I was drawn to this question from one of our readers. There are many ways to approach it and I’d be interested in your responses.
I immediately went back to 1972, recalling a moment when a scripture verse suddenly intrigued me. Paul is praying for the people in Ephesus who have discovered faith in Jesus as The Christ: I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. (Ephesians 3.16) What I heard that day was that I had an ‘inner being’ that could be strengthened with God’s Spirit. Wow. I was more than just this body, this life.
So over the years I set myself to learn more about this inner being. I’ve learnt I have a body that I need to care for, yet not be identified with, rather feed, exercise and appreciate. I have a mind that I need to develop and turn towards what is true, right, just and pure. I have emotions that can both enrich and entangle my life, so I need to learn wisdom towards them. I also have something else, an inner being, a soul, that place that carries or is the spark of God, the light of God, the resting place of God within me. It’s my True Self, my home. If I grow spiritually it relates to strengthening the spiritual muscle of my inner being so that it is my anchor, my rudder and my sail as I catch the spiritual winds of God.
A significant component of spiritual growth for me has been shifting from an entangled identification with body, mind and emotions to an identification with spirit so that growingly my primary awareness is as a child of God. It feels like I wake up to who I really am. I’m less identified with how my body looks or the aches I have, less identified with proving my point, or being ‘right’, less identified with swells of emotions both hurts and joys that move through me. Spiritual growth is less about learning dogma, apologetics or theology. It is more about becoming authentic and staying present to how I actually have experienced God, living with the joy, light, clarity and love that I’ve known. It’s bringing those experiences of God into my everyday life. If I’m more compassionate to myself and others this year than last year, I’m growing spiritually. If I’m more forgiving, kinder, I’m growing spiritually. If I’m more aware of my immortal, eternal soul and less attached to the coming and goings of Anne’s life, I’m growing spiritually.
One of the major supports in my spiritual growth is to have a community and rhythm of life. Contemplative Fire’s rhythm of ‘Travelling Light – Dwelling Deep’ and ‘Being – Knowing – Doing’ has been a grounding presence in my life for the last decade. I have a regular prayer rhythm of meditation, a regular study rhythm as I intentionally fill my mind with a contemplative and mystical approach to life and a regular compassionate practice towards myself and others. Looking back over the last fifty years since I first heard Paul’s prayer, I can see a gradual strengthening of my spiritual muscle yet know I still have a lot of room for growth. I feel like I’m just beginning. I’m awake, but still lying in bed.
Love and prayers for the journey
Mystic in Motion
Companion on the Way with Contemplative Fire
Contemplative Fire Canada, Founder
Companion on The Rivendell Way
Society Member with Shalem Institute for Contemplative Living