An Evolution in Learning

“Learn as if you were to live forever.” Gandhi

It’s always stimulating to shift from the monologue of writing to the dialog of discussion. So I’m happy to respond to an important issue recently raised from a couple of people in different settings. It is good to question, even challenge every assertion concerning spiritual matters. In this case, I’ve been asked to draw a distinction between the notion of the complete soul and the thrill and challenge of continued learning. Is it an either/or proposition, or can we have both?

Debunking the notion of the evolving soul does not mean our days of learning are over. Remaining true to our spiritual birthright, in fact, assures we will never stop learning. The irony is that those who would challenge the notion that their soul is already complete usually do so because it goes against something they have learned previously. Isn’t the act of attempting to protect such a preconceived notion similar to saying, I’ve learned all I need to learn on this subject? If I once learned that some object of interest lay in the south but it’s really in the north, do I argue to justify continuing my southbound travel or do I become willing to learn the new route to the north? We tend to reject ideas, not based on the idea’s lack of veracity, but because it doesn’t fit the framework of what we believe to be true.

There is a major difference between learning because you’re interested in a subject and learning because you won’t graduate if you don’t take the class. Many see our earthly appearance as the required class. If you flunk the tests given, you return to take them again. For some, this is a more appealing alternative to the one chance, two alternative eternities offered by most mainstream religions. But it is nevertheless an endless treadmill that leads nowhere. Being good doesn’t get you off this treadmill. The only way off is to step off.

Many hold a certain reverence for the ascetic who retires to a cave in the mountains and spends his life denouncing the material world. But I would ask a simple question: Why go to the trouble of taking on a body and material environment then spend all your energy denouncing it? It seems more logical to learn to be in the world but not of it. I believe we shoot ourselves in the foot by thinking we came here to transcend our physical environment. It makes a lot more sense to me to assume we came here for the unique experiences it has to offer.

Denouncing the world makes perfect sense if you subscribe to the evolving soul model. The world and its countless distractions is, after all, the source of your problems. Our earthly life becomes a school full of soul-advancing tests. But what if this isn’t true? What if we’re here not to merely pass tests but because we were interested in exploring this earthly experience? We can’t do it without a body. And we certainly can’t do it successfully with the fear of eternal damnation or the prospect of endless incarnations dangling over our heads. Are we not equipped with a natural, unbridled curiosity about what makes this world tick? We don’t see children denouncing it. We see them diving into the thick of it, eager to explore. I say this because Jesus apparently saw the natural curiosity of a child as a prime example of the mental disposition required for spiritual advancement:

He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:2-4).

The theory of soul evolution has spawned a framework of expectations that must be met before the individual is deemed spiritually enlightened. There is indeed more to learn, but what is it that we need to learn? The fact is, we have created a false spiritual ideal (based largely on the opinions of others) against which we weigh our perceived progress. If we respond positively to a challenging situation, we conclude that our soul is advancing. If we respond negatively, we assume our soul has more to learn. But here’s the problem. This is a false benchmark that has nothing to do with the soul. It is, rather, the misguided attempt of our self-image to build the perfect soul.

In the parable of the prodigal son, there is a line that perfectly illustrates this idea (Luke 15:1-32). When the boy hit bottom, “… he came to himself …” (15:17). If, as is implied by the evolving soul model, his condition in life represented the condition of his soul, how could coming to himself provide any kind of solution? Wouldn’t following the promptings of this “self” guarantee a repeat of the same dysfunctional thinking? It is obvious that his bad behavior led him to the far country. What isn’t so obvious is that the solution to his problem was to reconnect with the saving influence of his spiritual essence, his soul. Unscathed by misguided behavior, this inner connection prompted him to cease chasing the endless cravings of an inadequate self-image and begin making decisions aligned with his authentic core. While it’s true that we drag around Emerson’s sad self wherever we go, it’s also true that our saving core, our spiritual essence is with us even in those lonely, cloud-shrouded moments of self-inflicted despair. It would appear the Psalmist captured this truth in these immortal lines:

Where can I go from your spirit? From your presence, where can I flee?
If I ascend to the heavens, you are there; if I lie down in Sheol, there you are.
If I take the wings of dawn and dwell beyond the sea,
Even there your hand guides me, your right hand holds me fast.
If I say, “Surely darkness shall hide me, and night shall be my light”— Darkness is not dark for you,
and night shines as the day. Darkness and light are but one.
You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works! My very self you know. (Psalms 139:7-14).

The parable of the prodigal is not the story of a developing soul or of a religious conversion. For me it has become an illustration intended to show that no matter how far we stray from our spiritual center, our soul remains healthy and intact. The parable does not depict the act of spiritual discovery but the act of spiritual recovery. Discovery implies finding something you never had. Recovery suggests the regaining of something that has been yours from the beginning. The boy didn’t merely discover a new scheme that would lift him out of trouble. He came to himself. He recovered a conscious connection with his spiritual essence which immediately placed him on the road home.

Learn as if you were to live forever is sound advice. The truth that we do live forever should allow us to relax and take a new interest in learning as much as we can about this world we temporarily inhabit.

Power and Strength

Advent Series, Part 3 of 4

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Audio: Power and Strength

In this four-part series, we are treating Advent as an intuitive awakening. Our focus is on the meditative process. Follow the same preparations from the first week and bring your awareness into the region of the solar plexus using the simple statement, I Am. See and feel your soul radiating power. Power manifests in a wide range of ways, from the unfathomable power of the sun to the simple unfolding of a leaf. Power divides our cells and fuels all aspects of our being.

Power rises in your being as physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual strength. You may call on strength to hold a steady course, to take one more step when your world seems to crumble around you, or to steady your faith in the well-being of a loved one. Strength may manifest as the courage to make an apology or it may express as the power to say no to behavior you know as destructive.

With your attention focused at your center, sense the power of your soul rising from your innermost depths and radiating throughout your being. Affirm:

I am an expression of pure power. The full radiance of my soul empowers me to steadfastness in all that I am and all that I do. My strength is boundless, my power has no limits.

If you are feeling powerless to do anything about some condition in your life, release the emotional energy of helplessness as you use this affirmation. Again, do not try to make anything happen or even look for changes in your life. Simply allow the flow of power to rise in your being and know it expresses as the strength you need, as you need it. Take a series of deep breaths. With each one, breathe in power and breathe out strength. Power is the essence of your being. You are never without it.

 

 

 

 

The Awakening

Question: You say the soul does not evolve, but I’m not sure I understand what this means. Are you saying we just stay the same all the time, that we don’t learn anything? Do we just stay like we are and get along the best we can?

Response: A good way to address this question is to recall the tale of the so-called ugly duckling. This is a powerful story that has helped millions of children realize that self-understanding is much more important than fitting in. In the era of social media — fake friends and hollow likes — our kids need this more than ever. But we adults can also take the lessons of this story to another level.

This little swan had come to believe he was a duck so he tried desperately and unsuccessfully to fit into the duck culture. At the lowest point in his life he experienced a revelation. Seeing a flock of wild swans, he threw himself at them with the thought that it was better to be killed by them than to continue living his miserable existence. To his surprise, they did not kill him, they welcomed him. Better still, he saw his reflection in the pond and realized he was one of them!

Many on the spiritual path see this path as a process of becoming something more than they are now. They are driven by the belief that we are to evolve from a spiritually unenlightened state to an enlightened state. This is seen as a soul process, even to the point of assuming there are both young and old souls. The belief is that every challenge we face provides some kind of lesson that, if learned, brings us closer to that desired state of soul maturity. From the spiritual point of view, however, this is a false assumption. The little swan did not need to evolve from a duck to a swan. He was a swan all along. The only change that occurred in him was his self-perception. Did he require all the hard lessons he encountered to become a swan? No. He could never be anything else. But he could, laboring under the curse of a mistaken identity, live a very miserable existence trying to fit in by attempting to force himself to become something he thought he was supposed to be.

From childhood, we’re exposed to a wide array of cultural influences that insist we become something other than we are now. Being rather social creatures, we want to fit in and we’ll often gladly develop the persona that allows us to do so. Yes, we can do it, often at great cost to our well-being. We cannot escape that gnawing feeling that something essential to our being is missing. We’re Emerson’s traveler who believes that in Naples he will find what his mundane existence lacks, only to discover that he awakens in Naples as the same sad self he hoped to leave behind. Regardless of where one goes or what one achieves, playing the role of even the successful duck will forever leave a hollow feeling in the heart of the swan.

We seek to advance our spiritual status by exposing ourselves to the works of the masters. This would be fine if we did not think of ourselves as the duck reading of the benefits of becoming a swan. Many of us began our so-called spiritual education from the premise that we were sinners from birth, that our hope of salvation lay in becoming something other than our natural sinful nature. Some of us put this off when we discovered New Thought and were reminded that we are made in the image and after the likeness of God. So why don’t we feel the freeing power of this truth? We will, we’re told. We just need a few more lifetimes to mature. Yes, we can even declare that we are now on a spiritual rather than a religious path while still walking and quacking our way to that elusive ideal of perfect swanhood.

Because you feel separate from God does not mean you are. Nor does it mean you are a spiritual failure. The little swan’s true identity was never in jeopardy. His months of dreaming of being a successful duck did not mean he had to invest that same amount of time regaining the truth that was his birthright. Placing your soul on an evolutionary time-line may seem to address the why of why it feels as if you are here and the fulfillment you seek is somewhere else. But why not start at the end, even if you don’t feel it?

You and I are spiritually complete now. Our quest for spiritual fulfillment may take us to the far corners of the earth but the day comes when we catch a glimpse of our true essence in the rippling surface of this very pond that is our life. Like the little swan, we do not evolve into something more than we are already. We awaken to that something we are right now.

Inner Peace

It’s been awhile since I’ve written anything here, as my attention has been on other things. I’m presently conducting a video series on my book, The Complete Soul, and have been busy re-editing the entire nine episodes. In addition to the normally busy Christmas season (thanks to my friend Al), I’ve discovered drone photography and have been working at wrapping my mind around the wonders of this marvelous and fascinating technology.

Each week I post the theme of my upcoming talk on Facebook. I’m using the Advent season to explore the four fundamentals of God: life, love, power and intelligence.  This week we’re on power, which manifests as strength in its many forms: strength of faith, strength of character, strength of body and so on.

It occurred to me that one of the most satisfying manifestations of power is inner peace. Centered in peace, we find all the strength we need to deal with life’s issues. The mistake we often make, however, is that we seek peace through the resolution of these issues. When I resolve this thing, I’ll be peaceful. The key is to experience peace first, as the resolution always follows. If our inner peace depends on resolving problems, then peace is elusive, conditional. When we learn to experience it prior to the resolution, then we realize its unconditional nature. This, I believe, is the peace that passes normal understanding that Jesus referred to, a peace not given by the world of resolved conditions, but by an inner experience of the ever-present power of God.

It’s easy to put a price on peace, to believe that something more must happen before we can be at peace. We’re taught in so many ways that being at peace in the midst of a storm is irresponsible. If we care, we’ll be frantically at work seeking a resolution to whatever issue confronts us. Jesus’ disciples couldn’t believe he could sleep in a boat being tossed about by a storm. Having been in a similar situation, I have to admit that I probably would have been among the disciples. But I found the more I learned of sailing, the less fearful I was of the wind. Likewise, the more we learn of the presence of spiritual power, the more we tap into the unconditional presence of the peace it gives.

For many, the holidays and all the preparations they call for become a rather stormy sea. Instead of enjoying the season, we stress our way through it, catching our spiritual breath only after it all passes. We should recall that we reside now in the full power of God and that power is now being imparted at our innermost level as the wonderful gift of inner peace.

 

Love and Understanding

Advent Series, Part 2 of 4

YouTube: Love and Understanding

Audio: Love and Understanding

In this four-part series, we are treating Advent as an intuitive awakening. Our focus is on the meditative process. Follow the same preparations from the first week and bring your awareness into the region of the solar plexus using the simple statement, I Am.  See and feel your soul radiating love. This beautiful energy of love works for the highest good of all concerned, sometimes attracting and sometimes repelling or dissolving, depending on how the highest good is to manifest. Whether love attracts or dissolves is not a decision you make, but one you trust love to sort out as it flows in and through every aspect of your being and your life. Love lifts your vision in a way that imparts the understanding to see and know what needs to be done. Affirm:

I am guided by the understanding that love imparts.

Love is my essence. Love is my being.

Love is the balancing action in all my relationships and all conditions in my life.

See your body immersed in love. See every aspect of your life, especially those areas that are troubled, completely engulfed in the love that radiates as your soul. See love doing its perfect work and become willing to do your part in that work when the understanding dictates. Loving your neighbor may result in strengthening your relationship or dissolving it. This is a much better alternative than trying to force yourself to love them because you think you are supposed to. You may not always be able to muster the kind word or take that right action that will bring agreement with another. Still, you can know that invoking love will fit all the pieces together, will tie up the loose ends, and move all concerned to their best and highest good. Love reveals that this is true even when your good intentions at diplomacy fail miserably, or fear drives your own actions. The love that expresses as your soul is greater than all human frailty. Your unloving thoughts and actions or the unloving thoughts and actions of another do nothing to alter love itself. Love does not depend on how loving or unloving you are.

Let all of this go and simply see your entire being immersed in love. Experience love’s healing warmth. Let it melt away your stress and your struggle to be loved. You are more than loved. You are love itself.

 

 

 

 

Life and Enthusiasm

Youtube: Life and Enthusiasm

Audio: Life and Enthusiasm

Advent Series, Part 1 of 4

In this four-part series, we are treating Advent as an intuitive awakening. Our focus, therefore, is on the meditative process. Choose a regular time and a place where you will not be disturbed (allow 30 minutes to an hour). Relax your mind and body. Bring your awareness to the area of the solar plexus (abdominal region) and focus your attention with this simple statement: I Am. Slowly repeat these words, letting go of all stress-inducing distractions. After a time, begin speaking quietly the affirmations that follow. Allow yourself to envision and experience the action suggested by each line before you move on to the next:

My soul radiates the pure, unrestricted energy of life.

There are no blockages. There are no restrictions.

I am filled with boundless life and unbridled enthusiasm.

The pure radiance of my soul shines in its fullness now.

In perfect peace, I let this pure energy rise.

As you relax with your awareness at your center, see the radiating energy of your soul as the energizing life that permeates all aspects of your being. It is natural to visualize life as the light that animates and heals every cell of your body and brings a sparkle of enthusiasm to your eye. You need not direct the energy of life, for life knows how to express itself. We see it animating countless forms at a variety of levels everywhere in the world. Life never stagnates. It is only our mundane focus of attention that becomes dull and lifeless. Acknowledge the free reign of life as it radiates its natural expansive movement through and as your being.

Don’t try to pump up your enthusiasm and strive to be the life of the party. Doing this will expend your energy by directing it to that bottomless pit of your unenthusiastic self-image.

Any forced positive attitude you generate will be short-lived and costly. A forced expression of enthusiasm is a performance you’ll have to continually maintain. Those who do this might be entertaining, but they can also be quite wearisome. You don’t have to instruct fire to be hot and you don’t have to inform life that it needs to express as enthusiasm. This is what it does naturally.

Natural enthusiasm manifests as genuine interest in whatever you happen to be doing, from creating a piece of art to taking out the trash. Enthusiasm is as unconditional as the energy of life itself. You need no particular reason to be enthusiastic. It is life’s gift to you. As you affirm life in your meditative experience, quiet enthusiasm will naturally grow.

 

 

 

Consider The Lilies

Youtube: Consider the Lilies

Audio: Consider the Lilies

“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these” (Matthew 6:28-29).

God is an all-sustaining presence that great spiritual teachers of all ages have recognized as a providing source of support and guidance. Jesus was, no doubt, familiar with the writer of Deuteronomy’s comforting image of God: “The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27).

We often feel alone, cut off from any source of support and supply. This happens, of course, because we become focused completely on the outer aspects of life and we start thinking that our good comes only from external channels.

This attitude actually contributes to much of our struggle for a more prosperous experience. The belief that our good comes to us from the outside in has us looking here and there for what first must be discovered within our own being.

If you are faced with a need right now, the first step toward opening yourself to a more attractive, prospering state is to become a magnet of good. You do this by affirming something like this:

God is my dwelling place, my perfect support. Today, I draw to myself all that I need to live a full and prosperous life.

Get the feeling that you are loved and supported, that your life is, on all fronts, working in an easy and orderly manner, that God as your source is now drawing to you everything you need to live a full and satisfying life. Just as the lily is clothed from the inside out, so are you. Take time often to remember this, and to know that God is your everlasting source of absolute good.