The spiritual life
Published 04 June 2012
“There must be more to life than this. Mustn’t there?” asks Brian Draper in the introduction to his new book “Less Is More: Spirituality for Busy Lives”.
Who of us has not asked ourselves this question? We work hard, play hard, and if we’re lucky, settle into life with a happy family. But it can still seem, in spite of all we have, that we haven’t quite got all that we were looking for.
But perhaps the gap isn’t filled by packing our lives with more “stuff”, Draper suggests. Perhaps, there is a better way to live in which we gain more by having less, and achieve more by striving less.
And that might mean a considerable break from the norm for most of us – even perhaps, a whole new start.
For Draper, one of the biggest mistakes we can make is telling ourselves that we will do lots of wonderful things “one day”, while we spend today concentrating on establishing our place in life and earning a good salary.
It is, he says, often our ego and the consumerist desire for “more, bigger, faster”, that prevents us from seeking the spiritual.
“What do you miss most when you find yourself in pursuit of a ‘more, bigger, faster’ life?” he asks. “We can miss so much … but most significantly, we can – very simply – miss the point.”
There will always be some excuse to keep us from starting out on that soulful journey “home”. Perhaps there might even be fear of the unfamiliar, he admits.
But Draper takes the attitude that it is never too late to start on the path towards a more meaningful and more spiritual life. And that starts with listening to the voice of the Spirit.
He explains: “The divine call and response – between soul and Spirit – is at work in us at all times, if we could simply become aware of it.
“The soul will not compromise. It does not seek its identity in material possessions as the ego does, nor does it require us to finish first and get all the glory in life.
“Instead, it has greater ambitions for us altogether: to help us find the gift we have been given in life – a gift unique to us, which cannot be earned or won, and to offer this gift back in service to those around us.
“If we really believe that ‘there must be more to life than this’, then we must learn to notice when the soul stirs in us. And when the Spirit of life catches our attention, then we should feel for where it leads. For this alignment between soul and Spirit will take us towards the very heart of life itself, if we follow. It will start to lead us home.”
Draper has lots of simple advice for how we can do this. One of the first things is to realign our relationship with possessions and ask ourselves honestly whether we own them or whether they own us. As a simple antidote to the cycle of materialism, he suggests giving things away and returning to the “simplest pleasures” that we can always be grateful for.
“We tend to seek fulfilment in the outstanding, or exciting, or remarkable moments of life,” he writes. “However, life itself is the outstanding, exciting, and remarkable thing. And when we realise that, every day becomes a gift to be cherished.”
Following on from that, Draper suggests we learn to appreciate what we already have and find another way of looking at our situation – instead of thinking about what could go wrong today, thinking for a change about what could go right.
There is also the wrestle to make space in our lives for the spiritual and Draper is clear that this requires a deliberate effort on our part.
“The space is there to find, if you are willing to look,” he says.
It’s not simply about finding space for the sake of personal peace and quiet, however. Draper sees a very real purpose to it. It’s about refocusing the lens through which we see our lives so that we can make more of a difference to the world. That doesn’t necessarily mean changing the whole world at once, but it does mean doing what we can to help change the world bit by bit.
“The little we focus on may prove to be the greatest discovery of our gift,” he says.
“None of us can do everything, anyway; but aren’t we all called to do what we can? To do what we were put on earth to do? To act, in the way only we can act?
“We must start somewhere, so we should start with us. You might start by changing one thing about your own life.
“Unless we learn to do one, small thing after another, in the place where we are, we will do nothing at all to change the world around us.”
If your life feels full to the brim and you are struggling to separate out the essentials from the non-essentials, then Draper’s book is a good resource to help you reassess your priorities and reconnect with the things that have lasting value.
“Less Is More” is out now from Lion Hudson, priced £7.99