Right now it is important to be in the world but not of it and to get rid of everything that is non-essential. We are all called to holiness right now in this present moment. It isn’t about suppressing who we are, it is about getting rid of what we are not.
I grew up in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in the south eastern United States in a small coal mining town. I grew up on the homestead my family settled in the 1800s. The nearest city had a population of 500. The nearest city of any size was two and a half hours away, but it might as well have been a different planet.
I grew up somewhat removed from the world and had to consciously choose to enter it. I couldn’t wait to leave that small town and experience what the world had to offer. My childhood was boring and lonely. I grew up in the country as an only child with no neighbors. The culture I grew up in had a hostile relationship with nature. The land was scared from logging and coal mining and I was discouraged from going outside.
When I was 18 I went off to college and the city ready to conquer the world. I’ve been feverishly busy ever since. I worked hard through college and law school and worked part time jobs and did internships. Then after law school dived into being a busy civically involved lawyer.
I’ve spent the last eight years serving on numerous boards and working 60 hours a week. I’ve been busy to say the least. But at the same time I’ve been on this spiritual path since 2012, and engaged in a process of interior renunciation amidst feverish activity.
First to go was my ambition for worldly success. From an early age I wanted to run for office and become someone important. That was the fire in my belly that drove me to achieve and succeed throughout high school, college and law school. After my spiritual awakening that started to change. I realized it was an ego trip. I was seeking external validation. I was seeking self aggrandizement. I was ambitious but didn’t have much interest in being of service to others.
Over the years that ambition has shifted toward my desire for self realization. To quote Neem Karoli Baba “why be just another worldly king when you can be God?” That has been the evolution of my ambition over the years. I have stopped wanting to be a wordly king and instead have begun desiring only to be one with god.
After my ambition shifted toward self realization and away from worldly success my attachments to money, material possessions, and social status began to be released. Over the years Mother Kali has presented me crisis moments where I have been at risk of losing one or all of these things, and I’ve been given the choice to cling to them or release my attachment and surrender to the divine flow of life. Trusting that wherever I am going serves the highest good.
I am now able to live in the world fearlessly. Without attachment to my actions or possessions. Without ambition for any success save union with God. I still work and live the life of a householder running a small business and fulfilling my civic obligations. But my number one priority has become my spiritual practice and desire for union with god.
I am now reorganizing my life more and more around this central desire and ambition. I’m realizing the ways in which too much busyness has separated me from god. So I am cutting back on my civic obligations. When one commitment expires I am not adding another.
Prior to the pandemic I had resolved to get rid of all non-essential commitments and to simplify my life. However, at the time I thought it would be a several years process. The gift of the pandemic has been that it has accelerated that process of cutting back on outward activity.
You have received a similar gift, will you use it? Will you simplify your life and prioritize your spiritual practice? Will you release your worldly ambitions and seek the kingdom of heaven? I think that is what we are being called to do.
Holiness is not reserved for monks and nuns in monasteries and ashrams. We are all capable of holiness. Holiness is our true nature. Holiness is not suppressing anything. It is about cultivating that within us that is most high and true. It is releasing everything that is not us and focusing on what is true.
You do not need to take sacred vows to become holy. You do not need to wear special clothes. You don’t have to wait for someone to give you permission to be holy. You just have to do it. You just have to choose it in each moment of every day. You can be holy right here and now in whatever life you find yourself, and you don’t have to be perfect to be holy. You just have to consistently try to be that expression of yourself that is most true.
It starts with your internal transformation. It begins with your daily spiritual practices. Do that in whatever life circumstances you find yourself in. As you do your spiritual practices your ambitions will shift and you will release your attachments to worldly things. You will be in the world but not of it. Then you can start shifting your external circumstances to match your state of being.
Lately I find myself longing for a mountain refuge away from crowded cities and busyness. It seems I have come full circle.