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With a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction degree (Goucher College, August 2014), I am looking at a new phase in my life. From 1992 to 2009, I served as Founding Executive Director of Miriam's House, a residence for homeless women living with AIDS. I left this position when Chronic Migraine Disease overtook my ability to do my job. Now I hope that a writing career will both accommodate the migraines and give me a creative, productive outlet. And soon, September 4, I will launch my Inkshares author page in a bid to hit the 1,000 pre-order goal in 90  days. The book I want to publish is "Nowhere Else I Want to Be," a memoir of ten of my years at Miriam's House.

02 March 2013

Reading Mariechild Together: Purification Instead of Spiritual Materialism

After a couple of really rough weeks of migraines, my energy -- both spiritual and physical -- is low. The realization that I had not written a post in five days, along with the frustration of getting behind in my schoolwork, has me wondering if there is anything I can really do beside be in pain.

Then along comes the March 2 reading in Diane Mariechild's "Open Mind -- Womens' Daily Inspirations for Becoming Mindful." Tsultrim Allione, whose words Mariechild quotes at the top of the page, tells us that

"One cannot force or grab a spiritual experience because it is as delicate as the whisper of the wind. But one can purify one's motivation, one's body, and train oneself to cultivate it."

And there goes my whining about what can I do beside be in pain.

Purification, in terms of preparing for spiritual growth, is possible even when I am in pain. In some ways, I am practicing it already. I have to be very careful about what I eat, consuming only fresh and organic foods and only home-made goods. It helps to lie still, blindfolded, and practice deep relaxation (I have written about this often, here and here.) If I allow stress or anger or impatience or frustration to flood through me the pain becomes worse, so I practice equanimity of mind and spirit.

I know that not everyone reading this post suffers from chronic pain, yet we all have barriers to the spiritual life: being too busy, too tired, too responsible. Whatever the reason, we all need to find the places that we can begin to practice purification measures. Mariechild says

"Purification means we purify our bodies by sensible living habits. We purify our minds from negative thoughts. We purify our motives, our intentions, by transforming our greed and self-striving and by our willingness to serve other beings...our desires by eliminating our wishes for material possessions or self-aggrandizement."

Purify our living. Purify our thinking. Purify our motives and intentions. Be in service.

None of us can do all these at once; indeed, trying that would be just another form of spiritual materialism, wouldn't it? So let go of the need to grasp at purity. Find one place in your life that could do with some purification. Are you holding a grudge? Do you make snide comments whenever that politician is in the news? Could you cut out one form of junk food from your diet? Do you have a goal that, however worthy and important it is, also includes thoughts about being better than others or getting revenge?

Knowing myself, I realize that it is possible for me to turn the desire for purification into spiritual materialism by grasping for it, berating myself when I fall short, letting my irritation at myself affect a relationship or interaction with another. So I remind myself of something a spiritual director I once had used to say to me at the close of each session:

Go gently.


I would love to hear from you. Please click on Comment below, or email me at carold.marsh@gmail.com. Thank you.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this.

    Read an interview with Paul Newman once. He was asked if he would do anything differently if he could go back in time. He said "I would have worked less."

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