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We came to be aware that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”—Step 2 of the Twelve Steps

In Paulo Coelho’s, The Alchemist, the story is told about a shopkeeper who wishes to teach his son the secret of happiness. He sends his son to the wisest of all men. The young boy finds the man in a palace, but the wise man is busy. He suggests that while the boy waits, he may as well look around the palace, but while doing so, the wise man asks him to carry a spoon with two drops of very expensive oil. The boy begins his walk through the palace with his eyes spellbound on the spoon and the two drops of oil. When he returns, the wise man asks what parts of the palace he noticed. The boy begrudgingly admitted that he noticed nothing because he was focused on not spilling the expensive oil. The wise man again tells the boy to go back and notice the palace’s beauty. This time, he notices the rugs, artwork, and cavernous halls. He returns to the wise man and tells him all about the palace.  The wise man replies, “But where are the drops of expensive oil?” The boy looks at the spoon and sees that they had spilled. And so, the wise man concludes, “The secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the world, and never forget the drops of expensive oil on the spoon!” (Cited in the book, Attached, by Rabbi Yakov Danishevfsky)

In the world of entrepreneurship and addiction recovery, it is necessary to keep your eyes on both the oil in the spoon and the awareness of what is happening in the material world around you. For the Entrepreneur and addict, it is easy to become laser-focused on material gains and goals in the world of pursuit and take your eyes off the innate sense of meaningfulness in the commonplace that exists in the everyday world right in front of you. Or you can get stuck in navel-gazing at what’s in front of you and lose sight of the ultimate purpose and target which becomes unreachable and unattainable. Balancing this perspective requires a spiritual dimension to life.

Spirituality is a dubious word for many, vaunted by some, and overall very difficult to understand and apply where the rubber meets the road. Many associate spirituality with religion.  For those friendly toward religion, there is the challenge of separating the concept of being spiritual from the dogma and creed of a given faith. For those who reject religion, it is difficult to think of spirituality without the framework of God or a systematic belief in a concrete deity or Higher Power.

In truth, spirituality can be like nailing jelly to a tree. Agnostics, atheists, humanists, and skeptics often don’t even relate to the word “spirituality”.  Explaining the nonmaterial is better described by descriptions of scientific analysis of energy that exists within the universe.  For some the very word “nonmaterial” is enough to identify what others call spirituality. 

For me, spirituality is not a religion, therapy, doing right things, a place of worship, nor attending a 12-step meeting. It’s a way of connecting with self and the community of humans that I interact with every day.  It’s about cultivating congruence about what I think, feel, and do in life with the paradox of human living where everyone is inconsistent, incongruent, and hypocritical. It’s found in the consultation and accountability with people in a caring association of all living beings. This recognition, process, and outcome is sacred spirituality to me. It involves a concept of God for those who have belief and includes many of us who do not believe. 

Spirituality is the harmonizing component that brings all of us together with life balance about future outcomes while paying attention to the here and now. It is the mortar that holds the rocks together in a chimney. Individually, you will need to determine what it is that holds you together with life balance. Once identified you will need to pragmatically assess if it works. If not, are you willing to create a spirituality that does work?  

Uncommon places where spirituality exists: Spirituality shows up in unlikely places. There is an emphasis that you are spiritual if you are calm, collected, peaceful, and happy. While it is true that these experiences may represent spiritual results, they are not necessarily components. Spirituality is a process that requires surrendering and detaching from what you cannot control. It shows itself in unlikely confines within the human condition.

Spirituality is often present in the wounds of an individual’s life. What draws people together is common shared brokenness, not the power of shared likeness and attributes of strength.

Which part of a painful wound in your life do you struggle to embrace?

Perhaps it is an ignominious addictive behavior or destructive outcome that you have been running from. Spirituality is the process of stopping the run and facing the pack of wolves called shame that stalks you. It is embracing the pain. As you do this you lower or eliminate the pain of shame that has prevented your wound from healing. Healing requires that you go through the pain and not avoid or go around it. The result of this spiritual process is tranquility, equanimity, and contentment. 

The philosopher Soren Kierkegaard once wrote that “life is meant to be lived forward but only understood backward.” Striving for future aspirations through understanding the past while balancing the precious present moment with meaningfulness is a spiritual process. Like the young boy seeking the secret of happiness, balance the marvels of the palace you seek to build with the oil in the spoon by cultivating your spiritual life.