Taking Time to Be Inspired

Like so many people, I find myself wishing there were more hours in the day. I know it has something to do with my time management skills and having a young family, but more than ever I'm reminded that time is flying by and I need to be more aware of how I spend it.

This flash of insight came to me this past weekend when I was out in the yard planting with my 2-year-old son. It was a simple task full of joy in the moment.

Our lives today are all about choices. Where to go, what to buy, what to watch. And the larger issues -- what kind of lifestyle do you want to lead? Whose side are you on in politics? What should we be fighting for to make sure that our country preserves the precious freedoms we have? There are so many choices it can sometimes feel exhausting.

How often do we take time to explore these choices in the context of the spiritual life? We can choose to stop for a moment during our busy day to reflect on how God is at work in our lives, to allow a moment to connect, or not.

If our spiritual life is as important as many of us say it is, we could look at it as we do other important aspects of our life like eating and sleeping. We almost always make time for those things. But many of us get too busy and often cheat out on whatever process might help connect us to a higher power. It's not just good intentions or bad discipline. Many times it's just life.

Personally, I believe we are all on our own unique spiritual journey full of choices both small and large. Some believe God is calling all the shots, others that we play an active role in the process, and still others that God has nothing to do with anything.

A recent Gallup survey showed "a downward drift in religious identity among Americans as well as the number of Americans who view religion as old-fashioned and out of date."

The poll further stated that "there has in fact been a slight uptick in the percentage of Americans who say religion is not very important in their daily lives -- from a range of 11 percent to 14 percent through most of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s to 19 percent over the past two years."

As I read these numbers, I'm not too surprised. Other surveys support the fact that we are a country with a majority who consider themselves believers. Organized religion is on the decline as fewer people affiliate with a specific denomination, yet those who call themselves "spiritual but not religious" is on the rise. We live in the most religiously diverse country in the world and, whether we like it or not, it will only become more diverse in the coming years.

Reflecting on the reality of these surveys, I am reminded that while we may be on different journeys we are often in search of similar values and ethics. That special moment with my son, showing him how to care for nature, is a small example, but a wonderful reminder that it is up to me to take the time to teach him about a world that values care and compassion.

In his new book "Toward a True Kinship of Faiths: How the World's Religions Can Come Together," His Holiness the Dalai Lama clearly expresses his hope for humanity. "(Compassion is) a strong unifying thread among all the major faiths. And these days we need to highlight what unifies us."

During his recent visit to New York City, His Holiness spoke about his interactions with Mohatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, the Trappist monk Thomas Merton, Muslim leaders in India and rabbis around the world.

Eboo Patel, in his Faith Divide blog, wrote: "His message was clear -- live out the view of compassion in your own faith or secular tradition, learn to admire views of compassion in other traditions, come together across faiths on the common ground of compassion."

In my work with the Interfaith Youth Core, I am surrounded by young people from many different religions who understand the importance of making time and choosing compassion when it comes to interfaith interactions.

As co-host of "30 Good Minutes," a show devoted to exploring religious values, I am fortunate to meet many people from different faith traditions who are deeply committed to finding ways we can live together peacefully and respect one another. I am inspired by all of them who tell me the time is now to make interfaith cooperation a reality.

And so, in a life so short on time, might you consider one more choice? No matter what your religious beliefs, you can choose to respect people of many different faiths or no faith at all. It's up to each us to make the time to connect and find our own personal inspiration. I hope we can all get better at connecting and making the time to make better choices. Our world depends on it.

Dan Pawlus is vie president of communications for Interfaith Youth Core and a regular contributor to The Faith Divide on the On Faith blog of the Washington Post. He is also co-host of "30 Good Minutes," a weekly ecumenical and interfaith program on WTTW 11 (PBS) in Chicago. Pawlus has been an active member of St. Monica's Parish Community in Santa Monica, Calif., and is currently a parishioner and part of the music ministry at Old St. Patrick's Church in Chicago.