Looking for Practical Spirituality

I am in a very practical phase of my life. I need help getting done the things that must get done.

Who has helped? My parents. They have given me a car (not new, but infinitely more reliable than my lemon). And my mother, in particular, is freakishly helpful. She can do an amazing and downright bizarre variety of home-related activities. She raised us kids while my dad drove truck. She was basically a married “single mother.” She has been invaluable lately. And, as near as I can tell, she has no spiritual foundation whatsoever.

This is my life contradiction: spirituality versus practicality.

I read spiritual books, meditate, all that good stuff. And I get so frustrated. Everything I read recommends solitude, silence, and even long-term retreats. I wish I had those options. I have a sick husband and a house to sell. I do not have the option to go on retreat. Period. No discussion.

I am suffering what is called “compassion fatigue.” I’ve seen it compared to PTSD. That’s because the demands are unrelenting. I don’t get a break. There is no light at the end of the tunnel.

What is my concept of the “real world”? To me, the real world is filled with needs: food clothing, shelter, transportation, communication, etc. You don’t talk to someone who is hungry about meditation, for example.

The other, less discussed, aspect of the real world is the reality of impermanence. Humanity has a 100% mortality rate. We will all die. It is weird to talk to people who clearly believe they will last forever. Business leaders that do not create succession plans put their legacies in danger. Absolutely everything you own, when you die, will get divvied up amongst others. You are way better off giving stuff away while the control is still in your hands.

The closest thing I have found to a practical spirituality is minimalism. By being realistic as to what you can realistically use in your lifetime, you can be truly generous to others. A single adult needs almost nothing: a cup, a bowl, a spoon, a knife, a sauce pan, a skillet, a few clothes, some basic medicines, a phone, a bus pass, a roof over their head, and enough food to not starve. By knowing what is not necessary, one can give to others. Think about people like Bill Gates. Eventually he and his wife created a foundation and have given away a ton of money. After all, how many houses can one live in? How many cars can one drive? Oprah has given away a lot herself.

I try to be generous. Sometimes, I don’t have anything to give. No time. No energy. No sanity. No listening ear. Other times, I can give my friends rides to work when their cars are in the shop, protein while they are studying, that type of thing.

Giving has to be reality-based. What does the person really need right now? That means meeting them where they are, not where you think they should be. When people are traumatized, they may not respond in a way you approve of. A listening ear doesn’t pay the rent.

My parents are reality-based. They have given me real help. They don’t take basic needs and ask me if I have prayed about them. They don’t give me Precious Moments/Veggie Tales answers to excruciating questions. Sometimes, people with no religion at all are kinder and more generous than those folks that pat themselves on the back for how “holy” they are. That has been one of the more painful realizations I’ve had in the past few years.

I would love nothing more than to go on sesshin or to a retreat center. I would love to live in the silence. Solitude is a fantasy of mine. It will truly be a luxury when my life is actually about me. What a concept.

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About cdhoagpurple

I live in Michigan. I was Greek Orthodox (and previously Protestant), but now am more Buddhist than anything. I am single now (through the till-death-do-you-part clause of the marriage contract). My husband Barry was a good man and celebrated 30 years in AA. I am overly educated, with an MBA. My life felt terminally in-limbo while caring for a sick husband, but I am free now. I see all things as being in transition. Impermanence is the ultimate fact of life. Nothing remains the same, good or bad.

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