Spiritual Stuff

This morning, I rinsed off the soap and shampoo and stood under the showerhead, luxuriating in hot water. I always finish my showers by increasing the water temperature until it’s just barely tolerable; that leaves me feeling especially refreshed. I know I should feel some guilt—and I do—for wasting water simply for my enjoyment. But it’s more than enjoyment. It’s more of a “spiritual practice” (I hate calling it that; but calling it “deeply introspective and appreciative examinations of the world and sometimes moments of unspeakable gratitude” is impractical). Until a few minutes ago, it never occurred to me that my habit of nearly scalding myself in appreciation might be a spiritual practice. I knew my morning ritual of coffee and writing could be considered one, but a shower? Yes, a shower.

I’ve been involved—only sporadically, unfortunately—in an online video-class addressing spiritual practices (which are, remember: “deeply introspective and appreciative examinations of the world and sometimes moments of unspeakable gratitude”). During the course of the class, which has included meditations, mindfulness, prayer (not necessarily what you think), hospitality, etc., I learned a bit more about myself. For one thing, I learned that several of my rituals (which I had not considered rituals until the class) could easily be classified as spiritual practices. Like my writing, my morning coffee, my evening wine, my morning tendency to stare at the sunrise and the clouds, etc., etc.

It was only this morning I realized my post-shower hot drenching and the thoughts that go with it are, indeed, spiritual practices. It’s not every day, as I try to avoid showering every day, but it’s sufficiently frequent, sufficiently contemplative, and sufficiently entrenched in my routines to be considered a spiritual practice. This morning’s epiphany prompted me to consider what other activities (aside from those I’ve already noted) might be (or could become) spiritual practices. I think it behooves me to search for or create more because I think “deeply introspective and appreciative examinations of the world and sometimes moments of unspeakable gratitude” are important to my (search for) sanity. They help keep me grounded to the fundamental fact that I am indeed fortunate in more ways than I can even imagine. And they help keep me grounded to coincidental but fundamental responsibilities to try to help others achieve reasons to feel unspeakable gratitude.

Now, whether the the recognition of those responsibilities translates into action is questionable. But the recognition, alone, is enough for me to search for more spiritual practices as well as ways to fulfill the responsibilities that arise therewith.

An example: Yesterday, I picked up an online-order of groceries; my first from that store. All was well until I got home with the groceries, only to learn (by an apologetic call from the store) that one bag I had been given belonged to someone else and one bag I should have been given was still at the store. The caller, a young man, obviously was distressed by the mistake. It was made worse by the fact that the shoppers whose bag I had were due to pick up their groceries shortly. In recent years, I’ve consciously tried to avoid getting upset in such circumstances and, instead, to try to ease the tensions all around (admittedly, I sometimes fail to even try, though). Yesterday, I tried to lessen the kid’s worries by saying “No worries, I’ll just come down and trade the bags.” When I got there and was trading bags, I made the mistake of asking the guy whether my bill reflected a senior discount; I should have known that would exacerbate the situation for him. He said the bill should have reflected it, but looked at it and saw that it was missing. He reached in his pocket and pulled out a $5 bill and said “Please accept this as our apology for the problems.” I refused the $5, told him it was no problem for me, and that everyone makes mistakes and, again, not to worry. That’s a long way to describe an example of an occasional spiritual practice: me, trying to lessen a burden on someone by not adding to it. I was only partially successful, in that I did add to the burden with my question, but I hope I accomplished at least some of my objective.

Thinking about that little, meaningless, incident, I realized that I do that kind of thing often, though perhaps not often enough. When I do, it make me think about the responsibility I have to make even a tiny positive difference when I can. I am about as far from Mother Teresa as you can get, but I’m trying to head in that direction.

And that’s is, for now. More to come when I’m ready.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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