Finding Enlightenment in an Airport Security Line
It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.
Here’s a paradox of modern spirituality. We live in a digital age full of constant stimulation. We have cell phones, iPads, DVRs, laptops, and more.
But many of us still practice what I call “monk-style spirituality.” When we go to meditate, practice yoga, or pray, we do it like the ancients did. We take a 30-minute break from the chaos and sit in silence like monks in an abbey or yogis at an ashram.Read the original post
We’ve trained ourselves to find peace in the calm and serene. But we’ve overlooked the bigger challenge – finding peace in the chaotic and wild flow of everyday life.
This realization hit me one day when I showed up late to a yoga class. The teacher that day happened to be a strict disciple of “monk-style spirituality.” She started class with a five-minute meditation and then used her body to barricade the door. I’m not kidding. She leaned against that door like she was protecting a room full of innocent children from some sort of terrorist invasion.
I knew that if I tried to get into the room, she would lose it. “Meditation is a silent time,” she would tell me in a screaming whisper. “It’s against yoga etiquette to disturb others by walking in late.”
I get it. Now more than ever, we need these undisturbed and peaceful moments. But this kind of “monk-style spirituality” also has some real dangers.
Here’s the basic problem. The practices of “monk-style spirituality” create separation between the spiritual and the everyday. We start thinking that spiritual experience only occurs in silence and isolation. It only happens in places like yoga studios, nature preserves, and churches.
Then we wonder why it’s so hard to experience these states in everyday life. The reason is obvious: our adherence to “monk-style spirituality” guarantees that our experience of inner peace only emerges in enclaves sheltered from the chaos of modern life.
This was what Emerson meant in the quote above. It’s easy to find your center in isolation. It’s easy to lose it in the chaos of everyday life. But, as Emerson says, “the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.”
What would it look like to merge the spiritual and the everyday? What’s the alternative to “monk-style spirituality”?
For this week’s experiment, let’s find out. Let’s explore the conscious practice of finding peace, presence, God, or whatever you call it in the wild flow of everyday life.
Here’s the way I plan to experiment with this idea. It’s a practice that I’m calling “disturbance meditation.”
Almost every spiritual tradition uses practices of meditation or contemplative prayer to focus and calm the mind. You may already have your own practice.
But for this week, see what it’s like to seek out, rather than avoid, disturbance and stimulation. Anyone can find inner peace while sitting in a serene space. But can you find this same state in front of a crowded grocery store, in bumper-to-bumper traffic, or in an airport security line?
That’s the practice. See if you can find that centered space of inner peace in the environments that normally create disturbance and inner turmoil. I’m already thinking that the airport may just be my new church.
What do you think? Do you see the dangers of “monk-style spirituality”? What’s your experience of trying to merge the spiritual with the everyday?