The idea of spiritual stages always used to appeal to me because I liked the idea of placing myself on a life chart with an accomplished backward glance and a hopeful future. Unfortunately, it led to some comparing, not good when talking about spiritual progress.
Today, I am in a different place. I realize that all stages of spiritual maturity are at my fingertips, so to speak, at any given moment. I am both a beginner and achiever. I am a learner and a teacher. I slip from one to the other within seconds like switching a light switch on and off. More like a sliding dimmer switch with different light intensities.
The only thing that has changed over the years is the level of will I have in this adventure. In years past, spiritual experiences always took me by surprise even though I was always seeking them. I have learned to stop the seeking and just go with the flow. I like surprises better than struggling all the time. I have learned that there is an element of cooperation, however. If God wants to talk to me, shutting up is a good strategy. Me, not God. This means I need to still my mind so God’s thoughts can come in. It means I need to pay attention to what is going on around me so that I don’t miss those little symbolic events like squirrels scrambling for nuts or the sun being obscured by clouds.
Having said all of this, I came up with my own idea of stages, “In the moment stages” I guess you could call them:
- Stop and be present to whatever is going on. See life as it is, not as you imagine. Erase all judgment and assumptions. Set aside any emotional reactions or thoughts that clutter. Clean the slate and see what is really there. It is cloudy outside. The trees have lost their leaves. The person is angry. My stomach hurts.
- Accept it as it is. Don’t grumble inside because of the cloudy day or approaching winter. Just accept.
- Be grateful. Clouds bring much needed rain. This angry person has something to teach me. A body is working…it is able to tell me there is something to be concerned about.
- Awe/wonder. How great is creation! Everything works together. Seasons come and go. The tiniest seed and the star out there in the universe…God watches over each and all.
- Creative response. Participate in the Creator’s work. Use the leaves for composting. Make a collage. Paint a picture. Smile. Take an Alka Selzer.
- Start the cycle over. When you are painting the picture, smiling at an angry person, or taking the Alka Selzer: stop and be present, accept, appreciate, be awed, respond creatively.