How Spiritual Accountability Helps Us Navigate Life's Challenges
There is a story of a young woman I would like to share with you.
Before I begin, think about a time when something happened out there - in your life - that made you think, "Man! Someone otta do something about that!" There are a lot of things in our world for which we have ideas on how it could be done better. For example, I was recently in a grocery store that I had never been to before. Unlike the store which I frequent usually, I did not know where the pasta isle was or where I could find the milk and bread. So I thought, “An interactive map like the ones at Barnes & Noble Book stores- where you type in the book you are looking for and the screen shows you a map of where you can find it-would really help people out in a grocery store to quickly locate the items they are looking for”. Then again, I could spare a few extra minutes to find my items or ask a store personnel to help out and I would go about my day without spending any more thought on it. It is not an issue which rages passionately for me.
Then, there are other things out there that really speak to us deeply. These are things that turn us into our very own versions of Martin Luther King or Erin Brockovich or Jane Goodall. Something that stirs us so deeply in our soul that not only do we think, 'Someone otta do something about this', but it also moves us into action.
This capacity to be moved and then to take action relates to what the author and teacher, Caroline Myss, calls spiritual accountability. It is that inner-most voice which I believe is the direct instruction or nudge from the Universe, God, Spirit, that guides us towards right action. Yet, it does that not just for any issue. It only does that for those issues or situations that relate most directly to our purpose here on Earth.
Issues related to our purpose
What is common among legendary activists in our history, is their passion to serve the larger global good and what distinguishes them is the kind of issues where they bring in their particular emphasis and play out their spiritual accountability. Dr. King's focus was on racial equality and justice, for Mother Theresa it was caring for the disadvantaged, for Erin Brockovich it is environmental justice, for Jane Goodall it is the welfare of the primates in the wild, while for Dr. Mohammad Yunus it is financial equality and freedom to receive fair credit terms for all. Their focus is on different issues yet they all acted from their inner-most pull of spiritual accountability.
And so this reminds us that spiritual accountability is not about all the things which could be better. It is often very clear and focused. This becomes evident when you think of how some people are dedicated to caring for children, or some who work fervently for economic justice. They do not branch out in several directions at once, both marshaling for marriage equality and saving the dolphins, helping rainforests as well as inner-city kids. They are focused and on target with that which is in complete alignment with what moves them the most. And this is often also what gives them the most joy and happiness when they take actions towards that theme or situation.
This accountability really is to one's own self. It is the answer to the question, "if no one was watching and there is something you know must change, what would you do?" And understand me right, it does not have to be something big. It could be a "small" action such as picking up a piece of trash lying in the park that has a butterfly-effect across the globe.
So spiritual accountability then is:
- something that comes directly from the inner-self, spirit, source-energy;
- is in alignment with our sense of purpose, or soul-contract;
- is focused and narrow in terms of theme, such as environment or justice;
- and the size or impact is irrelevant, meaning it can be a single incident in your life - the single starfish thrown back into the sea - or a series of actions that you take during the course of an entire lifetime.
The Protagonist of this Story is Kim
With this background on the concept of spiritual accountability as I relate to it, let me now share the story of a young woman and how she experienced this on her own journey:
This is the story of Kim who is both a friend and a client of mine. Kim is someone whom I would consider a gentle yet strong spirit. Gentle in the sense that she is acutely perceptive to the needs of others and strong in the sense that she brings forth immense spiritual strength to support her through challenging times while running a deep nerve of optimism throughout her being.
The story takes place at a pond. There is a big man-made pond in the front yard of the house next to Kim’s. This house is empty, on the market and owned by the bank. She often sits by this pond, observing the birds that come to visit it. A big blue heron visits the pond daily, connecting to Kim in its own unique way. I myself got to catch a glimpse of the blue heron when I was visiting Kim one day when I was reminded that helping even just one fish makes a world of difference. That is another story all together.
To continue with our story... Not too long ago, Kim noticed that the water-level of the pond was receding. All the fish along with the large koi fish in the pond were immediately affected by this. She contacted the real estate agency, called the bank officers, and anyone related to the property to inform them of what was happening so that they could help stop the dwindling water levels. Alas, to no avail! In spite of numerous attempts at getting their attention, nothing seemed to work. It seemed that people were taking a laissez-faire attitude.
In the meantime, the water-levels were rapidly dropping. The fish seemed to be gasping for dear life.
The Spiritual Accountability Emerges Boldly in a Crisis
Kim watched this day-in and day-out and was deeply troubled by this sight. She felt anger about the plight of the pond. This is when Kim faced that question we talked about earlier: Man! Someone otta do something about this! And fast.
She became quickly aware of the intensity of that statement. And as a result, instead of pointing her finger outwardly, she brought it inward, pointing it to herself. "If someone is going to do something about it", she thought, "then it will be me." Powered by the fury and anguish she felt about the situation of the fish and the pond, she tapped into her enormous confidence and resourcefulness and began talking to people. Among the people she spoke with, her brother understood what Kim was communicating and feeling her passionate plea, began raking his brains for solutions. He then connected Kim with the contact info of someone he knew in the animal control department. Now the water-level in the pond was so low that it was nothing more than a pool of muddiness. Time was running out. And something needed to be done NOW.
Kim spoke directly with her guiding force. She said, "Please help me help the fish. If nothing else, I will myself put the fish in coolers and carry them to the French Broad River. I am prepared to go knee deep in mud but I am not ready to let these fish die." She had tears in her eyes and deep pain in her heart.
Then, she made the last phone call to the contact her brother had given her. Miraculously, within minutes an animal control personnel appeared in front of her door. He assessed the situation to quickly identify the problem with the pump that regulated the water supply to the pond. He fixed it and immediately the pond began to fill up. It would take a few days before the pond would be back to its natural health, but one thing was clear: the fish were going to be safe, after all. Kim, with tears of gratitude and relief, looked at the man and started thanking him profusely.
Throughout this episode, Kim was completely in alignment with her deep purpose of service to those in need when she was faced with the plight of the fish. Her spiritual accountability surfaced to aid her in form of unrest, anguish and anger- emotions that would eventually become her allies in resolving the situation. And just when she thought someone ought to do something, she realized that it was she who needed to be that someone. She needed to step-in and step-up and instigate the change she was yearning.
We were standing outside one of the studios of Asheville's River Arts District, when Kim narrated this story to me. And then she began laughing. She said, "When the pump was fixed, I had tears in my eyes and was thanking the man for helping out. The man was tall, big and strong. He looked at my teary eyes and said, 'Young Lady, I have helped dogs. I have helped cats. I have helped other animals. But this..." He paused. "This...is my very first Fish-Rescue."
It sounded so funny that we began laughing and people around us giggled as well, at the sound of "This...is my very first fish-rescue."
To spiritual accountability and to this very first fish-rescue!
- Love, Sophia!