-Some Inter-religious, Multi Religious, Non-denominational Recommendations-
Consisting of two parts this article begins with why one should write a spiritual curriculum vitae (resume). In addition to the why there is the how; how would such a resume look like? Must it be a written piece or are there more creative amalgamations possible? Lastly, some tips on how to grow your spiritual notebook, not so much as to list achievements but more for gratefully reflecting on special experiences. In both two chapters the term Resume is interchangeable with the Latin Curriculum Vitae.
Due to the length of this article, I’ve organized it in two chapters. Here is the shortcut to HOW COULD ONE DRAFT A SPIRITUAL RESUME and HOW TO GROW ONE’S SPIRITUAL RESUME.
‘Despite having no idea how a spiritual resume looks, a question about how my spiritual curriculum vita would look like, causes low grade panic in me. Spirituality has largely been erased from our society and our society’s rat-race doesn’t allow for us to reflect on other things like costs of living or maintaining my house, or the next holiday. Materialism has become the norm. Inquiring about my spiritual resume is a confrontation with myself; ‘Do I spend enough time on spiritual growth?’ (Male, midlife age)
Imagine compiling your spiritual resume. There is a big chance you will find large gasps between reading spiritual books, doing spiritual retreats, or musing over spiritual-mystical experiences. That is natural; one cannot have too many spiritual achievements happening in rapid succession. A monastic life is for life for a reason. Should you spiritually burn too brightly, like a candle flame in a drafty place, you consume too much of your wax in a too short time. Also, between spiritual developments, or growth spurts, one needs time to integrate experiences into one’s mundane life. One can’t have spiritual growth without properly transforming spiritual experiences into profound wisdom.
That said, these long white stretches, in which nothing spiritual or no spiritual development seems to happen, sometimes years, do unnerve us. It is important not to put pressure on ourselves. We are here to live a human life, not per-se a holy life, and there are many phases in life that are very down to earth, like growing up, reproduction, and growing older. These are deeply human experiences and should be valued as such. Humanism believes that we can give our lives meaning by seeking happiness and helping others to do the same. A similar idea is voiced by religious believers that we are here -on earth- as spiritual beings living a human life (with all its happiness and misery). This comes close to believers in angels who believe that angels wish for living a human life in order to feel: to smell flowers, to taste honey, to be intimate, to give birth, or to grief. There are many philosophical or religious reasons to value living a human life. We must value its vicissitudes in both blessings and tragedies.
Let us return to our spiritual resume. When one grows older, one sees a lot of closed doors. For women, for instance, that is the reproductive door. For men often that is career improvement. It feels sad to dwell on the past, on the closed doors, and past successes; it is undesirable to cling to the past. Although we welcome reflection on the past, we are especially interested in how to deal with closed doors; how to turn regret, disappointment, hardship into acceptance or blessings? Perhaps one finds the greatest solace in one’s wisdom or transcendent experiences.
What is remarkable about sacred or mystic experiences is that they are stored in your memory -for what seems- forever. Often, they can be recalled with significant ease and decades later one is able to talk about these experiences in great detail.
‘I have seen things, or experienced things that are more real to me than this world. I know this sounds unbelievable but many who have had spiritual experiences say this. These experiences come with a heightened awareness, more colour, and so much more definition. They make a lasting impression.’
Another extraordinary characteristic is that whilst analysing mystic dreams, or having visions, or feeling God, kundalini or satori, or being in contact with angels or divine beings, one feels ageless. And that is because we are spiritually ageless. When one adopts a broader sense of the meaning of life, or that of lives, in terms of reincarnation, age does seem relevant. What does matter is how one accumulates spiritual growth through life (for some, through multiple lives). It is probably therefore that going through mystical or spiritual experiences is not strictly linked to our aging bodies. Although there are often more spiritual experiences during childhood and midlife, that does not mean that one can attach an age label to a mystical experience itself. Mentioning age and using a chronological timeline is an important feature of a worldly resume but not so much for a spiritual resume.
How then to write a spiritual resume? A standard layout (timeline) of a resume does not seem to work which allows us to give our creativity free hand. See this absence of a formal lay-out as an invitation to give it your own creative format or interpretation.
Finding words to describe a spiritual development, insights or experience is another humongous task. Unless you attended a religious school or a congregation, one can be lost for words.
“It took me 35 years to understand that an old medical record of an EEG (electroencephalogram) that sat in my medical files surprisingly belonged to my spiritual files. This EEG was the result of me, as a teen, complaining to my mother about weird things. She had witnessed me being absent minded and talking gibberish over seeing her from far away while she held my hand. Nothing conclusive was found. Later in life I understood that I experienced OBE’s (Out of Body Experiences). When I experienced OBE‘s again, I pondered over what if I had been an Indian or Nepalese teen and my mother had not brought me to a doctor but to a yogi or priest? Perhaps he or she would have understood I was -without suffice terminology- talking about OBE’s and my mother would have been reassured. Maybe I would have received some training to return to my body (because that part was frightening).‘It took me 35 years to understand that an old medical record of an EEG (electroencephalogram) that sat in my medical files surprisingly belonged to my spiritual files. This EEG was the result of me, as a teen, complaining to my mother about weird things. She had witnessed me being absent minded and talking gibberish over seeing her from far away while she held my hand. Nothing conclusive was found. Later in life I understood that I experienced OBE’s (Out of Body Experiences). When I experienced OBE‘s again, I pondered over what if I had been an Indian or Nepalese teen and my mother had not brought me to a doctor but to a yogi or priest? Perhaps he or she would have understood I was -without suffice terminology- talking about OBE’s and my mother would have been reassured. Maybe I would have received some training to return to my body (because that part was frightening)”.
This quote shows how difficult drafting a spiritual curriculum vitae is. My advice is to accept the challenge and complexity; see it as doing research. Perhaps you need to have a close look at your medical records. Perhaps you have a look at your portfolio, or at your love for animals, or your holiday locations.
We haven’t been trained to write a spiritual essay. That said, nobody will judge your resume. A spiritual resume is perhaps the most personal piece you will ever write. It is such a private document that one should keep it for oneself. Not only because keeping this undisclosed lessens the risk of being misunderstood, or made into a laughingstock, one doesn’t fall into a trap of spiritual ego aggrandizing. Spiritual experiences are only relevant to the person who experiences them; the wisdom that comes because of having these experiences has relevance if, and only if, it is shared properly and ethically.
In an interview at Buddha at the Gas Pump, Bri. Joan Shivaripita Harrigan Ph.D., Joan says that most women start writing their spiritual journey and writing their spiritual resume in the vicinity of their 50s. By that time, women have done their worldly ‘duties’ in the sense of education, relations, reproduction and often have gone through menopause. Menopause offers a reorientation on life. ‘If I have 20-30 years left, what will I do, what is important?’ For others, often absorbed by jobs and careers, this moment of spiritual or philosophical re-calibration comes around retirement. Which is on the late side, because by then identification with job-titles and work related achievements have been written in stone and are less easy put aside to create room for a more spiritual orientation on life.
Fragment Spiritual Notebook:
“I sat -in my ‘dream’- in front of an older Tibetan Buddhist master. I knew it wasn’t a dream; it was a meeting. The face of the master was full of ancient wisdom. I expected something to happen, something out of the ordinary. I was filled with fear, but I also noticed how the old master knew this. It was as if a whole lineage of wise masters had a look at me. I calmed and waited and then instead of -what I expected- something was done to me, the master offered me a cup of tea! Later, I thought back of this and I remember being disappointed. Why had I been so afraid? Why only a cup of tea? I wanted to gain deeper insight or a spiritual transformation. Much later, I understood. After having more spiritual experiences, I learned my nervous system is too sensitive for spiritual fireworks. That cup of tea was pure caring kindness. I now think back of this ‘meeting’ as very precious.
(I know the Tibetan master wasn’t a figment of my imagination. I would have never been able to dream up an ancient face that held such unbelievable amount of wisdom. Also, at that time I wasn’t busying myself with Tibetan Buddhism at all! )”.(Anonymous)
Writing a spiritual resume will not be a short-term project. It won’t be done in a fortnight. It might be an ongoing process in which more and more white disappears and more experiences, memories, dreams, courses, quotes, will be penned down. In fact, it might morph into an essay that will be revised through the years. It eventually might become a diary or a personal book of prayer.
THE BENEFITS OF A SPIRITUAL RESUME
What are the benefits of drafting a spiritual resume? To me, the answer is a change of focus that will be hugely beneficial. Beneficial in terms of well-being and happiness, and of feeling more whole by connecting the spiritual and the mundane.
Here a warning seems appropriate. A spiritual resume is not about spiritual self-importance. It is not even about growth in the sense of stimulated growth. What it shouldn’t be is just another ego document, aimed at a new career.
What is then its relevance or importance? A spiritual resume, or letter to your angels, or God, opens new doors. It deepens your spiritual focus. The process of writing offers new perspectives, new shifts in life, it prevents clinging to the past. It might prevent growing depressed because contrary to the inevitable age-related physical losses, it is beneficial to see something of yourself that is still growing and developing. It stretches your mind over your whole life (if not beyond it). And you will be surprised how the white fills up itself! Do not for one moment think this is not for you because you haven’t experienced levitation, seen an archangel, or experienced enlightenment. To use a metaphor: just because you aren’t able to paint a Night Watch, it doesn’t mean you can’t colour in a pretty colouring page. Also, a spiritual resume is not about collecting spiritual experiences. It is about weaving these experiences into the mundanity of our daily lives. Like a shift from materialism to a more poetical, spiritual appreciation of life.
There are two more important aspects about a spiritual resume. One is its free form; your resume might take form of a notebook, or an essay, a poem, a painting, an embroidery sample, all creative expressions are permissible. Read more on how to write a spiritual resume in the next post. Furthermore, a spiritual resume or essay will develop, so it is important to choose a format that allows growth. This also will be discussed in the next article.
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 (anonymized, if your prefer that). In other words, feel free to use the contact form.
For reading how to write and grow your spiritual resume, click here.
Paula holds an MA degree in Philosophy and works as an artist in Utrecht. 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. Contact Paula freely for commissions or articles.
The next article deals with the question on how to write a spiritual resume and how to grow your spiritual curriculum vitae.
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- Why Should you Write a Spiritual Resume (Curriculum Vitae)?
- How to Write your Spiritual Resume, or Curriculum Vitae?
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