When I think of spiritual seekers who make sacrifices and climb the ladder of enlightenment my mind creates a visual: nuns, monks, long robes, simple and unadorned they move through life in quiet contemplation. Often a family is not in the picture, deadlines, money concerns, filling the car with gas and shopping for groceries, those things are not in the forefront of my spiritual seeker's life. Instead they are meditating on a mat each morning, reading ancient texts, and praying before each meal. A daily practice is second nature. Whether or not this person or these people actually exist is another story. This is an image that my soul shows to me when I question my path. It offers the opposite to what I have now as a more pious option.
You can't let go of your ego and wipe runny noses and cook dinner...
You don't have time to have a daily spiritual routine...
Your life is not part of the big world picture...
My soul likes to send me messages of doubt. Years ago in Soul Mates by Thomas Moore this lesson struck a cord with me. The soul always craves the opposite of what it has. So despite my life's mission of raising my kids and relishing in the chance to be with them all day when they are little I crave something different. Part of my soul longs for solitude, peaceful moments to reflect and seek truths.
I think the collective mindset regarding living a spiritual life is skewed. We look at 40 days fasting in the desert as an ideal trial. Searching for answers in sacrifice of daily life and isolation from loved ones as a defining test of dedication to the Gods. But what about standing in your life, the stuff of life and doing it at the same time?
What about looking in your child's eyes and trying to figure out what they need in this moment, seeing them for the bright spirit they are and giving your self for their betterment. Therein lies an ultimate test of piety. There have probably always been spiritual men and women who have sacrificed a family of their own for the care of the tribe. They could not dedicate time to their own offspring when they were needed to help others in their lives. But in many cultures the holy men also were fathers. My above vision is a newer idea of spiritual life. Men and women were not always expected to give up family for a life of service to their religion.
This topic is much bigger than I can tackle here in this moment. But what occurred to me as I was trying to get Elliott to sleep the other night is that no spiritual trial could challenge me more than this work I'm doing. My ego rears itself often as I shake my fist at the universe. Can't the baby just sleep for 2 hours straight, must I pick up these crayons again today, who are these little men that I care for day after day?
This work is my fasting in the desert.
My quiet contemplation is done in literal seconds. Tiny snippets when both boys are content and occupied. The adventure that is parenting is a trial by fire, you see many of your worst traits reflected in the faces of little ones that look to you for their very survival. I will never seek transcendence in a cave in Tibet, a hermit in self inflicted isolation, rather I look for my truth in the shining eyes of two little boys every single day and know that this moment is all I have and I'm grateful for the chance to live this way.