Life as a Classroom: Authentic Spiritual Practice

There is nothing original about the axiom that all life experience represents an invaluable classroom. However, having the commitment to the ongoing remembrance of this philosophy in all situations is a rare gift.

Without exception, everything that happens to us has the potential to be a valuable lesson from which we can grow and prosper. “Without exception” is the key concept here. Most of us are inclined to say, Oh I agree with this in principle, but just don’t ask me to apply it to this situation: “It’s just too hard” and “You don’t understand.” It is the “exception” situation we want so to exclude that is the special lesson that has to be embraced, difficult and painful as it may be.

At the core of this belief system (again, nothing original, but easy to forget) is the principle that all of us have a perfect inner nature that has never been soiled by any mistakes we have ever made. Call it Original Innocence, our Buddha Nature, the Christ Within, simple Inner Being, or whatever – it is remembering, recognizing, connecting, and identifying with this inner nature that is the answer to every problem we have as humans. When what feels like tragedy is occuring, we tend to forget that our salvation lies here.

Changing the nature of a love relationship, whether through death, separation, or divorce, seems to be one of the most difficult of life experiences. As such it represents fertile ground for spiritual growth.

These psychological and spiritual principles are well known, even if not quite mainstream. Using these tools when they are most needed as opposed to opting out because a situation “is somehow an exception” or “just too hard” is at the core of authentic spiritual practice. Indeed, times of great peril represent incredible opportunity.  Failure to embrace this fundamental truth results in our feeling like victims of abuse, poor luck or bad karma rather than accepting life for what it is. It has been said that life is made up of ten thousand joys and ten thousand sorrows. While we all embrace the joys, it is through the sorrows that we advance.

Helping people tackle one of the most painful of life experiences and transforming it into something useful, as opposed to it being one of life’s worst nightmares, is a primary agenda in my work. I don’t expressly discuss this with many of my clients, but try to always keep it in the forefront of my awareness. My professional secret is this: I don’t really care much about the law. And I don’t care much about divorce per se. (Sure I have being doing the technical aspects of this for some 30 years, and frankly all of that is mundane and pretty easy for me by now.)

What I really care most deeply about is emotional and spiritual growth. And in the classroom of life, the changing of relationships is pregnant with opportunity, whether it be for devastating pain or the radiant possibility for authentic growth.  The pervasive, grungy mud surrounding the breaking up of intimate relationships may be likened to the foul, smelly manure that inexplicably allows fertile growth in nature. The lotus flower is a symbol of the growth of a most beautiful flower that grows out of the most humble mud.

lotus flower in pond