For the past seven weeks, I've agreed to facilitate a discussion of 'spirituality.' Typically for me, spirit lingers in wild, alien places ... deserted beaches, windy mountaintops, forests that seem forgotten and overlooked.
Yet I understand that some folks meet and experience spirit in far different places ... in concert halls surrounded by wonderful music, in cathedrals where an organ can shake the entire massive structure and even in small group meetings where folks share deeply felt truths.
Still others find spirit in words of great philosophers or disciples of Jesus or Mohammad or ancient tribal holy men.
Spirit shows itself in many ways, places, acts, words, books, songs, rituals, etc. Spirit is difficult to pin down or to wrap up in a neat package with a silken string. Spirit is at once everywhere and nowhere; it resides in us and outside of us; it is uniquely mine and yet it is shared by all of mankind.
It's no wonder that I feel inadequate to lead others into a discussion of spirit. And yet, I try. Why? Because for me, the search for spirit always leads me to new places and new insights and new friends. Although each one of us has some very personal concept of spirit, we still recognize the spirit that someone else celebrates. It is magical. We use different words to describe our journeys, we travel in different directions and we see and experience different realities. Still, we can understand and grow, not despite our differences but because of them! Each one of us magically grows when we share our innermost and most vital secrets.
It does take daring to share in this way. Often we experience hurt and derision when we try to share with others. Others seem to always have different truths within which they choose to wrap themselves. Yet when we dare to listen to them share these truths, we always seem to find some of our own truths in their stories.
I think that perhaps it takes some time for us to develop some individual sense of spirit and to realize that we cannot simply adopt someone else's sense of spirit and call it ours. Our understanding of spirit grows out of our experiences and each of us has been nourished by a unique set of places and people, learnings and emotions. We may physically resemble cookie cutter shapes of men and women; but at a deeper level we are each amazingly unique beings. In some magical sense, we are each an alien life form. We have a common anatomy but it does very little to define who we are.
I am always amazed by the way that my sisters are each such unique beings and each different from me ... despite our common parentage and somewhat similar environments. How can this be? We share a common gene pool, common ancestors; we grew-up in the same place with the same parents and the same neighbors. We even went to some of the same schools and grew up in the same church. And today, if we began to share our concepts of spirit or our relationship with our creator, we would sound like total strangers.
It is no wonder that we feel very little in common with so many of the people and institutions surrounding us. What I've learned in helping to lead these discussions is that it is magical that when we take the time and make the effort to share with other folks and agree to protect each other's secrets that we can grow much closer to each other. Yes, we are each very unique and special but we do have some common yearnings and needs. Life is full of surprises!
Richard Olmer's column appears in the Sequim Gazette the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month. He can be reached via
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