Event Versus Experience

[Excerpt from A Spiritual Journey]

I am sometimes asked how I can say on one hand that the soul is complete, and on the other hand acknowledge the challenges of the human condition. Are not these challenges evidence of a partially evolved soul? And will not the human condition as a whole be vastly improved when we finally reach the tipping point in our evolutionary process, where the lion lays down with the lamb, the hundred and first monkey begins reproducing and a new age marked by world peace finally begins?

If we ask whether Jesus was a highly evolved soul, the vast majority of the New Thought community would likely agree that he was. What this same group may ignore is that the Gospel accounts tell us that from the moment of his birth to his death, Jesus lived in the swirl of controversy that culminated in his crucifixion. As the designated Lamb of God, he left in his wake a string of carnivorous lions that threatened him throughout his life. Would we not expect a highly evolved soul would demonstrate a peaceful and prosperous life free of contention?

What we may not consider is that our Gospel accounts represent an evangelical interpretation of a series of events that, strung together like beads, present a snapshot of the life of Jesus. Virtually nothing is known of how Jesus actually experienced these events. Unlike Paul, we have no letters expressing feelings and viewpoints that would have been important to him. Considering some of his sayings, it would appear that Jesus did not equate the character of events with the quality of internal experience. The tribulation that occurred in his external world did not seem to be the yardstick by which he measured his own inner experience of peace. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you” (John 14:27).

Failure to discern the difference between events and experience is, I believe, a significant contributor to the conscious disconnect we have with our own wholeness. Our “eye” is indeed single, but it is turned on events. We are like a person with a telescope pointed to the ground and asking, Where are the stars?

Few of us in New Thought have trouble with the idea of a spiritual body that we conceive as maintaining its wholeness even when the physical body displays episodes of illness. One healing technique is to mentally and emotionally lay hold of this spiritual body and see it manifesting throughout our physical body. In the best way we know, we take our attention away from the event of physical illness and place it on the wholeness of the spiritual body until we experience this wholeness shining forth through the physical. We may be distracted by pain and other significant inconveniences, but we slowly move the telescope of our attention from this terrestrial event of physical limitation to the heavenly experience of the vast universe.

Spiritual teachers of all time have warned against determining what is true by looking to appearances and events. To look at the turmoil in one’s life and determine that its presence is the result of spiritual inadequacy is a false judgment that forever keeps us locked into an event-oriented measure of spiritual progress. This is like looking out the window on a rainy day and thinking we are in some way responsible for the sun not shining. Despite the presence of clouds, the sun still shines. The event of rain has nothing to do with the behavior of the sun. Nor does it have anything to do with the constitution of our consciousness. The rain falls on the just and the unjust. It’s how we choose to experience the rain that makes the difference for us. If we see the clouds and the rain as effects of our inadequate understanding, then inclement weather will always serve to remind us that we have some evolving to do. If, on the other hand, we know the sun shines regardless of whether or not it rains, and that we have absolutely nothing to do with how weather systems play out, then we are free of this impossible burden. Even when we turn our telescope to the stars and see nothing but clouds, we still know the stars have not gone away. The event of a cloud cover does nothing to alter our conviction that the star-studded sky remains.

It is the dominating belief in the power of events that keeps us from experiencing the completeness of our soul. It is easier to believe in the advanced state of a Jesus, or the advanced soul of one of our favorite authors than it is to believe in ourselves. We turn our attention to these people, strip them of their life’s events and imagine that their superior understanding has allowed them to navigate through this life in ways of which we can only dream. Our experience may seem anything but divine, so we look to others with the hope of learning how they did it so we may do it as well. Regardless of how pristine an experience another may have had, looking to them for spiritual help is looking in the wrong direction. We have turned our telescope to the earth. Not a single spiritual teacher worth his or her salt ever said, Turn your telescope toward me. To the contrary, all have said, that which you are seeking is within you. Do not judge your spiritual status by the events transpiring around you. Do not compare yourself with me. Connect with your own completeness, your advocate, your comforter, your Christ. Love the lord your God.

In this way alone, you find the peace for your restless soul that longs to step forward into the full field of your vision, your understanding of yourself. Events are things that happen. Experience is the way you choose to relate to events. You do not change your experience by changing events. You change your experience by knowing the truth of your completeness.

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