"I'm spiritual but not religious"
by Rich Heffern on Jul. 24, 2009
St. Francis of Assisi was wont to pray for nights on end, “Who are you, God, and who am I?” He was unable to find satisfying answers to these questions in the culture and institutions of his times.
My friends tend to think I am taking this concept of 'follow your inner muse' too seriously. I don't, because I've found that once you open to the inner muse there is nothing about it that can be taken too seriously. To some of them, my up and leaving Helena for Northern New Mexico is some sort of mid life crisis, but there are others who truly understand what I am about and why this move is not really a choice, but an assent to a choice which in some sense was already made for me.
It's easy to tell when this happens, because every thing needed for such a move just falls into place. I now have a home here, and it more or less fell into my lap. While I had planned on using three or four days to find some place to live, it took a grand total of two and one half hours and that time included switching all utilities into my name. I am typing this from my new home. It has everything I really needed, but not necessarily what I might have wanted. It meets my monthly expenditure limit, has recently been completely updated, has two bedrooms and a back yard large enough for a garden, but not so big I begin to resent the upkeep. Although it's in the middle of a city north of Santa Fe, it's relatively isolated and quiet. It's the perfect pueblo for this me on a new journey.
Part of my inner prompting has been discovering the similarities in religious spiritual traditions and learning from the best of the rest. The Northern New Mexico area has more to offer on this quest than does Helena. Since this also includes quantum physics and neuro biology, I imagine I will be spending my fair share of time in Los Alamos, which is about as far as one can get from the spirituality displayed in Chimayo or traditional Pueblo Indian ceremonies. Except in some weird way, it all fits.
I am hardly the only person engaged in this kind of search. I have met many spiritually gifted people from other religious traditions who are actively engaged in the same process. The idea is not to denigrate our own particular backgrounds, since our early religious formation is a fundamental part of how our brains were neurologically entrained, that would be pure folly. The idea is to enrich our own traditions understanding about the universal concepts of the spiritual process and it's effect on the totality of one's self.
Spiritual experiences do effect the total human person. They are not a matter of of changing some archetypal soul, they effect biological reality and neural development in profound ways. It's not just personalities that change, it's the neuro chemistry of the brain which houses the personality that also changes. This is why groups who use coercive formation techniques are successful, just as at the same time, they are irresponsible and ultimately immoral. They take what is supposed to be an open ended process and subvert it to their own agenda.
Following Jesus is not about becoming a carbon copy of His every move, it's about discovering His insights with in yourself, in your own way, and arriving at the same conclusions, using His life as a model of the process itself, not as some sort of ultimate end product. When religions take a process and turn it into a product, they have lost the concept of evangelization.
I think it's fitting that the patron saint of this area of New Mexico is St. Francis. You can see the influence of his life and the Franciscans every where. St. Francis was profoundly changed by his mystical experiences. He truly marched to his own drummer, but his path was towards a more complete understanding of who he was as well as God. His path did not run parallel to Jesus's, it moved toward intersection with Jesus. In this process St. Francis made a lot of enemies because his enemies prefer we all walk the same path. Unfortunately we are all uniquely individual, and walking an identical path as dictated by authority is not only impossible, it is not desirable. We all have a unique contribution to make to the whole from our own unique perspective. If God truly desired spiritual clones, we would be genetic clones. Kind of like high mountain Quaking Aspens, which are clone colonies. The fact humans are unique individuals says a great deal about what God might expect from humanity. It's not lock step conformity.