Zia Hassan

A Spiritual Life Starts From Within

I was listening to an old On Being interview with Mary Oliver, the poet who died last week.

In the interview, she advocated for everyone to have a spiritual life, that having a spiritual life is the perfect way to deepen and enhance the way a person interacts with the world.

But I’m sure many people don’t know what that means. I sure didn’t. Does that mean we need to subscribe to religion? Or pray? Or meditate?

I attended a class recently, a quick one hour thing, where this very idea was discussed. We talked about wisdom, about love, and about service. But two stories really stuck with me.

We were talking about the idea of solitude, being without people. And how this one lady created a makeshift temple in her parked car outside of her home every day when she returned from work. The kids weren’t allowed to interrupt, neither was her husband. It was her time to be alone, to let whatever was rattling around in her mind come to a stand still. Solitude must be, I figure, a cornerstone of spirituality. No input from others, just your own pure interpretation of your surrounding stimuli.

The second story was more of a fable. It went something like this.

Everyone used to be a god. Until for whatever reason they had their divinity stripped from them for doing something ungodly. And the higher gods talked about where they should hide this divinity.

If they hid it in the ocean, then they argued people would find a way to dive down and find it.

If they hid it on the tallest mountain, they argued people would hike up and find it.

So they chose to break it into pieces and hide it within every single person. Because who would think to look internally for divinity?

It’s this idea of within that brings me peace. Everything we are capable of comes from the internal world. Every choice, every taste, every great love.

So maybe spirituality is the habit of looking inward first, in solitude, to find the forward-moving walkway.

Maybe it’s the counterintuitive practice of refusing to search the world for the answers, and allowing yourself to access that deep and dormant part of you that is overflowing with wisdom.