Not long ago, the prevailing wisdom was that if you wanted to succeed in life, smarts, education, and effort would do the trick. The niceties of human relations were a something you added to your actions so that people would think well of you—desirable, but not essential.
Turns out, just the opposite is true. What’s really crucial to success is connecting deeply to, and working with, people. And to do that requires the practice of seeing spiritually: looking beyond the surface of personality and psychology to find our common ground.
The Pope spoke out recently about how he learned to embrace the consultative process in working with others and the need for unity in love. “The people of God want pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials... It was my authoritarian way of making decisions that created problems.”
In educational circles the value of social-emotional learning (S.E.L.) has been written about and studied for many years. Today practical ways of teaching it are being implemented in many schools. Recognizing that “emotions can either enhance or hinder your ability to learn… [and] affect our attention and our memory,” S.E.L., —once a small portion of education theory—has now become “the missing piece” in American education.
The Healer’s Art, a course for health care professionals, is helping doctors reconnect with their natural empathetic response to patients and producing benefits for both caregivers and receivers.
As New York Times blogger David Bornstien put it, “Great doctors don’t just diagnose diseases, prescribe medications and treat patients, they bring the full spectrum of their human capabilities to the compassionate care of others.”
These non-traditional perspectives on theology, medicine, and learning represent the growing realization that we can't exercise authority, heal, learn, or thrive by seeing life in purely material terms. As a spiritual healer wrote, “Love for God and man is the true incentive in both healing and teaching. Love inspires, illumines, designates, and leads the way. Right motives give pinions to thought, and strength and freedom to speech and action (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures 454:17)."
Cherishing and acting more consistently on the spiritual qualities that are very real and present in every interaction and situation can have a profound effect on our experience. Recognizing and responding to spiritual good—invisible to the eye, but written in our hearts—we learn that compassion, honesty, and inspiration are always available to us. Knowing that what makes our lives meaningful also makes us better students, workers, and even healthier human beings can motivate us to live more consciously.
A married couple, both teachers who were thinking about how to cultivate awareness of our innate spiritual qualities, asked their classes to “describe your mother.” The wife’s kindergarteners bubbled on about how kind, how smart, how helpful, how loving their moms were. The husband’s high school class limited itself to physical description: 5’6, brown hair, glasses…”
It is natural to see ourselves and others with spiritual sense. The qualities that mean so much to us are more than “icing” on the cake of human relations—they are essential to who we really are. They help and heal. How important then to practice a more spiritually based awareness. This is the true foundation not only of community building but of well-being.
Joe Farkas has been involved in spiritual practices for over 40 years. He has taught yogic breathing techniques and led groups in meditation. For the past ten years he has practiced spiritual healing as a Christian Scientist. Joe lives in Madison, Wisconsin, with his wife and youngest daughter.