By Krista E. Hughes
Stacks-and-piles vs. Hours-and-days: In my last post that’s how I described the default mode of my approach to life most days. I am not proud of this. It’s just the honest truth. Despite my deeper wisdom that the moments of life are a gift, the demands of making a living—even of making a valuable contribution—invariably lead me to a mental place of insufficiency.
For many years, my strategy for combating this was to call myself to gratitude. “Look at all the grace in my life. I have so much! I have it so easy compared to others in this world. I need to be grateful.” Yet this alone has never done the trick.
Recently, I figured out why. The turn toward gratitude, while vital, is insufficient on its own. Or: I was going about it the wrong way. For one, it was still about me: “I need to be grateful.” Second, it was framed in terms of something I was failing to do that I ought to be doing—in other words, it became something else to accomplish or fall short of.
Before gratitude, I realized, comes the genuine recognition of sufficiency, of abundance, of a certain spaciousness to life. While gratitude is certainly an attitude we can and should cultivate, I find more and more that gratitude spontaneously arises when my eyes, heart, and spirit are attuned to the capaciousness of life, when I really consider that I have enough.
This both frees me and takes the focus off of me. When I live into the reality of enough, my spirit’s needs are met in ways that allow me to live toward others, in particular those others who may truly not have enough. Put in classic Christian terms, grace opens me to care for others. Or in Buddhist terms, my sense of self gives way to my interconnectedness to all that is.
“Real spirituality” takes a multitude of forms. The richest traditions and practices, it seems to me, invite us to nurture ourselves for the sake of the world. That is, they orient us to abundance, calling us both to partake and to share. How we go about this differs across time and space, culture and community. But this is one of the deep wisdoms moving at the heart of countless traditions. I seek to live into—and out of—that wisdom.
“Centeredness. Peacefulness. Spaciousness.” These are the three elements that a friend and I call forth at the end of our yoga practice. The spaciousness, I recently noted, is the key to the other two. Only when we affirm the largeness of life can we return to an unruffled center that allows us to extend ourselves into the world again.