Monday, December 3, 2012

Moving from the Mental to the Spiritual

The look in the eyes, the words from the mouth, how we eat, work and play, all are affected by the spiritual life. If God's spirit is in me then my spirit needs to reflect God's spirit, which will then very naturally appear in the life we live, says the writer of the Catholic Times' column on spirituality.                                                                                       We can, he says, live in the contemplate mode when playing tennis, climbing mountains or riding a bicycle. We do not have to be in church. He wants us to realize that it is not when  using our intellects to its full capacity that  we are in the spiritual mode. Determining how to swim faster or how to get to the top of the mountain the easiest way is using the mental faculties.

There is a big difference in using our mental faculties and using a spiritual approach to life. The intellect is a great gift we have received, and to use our intellectual powers to understand God and life is a great good. But remaining in this mode we will never come to what God's providence wants to realize in us.

What do we do to  free ourselves from being habitually tied to the mental mode and begin living the spiritual approach to life? First, he tells us to remember something from our past. We all have something from  the past, he says, that can bring us to the spiritual. When we were baptized, we experienced something of the spiritual. But because of our humanity, we slip quickly into the mental. Those who become tepid  go through this process.

One antidote to fixating on the mental is to become more contemplative, perhaps praying before a burning candle, among other practices. Slowing down our lives is necessary if we are to find in our too-hectic lifestyles the leisure for contemplation. But what appears to be doing nothing is difficult for us to accept. We revert to our smart phones, to the TV or to our hobbies. Because of our acquired need for constant stimulation, our internal abundance is difficult to reach. Prayer and the contemplative approach becomes difficult the more we frustrate ourselves by trying to understand everything by our mental approach to life.

We end up failing to distinguish the mental from the  spiritual. Consequently, when using our intellects, we commonly misunderstand this to be spiritual. Many only serve and pray in the mental mode.
God likes the concrete. Our eyes, thoughts, words and actions should be concretely spiritual, he says. God is always working inside us, though we often think that God is sleeping. When is God going to  return? we ask, not realizing he has always been with us; our task is to discover him. And for this to happen, we don't need calendars. When our minds are constantly busy, the spirit will not be able to enter. When we can't activate our spiritual faculties, we will not be fully alive.

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