Steve from Appleton writes: My girlfriend keeps telling me I should pay more attention to spirit. What the heck is she talking about?

Kathrin’s answer

Spirit. What a confusing term, and overused these days. Spirit, spiritual. But, if we go back to the origins, we find grounding in the language. The Latin is spiritus. Breathing. The animating force. The breath. Breathe in. Breathe out.

That’s what spirit is for me, the pause that happens when I take the time to become aware of the moment. I put my monkey mind, the mind that is preoccupied with daily tasks and worries, on pause, and become aware of the good, the holy and the beautiful in the world. This morning, buoyed by the warmth of the Florida air and lulled by the wind in the palm trees, I frog-stroked the length of the pool. I took deep breaths and, as I did, I became aware of that point in time. I heard the hum of the twin-engine Cessna overhead. My eyes followed the red-shouldered hawk as he floated on the updraft while he eyed his prey. I discovered a white hibiscus bloom in the tree at the edge of the pool, a tree that I had passed by many times, too lost in the humdrum of daily life to notice. It was luminescent white like, well, like the bright white homemade frosting on my birthday cake when I was 4 years old. Emerging from the pool, I felt refreshed and joyful. I was renewed by my visit with spirit, by my minute of grace.

All of us have experienced these moments, whether it is watching our dog prance, seeing our child smile, or pausing for an instant to watch an old man cross the street, great dignity in his step. Or, how about this: the slick smooth slide of chocolate sorbet as it glides down our throat. Ah, the pleasure of being alive.

Our favorite songs, whether gospel or rock, celebrate spirit. I can hear Louis Armstrong, Satchmo, singing, “I see trees of green, red roses too. I see them bloom for me and for you. And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.” How many times have I heard this song, and each time I hear it, or sing it, I am uplifted, the shadow moves off me and spirit comes to sit with me. “The colors of the rainbows, so pretty in the sky, are also on the faces of people going by. I see friends shaking hands, saying how do you do. They’re really saying I love you.”

Or, “I believe for every drop of rain that falls a flower grows. I believe that somewhere in the darkest night, a candle glows.” When we allow ourselves to get quiet, don’t we hear the flower growing, don’t we see the candle glowing? We are surrounded by spirit, by life force, by the mystery 24/7. How about “Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be. This world needs an answer. Let it be.” Is that not John Lennon calling out to spirit? Like Luke Skywalker calling upon the force.

The force is always with us. That’s the good news. And it is free. That is the good news. Pause for a moment today, inhale, and stop time. Relate to spirit. You will think to yourself, what a wonderful world … What a wonderful world, indeed!

Marc’s answer

This afternoon, I was sitting on my deck looking at the sky, engrossed in the white clouds that were defying gravity, levitating in the blue sky. Looking at the sky is for me a portal to spirit. My consciousness spreads out through the sky, my sense of separateness evaporates, and I feel the omnipresence of spirit. The night sky works equally well.

As Marshall McLuhan said, “We don’t know who discovered water, but we know it wasn’t the fish.”

I don’t know the context in which he made that statement, but I think it applies beautifully to spirit. Like fish in water, we are surrounded by spirit. And like fish in water, people aren’t aware of spirit. And as fish need water, people need spirit.

When it comes to spirit, we have to confess our ignorance and acknowledge the limitations of our minds and our language. We will never understand the mystery of spirit any more than we will understand the mystery of the night sky. To enter into the mystery of spirit requires an open mind. And, even more, it requires an open heart. The saying isn’t “God is intellect”; the saying is “God is love.”

Spirit is the essence of who we are and the ground of being. Spirit is who is reading these words, seeing through all eyes, hearing through all ears, and touching through all hands.

My observation is that certain things can prepare us to feel our oneness with spirit. It’s helpful to do our psychological work, integrate our dark side, resolve our personality conflicts. It’s helpful to eat a healthy diet, exercise, relax and breathe. Otherwise all our constrictions on different levels can dull our perception.

If we maintain a spiritual practice through prayer, meditation, reading sacred text, yoga, inner work, music, writing, gardening or sacred relationship, we are telling ourselves that we honor our spiritual nature.

Spiritual practice is the magnification of our awareness of how everything, including ourselves, is spirit. Body, mind and soul are all spirit, just like ice, water and steam are all H2O. This realization leads to a wondrous state of bliss, delight, happiness, wonder and love.

I believe that part of everyone’s purpose is to wake up and celebrate spirit, which is infinite and eternal.

As Ram Dass said years ago, to experience spirit we have to be here now. This present moment is a spiritual moment, a moment of grace. Right now, can’t you sense something larger and deeper than the many dramas of our lives?

I don’t know if fish will ever be aware of water and celebrate its wetness. I do know that we can be aware of the vivid luminosity and enchantment of life, the great mystery, which is all the play of spirit.