Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Is Spiritual the New Sexy?

On Sunday something unusual happened: Jack and I attended church. Yes, my son who—last time I checked was sorta down with Jesus, not wild about shaving his head for Buddha, but most interested in Zeus and Perseus—was down-right giddy about attending Sunday service. Before you get all dewy eyed and start claiming miracles do happen, let me assure you there was a major “carrot” involved to inspire his shift in perspective about church: a girl. And not just any girl, but the girl who said “Yes” to his proposal of “Will You Be My Friend?” (And for those of you who are keeping score, it was not Caroline* the classmate who he previously asked to be his "girlfriend," but another girl in his class named Zoe.*)
   I didn't intend to bribe my son into going to a religious service. I'm friends with Zoe's parents and I knew they attended this particular church, so I called to get the scoop. The next thing I know, Jack and Zoe are sitting in a pew together, whispering to each other and giggling. (Yes, I did have to give Jack the evil-eye every now and then when he continued to talk after the service began, but overall, they behaved wonderfully). The day before, I explained to Jack that I was looking for a church to attend—in addition to my Buddhist practice at Losel Maitri—and we were going to try out this one and see if we liked it.
   "What if we don't like it?" Jack asked. 
    "Well, we'll try another one," I said. "Every church is a little bit different. Some have good music. Some have a priest or minister who gives inspiring sermons. One church might be more laid-back, another, more formal. We just have to try them out and see which one we feel most comfortable in. Some people call it 'church shopping'." 
      Suffice to say, by the time we left the church, Jack was sold and practically begging me to bring him back next week. I'm not sure how much spiritual instruction Jack received (they didn't have Sunday School because of the holiday) but I was very happy that this foray into the world of organized religion was a positive one. 
   Watching Jack whispering to Zoe during church, I felt a little tug at my heart. First of all, it was just plain sweet, but I was also struck by something I've learned of late in my Do-Over life. Although there are many attributes and circumstances that go into the making of any relationship, I now realize the importance of sharing a sense of faith and convictions with the one you love. Without that shared perspective and beliefs, you lack a strong foundation for continued spiritual and emotional growth. Exploring spirituality with someone you love can bring about remarkable discoveries about yourself and each other. 
   But there's more to having a spiritual practice than going to church or meditating—and this is the tricky part—you have to live it and apply its principles into every aspect of your life. No matter your beliefs, practice is essential or you're just paying lip service and not doing the work, nor reaping the rewards. Surrounding yourself with people who share those beliefs makes it so much easier to practice. Of course, there's no guarantee that a shared spiritual practice will bind you together through thick and thin, but it's a good foundation on which to build.
   Now I know a lot of happy marriages where the husband and wife practice differing religions, but I suspect they must meet in the middle and support the common practices that are evident in most faiths, and respect the differences. Maybe simply having a spiritual practice is the important thing. Of course, until I embraced my own spiritual practice, I didn't fully appreciate the relevance—and coming to terms with what I believe is really what my Do-Over life has been about. Like Jack, I had a "carrot" who showed me what true intimacy was by sharing his beliefs with me and loving me for mine.
  Granted, as a Buddhist in the Deep South who believes in a compassionate and loving God, it might be a tall order to find someone who's spiritually compatible. But at least I know now what's important to me. Yep, one of the litmus tests for the man of my dreams is that he be able to sit through the recitation of the Tibetan prayer book without laughing out loud at the part where we say, "Ho ha ha hum." (Okay, I admit I got tickled by that at first, too, but I was able to contain myself.) 
   I never thought I'd say this, but at this point in my life, attending Dharma class on a date is a huge turn-on. When you think about it, meditating and praying together are more intimate than sex. And I may be onto something as more 40-somethings go searching for what's missing in their lives. Could it be that spiritual is the new sexy?

*  Not her real name.

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