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The Way of the agnostic
November 2021 – Born in 1987 to a Chinese mother and a German father,
Bianca Berger is now the director of the smallest and most recent L’Arche community in Germany, Landsberg, after an experience at L’Arche Asansol in India.
Here, Bianca tells us how she nourishes her inner life.
“How do you nourish your inner life?”
I am honoured to be asked to contribute to this reflection, but there’s another question that I often get, that comes before: “Do you even have an inner life? Do you have a spirituality?” They ask this, because I am an agnostic.
Being agnostic does not mean, that I do not believe. It says first of all that I only know that I don’t know. But there are many things in which I believe! I believe that everything and everyone is connected, that we are all in relation with each other – all human beings, all animals, plants and minerals, the elements and the energies, the stars and the universe. I believe that we have more in common than what separates us and that there are universal values which are true for all living beings: peace, respect, kindness, patience, the effort to understand and to be understood. I believe that only together, with the people around us, we can discover true meaning. I believe that we are all responsible for each other, no matter where we currently live and how little we actually know about each other. I believe that when we think of each other, when we pray for each other, when we feel compassion towards someone or something, it has a positive effect, something good actually happens. It does the whole universe good, when we make someone smile, or when we waste a little less water. Finally, I believe that we are allowed to fail and that we do not need to be perfect in order to be unique, essential and wonderful.
So yes, I am an agnostic, and yes, I am a believer. Still I find it hard to believe that there is only one way to connect to something greater. This is why I cannot pledge myself to one faith or another. But there definitely is something in me, about me, to be nourished, that I, too, call Inner Life.
Here’s how I do it: I have a morning routine. It starts with reading the weekly verse of Rudolf Steiner’s (*) soul calendar. Steiner was no perfect man, and there are some questionable things in his life and spiritual legacy, but I like the verses of his soul calendar because they reconnect me to the rhythms of nature and their main messages nourish me, among which: Everything is connected. We are mind, body and soul. We are part of a circle of life which blooms, grows, bears fruit, falters, dies and rests just to start again.
Then, I do a mantra with my mala. It has 108 beads and is a meditation-necklace often used in Hindu or Buddhistic faith traditions. It is comparable, perhaps, to the rosary of Catholic Christians. Instead of a name of God or a prayer, I repeat words I need to ingrain myself with. Currently, they are: “love”, “joy” and “energy”. When I put on my mala, I close my eyes and pray for all the ones I know and love, for all the ones I do not know but still care about. I pray for the tiny everyday and the big issues we have to address as humankind. I wear the mala the whole day: in the long hours of work, feeling its weight or looking at it will remind me of the essentials, give my tasks meaning, help me focus. “Joy”. “Energy”. “Love”.
It is now time to finish my morning ritual. Then, I get up and walk down the stairs to prepare breakfast. Feed the soul, feed the body, and on my way to work. Another day of relationship. Another day of spirituality, as my spirituality only thrives in encounters with other people and nature.
(*) Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) is the austrian founder of anthroposophy, the results of which we still find in bio-dynamic agriculture, Waldorf schools, and communities of people with and without disability somewhat similar to the L’Arche-Communities.