The Challenge of Oneness

[From A Spiritual Journey]

While people often agree with the idea that they are one with God, many will admit to feeling separate most of the time. The experience of oneness, they acknowledge, requires much effort and intention, a letting go and seeking to bridge the gap between their senses-based ego and their soul’s oneness with God. Although this conscious unity with God is our natural heritage, it requires steady mindfulness to make it a practical part of our daily experience. With most of us, our quest for conscious unity with God takes on a kind of ebb and flow. Our awareness constantly shifts between God and worldly concerns, with the bulk of our focus on those concerns.

I relate this to the man who found the treasure in the field. Knowing the treasure is there even as we’re busy “selling” our possessions to buy that field is a great comfort. I used to fear that I was digressing in these spiritually distracted times, but now I know this is not true. The soul’s light is steadfast even if our focus on spiritual matters is not. When our attention is wandering out in some far country, we’re still aware of our true home. Despite our feelings of separation, we never lose the memory of our oneness.

The feeling of separation is not an issue to one who has never experienced some level of oneness with their spiritual Source. This feeling of inner lack is, for them, a material issue addressed through the further pursuit of material things. Though they may not yet walk on water, the spiritually advanced grapple with this feeling of separation as a spiritual rather than a material problem.

For me, it is clarifying to draw a distinction between consciousness evolution and a perceived soul development. Our self-image is out of alignment with that which is true at the soul level. This understanding eliminates all perceived degrees of soul development and places our progress squarely on our system of values rather than on the erroneously conceived fluctuation of the soul.

The more value we place on experiencing our soul, the more attention we give to reasons such an experience might seem so elusive. Even if we give it no attention, our soul’s wholeness remains intact. We cannot damage our spiritual heritage through negligence. Our wandering in the far country neither offends God nor sparks any kind of need for divine forgiveness.

We lift a huge weight from our shoulders when we make peace with the fact that we can never negatively affect the condition of our soul or of our relationship of oneness with God. We can suffer, we can experience spiritual deprivation, we can feel alone and desperate in our far country, but our soul remains one with God. We can, at any moment, come to ourselves, turn with the understanding that we will be welcomed with open arms back into our eternal home with our loving Father.

A Change of Plan

Dear friends,

Today I experienced a change of plan, and was unable to present my weekly talk. For our local congregation, I instead presented a segment of a video series I am working on for my book, The Complete Soul. Because this series is not yet ready for release, I would rather not make it available to the general public at this point. My plan is to present Run To, Not From – a talk based on the writings of Emilie Cady  this coming Sunday.

Some of you have told me you are playing catch-up on the week’s videos, so maybe this pause on my part will give you that opportunity. I apologize for any inconvenience, but I’ll resume regular audio/video programming next Sunday.

Thanks for your ongoing support, and thank you for any topical suggestions you may have for future presentations. Beginning with Easter, I will start a series on the spiritual principles taught by Jesus. Blessings, JDB



Question on Meditation

Question: I try to meditate but I just can’t seem to get anywhere. I know you’ve written a book on this subject but could you share some thoughts that might help someone like me?

As we consider spiritual ideas, it’s important to remember that there are two types of learning: intellectual and intuitive. Intellectual learning involves the accumulation of spiritual facts. We do this through study and exposure to teachers. Intuitive learning is based on direct exposure to the soul. This experience is then transmitted to the intellect. Because the experience is subjective in nature, it cannot be taught. But don’t make a mystery of this. Someone can explain what orange juice tastes like, but you don’t really know until you actually take a sip and experience it for yourself. Then you learn in an instant.

Taste, of course, is not an intuitive function, but we can use it as an example of things that can only be known through experience. Touch is another example. You look at a bowl of water that may be warm or cool. The instant you place your fingers in the water you learn its temperature through direct experience.

The intuitive faculty is capable of sensing and experiencing the subtle spiritual energy that is your being. The Bible refers to this energy as “living water” that wells up from within. This metaphor provides a way to think of our spiritual connection that cannot otherwise be defined or imparted by another.

The intuitive experience is not emotional. Nor should it be confused with those “hunches” that a thing is true or false, or that we should make a certain decision. This type of knowing is important and very useful. But we’re talking about something of a deeper nature. The intuition open to the soul does indeed stir the emotion and instills peace and the feeling that something greater than our own consciousness is at work. This revelation we seek involves knowing the true nature of Being, and this is imparted only through direct experience. Jesus compared it to the wind that you feel and hear but do not see. It is invisible but very real. You know it when it seeps into your awareness. You experience the joy of freedom knowing you are much more, and something much different than you thought.

This is an important observation. As you seek to open your intuition to the soul, you do so with the willingness to let go of who and what you think you are. Most of us maintain a running internal dialog that creates an endless loop of definition and response: I am this, so that is what I need. It is best to release all preconceived expectations, all definitions of God, the soul, and the self. As much as possible, make yourself an empty vessel receptive to inner energies that are totally familiar and natural but have likely gone unnoticed beneath the constant drumming of a perpetually busy mind. I assume this is the problem you are having.

It is not possible to force results. If you find yourself struggling, open your eyes and move about if you need to. You want to break yourself of all attempts to create an experience. If you stay with it, you will likely begin to have brief, nearly imperceptible movements of spirit. If you can recapture and pursue these, fine. Just don’t chase after them. During the day, you may find such experiences rise naturally on their own, without any effort on your part. You suddenly feel good and lifted without knowing why. You experience an unprovoked sense of joy and well-being. Take these as a sign that you are cracking the shell, that more is being done than you realize.

The spiritual breakthrough will come if you stay with it. Our externally driven western culture contributes to most of the mental and emotional distractions we encounter. From very early in life, we are taught to look to the world for the peace, joy, and well-being that we seek. For most of us, going within and seeking an experience with the unadulterated core of our being is a foreign endeavor. We are taught to pray looking to the heavens rather than to the kingdom of heaven within.

A helpful attitude to hold while meditating is this: “Before they call, I will answer. While they are still speaking I will hear” (Isaiah 65:24). I have said often that we desire more because we are more. It is the fullness of your soul that beckons you to come up higher. You are not creating this desire; you are responding to it. The fact that you have come to believe there is value in seeking an inner awakening says that you are on your way to a broader experience. Everyone gets discouraged, but don’t give up on it. You will eventually find that meditation is very natural and a thing you already know how to do.

I hope this is helpful.

A Guiding Principle in Relationships

[From, A Spiritual Journey]

A question I hear often has to do with relationships. What is the best way to deal with, or interact with a negative person? There are, of course, many kinds of relationships. Some are close and long-term while others are casual and short-term. Because of the wide variety of relationship types, there are no pat answers to prescribed actions. There is, however, a guiding principle in relationships that you will eventually discover, if you have not already.

We are trained to think it is our religious duty, or the mark of a spiritually enlightened soul, to love everyone in spite of his or her immature, manipulative or needy behavior. Love, however, is not something we do for others. Love is a word that describes the true nature of our being, and being true to our spiritual nature is our first responsibility, our guiding principle.

If a loved one decides to sit waist deep in a pit of mud and asks you to join them, and they express clearly that if you do not grant their wish, they will be very hurt; would you feel it is your duty to appease them? Of course, you wouldn’t. You can offer your hand and help them out, but if they don’t want to come out, you will do the most for them by staying out of the pit.

There are many who desire to control others with the goal of building or maintaining their not-so-grandiose empires. If you allow yourself to be a pawn in their scheme, you become resentful. You will resent them for using guilt, shame, and pity to get their way, and you will resent yourself for confusing your compliance with love.

To love is to be a giver, but not necessarily at the level the requester is making. I give most when I believe in others, when I see that they are the inlet and may become the outlet to all there is in God. If I only give at the level they request, then I encourage them to stay at that level. This is not a very loving act when you think about it.

The best way to deal with a negative person is to continue to act from the highest that is in you. Either you’ll inspire them to follow your example or you’ll pry their fingers from your arm and move on. Either way, things will ultimately improve for you both.

Life’s Single Lesson

YouTube: Life’s Single Lesson

Audio: Life’s Single Lesson

“You say the earth is a school and we’ve come here to learn

If we don’t get it now then we’ll have to return

Another lifetime – O how many more?

But what if we came because we’re already free

We want to share our light so that others can see

They have a purpose – a cause to live for”

(I Can’t Hide – JDB)


I think it’s fair to say that most who have embraced the spiritual alternative to the mainstream concepts of heaven and hell are comfortable with the notion that earth is a school and we’ve come to learn. The lessons we’re here to learn are not necessarily directed toward enhancing the intellect, but in advancing the soul. I think it’s a good idea to question this premise.

If you own a cat or a dog, would you say the same is true of them? Do you assume they have much to learn in terms of soul advancement? Don’t we respond to our pets because of the unconditional love and devotion they give to us? We may not like that they threaten the UPS man, chase cars, intentionally knock trinkets off the mantel, or shred the couch as part of their routine workout, but we see in them an irresistible purity that would be difficult to improve upon. Would it even cross our mind that they have come to earth to correct some soul deficit? We’re more likely to think they’ve come to help us with ours.

From a spiritual perspective, I suggest there is but a single lesson to learn: I am a soul who has taken on this body as the interfacing vehicle that allows me to experience the material plane. So-called spiritual learning is simply soul recollection –the act of reawakening to what I am at the deepest level. The lessons to learn have less to do with soul development and more to do with conducting life successfully through this temporary physical interface of the body. I believe we are here because we want to be, not because our perceived undeveloped soul needs more schooling.

Focus on this single truth: My soul is complete, and I have taken on a body to experience this earthly plane. Don’t get lost in why you may have made this choice. Focus only on the truth that you are a soul that is already complete, already free. As you get a solid understanding of this, you begin directing your body and your environment to conform to your reason for coming.


The House of the Lord

[Adapted from an article written in March of 2014]

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want; he makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies; thou anointest my head with oil, my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD for ever. Psalms 23:1-6

The small town in northwestern Missouri where I grew up evokes many fond memories of green pastures and still waters. One scene in particular, located a few miles outside of town, is that of a small pond beneath a sprawling oak set in the gentle slope of an isolated meadow. As children, railroad tracks provided our well beaten path into a world of wooded landscapes, fields of grain and pastures dotted with all varieties of livestock. On a summer day, you’d find the leaves of the oak stir in the breeze that rippled the pond’s surface and lifted a patrolling hawk. Magnificent thunderheads cast shadows that crawled over the ground dispensing temporal relief from the heat. On the high end of the spectrum of sounds would be the brilliant song of a lark. The lower end held the subdued buzz of honey bees harvesting treasured nectar from a rainbow of wildflowers. The humid air that wrapped your skin like a woolen blanket carried the sweet fragrance of wild clover, plowed soil and cattle that still infuse the rural Midwest character with its wholesome, earthy balance.

The Psalmist’s imagery was no doubt inspired by his contrasting desert landscape not unlike the one in which I now live in western Colorado. From a shepherd’s perspective, with an average of 300 days of sunshine and 9 inches of precipitation per year, still waters are outnumbered by dry washes. Remove the man-made lifeline of irrigation and our green pastures quickly revert to their native sage, cactus, and yucca that punctuate this sun-baked terrain. It is with newly acquired affection that I hold the towering dust devil and the perpetually wandering tumbleweed as key contributors to the character of this part of the West. The Psalmist, I believe, would have been perfectly at home in my adopted neighborhood. Contrasting every shepherd’s dreamland of green pastures and still waters with desert realities, the writer successfully employed his craft to evoke soul-restoring images of plenty and peace promised to those who invest their trust in God.

The most profound of spiritual messages is the reminder that we dwell in the house of the Lord forever, that the paths of righteousness that sometimes take us through valleys shadowed with the momentary death of our awareness of God’s presence. We always come out on higher ground to a banquet table spread out for us in the very presence of our internal enemies of peace. This house of the Lord is vast and all encompassing, yet immediately accommodating to all regardless of their present habitat. Wherever I am, God is, beautiful words from James Dillet Freeman’s Prayer for Protection, come to mean that wherever I am in consciousness, God is. No one is barred from this house. No one is taxed to enter. No one is ever disaffiliated.

Whether it is a pleasant reminiscing and writing of childhood memories or, decades-later, against a backdrop of naked cliffs bathed in the pink glow of waning sunlight, an evening walk in the desert with my wife, I never leave the house of the Lord. Yes I venture into the shadows of appearance-based issues, perhaps to bring some self-assurance that we’ll never stop talking and teaching about this house, that we’ll keep in check this tendency to veer off into brain science and pop psychology, sparkling trinkets that seem to continually capture the fancy of this chronically unsettled, ever-shifting collective we call mainstream religion. My first calling is to this house of the Lord, so intricately and eternally woven into my consciousness, a murmuring brook, a healing balm to the intuitive ear, a living essence that never ceases to stir and restore my soul.

As my thoughts drift back to the many green pastures and still waters that I have known, I celebrate something much deeper than scenery. The very hand that painted these unforgettable landscapes has painted me as well, has painted us all and continues to paint us still. For nearly four decades I have written books about it, sung songs of its beauty, spoken of it from the open air of the pulpit and in the intimate setting of the classroom, and I’ll continue to do so as long as these faculties hold out.

The house of the Lord is the one constant in my life, a refuge of peace whose doors do not close. Having dwelt in this house, I’ll never tire of the deep satisfaction that comes with knowing I may have had something to do with showing others the way through these doors.

Paper Pulp or Flour?

[Excerpt from A Spiritual Journey]

Someone raised the question of how we can consider God as being personal and universal at the same time. If we continue to assign human attributes to God, this is a difficult question to answer. If we think of God as the creative life force expressing through all, then it becomes much easier to grasp.

Let’s step back in time a bit and imagine diverting water from a river into a small channel (millrace) that turns the water wheel of a mill. The mill may be designed for any number of purposes, like grinding flour or making paper. In this simple but ingenious machine, we see a clear illustration of how the universal and personal can be understood.

The river and the water diverted into the race are universal. The water, indifferent to where it goes or how it is used, creates a current by forever seeking the lowest level. The mill is designed to utilize this current. What the mill produces is a personal choice of its builder. The mill (the personal), taps into the river (the universal), in a way that utilizes the river’s current.

In a very real sense, every individual is a kind of mill through which the creative life force (life, love, power and intelligence) is diverted. What we produce as our personal experience is not the effect of this universal source, but the effect of what we have set up to mill.

Our milling mechanism consists of our executive faculties of imagination, faith, judgment, will and elimination. Through the interactive combination of these faculties, we churn out the experience we see as our life. When we don’t like what we see, our normal reaction is to ask God to give us different results. This would be like the miller saying to the river, “I want to produce flour but all I’m getting is paper pulp.” What goes on between God and the individual is not the issue; it’s what goes on inside the mill that matters. The wheel of manifestation is always turning.

What do we do when we’re making paper pulp and we would rather be grinding flour? Although I list elimination as the fifth of our executive faculties, this may be a case where we bring it to the forefront. We may need to focus on letting go of our habit of making paper pulp when we really want flour.

“But I’ve always made paper pulp,” someone will argue. I don’t know what else to do. There is a bit of good news here. You don’t have to let go of your paper pulp business to begin the process of releasing it. You start exploring and releasing within yourself all the reasons you believe you are trapped making paper pulp. For example, you may be saying, I want to make a change but it’s going to cost money, so I can’t make the change until I get the money. Because you’ll probably never get enough money to feel comfortable about making the change, you’ll just keep pumping out the paper pulp and maybe hoping the river will rise, turn your wheel a bit faster and make enough pulp to sell out and move on.

Rather than list and rehearse all the many reasons you can’t make the change, simply say to yourself, it’s okay to go. This is your faculty of elimination at its best. It’s okay to go. This simple statement stirs the imagination. It awakens your faculty of faith to new possibilities. You willingly agree that it’s okay to go. Your faculty of judgment comes alive discerning the many ways you have been telling yourself it’s not okay to go.

The problems of the personal are not the effects of the universal. Don’t pray to the river to change the mill. You and I are not grinding away in our paper pulp mills because the river is forcing us to. We’re doing what we do because we’ve set up our mill to do it. The river is no happier when we’re making flour than when we’re churning out paper pulp. Nor is it forcing us to make paper pulp to pay off some karmic debt or because we happened to have a couple of dysfunctional parents or we married the wrong person. The river happily flows along letting us make whatever we want – paper pulp or flour.