Basics of Spirituality
- by Philip St. Romain; all rights reserved
Every now and then, I am tempted to try to express my understanding of the human condition and the way to lasting liberation in just a few lines. Every now and then, I succumb to the temptation. What follows is one such foray, which was originally published in Pathways to Serenity (Liguori Publ., 1988), a book now out of print. I think it still holds up pretty well, expressing something of both Buddhist and Christian insights.
A Short Summary
- All people have needs, and all persons seek to meet them. The most common ones are the physical (needs of the body) and psychological (esteem, security, status, and power), and the spiritual (meaning, freedom, self-transcendence).
- Human consciousness is primarily oriented toward the gratification of wants/needs. Consciousness consists of your ability to perceive, think, feel, desire, and decide. The Ego is the volitional center of consciousness.
- The manner in which you meet your needs makes you either more selfish/separate/fragmented/fearful, or more loving/united/whole/fearless.
- Spiritual living skills enable you to meet your needs in a loving manner because they focus the functions of consciousness in the will of God. These skills include the following:
- Right behavior which helps you avoid loose speech, overindulgence in food/drink, illicit sex, stealing and all forms of dishonesty, and violence. It implies the practice of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
- Right desires urge the practice of renunciation of cravings that lead to wrong behaviors. You should encourage benevolent desires toward all people and creation.
- Right use of feelings means that you accept all feelings without judgment, express them appropriately, and learn from them.
- Right beliefs induce you to commit to memory healthy thoughts about God, human nature, and life's meaning.
- Right values teach you how to meet your needs in a loving manner through humility, prudence, justice, courage, and moderation.
- Right awareness reminds you to let go of the past, trust in the future, and live in the now of God's presence.
- Right discernment gives you guidelines for making loving decisions.
How to Live It
- Pray in the mornings -- at least 20 minutes. Place emphasis on surrender to God.
- see Lectio Divina page for more guidance on prayer -
- Live your daily life in honesty, awareness, and benevolence. ""Do what you're doing in truth and love.''
- Make a consciousness examen for 15 minutes in evening. Start with prayer. Examine your day. What did you do? How did you feel? What do your feelings teach you about beliefs/motives? Affirm the good, ask pardon for failures. In imagination, re-live troublesome situations. See and feel yourself acting in a loving manner, using the necessary living skills. Thank God for the day and rest assured of God's love for you.
- Where total surrender to the requirements of Love is lacking, there is fear, resentment, guilt, and other forms of emotional pain.
- Where there is emotional pain, there is self-concern.
- Where there is self-concern, there is an Ego, a framed center of consciousness designed to fend off further threat, and solve the problems of concern.
- Where there is an Ego, there is a narcissistic pole in consciousness. When behavior proceeds from this pole, there will be an increase in separateness, fragmentation -- in short, sin.
- When your life cycles between points one and four of the above, there is addiction. When identity comes to rest in this cycle, there is misery.
- Where there is an Ego, there is also a spiritual pole, an opening to love, relationships, and wholeness. Moving toward this spiritual pole will require a renunciation of the demands of the narcissistic pole, and the identification with another center of consciousness -- for the Christian: Christ.
- The way to move the Ego away from selfishness to Love is through prayer and the practice of spiritual living skills. The Holy Spirit assists you in living out these skills.
- Growth proceeds through a spiritually-oriented Ego until, finally, the Ego itself becomes absorbed in Christ. When this happens, the narcissistic pole is practically silenced, although there ever remains the possibility of making a selfish choice and so experiencing some of the consequences of #5.
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