It’s the turning of the year and I am reviewing the last 12 months and its highlights. Forgive the vulgarity, but what stands out for me is when I snogged this fantastic 3-year old horse, Jupiter. (For non-Brits, ‘snog’ is slang for an enthusiastic kiss.) He and I pushed noses hard against each other and exchanged breaths. If you have never done it, you would not believe how soft and silky a horse’s nose can be. And the smell – if you like animals – is wonderful.
Why was this so great for me? Because I was bitten by a horse when I was young and have been nervous of them ever since – even though, strange to say, I am a natural rider. My riding style however is one of master and creature, rather than friendly companions.
The opportunity to hang out with Jupiter came last September when I was with a group in the German Alps and was invited to spend an afternoon horse-whispering. In a small meadow with five horses, I was attracted to the feisty young male who had never been ridden and spent three hours with him, gradually moving from caution into intimacy. The turning point for Jupiter was when I started giving his back some long, strong and deep massage strokes using the whole of my arm. He could really feel and enjoy them and I became his friend, culminating in a flow of cuddles and the nose-to-nose connection.
I celebrated the friendship and I also celebrated healing the anxiety, which I had carried too long.
Recently I read an academic paper by Paul Heelas, professor of religion at Lancaster University, studying the nature of contemporary spirituality. In the midst of careful scholastic consideration, his own excitement with the subject breaks through and he exclaims that the modern spiritual approach is not concerned with beliefs and theologies but with life! Life itself is spirituality.
That is what I felt with Jupiter. Just the sheer bubbling exuberance of life itself. Getting psychological and analytical about my emotions and anxiety and development does not come into the equation. I just wanted to be fully alive.
During the last year, I also kept on hearing a friend saying about all the spiritual books and workshops available, "I just don’t get it." She said this about my own work too, and I wanted to understand what she meant. I finally understood her when she described her history, some of which had been tragically tough. Even in the darkest of her times, she had felt connected to the great hum and buzz of nature and the universe. There was never any question for her about whether there was a spiritual aspect to existence. It was all – all of it! – clearly and continuously amazing, never ending, emerging out of and through everything.
When she heard people talking about their peak spiritual experiences and grand psychic happenings, and she said, "I just don’t get it," what she really might have said is, "But life is like that all the time! Don’t make such a fuss about your occasional awakenings to the miracle of creation."
This is like a conversation that is reported to have taken place once between an evangelical Christian and a Muslim Sufi. The Christian was talking about Jesus’ miracles. The Sufi replied softly, his hands pointing to the plants in the garden and the sun in the sky, "What need have we of miracles when the whole of life is a miracle?"
This is good advice for those of us who are into modern spirituality, and all its books and teachings, especially in the Winter months when we tend to withdraw and retreat. Spirituality is not a special thing to be found in special places. It is Life. Have a wonderful 2007.