Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Inspiration for people who want different perspectives on healing and spirituality, and to decide for themselves how to apply them: The writings of Thomas Moore

I realized I haven't yet mentioned the work of my favorite author outside of Nichiren Buddhism, Thomas Moore; now feels like an apropos time to give you a brief introduction to his work. While people of many different faith traditions can find resonance with his ideas, I think his books will hold a particular appeal for the religiously-unaffiliated and those who blend elements of different religions. 

What I like about Thomas Moore's work is that it's not the typical "self-help" fare -- In his introduction to the book Soul Mates: Honoring the Mysteries of Love and Relationship, Moore states that he intends for his books to be meditation-guides instead of step-by-step instructions to follow for particular types of healing or personal growth.

Similarly, his book Dark Nights of the Soul isn't intended to be a how-to book for getting oneself out of "depression;" instead, his focus is on giving readers new perspectives for self-compassion and endurance to help them through the journey and learn from their most painful personal experiences.

I've also read The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life and Care of the Soul, which helped me break out of some of the coldly clinical and self-limiting notions about both personal wellness and the role spirituality plays in it, before and then in conjunction with what I subsequently learned about holistic health.

Apropos of my previous post, Moore's content and style are excellently suited to the religiously-unaffiliated, or spiritual free-agents as I like to call them. I myself used to be one, before becoming Buddhist: I blended elements from several different spiritual traditions, and was less interested in community-oriented spirituality and more in my own personal journey. For some people who identify as "spiritual but not religious," their personal faith is even more free-form than that, drawing less on selected teachings from established religions and more from their own personal sense of connection with the spiritual force of the Universe.

I was pleased to see that Moore even wrote a book about this, called A Religion of One's Own. While I haven't read it yet, I'm guessing one of his intended audiences is people who don't feel the need to match their spiritual practice with a like-minded community, and for whom spirituality is more of a personal than a shared domain.

Moore makes it clear that he writes as a "white, male, heterosexual American with a classical European education," and that his religious heritage is Catholic. If he didn't directly say this in his books, however, I would not easily be able to identify his religious affiliation because he draws inspiration and wisdom from several different religions, including Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, paganism, and religions that now only exist in mythology.

In his preface to Soul Mates (which isn't limited to romantic relationships), he acknowledges that "many who will read these words do not share that background." He then points out that, while he strives "to maintain some consciousness of these potential differences, ... to do so at every turn is to become so self-conscious and contorted as to lose touch with my own experience" (pg. vii). What he means by this is that he's not pretending to be objective, nor does he generalize his ideas so much that his own experiences and personal perspective become invisible.

I find that this gives him more credibility and makes it easier to trust him as a writer, because his honesty about his own biases shows that he is speaking his truth to his readers, rather than telling us what he assumes would appeal to the most people in such books.

I would highly recommend Thomas Moore's books to people I know regardless of their spiritual practice, and if that practice is humanistic or God-centered. Particularly, the emotional and spiritual assistance I gained from Dark Nights of the Soul shows up in several of my blog posts from last year--most prominently my grief and gratitude series and my holistic health and Buddhism posts about breaking ourselves out of the limitations of such diagnostic labels as "depression"--and I just simply didn't mention this book as one of my primary sources of inspiration.

I'll probably be mentioning it and Moore's other books a lot more now as I continue to dive deeper into my own karma regarding some of the subjects Moore frequently writes about.

I highlighted so many passages from Dark Nights that I could use it as a daily inspiration book. One of my favorites is this one (from page 266):

"You can let the people you trust know a little about what is happening. Just don't expect any brilliant revelations or resolutions. It is the friendship, not the help you get from friends, that is important."

Image: "The Growth of Abundance" by Karla Joy Huber, 2014; Prismacolor marker, Sharpie marker, gel pen, white gel pen

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