In many of the world’s traditions, over the centuries, spiritual life has been defined as separate from religious or spiritual life. At times, people have been forced to choose between their so-called spiritual life and their life in the everyday world. To be a monk, people have given away all their possessions, renounced their families, waited years for initiation, and retired to a remote location for the sake of performing spiritual practice. At other times and places, people relegate their spiritual acts and feelings to a certain day of the week, or perhaps a few days of the year.
Behind this approach to spirituality is the assumption that life in the everyday world precludes finding peace within the inner world. Only by forsaking the everyday world can we expect to attain something of spiritual value. The belief is that the everyday world is inherently bad, and only the inner world holds goodness. Nevertheless, only a fraction of all people seek the inner world. Everyone else is satisfied to live an entire lifetime in the everyday world.
Not any more! I believe the world is ready for a new trend in spirituality. It is possible to find true joy and be in touch with the greater reality of life, while also living in the everyday world. I think of this as being a “suited monk”-that is, someone who wears a business suit and holds a regular job, while simultaneously focusing on the inner world. The job doesn’t have to be in business; it can be in education or art or building maintenance or anything else. The point is that we do not view the inner and outer worlds as separate.
Overcoming the sense of separation is one of the most important things that has to happen if we want to feel whole and lead a spiritual life. We’ve been conditioned from birth by society to think in terms of differences, and so we grow up feeling deeply disconnected from others and from ourselves. This leads to much alienation and suffering. To free ourselves, we need to be willing to let go of our sense of separation and embrace a sense of oneness.
Think of walking a labyrinth. Each of us starts at a different entrance. But when we reach its core, we all have the same experience. Similarly, on the spiritual journey, we aim to reach the same inner self, which is at the core of our being and is the experience of oneness. It is the same for all of us. You could say it is our birthright. To discover this is true spirituality, and it does not depend at all on the outer circumstances of life.