Until I started to write this blog post, I didn’t really know what I would write about the second part of Viveka’s story–posted on Tuesday as told by Stephen Cope in Yoga and the Quest for the True Self. I had thoughts, but nothing that “clicked” in my mind. To be honest, there are pieces of the story that I’m uncomfortable with–like where Cope describes Viveka “master[ing] the art of transcending time and space.” I don’t think that is the point of yoga and meditation. The only person I know who can travel through time and space is the Doctor, and he’s fictitious.
But as I began to write this afternoon, I realized there was a connection between the second part of Viveka’s story and spiritual life as I’m beginning to see it through the practices of my church.
Part two of Viveka’s story tells the story of Viveka’s mentors, specifically two of them: Rudra, a man who taught Viveka “the secret practices of yoga and meditation,” and Mother, a woman who “taught him to see God in all beings.” Later in his book, Cope says that these two mentors were important to teach Viveka the balance of masculine and feminine energies (Shakti and Shiva) of the world. That Viveka needed both.
To me, the key is not in their different energies, but in their different functions. With Rudra, Viveka studies the vertical spiritual relationship between self and God. With the Mother, Viveka learns to care for others, the horizontal spiritual relationship between self and others. Finally, Viveka returns home to take “his rightful place in the order of things,” where he becomes king. As a king, he combines both of these skills: he finds his true “king” self inside in order to care for the people in his kingdom.
“As Viveka discovered on his archetypal quest,” Cope writes halfway through the book, “the goal of the reality project is not to disengage from the phenomenal world, but to turn to embrace it more and more deeply–to discover its hidden depths. […] Our task is not to free ourselves from the world, but to fully embrace the world–to embrace the real” (115).
Here we go: the goal of the spiritual is yes, to connect with God, and also to connect to others. Or, perhaps, to put it a different way: to connect with God that God might be tangible in me when I interact with others.
The inner spiritual life affects the outer relationships.
The spiritual journey is not selfish. I guess that’s what I’m saying.
And as a college writing instructor who right now feels exhausted and depleted mid-semester, perhaps this is a good thing for me to remember.
I remember this as I write about it, but I also remember this because of my church.
My church is doing this on a church-community level and encouraging this at the individual level.
Covenant Partners (members) at my church commit to spiritual practices that we believe are passageways to God. Instead of a list of 11 doctrinal points that all the members believe, our church has a set of five practices: learning, listening, encouraging, giving, and eating.
We gather together to do these things, and we do it–as my pastor reminded me a few weeks ago–we do it to create passageways to God, others and the world, in the way of Jesus. The idea is that the gathering of our community generates apostolic work–taking that message to the people around us.
As a church, we practice behaviors that lead us closer to God, so that we can embody God to others. The vertical and the horizontal.