Spiritual truth is something we might think is relegated to religion, but in reality, we find it many places in many ways. The toughest spiritual truth comes at unexpected times, and requires us to take action.
The Call of the Wild
The first day home after vacation, I saw the morning play out hundreds of miles north. I didn’t see the condos across the way, but fields and mountains. There was no road noise, but instead insects, roosters, and cows.
As the day ended and the moon rose, I listened to the sounds of a place a whole day’s drive away. It wasn’t the television or people talking that filled my ears, but the dogs barking in response to eerie coyote howls. In the hush, I heard a chorus of crickets, not the fan whirring in the next room.
I was at home, but I was hardly there. My body was half a world away from my spirit.I was at home, but I was hardly there. My body was half a world away from my spirit.… Click To Tweet
This is the first time I’ve experienced this.
In the past I’ve been drawn to places – feeling a home away from home, or an intense love for a place. But this was different.
This was new.
If I’m honest, this place – I’ll call it “the Grizzly” because that’s how it appears to me – causes me ambivalence.
BUT no matter how I feel about the Grizzly, it’s given me a great deal to think about, specifically when it came to intentional living and spiritual development.
Spiritual Truth of The Convenient Urbanite Lifestyle (A.K.A. Hell)
The first thing the Grizzly made me think about is figuring out what life should be – how I want to live, and then implementing it in a big way.
Of course I’ve been working steadily towards this in my personal life, as well as helped many others do this in their lives. [Note: You can read several of the ways I’ve added intention to my life and steps to implement them in yours here, as well as recommendations to how you can make small changes quickly here.]
But this was different.
It was different because living on the edge of civilization forces a certain kind of lifestyle. It requires giving up many “conveniences” and embracing more “traditional” methods of living.Living on the edge of civilization forces a certain kind of lifestyle. #intentionalliving… Click To Tweet
It’s easy to live by default as the world becomes increasingly urban, where people are used to things being given to them fast without knowing how it was created (think: anything as basic as meat, to as complex as the inner workings of a smart phone).
I think about all the health trends of exotic compounds discovered in far off places… but also things like lithium and copper for rechargeable batteries being mined in toxic ways.
We can ignore the real costs of things when living a convenient urban life. The costs are outsourced across the world. Because of this we’re allowed and encouraged by popular culture toward mindlessness, instant gratification, and sloth.
The current urban (and suburban) lifestyle is the definition of sinful.
I said it.
Why? Because it’s tied whole hog to everything I believe hell is – isolating (despite the crowds), wasteful, and encouraging shame, guilt, and fear. It encourages inequality along all identity lines, forcing some scrape by, while others gorge themselves to excess (neither of which is healthy!). This way of life encourages mental and physical illness because it discourages community, and deprives humanity of its roots to the earth (while trashing the very thing we so desperately need!).
Yeah. This shit is fucked.
Living With Intention Near Hell
Lots of people make small changes while being surrounded by hellish conditions (this convenient urbanite lifestyle). It is the first step toward living intentionally and it is important, but for those who want to go completely – to change everything, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to do so in an urban setting.
We can talk about the details of intentional living in urban and suburban settings, but NOTHING compares to the FORCED intentionality of off-grid rural life.
There’s a reason why the Amish eschew many modern conveniences. It changes how you interact with people and the world – when things aren’t convenient, you need to plan. You need to rely on the help of others. Resources are shared.
Now I’ve seen people with iron wills go zero-waste and all kinds of things even in hyper-urban settings like New York City. For the most part, however, you can’t do the whole thing. I haven’t seen anyone do EVERY aspect of life. Not completely.
Major pieces of life is DEFINITELY doable if you are prepared to take extreme measures and drastically change aspects of your life (and maybe your friend-base).
You can create a little bubble of beauty around you, and in the process, feed your soul.
That said, it is not easy to do because everywhere you go, you are confronted by the dominant culture which is one of convenience, fear, and ego (think: You, living intentionally, walking through Times Square…).You can create a little bubble of beauty around you, and in the process, feed your soul. Click To Tweet
When you remove yourself from those temptations, it makes things a lot easier to change your habits because you are no longer bombarded by unwanted influences (This is why monasteries exist!).
On the other hand, you are also removing your influence in such spaces, which has its own costs. There are arguments for and against both choices. Both choices are good, important, and can work for different people.
The Total Plan
Now, I have a confession to make: I like urban life.
The day before my trip, I drove my practical race car (yes – this is a thing!) down the highway from my home in wine country. I wore a mini-dress, Topaz earrings, and aviators while listening to pop music, and drinking Perrier. That night I went to hear an internationally acclaimed speaker while drinking micro-brews with my husband and friends.
I couldn’t do that with the Grizzly.
And I genuinely LOVED every inch and second of that time. I did it all intentionally…I chose every bit of it, because that is what I like. It makes me feel fabulous.
And I would continue to do it if I knew everything that made it possible was done responsibly and lovingly.
Unfortunately, I know all the things that made that evening possible are part of a structure that hurts people. Even though I enjoy those things, if I want to be really loving, I need to take myself out of that system. I need to do something else.
Welcome to the Grizzly.
Living in a place where people care about one another, share resources, and work the land is both terrifying (remember that Perrier?) but also invigorating (I feel the electricity just thinking about that valley!).
There’s no better way for any of us to live our principles so fully as living apart from the system. To get deep into intentional living – in every aspect of life (I’ve talked about them here) I need the Grizzly.
Urban life is just too tempting for me (and y’all, I may leave it whining, kicking, and screaming…I’m so addicted!).
Spiritual Truth on Spiritual Development
The second topic the Grizzly brought to mind was spiritual development and how that happens at different times in life. In particular, my vacation had me thinking about my personal journey as well as how it impacts others (through my work and presence).
It takes movement.
It is impossible to stay in one “place” and continue to develop – spiritually or otherwise. If you stay in one “place,” you just can’t get the necessary materials for growth (whether they are teachers, texts, experiences, or whatever!).
Now the “place” doesn’t have to be physical. It could be mental or spiritual – no one needs to move house every few months to spur growth (in fact, that could cause the OPPOSITE!).
No, this has to do with being stuck. If you’re paying attention to your mind, body, and spirit, you’ll notice when the place where you are has become constrictive or too comfortable. Both can signal the need to move.
Spiritual development needs nature.
We humans were not meant to live in the cramped confines of apartments and city streets. Yes, you can find teachers and books anywhere. Sure you can go to a park and grab a “breath of fresh air,” but there is nothing that compares to a mountain summit or wild stream.
The clarity of natural space and the rootedness it gives you is transformative! You can get a taste of it just being outside anywhere, but being out in the wilderness makes a big difference!
What This Means Practically
We all get to moments in life where we need to take action. Something needs to happen. A certain place – community or environment has no more lessons to teach us. Maybe there’s no greater opportunities to develop in the ways we need.
I feel like this is probably the case for me.
This isn’t to say I couldn’t develop more where I am – certainly I could. But would this place bring the things necessary for my spirit? Would it encourage me to live my principles as fully as I could?
No. It would not.It's all good. It's all fine. I am at peace. #intentionalliving #spiritualliving Click To Tweet
Now, I don’t think the Grizzly is where I belong today – or even tomorrow. Right now is a time of preparation.
Any movement for spiritual development will have a time of preparation – and during this time will be a LOT of growth. That’s how it works. So just the idea of moving to a new place will help create a great deal of growth where I am (It’s a little counter-intuitive, but that’s how it goes!).
When things are ready, there will be a burst of movement and then another period of intense growth in a variety of ways.
And it’s all good. It’s all fine. I am at peace with this – with where I am now, the process, and where I will be in the future.
In the mean time, the Grizzly waits.
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