By Julie Spangler
A friend asked me: "Have you ever felt lost or estranged from God?" I do remember times in my early life when I felt separated from the Sacred, longing for union with the divine. When we are young it seems our work is to step into life, rather than seek to move out into numinous spaces; and being embodied is to be an individual and thus to feel apart. For me, there was definitely both an innate sense of connection to the world and also a sense of separation.
I look back on my youth and give thanks for where I am now in my life. Not that my youth was terrible. It was a pretty normal process as these things go. I was happy most of the time, given the usual ups and downs which are a necessary part of growing. I felt a deep love for the beauty of the natural world around me. And I also had the usual questions one asks when beginning a life — Who am I? Why am I here? I am important to me, but am I important to anyone else? (Face it, we are all important to ourselves. It is built in and necessary.) What is expected or needed from me and what do I expect or want from life?
Growing up was a process of also growing deeper—landing in myself, I call it—and this was not without painful experiences. I think of that process as being one of stretching the inner spaces of myself to make room for more of the larger spirit of me to land. Much like stretching muscles, there can be pain involved. The interesting thing, though, is that while I could be in the midst of angst or painful growth, I could still sense an inner song of joy way off in the distance, as if there were a part of myself which rejoiced in the deepening and was not worried about the pain. Some part of me found this reassuring. Another part was annoyed, thinking, “Hey I’m hurting here!”
But over time, I can say that this song has grown louder and more pervasive. It no longer feels distant. In fact, I feel the resonance of this soul song permeating all aspects of myself.
That is, perhaps, the gift of age. I've had a long time to find my way into myself and into connection with the Sacred and to know how to hold it. At 64 I know who I am (for the most part, though there is always room to grow) and I do not feel a need to look outside myself for definition. It wasn't that way when I was in my 20s. My sense of myself was more tenuous.
I have friends who seek God, and in that seeking feel distant and disconnected from the Sacred. It is a desperate need to find transcendence that to me seems born from a belief that they are not enough, that they are tainted by being human. I have encountered many who feel unable to love their human self, both because they see themselves as being inherently flawed and imperfect, and also perhaps seeing humanity as the reason for so much destruction and harm in the world. A double whammy of aversion to the incarnate self. How then can we not seek redemption in a higher state? Is it not better to seek oneness with the Sacred and obliterate the odious human part in the process?
There is a correlation between how we feel about ourselves and how we feel about the sacred. The less at home we are in ourselves, the more we will look outside ourselves for fulfillment, for love, for God, for comfort. The more comfortable we are in our skin, so to speak, the more we can love the frailties of our human imperfections and appreciate the deeper elements in ourselves which are our connections to the Sacred. We are not cut off from the Sacred because we are not cut off from ourselves.
It is as I have grown in myself and learned to accept that I am a work in progress and I can forgive my imperfections as I forgive those in others that a strong felt sense of the sacredness all around me has been fostered. The practice of perceiving the mystery and the corresponding light within myself and my world has become so embedded in my everyday awareness that I feel that sacredness around me always.
From where I stand, it is not a matter of seeking solely to reach up out of myself, leaving my place in the dust of the world for the brighter pastures of heavenly states. Those pastures are indeed a blessing to visit. But their grace is in the felt sense I bring back of connection with a sacredness that also lies within myself and within the planet. If I bring that luminous sense into my everyday self and hold it in my body's core, I no longer feel separate.
So there is never a time I don't feel connected to the Sacred because it's not a matter of trying to find my way to something. If I was trying to find my way to God outside of me I would be looking for some GPS coordinates to guide my way. But when the Sacred is felt all around, within and without, how could I be lost?
Views from the Lorian Community publishes essays from a team of volunteer writers expressing individual experiences of a long term, committed practice of Incarnational Spirituality (and the general principles shaping such a practice.) If you wish to share how your life has benefited from your relationship with Lorian and IS, please email the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.We prefer submissions between 700-900 words. However, we rarely accept previously published material (including blog posts.) We also reserve the right to edit or decline your submission. Any accepted submissions will be published in the order that best fits our topic schedule.