being present to life

It seems to me that spirit has something to do with the energy of our lives, the life-force that keeps us active and dynamic. Will has more to do with personal intention and how we decide to use our energies. Spirit, for me, has a quality of connecting us with each other, with the world around us, and with the mysterious Source of all. In contrast, will has qualities of independence, of personal freedom, and of decision making.

Sometimes it seems that will moves easily with the natural flow of spirit, and at such times we feel grounded, centered, and responsive to the needs of the world as they are presented to us. This may happen in times of great crisis, when we forget about our personal agendas and strivings and work in true concert with ourselves and others. Or it may happen quietly, with a spontaneous sense of being fully, actively, responsively present to life. At such times, it is indeed as if something in us had said yes. Then, at least for a moment, we are whole.

There are other times when will seems to pull away from spirit, trying to chart its own course. This may happen when we feel self-conscious or when we are judging ourselves harshly. Or it may occur when we are afraid or desirous of something. At such times, we may feel fragmented, contrived, artificial. Our movements and responses may become forced and unnatural, or we may try to avoid the situation by imposing an arbitrary passivity upon ourselves. At such times something deep within us is saying no, something is struggling against the truth of who we really are and what we are really called to do.

  • Gerald May, Will and Spirit: A Contemplative Psychology

the air in which you breathe

[We’ve recently been inspired by Martin Buber’s classic on relating to others in fully human, not objectifying, ways. Here is a line that stuck with me:]

Spirit is not in the I but between I and You. It is not like the blood that circulates in you but like the air in which you breathe. Man lives in the spirit when he is able to respond to his You. He is able to do that when he enters into this relation with his whole being. It is solely by virtue of his power to relate that man is able to live in the spirit.

― Martin Buber, I and Thou