As I reflect back over the past ten years, I notice that my spiritual awareness has shifted dramatically. I feel more peaceful and joyful not because I discovered something new but because I recognized what was always present. The origins of the word “recognize” connote “to remember again” or “to identify something or someone previously seen, known.” I feel as if I now understand what I faintly sensed before. I am grateful to carry these insights into the new decade. I want to share a few of them here.
- I am a spirit not a body. I continue to grapple with this notion because as a heart and kidney transplant recipient, along with other medical ordeals, my body is chronically ill. Yet, recently I made a decision. I could allow my body to terrorize me every day or I could focus my attention elsewhere. I’ve chosen to center on understanding, cultivating and identifying with my spiritual self and when I do, much of the trepidation dissipates. What exactly is it that passes on when I am no longer embodied? I often suggest to participants who attend my retreats and talks that bodies are formed and left on the earth. It’s like car rental. You pick up a body when you begin your adventures in this physical realm and you turn it in when you are done. The essence of each person, what gives the body and all of creation life is Spirit. Knowing I am a spirit leads to a sense of freedom, peace, and joy regardless of the circumstances. Now I want to know more about who I am as a spirit. Do you know that you are a spirit? What do you know of your spiritual self?
- People operate at different levels of spiritual understanding. For me, this piece of wisdom cleared away an enormous amount of resentment and misunderstanding. Life is a journey of awakening that leads from fear (and all of the emotions that spring forth such as hatred, anger, depression, and anxiety) to Love (the source of peace and joy that is our true inheritance from our Creator). My heart aches for folks who have no idea of who they are and whose they are. Thus, they search relentlessly for the next thing to fill their sense of emptiness. They believe if they just get that next promotion, house, car, find the right mate, earn that degree, renovate the house, they will be happy. Deliverance does not lie in the world and the Answers are not out there…but flow from the inside. Moreover, that yearning for something more is a desire for communion with our Creator. Many people don’t know how to satisfy the deep hunger and miss the importance of fostering a spiritual life (which they often confuse with going to church). Spirituality is about seeking connection, listening, loving, and fulfilling our role and purpose for being alive, among other things. No matter how much stuff one gathers, it will never satisfy spiritual thirst because it is the spirit that needs feeding not the ego. Folks vary extensively on how much they understand this essential spiritual truth and vary along a continuum of sagacity; from wandering aimlessly in the world to learning, living, and sharing their life’s calling. I continue to pray for the awakening and elevation of wisdom in the world. In the last decade, what wisdom have you acquired from listening to Inner Guidance, a book, or life? Do you know what your calling is?
- I can only heal (with God’s assistance) myself. A cousin to my perfectionism, my need to correct and change everyone is simply exhausting. How arrogant I (my ego) am to think I know what is best for another person and to think I can elicit change in them. What is the purpose of my fixing— is it so I can feel more comfortable? How egocentric is that! One of my favorite quotes is this variation of a Benjamin Franklin phrase, “Unsolicited advice: Wise people don’t need it, and fools won’t heed.” Why have I wasted so much energy trying to change people? I can only model what I’ve learned. And I realize that I along with everyone else, I am teaching something (love, hate, trust, resentment) all of the time. Who are you trying to change? What are you teaching?
- Unexpected Recognition is the best. Earlier in my life I sought recognition. It didn’t matter if what I desired was some high school, college or professional award, I was in the hunt. Most times in the midst of the pursuit, I felt driven, anxious and stressed. I was miserable.
I also worked hard often in the background to display excellence in everything I took on, hoping someone might notice. In the 1990s, I wrote an essay titled, “The Passion Talk: What to Do When the Thrill is Gone, Gone Away.” I had been teaching college for about 15 years and I found myself just showing up for class, not interested in updating my lectures, etc. I was fatigued from grinding out publications for tenure and more promotions. Then one day I began to wonder about why out of the 25,000 students attending CU Boulder I was assigned the 50 seniors I taught in two sections of Senior Seminar. What was I to teach these sprits and what was I to learn from them? What was my research for besides to add another line to my curriculum vita? What was my raison d’être? Once I moved my mind in a more purposeful and less need for external applause direction, my passion for teaching and writing returned.
Recently, I sat among former colleagues to listen to a commencement address given by an endeared former student. I was so delighted that her career had blossomed. And in a moment, I heard “I also want to thank Aunt Lerita and Uncle Warren for nurturing me through some tough times and teaching me to love tea and take pauses for teatime.” What? My husband and I were just being who we are…loving someone else’s child away from home and family. A breeze of happiness bubbled up inside.
A couple of months later, after giving a talk at Wisdom Camp, a pre-festival event for The Wild Goose Festival, I bravely and brazenly walked up to Barbara Brown Taylor, a noted spiritual leader and writer. I said, “Hi, I am Lerita Coleman Brown and I am wondering when you might be signing your latest book, Holy Envy.” And she replied, “Oh, I just finished reading your book!” I almost fell over. Barbara Brown Taylor had read my book?! Moreover, the next day after Barbara was interviewed on the main stage, she also mentioned my book and told everyone they ought to read it! It sold out. I am still stunned but I also know how Spirit orchestrates events behind the scenes when we least expect them. There is no reason for me to solicit recognition because whatever I am doing to help restore God’s Beloved Creation brings a joy deeper than anything I could feel winning an award. We are all healed together.
What spiritual awarenesses have you discovered that will help you in this new decade? How are they helping you to uncover more of the peace and joy in your heart?
What spiritual awarenesses remain? Stay Tune for “Spiritual Awarenesses for the New Decade—Part II”