I believe I've referenced this before, yet I'll go ahead and risk doing so again. In the movie my Dinner With Andre, the actor Wallace Shaw is having a wide-ranging dinner conversation with the director Andre Gregory. At one point, Shaw (who may be best known for his role as the villainous Vizzini in The Princess Bride) says,
Tell me, why do we require a trip to Mount Everest in order to be able to perceive one moment of reality? I mean ... I mean, is Mount Everest more 'real' than New York? I mean, isn't New York "real?" I mean, you see, I think if you could become fully aware of what existed in the cigar store next door to this restaurant, I think it would just blow your brains out! I mean ... I mean, isn't there just as much 'reality' to be perceived in the cigar store as there is on Mount Everest?I think it's important to point out his saying "if you could become fully aware ..." That, it seems to me, is another way of explaining the "purpose" of spiritual practices. Yes, as I noted in an early posting, from one perspective there is no purpose to any spiritual practice above and beyond the doing of it. On the other hand, or from a different point of view, spiritual practices help us to develop our ability to see the "really real," ultimately preparing us to be able to "become fully aware of what existed in the cigar store."
The other point of this passage is that "the spiritual quest" need not take place far outside of our every day lives. It can, and perhaps should, take place right in the middle of it all. This is one of the ways I describe the difference between therapy and spiritual direction. If, during a time of trouble, you go to a therapist, generally speaking they will try to help you understand what is happening (maybe even why it is happening), and then try to help you work through it. A spiritual director, on the other hand, will try to help you focus on where the sacred, the holy, the spiritual, the Life is in the midst of the trouble.
Two of the chapters in Faithful Practices: everyday ways to feed your spirit offer ways to use that ubiquitously quintessential icon of modernity -- the smart phone -- as a tool for spiritual growth.
Cynthia Cane writes about how she uses Instagram as a way of helping her to take the time to really look at things. She stops, and takes the time to notice the details of her environment which she might otherwise literally overlook. Instead of looking over them, she looks at them, and how they relate to one another, as she frames a shot. And in sharing the image, the moment, she captured, she offers its beauty to others and invites their active awareness, too.
Aaron Stockwell offers a number of ways that he uses his phone's features to support his spiritual deepening. One in particularly struck me powerfully, so much so, that as soon as I'd read about it in his proposal, before I knew whether his was going to be one of the chapters included in the book, I incorporated into my own daily life. The practice takes advantage of the ability to set a number of alarms on your phone, and to name them. So, following Aaron's sage advice, have set several alarms to go off at various times of the day, and each one has its own name (which comes up on the screen with the alarm). At 9:43 there's a chime, and the words, "Remember God." At 11:51 it's, "Remember your blessings." I am promoted to "Remember you live in love," at 1:17 each day, while at 3:33 I receive the message, "Remember to be grateful." The last of these alarms, at 7:53 each night, is, "Remember what is true."
Wherever I am, whatever I'm doing, whoever I'm with, when I hear the chime I see it's reminder as I go to shut it off. I don't need to take off my shoes, put on a robe, and light some incense to engage this practice. I don't need to set aside lots of time in the midst of a busy day. Instead, I am called (briefly) to attention by the sound of the chime, and gently reminded of something that it would otherwise be all too easy to forget.
Is this something you could imagine doing? Whether it is or not, I wonder what messages you would send to yourself ...