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.

Listen to Yourself

[From, A Practical Guide to Prosperous Living]

Typically, each one of us receives a significant amount of input from friends and family members as to how we should go about improving our lives. These well-meaning people may even suggest that you study and practice the ideas in a book like this to get what you want. In an attempt to honor a friendship or show respect to a family member, you may find yourself acting on ideas that are not genuinely yours.

If it is not your idea, if you are doing a thing to please or appease another, you will not put your heart into it. You have to know the value of the course of action you take or you will abandon it. Yes, you will get good ideas from others, but these ideas must become yours if you are to ignite them with the fire of enthusiasm required to bring them into full manifestation.

The same holds true with your own attitude. You may say to yourself, “I’m supposed to be positive, so I should be able to do anything.” If this is your approach, you do not yet own the attitude it suggests. You simply can’t make the kinds of internal and external changes that are required because you think you are supposed to, or because you are trying to be positive. You can only make these kinds of changes when you, in your own way, come to know the value of doing it.

Consider all input, but remain centered in what your deepest, most natural inclinations are telling you. It is better to be slow to act than it is to attempt to make changes in your life based on inspiration that is not genuinely your own.

The Grasshopper Mentality

[Slightly revised excerpt from A Practical Guide to Prosperous Living]

The Old Testament offers a good illustration of the importance of self-image and the role it plays in determining how our circumstances unfold. The story is found in the thirteenth chapter of the book of Numbers.

According to the story, after having wandered in the wilderness for many years, Moses brought the nation of Israel to the border of the land the Lord had promised Abraham a few generations before. Moses, desiring to measure the strength and numbers of the occupants of this land, sent in twelve spies to gather intelligence. Upon their return, he summoned the twelve to give their assessment of the situation. They returned from their intelligence gathering mission with good news and bad news. The good news, and all twelve agreed on this, was that this was indeed a land of abundance, a land flowing with milk and honey. The bad news, which they all did not agree on, was whether Israel was capable of overcoming the inhabitants. The majority of spies, eleven to be exact, reported that the people of the land were strong and the cities were large and well fortified. Their conclusion? “We can’t take on these people, for they are stronger than us.”

There was one spy, Caleb, who did not agree. His advice to Israel was this: “Let us go up at once and occupy it; for we are well able to overcome it.”

How could it be that Caleb and his eleven companions could see the same people but evaluate them in two completely different ways? The answer is simple. These conflicting evaluations were not based on the actual people they saw. Their evaluations were based on how they saw themselves. This interesting fact is revealed in the report of the eleven when they said, “We seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers and so we seemed to them.”

Naturally, if you see yourself as a “grasshopper,” it is going to affect the way you create your circumstances. A grasshopper mentality affects what you believe you can and cannot do. These grasshopper beliefs influence the decisions you make, your decisions determine actions that are in keeping with your grasshopper beliefs and your actions influence the way your circumstances unfold. In other words, if you see yourself as a grasshopper, you will naturally want to create an environment that accommodates grasshoppers.

Because they saw themselves as grasshoppers, the eleven did not believe they could overcome the inhabitants of the land. They recommended to Moses and the assembly that Israel should take no action against these inhabitants. If the assembly had accepted their recommendation, Israel would never have occupied their land of promise. The circumstances of an entire nation would have been adversely affected by the grasshopper self-image of these eleven spies.

Caleb, on the other hand, did not see himself as a grasshopper. He saw himself as a warrior for the Lord who was simply accepting the land that the Lord had promised Israel through Abraham years before. This divinely-sanctioned self-image gave him quite a different perspective of the situation. It caused him to believe Israel, through the strength of this sacred promise, could overcome these inhabitants.

Giving Way to Natural Law

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 “My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me, the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water” (Jeremiah 2:13).

Today it seems a growing number of people prefer to describe their interest in the Divine as a spiritual rather than a religious quest. The implication is that a fresh look at spiritual issues requires casting off dogmatic formulas of faith passed on from one generation to the next.

Some of Jesus’ contemporaries apparently thought he advocated abandoning the many formulas of Jewish orthodoxy. He corrected them when he said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17). He was calling attention to the deeper meaning, the natural law from which the ritual is born. Regardless of the presence or absence of religious trappings, every practical spiritual system must have at its core an understanding that is rooted in natural law.

Jeremiah strikes at the heart of the issue with his two sins dialogue. Of course he isn’t talking about water and cisterns. The “spring of living water” is the indwelling presence of God. The broken cistern is the self-image that we have “dug” or adopted as our identity. A cistern must be filled from outside sources such as rain or water that is hauled in. Jeremiah’s “two sins” indicate a breach in natural law, a turning away from our true inner source of life, love, power, and intelligence and looking to external sources such as people, places, and things as our means of fulfillment. This cracked cistern of the self-image can never be filled, never satisfied.

The source of our being carries the true fulfillment we seek. As we open our heart to this inner infilling, we find the satisfaction we seek. The spring of living water, the spiritual fulfillment we seek, has always been with us, a natural law that expresses from the inside out.

 

The Love Enigma

A crowning moment in my spiritual career consisted of several minutes of a breakthrough into an experience that I can only describe as absolute, unconditional love. I not only felt completely loved and embraced by God, I also felt so lifted that I could truly love this world and everyone in it, without reservation. My sole desire in those few minutes was to share with all the experience I was having.

It felt as if this high would never leave. But it did begin to fade, leaving me with a deep sense of abandonment. Why was it so difficult to remain in this state of absolute freedom and compassion? It was as natural and as easy as breathing. Yet I could not seem to climb back into that high place no matter how hard I tried.

In our spiritual studies, we often hear that we are to love our neighbor. From my momentary vantage point of unconditional love, I totally understand what this means. When you experience complete inner freedom, radiating love that encompasses all with no strings attached is a natural and effortless response. Trying to love because we are supposed to, however, is a very different matter.

When we try to love, we are coming from a manufactured aspect of our self-image. We think of love as a limited commodity that we have, and it’s a tremendous effort to give it to certain kinds of people and their behavior. The result is that we pretend to love because that’s what we’re supposed to do. This pretense is often accompanied with resentment. It’s a conditional love that expects something in return. If we love them, they’ll change. If we love them, we’ll change. If we love them enough, they’ll go away and leave us in peace.

Unconditional love does not look for such rewards, for it is itself the reward. It does not look for positive responses or reactions from others for these are not the requirements of spiritual freedom. The soul is absolutely free, but each of us has encased ourselves in a body-based self-image that must have things just so to remain at peace. When we try to love from this place, we are, in effect, attempting to use love as a way of protecting a weakness, a chink in the armor of the relatively fragile self-image. In reality, the soul has no weaknesses. Nothing and no one can threaten it because the soul is eternal and indestructible.

We have been convinced that our soul has incarnated in this body to learn lessons. While I once endorsed this belief, I have come to realize that this is an absolutely false premise. There is but one lesson to learn: You and I are not the self-image we are trying to advance and protect. We are the soul. Loving our neighbor is not a mandate that we are to practice and eventually learn. Loving our neighbor is a prophesy. It is the thing we do without effort or condition when we understand that we are not this body-based self-image that we are propping up. We are the soul, the spiritual bedrock that lies beneath the ever-shifting sands of the self-image.

Love is not a thing we do. It is what we are. This is why I have reached the understanding that love draws to us that which is for our highest good and dissolves that which is not. Our highest good is the experience of the soul. That which is not for our highest good is any belief that we are something less than the soul. Illuminating breakthroughs show us the difference. To think we have to earn the right, that we have to learn a slew of lessons before we can graduate into a direct experience of the soul is one of the primary false beliefs that love is now dissolving.

We’ve shifted our core identity from our soul to our body, but this does not mean we have to spend a lifetime (or many lifetimes) in a body to rectify this error. The belief that we are here to learn means that we are here because we have to be. The understanding that we are a soul that is complete and free now puts us in a mindset that allows love to do its perfect work. It is only from this place that we can truly love our neighbor as ourselves. We’re here by choice. We’re here because we want to be. Love draws to us the understanding of our completeness and dissolves the false notion that we have much work to do.

The self-image tries to love. The soul is love. When Jesus pointed out that laying down one’s life for another was the greatest example of love in action, I believe he was referring to the act of letting go of the self-image and all of its many problems, and letting the light of the soul shine forth. We are not givers of the love we have. We are love itself.