Primal Spirituality

by Karen Richter

I just read something in Spiritual Directors International’s journal about ‘primal spirituality.’ Not the spirituality of ancient humans, but the first spirituality: that way of approaching life that sets us off on a path of growth and contemplation.

When I look at my own life and think about where it all started, several memories and experiences come to mind:

  • As a teenager, visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and becoming committed to nonviolence.
  • As a college student, coming to terms with the suffering of my 3 year old cousin with brain cancer and the terrible lie that says people get what they deserve.
  • In young adulthood, considering the death of my grandparents and realizing that being healed is different from being cured.
  • During my 30s, realizing that the way I prayed had changed to reflect a different kind of vision for God.

These and many others were formative experiences, along with the slow growth pattern of living in the community of marriage and parenthood. But there’s a particular experience that is on my mind today, which was the primal experience for growing the spirituality of my life now.

I had a miscarriage after my second child. As these events go, it was early, uncomplicated, and ordinary. I healed quickly and moved on.

About 10 months later, I found myself staring at a positive pregnancy test again. I was understandably more reticent about sharing my news, a bit more circumspect about making plans and assumptions about the outcome. At around the 5 week mark, I began experiencing signs of miscarriage again. My doctor’s advice was just to wait it out until an ultrasound at 8 weeks could tell us more.

And that three weeks was simultaneously incredibly difficult and unexpectedly rewarding. Rather than assume the best or the worst, I took an in-the-moment approach to the waiting. This was my mantra during those days:

  • I am pregnant today and I am grateful.
  • No matter what happens tomorrow or the next day, week, or month, I am pregnant today and I am glad for that.
  • No outcome will change the gratitude I feel today.

My joy at the birth of my daughter later that year was all the much greater because of my gratitude practice.

Today, about 11 years later, I have more sophisticated words for this kind of approach to life. I might tell you about my spiritual life… how it’s important to me to live my life as if it were as a gift. I might explain that I have a comprehensive view about life, how good things and bad things happen but life itself is capital G “Good”.  I can talk with you about process theology and religious maturity all day long. Yet is comes down to a primal spirituality:

  • I am alive today and I am grateful.
  • Someday my experience on the earth will end and there’s no way to know what happens next, but today I am alive and thankful.


The days of a human life are like grass: they bloom like a wildflower; but when the wind blows through it, it’s gone; even the ground where it stood doesn’t remember it.* Yes, we are just as fleeting as a flowering weed but we bloom beautifully in our time. Amen.

*Psalm 103.15-16


by Davin Franklin-Hicks

Every year, thousands of people develop a dependency on opiates. Most go through some form of treatment which means that they have to endure detox. There are medications out there that can lessen this severity, but there is withdrawal when those are stopped as well. It’s gonna hurt to quit the thing that the person started using in order not to hurt.

Unless there is secondary vulnerability, we won’t die from withdrawing from opiates. We could die withdrawing from benzodiazepines or alcohol, but not opiates. The line used by some professionals who know a few things about addiction and recovery is, “You won’t die from withdrawing on opiates. You will just wish you were dead.” What they are saying here is that opiate withdrawal is one of the hardest things a person could endure.

I have withdrawn from opiates on a couple of occasions. I can assure you, it is the truest, most brutal kind of suffering ever. Don’t do drugs. The after-school specials of yesteryear were right. They were poorly acted and scripted, but they were right. Like Jack, getting high on that beanstalk, I didn’t heed the cautionary tale.

I’ve written about the disease of addiction already and this is actually not what this article is about. I know, we are four paragraphs in and it has been about addiction, but it’s about to merge into something else. So, check your re-view mirrors and let’s merge.

I came to a friend some time back who knows a few things about addiction.  I said, “I think I am addicted to opiates.” He assisted me in finding treatment, getting time off of work to withdrawal, and walked me through withdrawal one step at a time. He is a good man, that guy. I won’t say who he is but his name starts with an E and ends with an “verett”. One thing he said over and over again during my withdrawal was, “Embrace the suck.” I hesitated to write that line in a faith-related blog, but any other word to replace “suck” just would not do.

What my friend was telling me in that moment was that embracing the suck means walking through it rather than struggling against it. It means acknowledging the reality of where you are at physically, spiritually or emotionally without having it be the place you will forever stay. It means that if you are in the habit of embracing the worst moments, you will most certainly be in fit position to embrace the good when it comes. And it will come back.

When hurting, it is a good idea to develop some mantras. I use some mantras in my own life, in addition to the one in the paragraphs above.

“This too shall pass.”


“Be here now.”

“God is Love.”

These are anchors to truth when I feel untethered. When the extreme happens in our lives, it creates an awareness that we are at risk. A healer in my life says, “The vigilance we experience after an extreme event puts us in touch with how fragile life can be. We generally don’t walk around thinking about that or experiencing that because it would be too much and too debilitating.” Scary, unwelcomed, hurtful life stuff makes it feel like we are only fragile. We are only vulnerable. That is not true.

We are fragile. We are sturdy. We are vulnerable. We are powerful. We are all of it. And what a range of emotion that can be. If it feels hard it’s because it is hard. If it feels easy it’s because it is easy. All of it. No binary, no either/or; all of it. Improv comedians actually know this reality well. They teach you to say “Yes, and…” rather than, “No, but…” They utilize that concept to be in a flow with the other folks doing improv. It’s basically, “I accept that and here is what I can contribute.” Back and forth, flow…

The pain will come and I am sorry for that, I wish it were different for all of us. The tears will well up. The sadness will seep in from time to time. The grief will take a seat at the most sacred place in your life at some point. And it will so suck.

The ease will come and I am so happy for that. The smiles will come again. The laughter will find its way back. And peace will take a seat at the most sacred place in your life at many points. And it will be so joyful.

So I say to you, as I also say to me, “Open your arms. It’s time to embrace it. All. Of. It.”