We are struggling. We are taught that life can be understood, secure and predictable if we have the right education, right employment, right financial investments, right diet and exercise routine, right spouse, and right neighborhood. There's nothing wrong with these prescriptions. They can bring a certain amount of satisfaction and comfort. However, they are not equipped to help us manage a journey that is essentially mysterious, insecure and unpredictable.
We now run the risk of treating our formula with the deluded belief that we can conquer life. Our victory over life is allegedly measured by little or no failure, disease, tragedy, loss, fear, desperation, and bewilderment. It is easy to slip into feeling like a victim, as things do not work out according to plan. We are either embarking upon a quixotic quest to triumph over life and/or to slip into "life's done me wrong." The way out of this quandary may be to make peace with life's mystery, which is what mysticism is all about.
Rather than fighting with life, the mystic advocates making peace with it by uniting with it. The following list reflects different ways that various spiritual traditions have advocated for unity:
• Christianity -- Unity of humanity with the Christ manifested by love in action.
• Judaism -- Unity of humanity with God's vision of the sacred life.
• Islam -- Unity of humanity with the presence of Allah in joy and in service to all beings.
• Buddhism -- Unity with our own souls leading to enlightenment and a life of compassion.
• Secular Mysticism -- Unity with one or more of the mysteries of the Self, Others, Nature and the God of one's understanding.
There are several ways we can unite with the mystery of the Self:
• Maintaining a beginner's heart and mind -- A beginner's heart is easily touched and moved by kindness, love, beauty, and joy. A beginner's mind is alive with curiosity, awe, and wonder. An answer becomes only one way to respond to a question and not a way to close an inquiry. The beginner's mind returns to the question in the hope it might yield more insight.
• Living with a willingness to get lost reflects courage and a boldness to step into mystery and away from the familiar.
• Living a self-examined life accompanied by self-compassion.
• Willing to take risks guided by discretion -- Because the path of life is deeply mysterious, we must live it with ongoing uncertainty, which means that there are many risks to be taken.
• Willing to learn how to forgive ourselves -- Learning to forgive ourselves is a critical skill since the risks we take will at times yield unfavorable consequences. Forgiving ourselves allows us to unite with life by continuing to risk.
Uniting with others happens when:
• Committing to diminish comparing and contrasting ourselves to others. When we regularly compare ourselves to others, either we have ourselves coming up short or others getting diminished. In either case we have created reasons not to create rapport with them.
• Being mindful of where your soul is fed and hanging out with those folks.
• Asking for what you want.
• Being curious about others. Curiosity enables us to focus in two important ways: it allows us to interrupt stories we create about others and it supports getting to know people.
• Deepening a capacity to give and receive.
• Learning to employ effective boundaries allows us to block what is unwanted and allows in what we desire and need, as well as diminishing the likelihood we feel taken hostage by another's expectations.
Uniting with Nature happens when we are:
• Seeing Nature as a gift and feeling grateful for the offering.
• Allowing ourselves to experience the beauty of Nature.
• Spending time where we feel a kinship with Nature, i.e. rivers, mountains, deserts, oceans and forests.
• Bringing order and beauty to whatever property we call home.
• Creating a significant connection with an animal.
Uniting with the God of our knowing can happen when we:
• Meditate and pray.
• Practice daily acts of gratitude and generosity.
• Enliven our spiritual lives with dancing, singing, chanting, drumming, yoga, creating and engaging in ritual etc.
• Place icons and artifacts in our environment that remind us of a divine presence.
• Read literature that inspires a relationship with the God of one's knowing.
• Devote to having our personal wills be inspired by the God of one's knowing.
Turning toward the mystery of the Self is a fine beginning place. Three essential benefits can be gained. First, a level of humility as we accept that we cannot know ourselves completely. Secondly, we can gain an understanding of how we obstruct our capacity to unite with the other three mysteries. The mystical path is paved with heart, allowing for inspiration, wonder, and a close intimate connection with the bounty of each moment. These become the conditions that might yield an unfolding depth of wisdom.