This is an excerpt from The Simple Leader: Personal and Professional Leadership at the Nexus of Lean and Zen
We are not human beings on a spiritual journey. We are spiritual beings on a human journey.
– Stephen R. Covey
The majority of humans believe in some type of a connection to a greater power, be it truly divine or just universal. Some may believe but simply go through motions drilled into them since birth, never questioning or validating the experience. Some, like myself, affirm the existence of something else—even if we don’t understand what that is.
The scientist in me stares up at the stars, knowing there are countless billions of them potentially with civilizations vastly older and more developed than ours. Then I contemplate recent advances in fields like quantum mechanics, where entanglement creates instantaneous connections over vast distances, making me wonder if we’re starting to see the connection between the physical world and the soul. I see how the evolution of the “internet of things” has already made billions of devices instantly accessible and controllable, and wonder how long will it be before every molecule in our world can be similarly addressed and manipulated.
The curious learner in me has spent years reading and analyzing numerous books on the history of religions, and I am amazed at the remarkable similarities between them. As one religious scholar friend once told me, it’s as if different groups of people were watching the same game from different parts of a stadium—some from the front row, others from high up in the standing-room-only section, still others from behind obstructions where they could only see part of the field. Each group recorded their experience in ways that were then distorted over time.
Episcopalian bishop and theologian John Shelby Spong has written about the impact of perspectives on religious literalism. One example he gives is the many ways ancient peoples described the rise of the sun each morning, from it being a star to being the powerful god Ra. Culture, religion, and knowledge shaped how different groups understood the same event. Other theologians, such as Catholic priest Thomas Merton, have found how seemingly disparate religions, such as Buddhism and Christianity, can be very complementary.
Like many people, I have felt an unequivocal, undeniable force at many times in my life. When dealing with exceptional stress, loss, or difficult decisions, it was there. It’s no longer faith for me—it’s real. I feel it while walking in nature, or even at this very moment, while looking out over the Caribbean while on vacation.
Each person’s experience is unique. But take time, perhaps while surrounded by the beauty of nature, to contemplate your spiritual existence. Being able to draw strength from that will bring peace. Peace will help calm your mind, enabling you to understand who you are.