If you haven’t yet watched Maid on Netflix, I recommend you do so as soon as you can. It is one of the high points of television this year. It tells the story of a young mother, Alex, who leaves her abusive boyfriend with their three-year-old daughter to try and make a new life.
I was particularly moved by scenes when Alex falls into depression. The visuals show her at the bottom of a deep black hole with neither the ability nor the will to climb out. And yet she finally does (Spoiler alert. Or not really. You knew she would, right?)
What struck me in this series is how incredibly resilient the human will to live really is. We all know times when we lose our longing for life. We all know what it is to feel completely lost in despair, without motivation, purpose, meaning or desire. But somewhere deep inside us is a voice that won’t be silent telling us that a bland, empty existence where we survive but never actually live is not what we are meant for. We long for life because we cannot do anything else. We are meant to live fully, vibrantly, and meaningfully, and we can only settle for less when our spirits are deeply broken over a long time.
In the last two years, as we have navigated the global pandemic, many of us have succumbed to depression. The mental health challenges of social distancing, lockdowns, conspiracy theories, political fights over vaccines and masks, economic insecurity, and disrupted routines and relationships have taken a toll. Many of us have found our longing for life growing weaker and some of us have even found ourselves considering ending it all.
We know that life is tough. Most of us expect that we will experience pain, shame, failure, and brokenness many times in our lives. And there is no shame when it happens. But we also know that something is wrong when we fall into that deep black hole and have no ability or desire to climb out.
And that means that we really need to know how to keep our longing for life alive.
NURTURING A LONGING FOR LIFE
It’s not that we are all required to be happy, energetic, and extraverted in order to be healthy. The opposite of depression is not moving fast and doing all the things. It’s completely possible to be active and busy and still be dying on the inside. What we’re seeking is that sense of well-being, that quiet feeling of joy at being alive, and that motivation to embrace and enjoy what inspires and motivates us.
So, how do we sustain and nurture this longing for life, this sense of being truly alive? Whenever I think of this question I find myself reflecting on people I have known who demonstrate a fairly constant love for life. And what I see is that those who sustain their sense of aliveness tend to draw on a deep and meaningful spiritual life.
I’ve written before on this blog about the mischievous smiles and laughter of spiritual teachers like Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Pope Francis, and the Dalai Lama. Authentic spirituality always seems to be accompanied by joy. It may be gentle and quiet. It may come across as a quiet aura of contentment. Or it may be loud and boisterous. It is always compassionate and kind but it is definitely light-hearted even in difficult and serious circumstances. It seems to me that our longing for life finds its fulfilment in spirituality.
I have no illusion that all forms of spirituality are guaranteed to make our lives richer. We have all experienced toxic spiritual paths that seem determined to ruin the lives of everyone except their adherents. We have all witnessed lives that are broken beyond repair by followers of hate-filled, legalistic, and condemnatory spiritual groups. It does matter what we believe and not all spiritual paths are equal.
The essence of healthy spirituality is the quest to connect more deeply with Spirit, ourselves, one another, and the universe. Healthy spirituality automatically makes us progressively more compassionate and generous in our contribution to the word. And spirituality like this will automatically awaken Life within us. It can’t do anything else. This spirituality is able to sustain us through dark times. And it has a way of dropping a rope into our black holes and lifting us out.
NURTURING LIFE BY NURTURING YOUR SPIRIT
In the next few weeks, we will explore how we can enrich and inspire our lives through a life-giving spirituality. But for now, the foundational truth we need to take into our hearts and lives is this: an intentional spiritual practice that is meaningful to ourselves is the best way to feed our souls and keep our spirits vibrantly alive. And that’s why I am committed to helping people find the spiritual practice that fits, inspires, and enlivens them. And I am committed to helping people learn how to practice their spirituality in ways that are meaningful for them.
What is your favourite spiritual practice? How does it enliven and inspire you? What would you need for your spirituality to be even more life-giving? And how has your spirituality sustained you through the pandemic?
I’d love to hear your stories and learn from you. Please let me know how I can help you to experience a richer and more vibrant life through your spiritual practice. The comments are the space to make your voice heard. So over to you!
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