Down by the Riverside

[From A Spiritual Journey]

[View: A Path to Self-Forgiveness] 

In my book, Native Soul, I point out the importance of meditation and I comment on one of the most commonly expressed issues I’ve heard from people on this subject. How do you get past the incessant flow of thought when you are trying to be still and experience your spiritual center? I compare this flow to a rushing river. If someone asked you to cross that river but you could see no benefit in doing so, you may wade in, feel the power of the current and then step back out with the feeling that crossing it is not worth the risk. If that same person pointed to a tree on the far bank and explained there was a winning lottery ticket worth millions with your name on it, do you not suppose you would figure out how to cross that river?

In the first scenario, you see little value in the risk or effort of crossing the river. In the second scenario, the ambiguities of value disappear. When you understand the value of crossing that river, you will figure out how to do it, no matter how long it takes or how difficult it is.

The problem most of us face with the incessant mind is that we do not understand the value of what we might find on the other side. We have opinions given to us by others of what it means to be spiritually enlightened. We read of the ecstasy and boundless stores of wisdom tapped by those who have crossed the river. We read of great spiritual power awaiting those who have made this crossing. Yet we encounter this river, feel the force of its current and conclude that it must not be our time to cross. Perhaps if we read more about it or gather and speak affirmations that are more powerful we’ll build up the strength to take this plunge.

None of this is true. Every person alive is fully equipped to cross the river of the busy mind, no soul evolution or further learning required. The only thing that has to happen is that a shift in values must occur. Each person has to grasp the true value of crossing that river, and each person must stay with this process until he or she experiences the breakthrough.

There have always been those who promise that they can get us across. Join a special group, pay the fees, jump in their boat and they’ll take you to the other side. Or, with the touch of our specially trained hands, and a small fee, we will get you to the other side, instantly or very soon. This is all pure nonsense at best, spiritual charlatanism at its worst. The reason? Neither approach requires a genuine shift in values. The belief that people or money can get you to the other side of the river changes your focus from actually crossing the river to seeking the right people and enough money to get you across. Your values, no longer placed in the end you seek, are now placed in the means to the end. The means to the end of the spiritual breakthrough, however, is not found in people, in study or in expensive courses of spiritual instruction. It is found within you.

As a teacher of meditative technique, Jesus was what I consider a minimalist. He pointed to the other side of the river (the kingdom of God is within you) and said, go there.

But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him (Matthew 6:6-8).

He was undoubtedly approached by those who went into their room, shut the door and prayed to their Father in secret but found they could think of nothing more than their health issue, their failing business, their unscrupulous neighbor with the barking dog or gathering the needed ingredients for the evening meal. To these he offered this simple instruction:

Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened (Matthew 7:7-8).

I have to think that if he had discovered a better, faster way to spiritual enlightenment, he would have offered it. If it were truly possible for one human being to pass enlightenment to another with the simple touch of a hand, I seriously doubt he would have offered such bland instructions that obviously put the ball of enlightenment in the court of each individual.

Socrates responded to a student’s question about obtaining wisdom by plunging the student’s head into water until he nearly drowned. Pulling him from the water, Socrates asked the student what he wanted most in that moment. Air, of course, was the answer. Socrates explained that when the student wanted wisdom as much as he wanted air, he would obtain it. A shift of values was the only requirement.

The spiritual path does not require an abandonment of material pursuits. If anything is abandoned, it is because, like the man who discovered the buried treasure, we joyously let go of those possessions that wrangle our attention from a first-hand experience with God. As this experience begins to emerge in our committed quiet times, the value we place on moving deeper naturally arises. We are guided by the greater freedom we experience.

We have to have enough faith to take the plunge, even if it is blind faith the size of a grain of mustard seed. The fact is we do have the required faith. Why else do you think we keep showing up at this particular riverbank?

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s