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Practicing alone usually means we don't practice at all

weekly message Sep 04, 2020

Hafiz writes,

A hunting party
Sometimes has a greater chance
Of flushing love and God
Out into the open
Than a warrior
All Alone

There is a distorted understanding of the spiritual journey that says we have to walk it all by ourselves. It says that meditation and prayer are solitary practices and that you are solely responsible for your journey into God. And there is a certain appeal to this vision. It plays to our heroic fantasies of the warrior willing to scale the mountain and fight the dragon. It is a test of the individual. But what is this dragon the spiritual warrior is allegedly fighting?

The dragon is the belief that we are separate. The dragon is the delusion of our minds that says we are not an interrelated, interpenetrated Being. The warrior is fighting through the delusion so they might come to understand that they are part of a unified whole.

They are fighting against the isolation of the self. Which makes this fantasy of the lone warrior so curious. If you truly want to experience the interconnected truth why would you practice, why would you rehearse, in such a solitary way?

Over the last 50 years, we have witnessed an atomization of the spiritual journey, a rise of self-fulfillment prophecies, a massive disassociation with religious identity and tradition, and a profound sense of spiritual loneliness. There are very good reasons for people to leave behind the traditional religious frameworks from the resistance to scientific progress, to values and stories that just no longer speak to a modern people, to incredibly coercive power dynamics that reinforce social hierarchies and prejudices. There are very good reasons to leave behind the religion of our grandparents. 

But in the leaving, we have found ourselves lonely. And, mirroring the growing capitalist and consumerist culture, we have seen a spiritual journey appear where people pick and choose the dimensions of the journey they like while discarding the dimensions they don’t. We go to the online store rather than belong to a community with a mission because we are looking for service providers rather than relationships that bind us. Limitation has become a bad word. There is no need for compromise because who would you need to compromise with. It is just you.

There was a loss of trust in the traditional narratives and people cried out, “I am going to go it alone.”

But what actually happens is that we don’t go anywhere.

The warrior who climbs the mountain to slay the dragon all by is not a true story. So instead of trying to practice and rehearse the journey into the interrelated Being we read books or watch videos telling us what it is like. 

But I don’t want to live within someone else’s story. I want to know love and God intimately. This is why I believe in the hunting party, this is why I believe in a shared journey up the mountain.

God is a mutuality. It is a quality of existence that comes into being when we are able to experience the interconnected and interpenetrated truth of existence.

And this doesn’t happen through devotional isolation, but rather through devotional reciprocity that bows not to the altar of the self but to the altar of kinship. The hunting party is a reflection of the truth of the interconnected God, it is the rehearsal. 

Intercessory prayer gets a bit of a bad wrap because it is often interpreted as someone petitioning a God distinct from our Being on the behalf of others. But I have long been drawn to the definition of intercessory prayer used by Sister Rose Mary Dougherty who says it is about being available to God for the sake of another. This isn’t an attempt to make any specific thing appear or disappear. It is about joining within the prayer for Being. It is a come-hither-ness. There is a sacred eroticism. It is an acknowledgement of the longing within us drawing us together.

The next 9-week spiritual immersion program launches in a little over a week. This is not a class or a course. This is Hafiz’s hunting party. We are coming together to flush love and God out into the open. It is a community with a mission. 

If you are ready to take your spiritual journey more seriously, this is the moment. I don’t believe that courses and books, however insightful, do what you want them to do because, ultimately, they reify the individual journey. If you want to know the mutuality of God then you need a community with a mission, a hunting party. If this appeals to you, give me a call and let’s see if it is the right fit for you.


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