The word "cor" is not mispelled. It's not an English word. It's the Latin word that means "heart." From that Latin word comes our word, core. Our hearts are at the core of who we are.
The word "connection" is an English word rooted in Latin: nectere, to bind, tie, fasten; to join, bind, or fasten together, connect. We use the word connection all the time in English to mean all these things the Latin word means.
I chose these two words as a name for this site and for the work I do in spiritual direction because they both say something about what I value. We know now that the thinking cells of the body, neurons, exist not only in our brains, but they are in our hearts and in our guts, too. When it comes to a full bodied consideration of something, when we really put our "hearts and minds" into a problem or a question or a relationship, we really can be present with our heads, hearts and guts. I want to be heart-present, whole-bodied-present to my life and to the myriad of things that my life allows me to encounter.
As far back as I can remember, I've found myself in search of connection. Examples could fill pages, and you don't have time for that, so just a few. Why did I have a particular experience that changed my course of action today (or sometimes, my whole life)? Why, when I looked into the eyes of each of my three children when they were born was it so clear to me that there was already a whole, complete being present, and not some blank slate waiting on us to turn it into something? How is it that I can read an ancient poem or listen to an interview with someone across the world and hear in the words of people so far away in time and distance experiences that I recognize as my own? I have come to the conclusion that the mysterious word "spirituality" is nothing more and nothing less than allowing ourselves to be curious about connections and choosing to make them.
Two questions most often come up, one way or another, in a spiritual direction session: how is your heart today? and what sort of connections do you want to make with that? Cor-connections.
What I Never Knew I Never Knew
Recently my wandering attention of daily affairs was suddenly arrested by music on one of the devices in our house. Here's what I heard that stopped me in my tracks and brought instant tears to my eyes, not of sadness, but of some unspoken recognition.
You think you own whatever land you land on
The Earth is just a dead thing you can claim
But I know every rock and tree and creature
Has a life, has a spirit, has a name
I know every rock and tree and creature has a life, has a spirit, has a name. A powerful YES rose up in me. I knew that I knew as lived experience the truth of these words, but where were these words coming from? You may know them instantly, but it took me a little looking around to rediscover the song Colors of the Wind made famous in the Disney movie Pocahontas.
Some 30 years before, I first encountered that song with my then small children in the movie itself. And in those days, I was just beginning to wake up to what I now fully embrace in so many ways. Trees, rocks, birds, flowers, "weeds" so called, deer, ladybugs, (and the list goes on beyond my ability to name all the beings of the Earth) have life. They all have spirit. They all have a name. I can see the swollen stream behind my house stretched out beyond her banks by the recent storms, and I greet her and feel her spirit in particular as I write this. Learning to greet the spirit in every other being is such a calling, such a blessing, such a daily gratitude, such work! The song, however, does not just leave me basking in the beauty of nature. It takes me to more difficult places.
You think the only people who are people
Are the people who look and think like you
But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger
You'll learn things you never knew you never knew
This is me, on both counts. I have spent too much of my life affirming first and frequently those who look like me, people who think like me. And, Spirit has coaxed me with more patience than I have had into those footsteps of strangers, where EVERY SINGLE TIME, I learn things I never knew I never knew.
This is, for me, the life long and perennial lesson: when I make connection with my own heart, my own inner and true self, I immediately am in touch with and connected to every other living thing, in a circle, a hoop that never ends. Every time I touch into my heart center and find, again, these enduring and countless connections, life invites a new painting, one where we paint with the colors of the wind. Invisible, we think? Look again. Sink down. Learn some things we never knew we never knew.
How Do You Know?
In two recent conversations, individuals have raised essentially the same question: How do you know if you are called to a spiritual path?
What an important question! It was clear to me that this was important to them, and it gave me the opportunity to try and put to words what I feel like I carry around in my heart all the time.
Are you breathing? If you are, you are already on a spiritual path. Our very words "spirit" and "spiritual" have roots in Latin words that have to do with breathing. We take breathing for granted, but when our breathing stops, so do we. Just take your next breath (while you are reading this). That breath allows you to carry on with two very important things.
Meaning and connection. To me, this is the core of the spiritual path. We go through life capable of making meaning out of things. Because things become meaningful to us, we begin to establish important connections. The value of our life then begins to grow around the meaning we make and the connections we establish. This happens in human relationships all the time, and because it does, we too often fail to notice this as spiritual practice. When another human being becomes meaningful to us, we work harder at making connections with them and with other things that surround them. Before long, we have created important value in our lives around this person, what they mean to us and the connections we have established.
Intention and awareness. This is where the spiritual path really becomes a practice. When we begin to see that there are things and people in our lives that are meaningful to us, that we work at establishing connections around that meaning, we begin to realize that we can do this with intention. "I'm going to the grocery store. I wonder who I will meet there today?" The question suggests an intention. Let's say that the teenager who bags our groceries is looking a little tired. We might notice: "you are looking a little tired. Long day?" She tells you how she has been at school all day, then had volleyball practice, and is now working until 9 PM. You listen, and as you leave, you wish her all the best making it through. That's intention. A week later, you run into her again, and because of her name tag, you remember: "Hey Chandra! How's the volleyball going?" She lights up and tells you about the big win they just had. That's awareness. It's also meaning making and making connections on a very simple, very human level. It's part of the spiritual path.
What does this have to do with religion? The spiritual path belongs to the human being like breathing does. We are meaning makers. We cannot live without making connections with each other. We place our highest values around the people and things that are meaningful to us. If you have a religion that enhances meaning making and connection, that's beautiful. If you do not have a religion, or if the religion you do have does not enhance these practices, it is not required--you are still on a spiritual path of meaning and connection.
I tend to believe that all human beings are on a spiritual path. For some, the intention and the awareness may not be at a level, yet, to be obvious to them. I know from personal experience that every time I search for meaning, I find some, and it helps me make deeper connections in life. When I do that with intention and awareness, it happens more frequently. Practice helps!
Where to start? Ask yourself what is meaningful to you in life. Make a list. Then, make a list of your most important connections around those meaningful things. When you are done, you will have sketched out the shape of your spiritual path. And there will likely be some surprises waiting there.