Back in 2011, a Friend asked me the question “For what are you spiritually hungry?” I took the opportunity to reflect on my experiences and the ways in which they influenced my beliefs. I wrote her a long response. I have re-visited this piece of writing now, updating my response slightly to reflect my current understandings, seeing as a spiritual journey continually evolves. But the core of what I wrote remains the same as it did six years ago when I first reflected on this statement. As you read my response, I encourage you to reflect on the same query. For what are you spiritually hungry?
Since we spoke on Saturday, I have been struggling to come up with the answer to your question, (for what am I “spiritually hungry”), and through this struggle I suppose I have realized a few things. First, hunger implies a yearning of sorts, a desire for something else…something more. But upon reflection I realize that in this sense, I feel quite full. Allow me to elaborate by extending this metaphor in a pretty dorky way.
I have faith. I have realized this faith more and more as I live and love. I have seen the power of Love in action and I have been increasingly able to recognize and experience the essence of God in everyone. I have faith in people. I have faith in myself. I have faith that goodness will be returned with more goodness. I have faith that struggles and hardships are at their essence good, if seen in such a way. My faith has given me light in the midst of dark. My faith has grown. However, I would not necessarily claim that I believe in God in the regular sense of the word. The God I believe in is a Spirit that exists within everyone and everything that exists. It is a force of energy that is beyond ego. It produces the human spirit and it protects the human spirit. It is continuous. It has neither beginning nor end. It is there for us when we need it, and it is there for us when we forget about it. Ultimately, its energy is the connecting force among humans. It is also what connects us to the earth and our place in time. It can be found in moments of awe, in moments of human connection, in moments of profound adversity. It exists always. And my faith knows that.
Main Course: Love.
When I was sixteen I felt the power of transcendent, collective, powerfully intended Love for the first time at a Quaker gathering. Since then, I have understood God in this sense. In my opinion, God and Love are soul mates. When Love is present, it is easier to have faith. I find it easiest to go about decision-making or simple everyday interactions if I first ask myself, “What would be the most loving thing to do?” If I ask myself this question, the answer is usually clear. This goes further. I challenge myself to radiate love outwardly, because I have recognized the contagiousness of such. If I automatically love everyone that I meet, not only am I happier, but so are the people I interact with. Love is contagious. Everyone wants to be loved, and the more love people are given, the more they will exude that same loving energy to others. Furthermore, by recognizing that there is that of God in everyone, I have been able to try to not only see the best in people, but also forgive them for their mistakes (especially when they are hurtful) by recognizing that everyone is a product of the circumstances to which they are exposed. Sometimes the Light within an individual is hidden, but it is always there. There is no evil just as there is no darkness; there is only the absence of good and the absence of light. But they can always be found.
I don’t want to claim to have perfected this path, just that I have used it and seen it’s positive impact on my life. The more I forgive people for their shortcomings, the happier I am. The more I love outwardly, the more Love I receive inwardly. Love is the guiding force in my life, and I work every day to be more loving and maybe even inspire others to do the same. I wish more people chose to love.
There are few things as empowering as engaging in a community and affecting change with whatever resources are available. I find that I am constantly finding ways to help those around me, whether it is working with children in youth programs, helping sick and dying people as a paramedic, or traveling around the world to meet and converse with people who are different than I am, there is something about being a positive force in other’s lives that feeds my soul. In the past I have struggled a lot, intellectually, with my interaction to service. In a lot of ways, I realize that I rely upon it. You asked about hunger. Well, I find that when I don’t have some good cause to work towards or someone to help, a child to inspire… that’s when I feel hungry. I have this compulsive need to help, to give, to motivate others to do the same. So, I have been struggling to reconcile this compulsion as selfless over selfish. Why am I serving? Is it because of my desire to help others, or is it to make myself feel good? If I’m motivated by my desire to make myself feel good, can I reconcile the service as being of pure intention? I might just be too hard on myself…if I am actually helping, does it matter if I benefit from it as well? Also, I might be selling myself short…I have to have some level of selflessness (motivated by Love) in order to put the time and effort into service that I do. As you can tell, Dessert provides me with the most difficulty. It’s bittersweet (pun totally intended). But it’s arguably the most important part of my meal (I’ll always have room for dessert).
I suppose Faith and Love are the foundation of my dedication to service. If I had to tell you one thing for which I spiritually yearn, it’s helping others. It’s social engagement. It’s getting dirty for something I believe in. It’s inspiring others to live lovingly. It’s, quite frankly, making the world a better place. I know that this is a pretty impossible task, but I’m young and I can have dreams. It is my calling to be a testimony of my own life, to be an outward manifestation of my inward experience of the Divine. If I live a loving life, perhaps others will too. If every individual asked him or herself the question, “what would be the most loving thing I could do?” before acting, the world would in fact be a better place. Can we get there together (as individuals, as a community, as humankind)? Can we inspire others to live lovingly? I have faith that we can…because I Trust that undeniable and infinite energy that embraces us all.