3/06/2013

Spirituality is Living Intentionally


If I want to savor a moment in eternity it's up to me to make the time. I am here to lead an intentional life.

It's useless to say, "All time is sacred, every now is eternal." Those are just words. Eternity is an experience, and it is completely different from duration. That is why the New Testament has different words for chronological time, chronos, and the eternal now, kairos. We intentionally set aside sacred times for prayer, meditation, chanting, worship. Then by grace, the eternal Presence begins to seep into time.

It's useless for me to say, "The whole earth is sacred," if I am too careless to hold space intentionally, sacred space for song, for dance, for worship. When I hold sacred space, the all-pervading Presence gradually seeps into my footsteps. Yes, eventually wherever I walk becomes sacred. In Black Elk's words, "Let every step you take be as a prayer." Yet this gift of grace flows into my life only if I make room for it, through intention.

It's rather arrogant to shrug my shoulders and say, "Everything is sacred already; why bother to engage in spiritual practice?" We are here to walk an intentional walk.

And rather arrogant to say, "Every breath is holy: I need not practice mindful breathing." Breath without intention is just an unconscious biological mechanism. But breath plus awareness equals prana, the most creative power in creation. Prana is the Holy Breath of the Spirit. We are here to breathe an intentional life.

And just as arrogant to say, "Whatever I do is service." Unconscious action is not seva. My actions become seva when I intentionally offer them for the life of the whole creation. We are here to serve intentionally.

Intention does not mean concentration or drudgery. I cannot make life intentional through mental or bodily force. A neurotic life tries to control the world. An intentional life witnesses the world.

Intention flowers deep inside, in the witnessing heart. The heart of the witness agrees to remain awake. The heart of the witness vows not to get lost in desire, worry, and the thought of past and future. When attention strays, intention returns. Intention gently shifts the mind back into Presence. This is what Jesus meant when he said, "Watch and pray."

God's work is grace. Our work is to stay open.

When we agree to stay open, we are practicing an intentional life. Francis of Assisi, Theresa of Avila, Hildegard of Bingen, Rabia, Mirabai, Ghandi, King, all led intentional lives. Buddha, Jesus and Mohammed did not say, "It's all sacred, whatever you do;" they taught specific practices for consecrating time, space and action.

We are here to awaken, and to offer our awareness, our breath, our walk, our work with intention. We begin by setting aside consecrated times and spaces in our day. Moments of transcendence become sacred hours, hours become sacred days. Finally, God willing, the ocean of eternity breaks through into our every day and night. The light of Presence breaks through into our dwelling place, wherever we are. The kingdom of heaven comes to earth not just because it is a free gift from the divine, but because we welcome the gift through our sadana, our spiritual practice.

Our practice makes awakening concrete. Only one who chooses to be awake can be surprised by Grace.

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