I’m sure that many people reading this are aware of my beliefs already, but trying to cover the vast territory that falls under this single word will surely prove difficult. For the most part, I do not want to focus on the mundane types of spirit that most of us are familiar with. The “spirited” child, for instance, may truly exhibit spirit, but more frequently is reflecting power and control issues. As one can see, this word cuts like a double edged sword. The tantrums of both the child and the terrorist are born from a tortured spirit and they are both responses to the feeling of being powerless in a vast and sometimes scary world. As all good parents know, giving in even once to the tantrum assures that bad behavior will recur.
In our country we have a “pioneer” spirit, one that led our predecessors to load up Prairie Schooners and head for the hills. The spirit of westward expansion is an iconic component of our American Spirit. These are not the Spirit that I’m talking about. In fact, they most often mask the Spirit, directing us away from it’s wisdom, form and subtle energy. One step beyond this recognized spirit lies a vast territory in which there can be no adversity, no us-them mentality and no subjects or objects. This is where bliss exists, beyond the duality which currently informs our world view. I, the sense of myself that inhabits this human body is given vitality through my Spirit. We have always had a difficult time being aware of this deeper “self” because whatever word we assign to it either falls short or misleads our minds, obscuring the true nature of what we have named.
I have heard so many words used to describe Spirit that I’m not sure that I remember them all. Some say “True Self”, “Christ Consciousness” or “Inner Self”. I understand that our language requires quite a bit of translation as we move into more esoteric realms, but I, the “me” that seeks truth, finds it difficult to swallow some of the terms we have developed to talk about such things. We all know that our egos lie. Constantly and consistently, they tell us that we matter, our needs are valid and that our behavior, no matter how heinous, is justifiable. Because of this I cut some slack to those who use the term true self. I’m sure that our spirit is not our ego, but surely, it is not exactly the antithesis of it either. I have read the Bible and understand the meaning of the Christ Consciousness definition as well. My lack of excitement for this term is borne from the fact that Christ was plagiarized from far more ancient creation myths and in the incarnation that most people are aware of, he had an ego as well. That is one of the essential elements of being human after all. Inner self comes close, but some apples are rotten to the core and their inner selves are not what I’m talking about either!
Spirit, it seems to me, exists in that vast territory that many call God. It lies in an area that has not the power to, but the nature of transcending time and space. The Spirit of my long dead ancestor, Saladin lives in me. The Spirits of my Rom (Gypsy) fore-bearers too are alive in me, as are those of my Sicilian, Viking and tribal ancestors. My Spirit is far more than inheritance though, it is the direct route to unification with All. When I was young, I had a great teacher in nature. Never have I seen a self conscious wild animal or observed a single manipulative act perpetrated by natural creatures. In these beings, Spirit is quite evident, although what it actually is would be hard to describe.
Because our language is so deeply rooted in the mundane lives that we choose to accept as factual, the more meaningful realm of Spirit is given short shrift. Oftentimes it is easier to say what it is not rather than describing what it is. When an Eagle, for instance, looses a wing and must be fed by humans and kept in a cage by them, it becomes self conscious, it knows that it is no longer an Eagle. I would have to say that it’s Spirit has already left it’s body. Similarly, the child who cries only to secure the attentions of it’s mother cannot be in touch with or operating from the realm of Spirit, because if it were, it would realize that the mother’s touch and voice are one with the child. Subject and object both evaporate in the stunning light that fills the Spiritual realm.
My son recently came home with a series of papers describing what would be going on at his school. Leading up to Homecoming, the school was trying to boost spirit, which they meant as school pride. In fact, I think they called it “spirit week”. Pride and prideful ways are both strong emotions, but they certainly fall into the category of things we call spirit that are not in the realm of Spirit. We do need a sense of place, or origin, that is why the walkabout always begins with a staff being thrust into the Earth. It represents the center of the known universe a navel if you will of what we have seen and known before. Granted, a spirit of seeking accompanies most travels. A spirit of contrition accompanies most sincere apologies. We are surrounded by spirits of this nature all the time, but Spirit lies beyond judgment and emotion, beyond desire and hope. The Spirit which I want to talk about is fundamental, pervasive and often completely overlooked by humans. It is often called insubstantial, because it is not measurable by any instruments that we have developed, but once we experience it, there is nothing more substantial in the Universe.
A friend described Spirit as a path to grace. This starts to get to the point. It is the qualitative difference between our earthbound status and what truly is. That is why wild animals are so adept at reflecting it. They don’t have schemes and they don’t cultivate dreams as we do. They just are. The grace that they reflect for us comes from the fact that they are completely themselves and completely in the moment. They are not attached to any of the outcomes that flow from their behavior. That is why we can call each of them a being. In my experience, trees, shrubs and even bacteria, fungi and algae are in this state, pure Spirit, without translation. Ever since childhood I have had a problem with the term “human being”, because most of us are not. Human planning, human scheming, human dreaming, human seeking, human justifying, human objectifying, human exerting power and control, all of these were observable at virtually every moment, but humans Be-ing, now that was a rare occurence.
I began to learn how to contact Spirit through the disciplines of yoga. Chanting, pranayama (breathing exercises), hatha yoga (asanas, or postures), and karma yoga (doing for others) all led me to understand that if the concept of me was in there, the Spirit would become entangled in thought, memory, emotion, ego and expectation, binding it sufficiently that it could not express itself. Spirit, it seems to me, cannot be reflected in a polluted mirror. The mind seems to work at cross purposes to the eternal. It seems that we have so long focused on the physical realm that to even consider that there is something more beyond our perceptions seems to threaten our fundamental reality. A growing number of us realize that this process of “letting go” is okay, especially if the reality that we find beyond the fragile, hollow shell created by our very own ego, is filled with richer and deeper truths. Spirit guides abound if we take the time to appreciate them.