Human beings are spiritual creatures. We are wired from birth for wonder, for the sort of curiosity that launches epic journeys and deep dives within. But our modern world is not a spiritual place.
The modern Western world is built around productivity, not mystery. We value success, not experience. We want answers, we cannot tolerate ambiguity or uncertainty. And the whole of our social structure is designed to shape us into a consumer of goods, not people who commune with the Divine.
In many ways practicing spirituality daily is a radical act. Spirituality does not produce a single marketable product. It doesn’t not require a single consumer good either (though there are a lot of tools on offer). However, in a fast paced hectic modern world building sustainable spiritual practices can be a struggle (this is an understatement).
Spiritual Rebels & Religious Trouble-makers
What if your life were more than the sum of your accomplishments, your salary, debt, and how much stuff you owned? It is, or it can be if you chose. The good news is your life is valuable even if you produce nothing our society sees as valuable. Your humanity makes you valuable, it makes what you create matter. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
And while none of us can escape the realities of a world that values production over all else we can make choices about how we order our lives. Choosing spiritual practice, a journey of transformation and internal growth over outward success is a choice we can make.
It isn’t a new choice by a long shot. The mystics from Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, and numerous native traditions all tend to value humanity and the pursuit of a relationship with one another, our world, and the Divine over success measured by wealth or power.
Here’s the question to ask yourself: What do you really want? If you knew that your basic needs for shelter, food, and safety would be met what would you really and truly want? Would it really be the latest electronic device, or fancier car?
Might it actually be the freedom to sit for an hour watching the snow fall, or to stand in a holy place and brush up against the cheek of the Divine like a kiss, or to sit with a friend and share your deepest hopes and fears in safety and true friendship?
Because I would much rather play hide and seek with God in the snowy woods, or be immersed in the beauty of a symphony. The default choice in our world is to work ourselves to death to chase then next thing. But we don’t have to stick with the default choice, we can dig deep into our heart and soul and discover our own true longings; most of which cost nothing at all.
The whole of our culture has become unsustainable. We have fallen for the myth that infinite, exponential growth is good. In actuality, that kind of growth is what cancer does, not what sustainable ecosystems are made of. And that doesn’t just go for our treatment of our ecosystem. Our economy too must grow like cancer or collapse. Which means we humans must buy more and more (because our economy is based on consumption), we must consume constantly; and to do that we must produce constantly to earn the money to consume. And on, and on, in a vicious cycle that feeds on itself infinitely.
Even our lifestyles have been infected by this idea of growth. We treat our children as products to be cultivated and improved, our bodies as projects to be managed into great and greater “perfection.” Our time as something to use up every last bit of or it is “wasted.”
None of that is sustainable, something we are learning very, very slowly.
Spirituality Daily: A corrective tool
You might not know it given the trade in crystals but spirituality is a corrective to our unsustainable, infinite growth culture. And practicing your spirituality daily can help you to stay rooted in your values and provide a sustainable model for growth in your life.
Part of the reason for that is that spirituality resists being commodified. Sure, you can buy tarot decks, rosaries, and crystals but none of those things are actually needed to practice your spirituality. All that is needed is you, your time and attention. That’s it.
And spirituality (and the fruits of it) simply will not grow exponentially, and are infuriatingly difficult to control or manipulate. I cannot, for example, give you a spiritual breakthrough on command no matter how much you pay me. Only time, patience, and practice can do that. (I can teach you ways to practice, or better ways to build habits, but you must do the actual doing.)
Avoiding the todo trap
Here’s the kicker, however. All too often daily spirituality means more shit on your already overflowing todo list. We are so trained for productivity and busyness that even when we’re trying to do something else we can slip right back into those old rhythms.
So it is essential that our daily spiritual practices are sustainable. Sustainable spirituality emphasizes spiritual practices that are integrated into your daily life, they are part of your life, not an after thought or an add-on. And while not all spiritual practices can function this way those first steps of integrating our spirituality into our daily lives can help us become more aware of what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and empower us to make mindful adjustments.
In the end we are in charge of the way we chose to live our lives: with our noses to the grindstone chasing material or social success, or with our eyes on the stars chasing something else.
It has taken me years to understand what makes spiritual practice sustainable in my life, and at the same time, what makes my life sustainable. It started with my grandmother, practical and centered. But it took me years, decades even after her death to really feel I had created a sustainable spiritual practice.
Here’s the thing though. Building daily spiritual practice and a sustainable life isn’t just about “creating a habit.” Creating a sustainable spiritual life goes much deeper than just getting in the habit of meditating. We need to reflect, reorient, and change our priorities entirely.
If that inner work is something you struggle with I invite you to check out my self-guided course, Creating A Sustainable Spiritual Life. (Available 1/20/2020) In it I share what I have learned. I cannot build your spiritual life for you, but I can help you avoid a lot of my mistakes, and share what I have learned!