February 2022 Newsletter

On Being “Spiritual” … Or not.

I came across this saved piece of writing this morning from 2012 (I have a habit of keeping snippets of writing that have meaning for me) called ‘The Space Between’ by Tracy Cochran.

“In the end, spiritual work is about being willing to be naked and vulnerable, about letting go of the armour of answers to live to be open and defenceless (I once heard that the word “lost” came from a Norse word that means to disband an army). Real spiritual work depends on an awareness that can embrace contradiction and brokenness – that can bear not knowing, being in between.”

A long time ago (more than 15 years I think) I was asked by someone “What is your spirituality?”- like I could define it. I recall feeling deeply uncomfortable- was my answer going to be acceptable? What was my answer anyway? Did I have an answer? I have long wished I could say in response to such questions- I’m catholic/christian/muslim/pagan/hindu etc.

Once when I was very young I thought it would be good to be jewish, because then my life would have some sort of spiritual definition.
I had a brush with the Church of Scientology back when I was a uni student in my late teens, when I was self-defined (and by family of origin) as Catholic/Christian, and recall a hearty argument about belief: I was convinced that faith/belief was everything and the Scientologist advocated (forcefully I recall) that faith/belief meant nothing if not based on “fact”.

Last year, a client came to see me because a fellow counsellor had told him I was a “spiritual” person. He assumed that meant I was Christian.

There are many things I “believe” in, and some things I “know”. I have a science degree- I know about objectivity and measurable evidence. I also have a creative imaginal world that is potent and feeds my life in ways that science cannot.

I “know” about the creative imaginal world, however, it is often devalued as childish and unproven. I have seen and experienced the creative imaginal world change many people’s lives for the better and for healing. What is psychology if not about the creative imaginal world translated into action? (As much as researchers try to make it objective and measurable).

Read the poetry of Mary Oliver or the work of Bill Plotkin and Geneen Marie Haugen (https://www.animas.org/ ).

How do you measure relationship (sociometry perhaps https://aanzpa.org/) or emotions?

Be curious about what the trees are speaking- and the ocean and that symbol or image that attracts you so much. For me, one of those symbols is the Sheela na Gig pictured above.

We must be prepared to not know- and as Rainer Maria Rilke says: “I beg you to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves…Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now…the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now.”

This is my prayer for my grandchildren, and dare I say, for our politicians and our world.

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