A friend recently described her spontaneous reaction to a police officer beating a black youth. The cracking sound of a blow to the youth instantaneously ignited a mighty “No!” as she surged toward the officer whose baton remained frozen in the air. She was like a moral whirlwind entering the story as she put herself between the officer and the youth.
This kind of spontaneous reaction can unleash powerful energy that generally remains latent and untapped—like suddenly having the strength to lift up a car to rescue a parent or child. In a November 2010 article Psychology Today refers to this phenomenon as the convening of “stealth superpowers.” There are indeed superpowers available to us when we tap into the oceanic depth of our relatedness to others and to deep empathic connection with the most vulnerable.
We engage reservoirs of insight and skillfulness in the universe when we spontaneously tap into its deepest moral principles. Heroic acts of extraordinary courage, conscience and selfless sacrifice often exhibit a remarkable degree of spontaneity. And even the Muse itself has this quality: “Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings.” (William Wordsworth)
According to Lao Tsu spontaneity is the essence of Reality itself and we should always get out of the way and “Let reality be reality.” Deepak Chopra puts it simply, “Ultimately, spiritual reality unfolds when you’re spontaneous.” This, in fact, is the Great Way, the flow of the Tao itself mirrored in its energetic aspect as the subatomic flow of the universe. As our great wisdom teachers have pointed out it is the stuff going on in our heads that blocks the flow of spontaneity.
To serve the spontaneity of Life itself and becoming one with it points to the subtle difference between spontaneous reactions and spontaneous resonance. Resonance is about oneness. Just as in the example of stringed instruments -- when a string is plucked on one the same string on a nearby instrument will vibrate. Yes only the same string vibrates -- as if it recognizes its own frequency. Spirituality is about being able to become one with the full orchestral range of vibrations that life offers and recognize it all as the life-giving music of creation.
In science there is the idea that spontaneity is said to occur when there is no external force catalyzing an event. Composting, for example, is an example of a spontaneous process. Under the right conditions Nature will do what is needed.
This notion of spontaneously arising resonance without any forcing is, for Meher Baba, the key to understanding the nature of love and how it spreads: “Love has to spring spontaneously from within; it is in no way amenable to force. Love and coercion can never go together.” Only love can awaken love. With this understanding we can see how a self-awakening love born in freedom might eventually ignite the collective soul of humanity.
James O’Dea is author of The Conscious Activist—where activism meets mysticism. Read more about his explorations with reconciliation, forgiveness and restorative justice.