Imagine if we spent as much effort on our spiritual lives as on our careers
Imagine if we spent as much time and effort on our spiritual lives as on our careers.
Or let's put it another way. Imagine if we spent as much time and effort on our careers as on our spiritual lives. As in, roughly ten minutes a day, maximum, or maybe one hour a week if you're exceptionally hard-working.
You're at a drinks party, and someone asks you, 'what do you do?'
'I'm a doctor.'
'Oh really? Where do you practice?'
'Well, I spend about five minutes each morning practicing. Most mornings, anyway. When I get the chance. But of course, life is very busy.'
'So...you're a doctor but you only practice five minutes a day...every now and then?'
'Yes...it's not so much a practice. More a sort of...quiet background faith in medicine.'
We'd be laughed out of the cocktail party, dismissed as an utter dilettante who is completely unserious about our profession.
And yet that is precisely how much effort most of us - certainly myself - put into our spiritual practice.
We put huge amounts of effort into our working lives. Really, most of the juice of our will-power and life-force is squeezed out into the glass of our careers. From the moment we wake up to the moment we fall asleep, we are planning, calculating, striving to get ahead. No sacrifice is too great. Every morning, we drag ourselves out of bed, put on the uniform of work, stand uncomplaining in packed, fetid tube carriages, then spend the entire day serving our careers.
And our spiritual lives? They receive hardly a smidgen of our attention, effort or will.
Imagine if we spent one tenth of the time and attention on our spiritual lives - on our souls - as we do on our digestive systems. If the care of the soul took one tenth of the attention we put into feeding our stomachs. If we put one tenth of the attention into soul-care as we do into eating, going to restaurants, cooking, cook-books, cookery shows. There are 434 hours of cookery shows on British TV each week, and one hour of TV on spirituality (the reliably dire Songs of Praise). Imagine if there were 43 hours of TV each week on how to take care of your soul.
Imagine if we put one tenth of the effort into making our souls beautiful, as we put into making our external appearance beautiful. Think of all the effort we put into perfecting our appearance - the gym, diets, plastic surgery, yoga, waxing, manscaping, fashion, social media. And we - by which I mean I - hardly put any effort at all into the state of our souls.
Why is this? Why do we put so much effort into our careers, our appearance, our stomach, and so little into our souls?
It must be because we don't really believe we have souls anymore.
We no longer believe there is a spiritual dimension to reality, even if we say we do. We might say we do - I say I do - but we, I, don't live as if that were actually true. We only believe in the material dimension, in work, food, sex, status. We don't really believe there's anything higher. Sex you can feel. Food you can taste. Money you can see, touch, measure and spend. Status, you can see in other people's eyes and in your social media following.
But the soul? Spiritual credit? What is that? Where is it? What does it taste like? Why can't I touch it? Why can't I see it? How can I measure it? No. It doesn't exist. We have stopped believing in a spiritual dimension to reality, we have stopped believing that the state of our souls when we die has any bearing on what happens to us after death.
All we believe in is the material, and so we pursue material goals. Plus maybe five minutes of meditation a morning, when we feel like it, to de-stress and focus our mind...so we can better pursue our material goals.
We dismiss those who pursue spiritual reality as foolish, vapid, flaky, deluded, self-indulgent, selfish even. While those who spend all their time accumulating money are respected as sensible, hard-headed, people of the world, people to be taken seriously. Why? Because we don't really believe in spiritual reality. But we do believe in money, status and power.
Imagine if our inner selves, our souls, were visible. Imagine you could see the state of someone's soul, rather than just their faces, bodies and clothes. How radically that would change our priorities, overnight!