There's no right way to live a spiritual life

It's true.

And though we think we know this, it’s hard for us to really feel this deep sense of allowance in our hearts.
 
If you’re anything like me, you were dedicated as a young one to the spiritual community you were born into. Maybe you were more curious or more serious than your peers.
 
There was something delicious about your devotion and bright eyes.
 
(Maybe, like me, you had some well-meaning adults around you who smiled and nodded and asked you if you wanted to be a pastor someday.)
 
And, if you’re like me, there came a time when the place where you lit candles and asked questions and got fed by stories as a little one was just too limiting in its structure and its assumptions.
 
This building of bricks and strong voices and books wasn’t enough to hold all of you—your deepest desires, your bodily aches, your most burning of questions.
 
And so, in your own way, and in your own time (in body or in spirit or both), you left.
 
Layer by layer, you retreated, sometimes with grief-stricken goodbyes and angry huffs, and other times with a simple silent stepping away.
 
And slowly, steadily, you’ve explored your own new landscape, continuing your own tenacious underground seeking.
 
You’ve been angry, sad and said “who cares”. You’ve gone to radical edges, pumping your fists, and retreated deep within, curling up around your own soft center.
 
You’ve said, to reassure yourself: this is what I believe now, this is what I know to be true.
 
You’ve chosen new prayers, you’ve wandered in the woods, you’ve fallen in love with other stories, you’ve tucked that book of Rumi or Rilke or Mary Oliver under your pillow.
 
And even though you know those old rigid forms around your soul were too suffocating for you, you still carry their sneaky remnants.
 
The voices from the old structures can still creep up through the cracks into your new sacred groundwork—the ones that say, in the midst of some new practice or some deep unfolding: “you’re not doing this right” or, “this isn’t good enough” or the worst, “who do you think you are?”.

And for you, so ernest, so true in your deep yearnings, one of your worst fears is being even a whisper of a phony.

It can be heart-aching and heart-breaking. And the fear of this can keep you from diving in, from surrendering, from moving into the beauty that awaits you.

Try this

Try taking these loving steps the next time you move into a prayer or practice (or even when just pondering your spiritual needs):

First, give yourself some slack. Know those voices exist, and name them when they show up. Ask them to step aside while you explore this thing you need right now.

Give yourself permission to feel what you feel and know what you know--without hindrance.

Second, let yourself fall even more in love with the stories and images and rituals you've adopted or collected along the way.

Pretending has its benefits. The imagination is a sacred tool, a bridge to the Divine. 

(Is there a divine image you've always loved, or a poem that feels like a prayer? How can you surrender even more deeply to its voice and its truth?)
 
And lastly, find companions and community to support you. Even though your path is ultimately your own, having a safe space for your ponderings and questions, and the reassurance from others that no, you aren't crazy, is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself.

Your own sacred life is real and true just as it is. You carry so much more natural wisdom than you realize.

My wish for you is that you know this and trust yourself more than you ever have before.