Who Is More Spiritual?

At a recent couple’s retreat a man started talking about how much further ahead his wife was:  “She reads a lot of self-help books, goes to workshops, meditates, and does yoga. I only provide for the family and in my free time spend as much time with our family as I possibly can.”  As he spoke he placed his one hand higher than the other and sadly said, “She is up here and I am down here, and I don’t think I can ever catch up with her.” Barry and I looked over at his wife who also sadly agreed with all that he said.  This perception, we knew, was going to keep them from feeling totally connected. And yet looking at this couple we couldn’t help but notice the equality of love in both of them. I found myself telling them a story about myself that happened twenty five years ago. ……

Barry and I lived a very quiet life with our four year old daughter, Rami, in the woods and hills outside of Santa Cruz, California. We had a small rented house with hundreds of acres of land to explore.  Except for an occasional trip into town for groceries, we saw almost no one. Our days were mostly filled with caring for and playing with our small daughter. While one of us was watching Rami, the other would meditate, do yoga or read spiritual books. Barry also worked one or two days a week at a clinic as a doctor to support our very simple life style. My spiritual practice was very disciplined. I meditated long hours and seriously read various spiritual books. Barry started out that way, and gradually other things took more and more of his attention. He learned how to do all of our Volkswagen car repairs, he built trails to hike on, he did woodworking and studied maps and trail books for adventures to be had someday. While my spiritual practice grew and grew, Barry devoted less and less time to that pursuit.  I began to feel that I was better than Barry, even, I hate to admit, spiritually superior to him. The more I felt superior, the greater the distance grew between us.

Right at this time I needed to take a continuing education class to keep my nursing license, so I chose a weekend workshop away from home on inner healing. As soon as I signed up for the workshop a strong intuitive feeling came over me that I would meet a new man and fall in love with him.  This thought both intrigued and scared me. I hadn’t been interested in anyone else since I was married.

The day of the workshop arrived and I kissed and said good-by to Barry and our darling daughter for three days, then traveled 50 miles south to attend the workshop. The whole time I was driving I was aware of my unsettling feeling that I would be meeting and falling in love with a new man. I entered the workshop room with trepidation and saw there were only a few men in a roomful of women, and these men were much older than me and very unappealing. I immediately thought, “Wow, my intuition was really wrong this time.”

That taken care of, I settled into the course. The instructor had us choose one area in our lives that needed healing. I chose this feeling of superiority over Barry. Throughout the next three days he led us in meditations in which we saw the healing taking place. With each meditation I concentrated on the ways that Barry really was very spiritual. As I did this, I realized that spirituality isn’t about how much a person does, it is more about their heart or essence. As the weekend progressed I realized that I was seeing Barry in a new light.

Not being able to stand being apart from him, I called and asked him to join me for the last afternoon of the workshop. Barry found a babysitter and traveled down to be with me. When I saw him I felt like I was seeing the man of my dreams. I ran into his waiting arms. The older nurses witnessed this scene and remarked rather loudly that we must have just fallen in love, to be acting like we were. I felt completely in love with the most wonderful, spiritual man.

Outwardly Barry hadn’t changed a drop. He had just been spending ordinary days with Rami, something he often did. But I saw him in a new way, and that made all the difference. I truly had fallen in love with a new man.

Nine years later, two more children, three books written and having a very busy complicated life style, the 1989 earthquake totally destroyed that wonderful rented house. We were all inside and came very close to dying. Immediately after the earthquake we somehow made our way out of the mess that used to be our home. I carried our 5 month old John-Nuri, and Rami and our seven year old daughter, Mira were helped out by Barry. I felt in shock and just stood silently out in the street, while Mira asked me if we had just died and gone to heaven. Barry suddenly put his arms around us and began thanking God for sparing our lives and allowing us all to make it out safely. Through my shock and confusion I looked at him and marveled at his immediate and enthusiastic spiritual response to our situation. I also wondered how I could have ever felt superior to him in this regard.

Today, I continue to devote more of my free time to my spiritual path than Barry does. But if I ever think that perhaps I am ahead of him in this regard, I have only to picture him holding his family and thanking God, while our home and possessions were all destroyed. Spirituality is more about our hearts, the way we live our lives, the way we care about others and ourselves, than it is about the amount of time we spend with books or practices.


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