Eyes Wide Open

Spirituality is definitely a growth industry. Check out your local bookstore and you are sure to find many books that will tell you about spirituality. Spiritual classics are sold right alongside bits of chicken soup for your soul. You're sure to find angels on every shelf. If you are short on time, look for some soul nourishment while shopping for body nourishment. You can toss some books on feeding your soul right on top of your mound of groceries.

When I lead retreats, I ask the adults to describe spirituality. Words are offered like "righteous," "compassionate," "faithful," "having a relationship with God." Then I ask them to name people that they would describe as "spiritual." The most frequently mentioned names are Mother Teresa, Billy Graham, Gandhi, Pope John Paul, Colin Powell, Jimmy Carter, and, oh yes, Jesus. Rare is the group who name themselves as "spiritual people."

Even with all of these helpful hints, I still find spirituality hard to define. It has as many different meanings as the word "God." It has been snatched by the market place, and done damage when represented as an ethereal otherworldliness that ends up diminishing human beings and neglecting the planet we inhabit.

I am not ready to claim a particular definition, but this much I know: It will take more than chicken soup to get us through these times.

The ancient Christian mystics pictured the soul with two eyes—one looking to the eternal and the other looking to the temporal. This was no cross-eyed view of the world, but an illustration of balance. Our soul is not in need of chicken soup or aerobic exercises. Our soul is in need of attention. It helps to have guides to train our eyes to see, to hold our gaze on the interweaving of body and spirit, God and world.

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Sojourners Magazine January-February 2001
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