Some things you just know. You know when your attitude has changed over time, when you've become accustomed to thinking there's not much in your life to feel really happy about and that maybe things now are as good as they're ever going to get. You feel something unhappy and unhealthy is taking hold, and you're worried that you've run out of options.
Taking a deeper dive into how you feel may uncover something else you know, intuitively. You've neglected your spiritual life.
That's not to say there is any shortage of inspiring ideas available to give you the direction and happiness you're missing. The question is: What do you do in order to apprehend and benefit from those ideas?
Many years ago I spent several stress-filled months pursuing an answer to this problem. I talked to others about it, did a lot of reading and a fair amount of praying. I figured if I couldn't find an answer on my own, I would welcome whatever help I could get -- including divine help.
That made the biggest difference. I can't say it came in a dramatic moment where everything suddenly turned around. But I can say that throughout those months of trying to get my life in order and on a more spiritual track, there was a larger change for the better going on. It was evident not only in my attitude and my career, but also in my sometimes unhealthy life. A gradual life overhaul was taking place.
This about-face came about nearly three decades ago, but I've never forgotten some key lessons learned.
Beware of gazing in the rear-view mirror. We all know how tempting it can be to keep looking back, to ruminate over decisions you wish had been smarter, behavior you regret, opportunities you let get away -- as though there's some need to keep taking inventory of any reasons why your life can't improve. After a while, you realize what a non-starter self-condemnation can be, and that it should be stopped.
Feeling a need to re-direct such downward thinking could have been Paul's motivation when he told the Colossians back in Biblical times: "Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on the earth." It wasn't an argument for escapism from daily life. It was encouragement to have higher aims and, in that way, to transform daily life.
Safeguard who you are. I remember hearing a live interview with Shirley Temple Black many years ago on a public radio station. She was there to talk about her work as the then U.S. Ambassador to Czechoslovakia. But the interviewer kept asking her questions about her roles as a child star. While that's not surprising, Black insistently steered the conversation back to her current work. Finally the interviewer asked why she was reluctant to say much about her landmark years in film. She answered politely but firmly that it simply wasn't her! She explained that she was now an ambassador and as such had a different purpose in her life and very different responsibilities to fulfill. As wonderful as those years in film were then, she said that it isn't her now.
Not a small point. We don't realize how it undercuts our ability to develop as individuals if we're not willing to leave old thought-models of ourselves for new ones.
If it frequently occurs to you that there has to be a different and better way to live your life, be prepared to learn that it's more than built-up frustration with current circumstances that you're dealing with. It could be you're being prodded by an inner-felt call to grow and learn something new about yourself. I see such a call as one form of the divine influence at work and a golden opportunity for advancement.
What can break through entrenched, old thought patterns and lead you forward is an inspiring idea, a revelation, that becomes a door-opener to a new direction to take, a new next step in your career, new and expanded opportunities you hadn't seen -- an awakening to the fact that you're capable of accomplishing more with your life than you previously believed.
What you learn along the way is just how much of a spiritual practice this is. It's fueled by a deep-down desire to perceive and be true to something more than the frustrated, unhappy person you're accustomed to being.
By not giving up on that desire to be better and do better in life, your thought remains open to new ideas. With this openness comes a willingness to make changes, to grow and to enjoy the benefits of a new, broader and better perspective on life: a greater sense of your usefulness in society, an assuredness about the future, a more cheerful attitude, less stress and anger and vulnerability, and in no small way an improvement in the quality of your health. (My repeated struggle with common illnesses rapidly decreased years ago and has since stopped.)
If you've been longing to feel good again about your life, consider what it means to practice a more spiritual life. Yes, to put it into practice. It's not something out there that you need to acquire. In fact, it's the spiritual nature that you already have that compels you to discover how much more, infinitely more, you truly are.
The starting point for getting your life on track is to hold tight to that desire for a new and ever-developing idea of yourself. What an opportunity!
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