Sunday, November 6, 2011


I was sitting in a meeting today, hearing people share stories of faith in their lives.  A woman spoke of her onset of Parkinson's disease, and how tragic this was for her.  In the midst of dealing with the pain and suffering, a friend called her and said she was prompted to think of her, to pray about her, but did not know why.  To the woman with Parkinson's, this little gesture, coming as it was a "coincidence" out of the blue, was a witness that God loves her.  It was a touching story.

I have seen coincidences happen throughout my life: little miracles, perhaps, that I cannot explain.  What I can say is that my life has been 'saved' by these little events.  I have prayed, and felt the presence of spirit, and I have had wonderful, amazing spiritual experiences.

What I have found, however, is that the source and meaning of these 'coincidences' defies explanation.  Being objective about this, I hope, I have begun to see that making a conclusion about the source and meaning is beyond my comprehension.  Many years ago, as I meditated on these coincidences, I came to understand that I perceive what I perceive, through the power of my understanding or lack thereof, and I make associations with what I perceive to be a miracle to something tangible -- a religion or god.  But the actual facticity of that association is not real.  I cannot logically conclude that just because I perceive miracles, that there is a 'god' out there with specific attributes, consciousness, and awareness of me. 

I sat pondering this one autumn, and outside were a flock of relatively small birds.  As i carefully observed their movement, they moved as one single being.  There was some underlying capability in the interactions between the individuals in the flock that caused the emergence of a single order, and perhaps a limited combined consciousness of the flock.  I am pretty sure that the individual birds are not conflicted as to where this seeming magical unity comes from, they do it to survive.  They're connected together through what I might call the spirit of the flock.

I recognize that the word "spirit" often connotes a spiritual being, or something that goes to ghosts, spirits, etc.  I wonder, though, if this is a misuse of the concept.  Perhaps earlier people, lacking scientific understanding, would attribute phenomena they didn't understand to spiritual beings messing with things.  My use of the word "spirit" has more to do with some uses: "Spirit of harmony" "spirit of contention", "team spirit", "spiritual experience".  What I find in common in these uses is how the term conveys something that connects people together, not in terms of words or specific concrete action, but rather, the overall connection to each other. 

Then i've noticed that the connection we feel with people can be very spiritual.  There are moments in my life when I have felt very connected to another being, to myself, and to something 'out there'.  This connection is accompanied with warmth, with feelings of comfort and familiarity, and when mutually felt, the experience is utterly amazing.  In a moment, an entire eternity of connection is felt.  These moments are rare and precious, but they testify to me of the importance of spiritual connection.

How does this work? I think spiritual connection is only possible when one sets aside one's own thoughts, and concentrates fully on the moment and deeply listening to the interaction between oneself and the other person.  In personal meditation, the other person is myself or perhaps god.  Not all interaction is verbal, and in fact, spiritual listening, in my impression, really seeks to understand nonverbally what is going on.

This is not hocus pocus.  There are many things about our nonverbal communication that we do not understand intellectually.  But, our natural selves, absent higher thought, can sense feelings on the part of the other person, and by paying attention to those feelings, can much better understand the other person.  When two people connect in this way, the result is true understanding; and in light of true understanding, the miracle of spiritual connection happens -- both are edified together.

I had dinner last night with one of my adult daughters.  She's had issues with me for many years, around whether I accept her and am proud of her.  She especially hates being called 'mom junior', which I think i did once or twice in teasing years ago, but to her, it was a scar on her soul.  My dear wife has suffered from depression, and although much better now, many of my daughters fear that they will become depressed as well.  They don't want to be 'mom junior', and the especially would like to be loved and appreciated for their own selves.

This is something I really needed to work through last night with her as we talked.  I could tell that each time I said the phrase 'mom junior', there was a reaction, very subtle, in her countenance as I used the words, regardless of their context.  I'm not usually observant, but in being observant, aware of the impacts, and empathizing with what she is feeling the words, we can together start to move aside the barriers to spiritual connection, and begin to have a closer relationship.

We're not all the way there yet, but I could tell that the spirit of negativism and resentment she feels toward me is beginning to melt, and we can feel something else -- a unity of hearts and minds eventually. 

And this, to me, is what spirit is about.  Awareness to the unspoken allows us to perceive things that need to be done to connect people.  The coincidences at the beginning of this blog sometimes arise from that awareness; or more to the point, our spiritual awareness allows us to be edified by the coincidences, and we get what we need, day by day, to survive.

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