-Some Inter-religious, Multi Religious, Non-denominational Recommendations-
Let us start with saying what a spiritual resume isn’t. It is not a document to hand over to others. Writing it is a process cannot a single task, and that process has no fixed beginning or end. A spiritual resume is not about Facts & Figures like ‘I have done 7 retreats in 7 years’ or ‘I had a mystical experience at the age of 13 and 33’. Better describe what happened during that retreat and how did that mystical experience unfold and what did you learn from it? Thus, it is not a record of your spiritual accomplishments; it is a description of these spiritual achievements. Should you like to mention meditation or prayer, instead of recording the hours you have put into that, what about describing how your meditation or prayer has developed over time? Describe your spiritual blossoming instead of the milestones, although milestones are worth noting.
If you describe you have been ‘in God’ as Brother Lawrence, a monk, did in the 1600s, you could narrate how close you have come, the efforts, the process. Brother Lawrence, a monk in the 1600s, promised himself he would live day and night, in good and bad times, in God. He spent many years practicing the presence of God in his life. His key to this practice was that he strove to be consciously aware of God’s presence at all times, which seems a perfect synonym of (Christian) mindfulness.
Should your spiritual resume use a different religious or spiritual lexicon, for instance the language of yoga, one could write what and how special forms of meditation have helped you, how they have offered you insights, and which ones. It is not about credentials; it is about describing developments which you should not judge or grade. The tiniest insight can have a profound ripple effect. One doesn’t need huge breakthroughs to see these small steps as valuable.
How can you record or narrate the developments you like to add to your resume? Now here comes the art of creatively thinking. Just start with a few words, draft narratives from there, and then think about whether you like to use words or perhaps stone, yarn, clay, wool, colored pencils, oil paints, or musical notes. Because your spiritual resume is about you, materializing it should feel as doing something as close as possible to you as a person. If you love graphite pencils better than a fountain pen, why not make a drawing? Should you like wool more than grammar, why not weave a tapestry? Whether you opt for an Aboriginal art inspired large canvas or a Beaker bell inspired pot, this is a very personal choice and one could use one’s skills and talents.
There is no need for a spiritual resume to follow a timeline. One can better adopt a more medieval approach that time is circular. Such a medieval concept begs the question how to write a resume that has no beginning or end, neither facts or figures. The best way to write a spiritual essay is not regarding mystical experiences, insights, or meditative breakthroughs as achievements on which other successes build. It is far better to see these ‘achievements’ as gifts being given to you. It is said that if you take one step to God or Allah, God or Allah will take ten to you. Which automatically leads to a spiritual resume as having a tone of gratefulness, and perhaps resembling a gratitude journal.
Another possible form is writing letters. Again there is no need to follow a chronological setup. Write about the most mysterious, insightful, and wonderful experiences followed by the less significant but probably equally important encounters or occurrences.
‘I had an uncle who for years wrote a letter to his guardian angel, which listed his spiritual progress and experiences. After his demise, his children turned it into a booklet that was distributed among his family and friends‘.
‘My old dairies, that held my deepest perhaps even spiritual thoughts, made me feel ashamed. I had no other vocabulary than a girlish one. I was even scorned by family members after they read a diary entry. I trashed my notes; I came to see them as melodramatic. Around the time I became aware of spirituality, there was only enlightenment or not. Enlightenment was something huge, something for well trained, wise, old men, not for young girls. Thank God, we now have vocabularies of different spiritual traditions for writing about our spiritual developments. And that is because we now have ‘Spirituality‘ shelves in bookshops offering us spiritual lexicon, even modern secular lexicon. But that took decades. I can now write about spiritual experiences but it took a society becoming interested in spirituality and publishers to print spiritual narratives‘.
Still, a spiritual narrative or resume does not have to be written down. One can also become a medieval craftsman making art ‘for God’ not signing the art. This is not a usual thing for us, 21st century people, but perhaps you get my gist. Maybe you prefer a needle and yarn for making a grand sampler that records your spiritual growth. Or compose a piece of music. Whatever medium you use and how is your choice and your choice only. Of course, we easily identify books as spiritual resumes. Think of Teresa of Avila’s written texts on her spiritual journey through life. Or of ‘The Practice of the Presence of God’ by Brother Lawrence. Or visit any proper bookshop and see how many modern people help you by offering their narrative which can be very educational in terms of offering lexicon and tools to discern what spiritual growth is. But what about altar cloths handwoven by anonymous women? Or nameless temple decoration certainly made in full devotion? Perhaps these are spiritual resumes as well.
By now, I have moved far away from the meaning of the word resume or curriculum vitae. In my defense; had I used -for instance- artwork or autobiography, this would have deterred those who aren’t artistic or do not feel like writing a book. Notebook, diary, or a journal? Name your document whatever you may see fit.
Entry to a spiritual diary:
There was this one single moment in which -in my twenties- I overlooked a harbour. A gull passed over me, calling its melancholic cry. The sound of that call seemed to expand in the fast open space of sea and sky. I thought how it would be to be that gull having no home, no ties, just taking this endless open space for granted. And then it happened. I didn’t become that gull, but all the sudden I was in that open space consisting of a seemingly endless blue sea and a cerulean sky. I dissolved and it was so peaceful, not scary at all. I have no idea how long that moment lasted but it never left me. I will at no time forget this moment and perhaps death might feel like this; just dissolving without emotions or attachments.
One can ask for growth and help it happen, but one can not force it. Modern people are very much in the business of managing developments, ‘working on it‘, ‘making it happen‘, but spiritual experiences do not belong to the domain of things that are manageable. We can only invite them and open welcoming doors.
To recall and describe experiences that belong to your spiritual resume, or essay, or poem, or painting, I found a few ideas that might be helpful. Some seem self-explanatory. Clearly this advice comes from me and has helped me which does not automatically apply to you. You might list sailing or visiting ancient monuments as supportive. Do feel invited to comment and add what has been supportive for your spiritual curriculum vitae.
Also, a disclaimer here. To grow your spiritual resume is not a business of stimulating growth, which means no drugs or extreme actions. We have ‘to sit by the grass and let it grow by itself‘ (Zen saying). There is it, sitting by the grass is active; we have to sit by the grass (we have to create favourable conditions). But letting the grass grow by itself is passive. We can open doors and leave them open but we can’t force friends to come in. We invite them in, politely.
- Meditate or pray. In meditation or prayer we gain deeper insights and are offered spiritual experiences. Nobody plans enlightenment or mystical experiences. They come to us as gifts or accidents. But we can invite gifts by prayer and meditation. The interesting thing with meditation is that there are 1001 courses in which you can learn to meditate, but there is hardly any advice on how to pray. As a child I thought it was sending a wish-list up to the Wise Man above. Should you like to read more about prayer, may I advise reading Thich Nhat Hanh‘s The Energy of Prayer?
- Listen to religious or spiritual music. I once read a quote by an Indian spiritual lecturer. He said if he had to choose between spoken language or music, he would choose music which is remarkable for a former university and later spiritual lecturer, for somebody practically spending his whole life giving lectures. He said (not a verbatim quote) that ‘From music, spiritually naturally follows’. Bach lovers know this and voice it with a humorous twist: ‘Bach is God and God is Bach’. Music is majorly important, hence listening to Zen-bowls, shamanic drums, Gregorian chants, or other religious-spiritual music.
- What also helps us to invite mystic experiences or deeper insights is art-making. By art-making I do not mean making a gallery or museum piece. Modest and focused art-making or crafts work is enough: knitting, sketching, woodwork, needle art, working on a religious patterned colouring page. It is not the art that counts, but meditation that shuts down our loquacious mind. Once we have calmed our minds and turned our inner cacophony into a zen-like symphony, there is more space for divine or spiritual insights or wisdom to break through. Grandmothers seem to have known this. They didn’t need to sweat and burn at hot steam yoga classes. They sat themselves near a window for calmly doing an hour of knitting or crochet whilst they went deep into meditation. If you interrupted them, they returned to their busy family life from what seemed a place full of silence and wisdom.
- Good sleep is another method for becoming wiser. A good night’s sleep and keeping a dream journal offers a possibility to study our subconscious mind through Jungian dream analysis. You do not need a degree for this. You do not even need to buy 10 books. Reading a few is okay to open your mind to the symbolic language of our subconsciousness. Not all dreams should be analyzed; one quickly learns which ones stand out in significance. There are nice methods and nice theories that help us to integrate our subconscious mind into our daily living. Once you have gained some techniques and insights, these stay with you. One will feel more whole being in touch with wisdom that is stored within us. Remember that in ancient and holy books much divine communication comes through dreams.
- Going into nature. Again, almost self-explanatory, just like art-making, spending time in nature is beneficial to our well being. The sensual enchantments of spending time in nature will quiet your mind. That said, where is ‘nature’? Despite that there is hardly any unspoiled nature left, a park, a rewilding corner in your garden, or a holy well a few kilometers away must do the job. If these places are unfeasible, perhaps listening to a tape with bird sounds will do? Take some nature to you but adapt the definition of nature to your living condition.
- Diet! Yes. I have experienced it myself firsthand. Three weeks into turning vegan, I had a profound spiritual experience that shocked me out of my socks. There is hardly any world religion not advising on fasting or diet. A rich diet harms the body and inhibits spiritual growth. I read a Yogi saying that ‘Yoga requires a diet’. Yoga exercises without a diet are just physical exercises. You can’t stuff your body with bad food and then hope subtle energies will run through it.
- Read spiritual books. Start somewhere and see yourself developing through different themes, ‘religions’, and advice. Look for information but check whether the author or source is trustworthy. Theoretical study is important for its special vocabulary, identifying stages of development, and good advice. After giving this much thought, I think there are exceptions; the uneducated shepherd who finds enlightenment by walking the hills or the brainy scholar that neglects his body by spending decades on reading holy books and finds enlightenment. Even so, for most of us a good balance between proper sleep, listening to music, meditation and prayer, a healthy diet, with additional theoretical studies welcomes spiritual development.
Here is ‘Why One Should Write a Spiritual Resume‘.
Wishing you many wonderful and soul-nurturing hours penning down your spiritual resume. I hope this article has been helpful. Should I receive valuable comments, I might post an additional post consisting of these comments (if preferred anonymized). In other words, feel free to use the contact form.
Paula’s art is at Etsy and her portfolio at Instagram.
Paula holds an MA degree in Philosophy and she is the owner of mindfuldrawing.com. Her pen and pencils are always fighting for her attention nevertheless they are best friends; Paula likes her art to be brainy and her essays to be artistic. Feel free to contact Paula for commissions.
- Visiting Lebuïnus’s Well (Deventer, Netherlands)
- Order your Mandarin Duck Art Card (frame-able)
- Why Should you Write a Spiritual Resume (Curriculum Vitae)?
- How to Write your Spiritual Resume, or Curriculum Vitae?
- Inspiring Artist Studios II
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