There are a wide variety of ways in which we can be “spiritual tourists.” I should tell you a little about how I came to this name for this state of spiritual inquiry. Each of us here has done some traveling, my husband Dan and I have done a good bit by car because we really like the way you can get close to the landscape, open the windows, smell the smells & see the colors. We like to get a place and stay for a while and find out what a place is like for the people who live there.When I began teaching classes online years ago, one of my students was a very intelligent, creative woman from the South. She had worked as a businesswoman and was very successful in her work. She was able to do the written work of the course very clearly and to express herself somewhat exuberantly and amusingly with her classmates.
Abruptly, she dropped the class and when she did so she sent me a long email in which she admitted that the work was more than she had expected and that she had come to view herself as a “spiritual tourist.” This distinction in the way she had described her state of spiritual participation came in a very authentic and honest communication and was the beginning of my thinking about this idea.
In any case, each of us can use this reference, this state of being a tourist as a metaphor for how we approach our spirituality. For instance, there are those who fly above the earth in a jumbo jet. These are the folks who learn intellectually about the “high notes.” They may know the names of some of the major religions and the geographic places where they originated, but the practices and basic ideas of those spiritual paths are obscured from their view, as if by the cloud of unknowing.
Then there are those who pilot their own small aircraft. These fly closer to the ground and because they do, they get a much better view, but these are the folks who are still learning facts and the details, but they don’t really try out any of the specific practices or think about what it would mean to apply the ideas in their lives. While they may have a more detailed view, there is still missing any practice of what one has learned.
There may be a bit of yearning to do so here, but these are still a people who are moving so fast through their lives that they still can’t seem to find the time to slow down, sit down, and go within, where what they have learned in their inquiries might begin to seep in. The possibilities of going within have not yet been revealed, but there is a sense of intrigue, a sense that one day one not so far off, one will begin to engage on a deeper level. The choice about when is still open.
Now this metaphor can get extended pretty far so that it includes parasailers, paragliders – you know who I mean, these are the folks who take some kind of motor driven vehicle or boat, and using it’s velocity, fly behind it. This is a metaphor for those who begin following someone else’s inspiration because they have not yet learned how to generate their own. These are likely to be the folks who you see on TV following a great evangelist or a guru. Now I know that this can be an authentic path, and what we are talking about here are those who are looking for someone else to do the work for them. They don’t yet know that there is a source of Truth inspiration within themselves that is bottomless and rises whenever they call upon it.
And there are those of us who really are driving our cars over the landscape of our spiritual lives. We see things far off and we see some things close up. Sometimes we drive right over to the experiences. Sometimes we drive way too fast and all we see is a blur. Sometimes we drive with a few people in the car with us and we all report to one another what we see as we go along. This is pretty much what being in an open spiritual community is like. We don’t have to do all the work ourselves, we trust that someone in our community will let us in on their experience, and as a result, we will learn from their experience as well as our own. We serve one another in this form of spiritual tourism.
In all these descriptions there is a sense of aimlessness, a sense of wandering around without a purpose. What would make the greatest difference in our experience of how our spiritual lives work?
Just about everyone whom I have known who lives a deep and purposeful spiritual life has certain qualities. These are focus, commitment, a sense of oneself being worth the investment of time and effort, and the knowledge that they were not alone. All of these are founded on the profound knowledge that all is LOVE and that God is the essence of love. In New Thought we say that Love is also what we are. That whatever God is, we are that too. In How to Speak Religious Science, Dennis Merritt Jones writes:
“He that loveth not, knoweth not God; for God is Love.” Love is the self-givingness of spirit to its creation and is a cosmic force whose sweep is irresistible. Love is the highest vibration in the universe; nothing can withstand its embrace. The opposite of love is fear. In the light and vibration of love, the darkness of fear cannot exist. To know God’s presence is to experience unconditional love. To see the presence of God in others is to love them. Unconditional love is always the answer.”
This passage brings to mind what it would mean to be a tourist on foot, the kind of tourist that the Peace Pilgrim was. Can we be that courageous? Can we trust God for each and every part of our experience, for each bite of food that we eat, for the place where we sleep, for the nature of our work each day and for the bounty of our personal spiritual experience? Could we let go of the trappings of our life as she did in answer to the call of Spirit? Can we go on foot wherever spirit leads us? Notice how extreme that might feel? And yet, each of us has a yearning to go farther, to go deeper, to know God better and there is really only one place where we need go to do so, within ourselves. So let’s do that today.
So let’s clear off our laps, adopt a good meditation posture now, close our eyes, and for a short bit of time, let us go within and contemplate what kind of spiritual tourism we wish to engage ourselves in at this time in our lives.
The practice of Truth is personal to each, and in the long run no one can live our life for us. To each is given what he needs and the gifts of heaven come to all alike. How we shall use these gifts is what matters…” Dr. Ernest Holmes, The Science of Mind
The truth about you is this, “God in you, as you, is you.” God really is all that is. Know this truth and you are free to express your true Self! Spiritual tourism is not something that we have to be worried about. It is our self-exploration in action. It is our self-knowingness and it is up to us how we go about it.