Dancing Between the Spiritual and the Material (#838)

I’ve been working on my new book for Hay House, The Inside-Out Revolution, and one of the lines I wrote last week really jumped out at me:

“If we are truly spiritual beings having a human experience, we ignore either of those facts at our peril.”

People who attempt to live purely in the material world and ignore the spiritual tend (in my experience) to ride the roller coaster of life’s ups and downs and arrive at the end of the ride feeling (accurately) like they haven’t actually gotten anywhere and wondering why those spiritual people seem so calm and peaceful.

People who emphasize the spiritual world at the cost of the material tend (in my experience) to fluctuate between moments of pure bliss/awe/wonder and moments of frustrated suffering, wondering why if they’re so spiritual, God/Life/the Universe has forsaken them to a life of poverty and struggle while those material people get to have all the nice stuff.

To attempt to choose between the spiritual and the material is like trying to choose between two cars, one without an engine and one without a steering wheel. It may seem like the engine is more important, but you won’t be arriving anywhere worthwhile in either of them.

This is not to say we need to attempt to balance the two – worship on the weekends and work in the week is more of a cultural norm than a life strategy. But when we begin to see how the two worlds are really one, it becomes possible to experience the best of both worlds and to better weather the times when we get overly caught up in the apparent dichotomy between them.

In the Coaching from the Inside Out audio program, I share this quote from the physicist David Bohm:

“The field of the finite is all that we can see, hear, touch, remember, and describe. This field is basically that which is manifest, or tangible.

The essential quality of the infinite, by contrast, is its subtlety, its intangibility. This quality is conveyed in the word ‘spirit’, whose root meaning is ‘wind or breath.’ This suggests an invisible but pervasive energy, to which the manifest world of the finite responds.

This energy, or spirit, infuses all living things, and without it any organism must fall apart into its constituent elements. That which is truly alive in living systems is this energy of spirit, and this is never born and never dies.”

In other words, we live in a world of spirit (the infinite) made manifest in a world of form (the finite). Which means that everything is made of spirit and nothing (“no thing”) is the essence of spirit.

When we give up on taking sides in an imaginary conflict and begin to live in the awareness of the harmony of the whole, a few “strategies for success” begin to emerge:

1. Focus on the ultimate hope

The upside of a focus on the spiritual is a deeper sense of connection with ourselves, with others, and with life itself. The world of deeper feelings we begin to inhabit – feelings like gratitude, love, humility, wonder, and awe – is its own reward.

The upside of a focus on the material is a life of greater comfort, ease, and possibility. Money may not be able to buy happiness or love, but it’s the best tool I know for feeding children, building new homes, buying plane tickets to Bora Bora, and having a romantic dinner for two on the beach once you’re there.

This is, for me, the ultimate hope in life – that we can enjoy our days and sleep well at night, knowing that we’ve done what we could to leave the world a little better than we found it.

2. Be aware of our deepest fear

Most of us are familiar with what happens when we get consumed with the pursuit of success in the material world. Stress and pressure become our constant companions, and more is somehow not only better but also never enough. If we win the game, our ex-husbands, wives and children get to read our epitaph in the morning headlines:

“Here lies the fastest runner on the treadmill”.

But when we start to treat the formless world of spirit as if it’s subject to the same rules as the world of form, we set ourselves up for yet another lifetime of struggle. We strive for “spiritual success”, setting enlightenment or union with the divine as our goal and determining that we will out-meditate, out-pray, and outlast our fellow seekers until we get voted “most likely to sit at the right hand of God” in our high school yearbooks.

In both cases, our endless pursuit of “not this” is driven by our deepest fear – that there is something wrong with us and we are not enough. That until we achieve spiritual wealth, material success, or both, we will not be worthy of love. And that without something to show for it, we will have wasted our lives.

3. Uncover the truth of ourselves

Ironically, what we are seeking is all around us in every moment, because it is this very moment. Right where you are sitting now is the infinite whole made manifest in the divine specific. You could no sooner be “not enough” than a tree could be the wrong color. And you don’t have to become worthy of love because love is what you are made of.

People often say they need to remember this, but I prefer to be reminded to look in this direction. If it turns out to not be real, I have no interest in the nice feeling that comes with telling myself that it is. But I find that every time I look in the direction of the source, I feel a deeper kinship and love for everything that has been created out of this “nothing that is everything”.

Hope you’ve had a wonderful weekend and make yourself a beautiful week!

With all my love,
Michael

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