What’s It Like Being a Spiritual Person?

By Keith Varnum

“What’s it like being a spiritual person?” Joe persisted.

Pulling in more wind than the sailboat could balance, I purposely tipped over the catamaran to avoid the question. I was determined to dampen my friend’s insistence that I was somehow different from other people. Yet despite my avoidance maneuvers, I sailed smack into my destiny that afternoon.

A new friend and construction worker by trade, Joe had invited me to go sailing on a sparkling pure body of water called Newfound Lake in New Hampshire. At the time, I didn’t realize the prophetic import of the lake’s name. Surrounded by the vibrant green of sturdy pinewoods and the steel-blue of soaring granite peaks, the lake filled me with a sense of awe and peace. The calm gave no warning of the changing life currents Joe was about to innocently introduce into my life.

A very unusual exposure molded Joe as a child. He attended one of the few remaining schools in the United States—called “Boston Latin”—that still taught the Ancient Greek language, as opposed to the modern version of the language. Joe read the Iliad, Odyssey and other compelling Greek writings in the original language in which they were penned. He lived and breathed the Greek myths in their primal power without the loss of intended meaning from multiple translations. He possessed a vast warehouse of wisdom of direct transmission from the Greeks. 

Philosophers of the antique world expressed very subtle states of mind and being, especially concerning diverse shades of reality, truth, love, relationships and human nature. The early Greeks had terms and concepts for which we have no words or adequate translation in English. Joe also devoured all the stories—in their original Latin—about Roman gods and myths. As a result, Joe had a rare archaic and archetypal window through which to view the world.

All day on the boat, Joe kept asking me what it was like to be a “spiritual” person. From his line of questioning, I realized he was wrestling with understanding his own spiritual quest. He was trying to come to grips with how to begin his own inner journey. Joe felt he needed someone to help him step onto the path. We met at a metaphysical lecture, so he decided I was the person to help him sort everything out.

I was trying to stay incognito at the time, revealing my metaphysical side only to my closest friends—and only when severely pressed. I had all kinds of “really good” reasons why I was reluctant to call myself “spiritual.” All my reasons were actually rationalizations—frantic, futile attempts to cover up and postpone the true majesty and mystery of my own divine destiny. 

The naked truth was that I was afraid of my own soul’s purpose and power. Like many people, I was concerned about my perceived consequences of living an openly spiritual life—coming out of the spiritual closet, as it were. 

Among my fears was that I’d lose friends if I revealed my inner knowing and strength. I felt I’d scare people away with too much truth. I’d be too intense, too unsettling, too threatening.

Trying to maintain my cover as just-one-of-the-guys, I skillfully dodged Joe’s probing questions all afternoon. Each time he honed in on aspects of my life I didn’t want to discuss, I’d deliberately allow the sailboat to tip over to divert attention away from the focus of his inquiries. It was easy to blame the upheaval on the changing direction of the wind. 

We’d right the craft. Then, without missing a beat, Joe would come back to the same question he’d asked before we went flying into the water. When he started in on me again, I used the scorching heat as an excuse to dive off the boat for a quick, refreshing dip. I simply wanted to enjoy the wind, water and sun. Unwavering in following his inner urgings, Joe had a totally different scenario in mind—or rather, in his heart.

Joe was very curious about my daily lifestyle. He felt that I, as a “spiritual” person, must be living in a completely different way than most people. 

He was, of course, right on the mark. But I didn’t want to admit to myself the full extent of my distance from normality, let alone confess it to others. Up to that point in my life, I’d observed that abnormal behavior attracts social attention that isn’t always friendly or benign. So, I kept my sacred side as secret as I could.

Eventually, however, Joe wore me down. I threw in the towel. Even though we’d only just become acquainted, I decided to relate to Joe as if he were an old trusted buddy. I responded spontaneously and honestly to his unrelenting barrage of inquires. He asked about my friendships, finances, travels, love life, and eating, meditation and sleeping habits. 

Over the course of his persistent Neo-Inquisition, I discovered and revealed miraculous events and magical encounters that I’d totally forgotten—or, more accurately stated—that I’d been hiding from myself. I unearthed successes and skills that I had glossed over, discounted, or outright denied until that moment. I was surprised—even shocked—at the degree of spiritual amnesia in my young life. 

I had I learned more about myself in that one afternoon of grilling than I had in the ten previous years of my carefully devised camouflage.

I speculated to myself, “What else is buried in my unconscious?”

‘What other wonders and marvels have I experienced this lifetime and unconsciously forgotten?”