Over the years, as I've become less and less religious, my take on "spirituality" has become similarly pared down. I used to believe that a being a spiritual person had something to do with rising above or beyond this world into some ethereal realm.
Now, I consider that being fully present is most, if not all, of what it means to be spiritual -- which removes supernatural connotations from this word and places it firmly in this world, not the next.
The older and more churchless I get (the two qualities being closely tied together in me) the more frequently a strong intuitive feeling bursts into my awareness that whatever I'm experiencing at this moment, I'd damn well better appreciate it, because it's never coming my way again.
Like how religious grace is described, this feeling arrives unbidden. However, it seems more like a recognition of what always is there, but dimly perceived, than a mystery newly revealed.
After all, what could be more obvious than the fact that each of us will die, that there is no demonstrable reason to believe this is anything other than our one and only life, and that even if somehow consciousness continues after death, this moment never will come again as it is right now?
Becoming fiercely alive to this potentially ever present awareness makes me feel, not surprisingly, much more appreciative of life. Not life in the abstract, not some concept of what the meaning of life is, but the simple stark reality that existence exists, I'm aware of it, and such is freaking amazing.
Somehow the cosmos has conspired (not literally, but in a laws of nature sense) to produce a Me, a being with a capacity for awareness.
So a few days ago, I could walk along the sidewalk in downtown Salem after my Tai Chi class and suddenly be struck by the awesome, stupendous, mind-blowing fact that I was, along with everything that I was aware of: people, buildings, cars, trash cans, a Starbucks on the corner that I was heading toward with my coffee mug in hand.
Wow. Which, spelled backward, is still Wow. Likewise, however I turn life, it is starting to look the same to me -- a marvelous melding of good news and bad news: this moment will never come again.
In truth, of course, I suspect that I should ditch the "good" and "bad," because this moment is neither.
For a somewhat related take on all this, check out Mark Morford's recent column, "Hurry up, get more done, and die." I liked it a lot. The piece ends with:
What do you want to say at the end of it all? How do you want to go out? Do you wish to say, "Hey, check out my amazing life, I filled every crevice and crease with work, a thing, a scan or a blip to the point where I wasted no time doing anything like sitting still for a moment and feeling the air on my skin?" Do you wish to set the world record for task completion? Hey look, that's a new task for you right there. Awesome.
Me, I am not sure what I want on my epitaph. Probably something about love and whisky, bliss and consciousness, sex and the yoga of wordplay. Or maybe nothing at all.
But I know what I don't want it to say: "Here lies Mark Morford. He sure got a lot done."