By Sandra Lee Schubert
Urban dwellers can be fierce – embracing life with full vigor. Here you must seek out spiritual moments, finding them in big and small places. In our big cities bright lights take the place of a starry night sky. The movement under our feet is the movement of a subway train and not the plates of the earth. The lure of the urban environment occupies the daily existence of city dwellers. We have diversity in food, entertainment and an assortment of bars and clubs to keep our nights full. But do we consider our spiritual lives when deciding where to eat?
A city like New York does not lack for spiritual opportunities. The city is packed with religious institutions from the largest gothic Episcopal Cathedral just on the edge of Harlem to alternative places of worships housed in storefronts to the outer boroughs. If you know what you want it is relatively easy to find something that will suit your needs.
What if you aren’t sure?
Every time you don’t follow your inner guidance, you feel a loss of energy, loss of power, a sense of spiritual deadness. Shakti Gawain
We may have grown up in an organized religion. The experience may have been negative or positive. Life’s distractions and dissatisfaction with the organization may have sent you searching for salvation in other places. A good restaurant can be so much more interesting then a church, synagogue or a mosque. Living in difficult times, raising a family or just the need for some deeper meaning created a yearning for the familiarity of your religious roots. What may have seemed overwhelming when you were a child can now seem perfect. The experience of adulthood allows you to make better choices about your moral and spiritual life. You can go back to what you know or explore new opportunities. Your choices are diverse.
There are many forms of Christianity, Judaism and Buddhism that can be investigated. You can visit spiritualist churches or learn the teachings of the Koran. Or you can delve into the lives of the Goddesses.
Some Suggestions: Don’t be afraid to attend different places of worship.
How do you feel when you are there? What are the people like? Do their values match your life values? Do they dictate a strict mode of behavior or encourage questioning. Do you feel you could grow spiritually? You may feel more comfortable in a place that provides a structure or a practice outlining ways to live. Or that may feel too restrictive. Attend a few places until you find a fit that is best for you. Trust your feelings. If you feel nurtured then maybe that is the place for you.
Is there an urban spirituality?
Urban contemplatives acknowledge the presence of the sacred in all they meet. By their very presence they witness to the value, the untold respect, and reverence due each human person no matter how marginalized, destitute, or abandoned they are. Edward J. Farrell – City Lights, Sojourners Magazine/January-February 2000.
The urban life is different then a rural one. Our troubles may be similar but in the urban setting they can be exaggerated. We encounter the homeless on our streets not just one or two, but many. We can be drawn in by the power of the city – giving in to its overt consumerism. Or we can use the gifts of the city to build housing that is available for the poor among us.
The Reverend Lyndon F. Harris was the priest in charge of the relief ministries at Ground Zero offered through Saint Paul’s Chapel after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Harris was the founder of the Sacred City Project. Lyndon Harris says we are a communal people. The very nature of the urban setting makes this a necessity. And he thinks we are hardwired to be spiritual. The city itself is a living sacred text becoming a thriving laboratory for alternative worship that emerges against the backdrop of its vibrant and diverse urban setting. Harris goes on to say that so many of the important events had their beginnings in the wilderness and culminated in the cities. “God loves the city and the people of the city.” The city is big enough to encompass all religions and forms of spiritualities.
Our spirituality is as diverse as the city where we live. But our needs and desire for meaning in our lives is universal. How you live out your spiritual life is a personal choice. You can choose to practice quietly or join others in community, follow a traditional religion or create your own unique spirituality. Either way – choose wisely – your spirituality is not just a 9-5 experience it is life encompassing.
Sandra Lee Schubert is an interfaith minister, poet and founder of Wild Woman Ministries, a forum to explore and express creativity and spirituality. Ms. Schubert helps people discover and unlock their creative potential and is committed to assisting people in fulfilling their dreams. She leads workshops on meditation, creative writing, spirituality, and facilitates a popular writing program called the “Wild Angels” at the historic Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. Visit her Writing for Life blogsite and sign up for newsletter and updates.