk, THE SPIRITUAL LIFE, which she delivered in San Francisco on May 18, 1975.

According to Marti, “A spiritual life is nothing special. It is the life that you already live, simply living it fully, living it with meaning. The spiritual life for each of us is the life we are living now, not some other life.”

Sister Marti’s talk covers, among other topics, the importance of ritual in living a spiritual life. Though she describes her own schedule as a monastic community member, she also rightly says, “The exact daily structure does not matter. The point is that you want to contain your life within it.”

This is not compulsive busyness, but rather meaningful and joyful structure to our days. “If we are able to be simple and free of our own stubbornness and desires,” she says, “we are carried in a most marvelous flow that takes us where we know we were meant to be.”

I also looked at my copy of STEPPING STONES by Brother Toby. Toby often emphasizes the importance of staying present to your life, seeing the wonder in violets on a spring walk, or being present to loved ones. He calls people who realize the beauty in the ordinary “fellow violet seekers.”

Recently, I’ve been isolating with COVID, and the spiritual undercurrent of my life became more obvious. Unable to go outside, I looked out the window and noticed that the moon was a little sliver in the pale blue, dusky sky, filling me with inexplicable hope and joy. Even watching a television show (BBC’s Call the Midwife) while I was sick was a meaningful experience, driving home the miracle of birth and death. A friend delivered me groceries and I was grateful for my community here. Working on homework for graduate school, I felt grateful for studying a subject so meaningful to me.

Put simply, even the most “ordinary” of us in the age of technology can live spiritual lives, and be mystics. The daily rhythm of our lives, as well as the many surprises contained within, show us the way.

- Madeleine

Madeleine Swanstrom is a member of the Starcross Advisory Committee, coordinator of Starcross Alumni activity, and a former Starcross volunteer. She is from St. Louis, Missouri, and currently lives in Berlin, Germany, where she is pursuing a master's degree in urban management. She enjoys reading, dancing, and walking in nature.

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