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" The Holy Land is everywhere "

Black Elk

The Value of Spiritual Practice

Published by Philip Carr-Gomm

Cultivating the Mystery and returning Constantly to our Source

The spiritual, emotional, psychological goals we seek – of love, peace, trust, wisdom and so on – need time and the space to ‘arrive’ in our lives. It is in the silence, the gaps, the waiting, the ‘not knowing’, the reverence for the ‘Other’, that we have a chance to connect ourselves to something more than our wandering minds and anxious hearts.

Of course they’re not really ‘arriving’ – they are always there, we just need to still ourselves enough to become conscious of them, which is why spiritual practice is important.

Here the time-honoured methods shared by most paths offer ways we can do this: by meditating, taking retreats, observing sacred times and honouring sacred places. By taking advantage of these we can build the spiritual practice best suited to our needs, our temperament, and our circumstances. And in following this practice we can cultivate the Mystery and return constantly to our Source.

A hope at the present time in the story of Humanity is that more and more people are discovering this – and this is what is meant by the Great Awakening that we are witnessing. Awakening, and finding a safe harbour involves not so much altering our physical circumstances as finding our spiritual home – and the spiritual practice best suited to anchor us in our sense of the Source, the Great Mystery at the heart of Creation.

Some, particularly those who are keen to actively fight against injustices in the world, might think this approach is selfish: “Oh great! Your solution to world problems is navel-gazing!” But to take this position would be to fail to understand the lesson of the goose that laid the golden eggs. Stephen Covey uses this idea as one of the cornerstones of his highly pragmatic and ethical approach to living effectively, as set out in his books, such as ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People’. In Aesop’s story a farmer becomes fabulously wealthy because one of his geese lays eggs made of solid gold. After a while the farmer becomes greedy and kills the goose to get the eggs out of her, rather than waiting for them to be laid. Covey suggests we need to take care of the goose (ourselves) to ensure that it continues to lay golden eggs, rather than killing it through greed, neglect, or self-abnegation.

If we nourish our needs – and particularly our spiritual needs – we will be more effective activists, and less likely to suffer burn-out. Nowadays it is so easy to feel swamped by too much information – without care it is easy to get pulled from your anchored centre by becoming preoccupied with the details of the changing world. Every day depressing and upsetting news can be heard on the radio or television. For our own sanity we need to balance the effect of this information with a turning inward to draw strength and calm, otherwise we are likely to feel destabilised – pushed off-centre – and our ability to be of help to others will be diminished. To function effectively in this world, long draughts from the still pool of Segais are needed – from the source of what are known in the Druid tradition as Awen and Nwyfre (inspiration and life-force).

Philip Carr-Gomm