No "shoulds" in the recipe for Good Living

A recent episode in the American Masters series on PBS focused on the life of Julia Child. Julia’s life path wended its way slowly through many obstacles culminating in the blossoming of her talents in her mature years. The following entry from her diary at a particularly low point in her life expresses beautifully a premature conclusion that is often made about our lives when “things” do not seem to be going anywhere good.  

When I was in school I felt I had unique spiritual gifts; that I was meant for something; that I was like no one else. Today it has gone out and I am sadly an ordinary person with talents I do not use.

-Julia Child, 1941

Within Julia’s diary entry there seem to be two things going on: the awareness of unique spiritual gifts and the awareness that those gifts are not expressing themselves in her life in a way she thought they might, would, or should.

It seems a cruel twist of human life to have a sense of unique spiritual, intellectual and creative gifts that remain out of reach and unused.

Julia’s suffering was a result of judging her circumstances. Something else should have been happening and her conclusion was that her intuitive glimpse of giftedness must have been wrong.

We have a tendency to focus solely on the physical and emotional circumstances happening right now and judge our lives through the narrow lens of “what is happening to Me Now!” If life experiences are not unfolding the way we think they should, any previous inspiration must be wrong, damaged, lost or missed.

The second principle of Metapsychiatry states: Take no thought for what should be or should not be, but seek to know the good of God that already is.

Spiritual gifts cannot possibly be expressed within the limits of how we’ve been influenced and educated to think of our selves. They are gifts of the spirit and are of a wholly different nature than the human personality.

The self that is evaluating current circumstances is a self based solely on thoughts about what should be and what should not be.

The “glimpse” of spiritual gifts, points to the truth of being, a source of guidance and inspiration that it is possible to actually rely on. Julia’s feelings about her life were not reliable even though they “seemed” real at the time.

Experiences, feelings and reactions to circumstances are extremely fluid and changeable. They are not a reliable source of wisdom and guidance. Julia’s story is a perfect example. In the moment described above she felt hopeless, not knowing how her life would unfold, and doubting that it would be good. Yet unfold it did in ways she could never have planned, envisioned or hoped for.

With the wisdom of Metapsychiatry’s second principle it is possible to face moments of doubt and uncertainty without suppressing what is being experienced nor negating the awareness of spiritual gifts.

It’s not one or the other – it’s both and. One is the constant backdrop – the context that is what always Is. Circumstances are meaningful. They shed light on the point of view in the present moment. With wise guidance there can be discernment, clarity and good direction revealed that can bring us closer to realizing a deeper truth about who we are and the purpose of our lives.

Julia’s lifework brought clarity and playfulness to the art of cooking good food, making it more easily available to those who followed her. Although, it is not enough just to know about the tools for good cooking. Even the best instruction requires the student to get into the kitchen and use the tools – learning through attentive trial and error.

The possibility of living with spiritual awareness can also be clarified. There are tools that help expand the capacity for joy and fulfillment in human life. Each interested student can to open to the possibility of a spiritual view and then test the truth of that view in the midst of life experiences. Our lives can become a banquet of learning, and like Julia, we can look at what unfolds in our lives with amazed gratitude.