Finding Balance

Imagine two sponges immersed in the ocean. One says, “I am a sponge immersed in the ocean.” The other says, “I am the ocean expressing through this sponge.” Which one is right? It depends on where you place the “I“. If you place it on the sponge, as in, “I am a sponge…” you become the proverbial human being seeking a spiritual experience. If you place it on the ocean, as in, “I am the ocean…” you are the spiritual being having a human experience.

The sponge, a mortal that is subject to the elements of its environment, spends its life protecting and seeking to enhance its mortality. Its religion promises security against environmental forces that may prove destructive to its existence. Its education centers the success of its life as a sponge. It looks for the day when all sponges will cease competing for limited resources and the world of have and have-nots is a thing of the past.

The ocean, immortal and indestructible, shares none of these concerns. It sees its experience through the sponge as a unique opportunity to know life at the material plane, and it never loses sight of its true nature. It doesn’t have to express through the sponge, but it thrills at the opportunity.

Are you the sponge or are you the ocean? Do you identify yourself as your body and your circumstances, with your primary objective of achieving the status of a care-free sponge? Or, do you see yourself as the immortal soul expressing through this body and circumstances? Are you striving to become something more than you are, or are you living from the awareness of the unlimited being you have always been and you will always be? There isn’t a single issue in your life that is unaffected by your answer to these questions.

The ocean represents the soul. The sponge represents one of the countless life-forms through which the soul expresses. Does this mean that we have no individual identity, that in truth there are no sponges, no starfish, no coral, no seahorses? Does this mean that I, as a human being with a unique personality, appearance, and fingerprint, do not really exist? We ask again: Am I these things that define my physical presence, or do I have these things? Am I my body, or do I have a body? If I acknowledge that I have a body, then I ask, Who and what is this “I” that has this body? The answer? I am the ocean. I am not parceled out in the diversity through which I express. I am the unity of life behind all diversity.

We speak of the ideal of oneness while clinging to diversity. There is diversity in expression, but there is only a single source behind it all. We call this source the soul. John called it the Word, that creative mechanism that enables the universal to express as the personal, the undifferentiated to express as the particular, the very life that is the light of all. It is the single ocean that supports the diversity of life forms.

The highest objective of meditation is not to simply lower blood pressure and produce a relaxed sponge. Nor do we merely seek answers that will satisfy the questions of the confused sponge. The objective is to peer past the needs of the sponge and re-establish our identity as the ocean.

We do not deny our body, its material needs and circumstances. But by focusing only on fixing these, we deny the soul. We seek to squeeze unity out of short-sighted attempts to honor diversity. Diversity, as an object of worship, is a false god. We experience genuine oneness by consciously connecting with the soul in its native environment. This return to the soul does not answer the questions of the sponge; it eliminates them.

As you go through your day, think of yourself, not as a sponge seeking to make its way though the ocean, but as the ocean expressing through the sponge of your body and circumstances. You quickly notice that every problem you have is sponge related. How does the ocean view this sponge-related problem? Does it get upset? Is it fearful? Does it believe some needed element is missing? Is it confused by the actions of another sponge? No. By virtue of its indestructible nature, it holds an entirely different view. It is not drawn down into the clashes that often erupt in the realm of diversity.

To see from this perspective, you cannot be a sponge attempting to act as or think like the ocean. You must let go of your identity as a sponge and actually move into your experience as the ocean. You are not what you think. You are so much more. Try making this shift in self-perception and see for yourself how differently you look at this thing you call your life.

The Quest for Enlightenment

I once believed that spiritual enlightenment was a state of mind one accomplished at the end of a very long journey. My understanding, however, has changed. Enlightenment is not about achieving a level of development that transcends the soul’s present condition. Enlightenment is experiencing this journey from the awareness of the soul’s completeness. There is no place on earth we can go to get more of who and what we already are. No amount of study will increase the force or constitution of the soul. No achievement can bring us closer to the omnipresence of God than we are already.

The standard model of the quest for spiritual understanding is based on a negative: I am currently something less than I will be in the future. To be spiritually enlightened is to understand that I am already everything that I will ever be. This doesn’t mean that the limited self-image I have adopted is adequate just as it is. The self-image will never be adequate. Nor does it mean that I am finished aspiring, dreaming and achieving. It means that I recognize myself now as something much more than this body-based facade that I call me. The spiritual inadequacy I feel is not remedied by the consumption of more spiritual information. The remedy is removing the blinders of the self-image that block the truth of who and what I am at the soul level.

The concept of soul development is a spiritually debilitating myth. Instead of embracing what I am, this concept directs my focus on what I am not. If I live with the hope of one day becoming something more than I am right now, I do not allow myself to consider the truth of my fundamental nature. It sounds arrogant to say I am complete, for the myth of soul development says that only a rare handful of humans have attained spiritual enlightenment. How can I claim that I am even close to having what they had?

The problem is that we do not know what they had. We only assume we know. We lay upon them our manufactured template of enlightened master with the negative assumption that whatever they had was obviously something more than we have. If this were true, why would these enlightened souls bother to tell any who would listen that the things they were doing, others could do as well, and greater things? Why would they circumvent the religious elites, the blind guides who loved their positions of authority and the wealth it generated from keeping people as spiritually confused as were they themselves? Why would genuine teachers of the soul devote their lives to opening the spiritual eyes of others if those others were restrained by laws of evolution that ensured their spiritual blindness? Of what value is a spiritual teaching that promises fulfillment in a future state that cannot possibly exist outside this now moment?

The soul is not a thing to be developed. It is now complete. Being unaware of this truth does not make it less true. Spiritual enlightenment occurs with the first glimmer of understanding that it is true. The morning sun does not peek over the horizon to tease us with the promise of light and warmth. It does not place the condition of its appearance on years of study and discipline. It does not withhold itself from those who retreat into the shadows of ignorance and superstition, or believe they must acquire something more to be worthy of its gifts. The sun appears in its fullness and freely gives itself to all who will partake of its radiant being. We can believe in the long shadows we cast while looking away from the sun, or we can turn our face to this perfectly placed star and partake of its life-affirming gifts.

Though we don’t always live from the truth we know, this momentary lapse cannot pull us back over that threshold of understanding we’ve crossed. We can never return to our former conviction that we are something less today than we will be tomorrow. We are bound by the truth that omnipresence can never be something more, that we can never be closer to God than we are right now.

Because of the conditions we place on the notion of spiritual enlightenment, it is probably best to purge such terms from our vocabulary. It stirs emotional distance between where we think we are and where we think we should be. The hard work of eliminating this perceived gap is misplaced effort. In meditation, we close our eyes and search for something foreign, something we believe the great masters could see but we cannot, at least not yet. We do not see it because it does not exist. We are chasing the phantom of false perception. What we intuitively long for, what we deeply seek to experience, is found with our eyes open or closed. It can be known in quiet and busy moments. We can experience it in the peaceful rush of the surf, or in the noise of the busy city. It is not possible to be separated from the presence of God.

We will never find what we hope to become. We can only find what we are already. And what we are already exists fully and completely in this moment. It cannot be anything less or anyplace else. This now moment in which we exist is the holy ground of the Eternal. It is here and here alone that our quest for enlightenment ends.

Where is Your Heart?

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Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).

An important key to understanding the kingdom that Jesus spoke of is that it is spiritual in nature, not material. The material is the effect of an underlying spiritual cause. “ … what is seen was made out of things which do not appear” (Heb. 11:3).

To “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” is an instruction to build a consciousness of God as your invisible, ever-abundant source of all good, knowing this consciousness draws to us a material counterpart in the form of conditions and things.

When you pray for healing, for example, seek to envision the reality of your present spiritual wholeness. Affirm that your wholeness is your reality, that it is now interacting with the atoms and cells of your physical body in ways that demonstrate wholeness. If you feel stuck in your life, quietly open your mind to the borderless reality of spirit within you, that inner energy that is even now building and sustaining worlds that have not entered your mind. Focus on putting your being in motion in new directions. Open the floodgates of new inspiration. Don’t struggle toward a new external condition. Affirm a new inner condition by seeing and feeling where you want to go emotionally.

Scriptures like this one have caused people to denounce the material realm as an interference to their spiritual life. This scripture does not denounce materiality, it simply puts it in perspective. According to the gospels Jesus manifested loaves and fishes and initiated many physical healings. He was a master of the material domain because his heart was in the all-encompassing reality of his unfailing spiritual resource.

Spiritual Mastery

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Gems of Truth: Spiritual Wisdom from the Words of Jesus

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:1-3).

As we look for gems of Truth found in the words attributed to Jesus, we come across this intriguing incident. It’s intriguing because it challenges the highly popularized law of attraction. According to advocates of this law, the man or his parents must have done something to attract this condition of blindness. Jesus, however, puts this notion aside and initiates a new cause.

We too can get caught in this trap of self-blame for unwanted conditions. Far from being the spiritual master we hope to one day become, we struggle with the consequences of the “sin” of negative thinking and low visioning. The question, “Who sinned?” does not resolve the issue, it only places blame.

Here’s a suggestion: Rather than chiding yourself for failing to be a spiritual master, try practicing some spiritual mastery in your present situation. Take the truth you know and apply it to the condition that is bothering you. In your highest moments, what do you affirm about God? What do you affirm about yourself? God is absolute good. You are an expression of God. Appearances are passing. The deeper reality of God is now shining forth.

A spiritual master is one who spiritually masters the moment. What happened in the past is not happening in the present. The present is your opportunity to display the works of God. Pull your attention from the appearance and center it in the truth. Bring all your studies to bear on the situation at hand. It does not matter where the situation came from, it only matters what you do with it now.

 

 

 

Prayer and Manifestation

“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:24).

Spiritual teachers of all time have made a distinction between the realms of spirit and matter. The author of Hebrews wrote, “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible” (11:3). Eastern tradition states that God is complete unity, while the realm of matter operates under the law of maya (illusion), the principle of relativity and duality. Likewise, Thomas Troward made the distinction between differentiated and undifferentiated spirit.

There is agreement that spirit and matter are one substance (energy) expressing at different levels and, therefore, operating under a different set of laws. We see a similar analogy with water, which can express as gas (humidity), liquid (rain), and ice (hail), three different expressions of a single substance, each subject to different laws.

When we speak of the illusion of time and how the now moment is the only reality, we should take care to understand that we’re speaking of the realm of spirit, not matter. The material realm is subject to time and space. You can instantly imagine yourself being in a distant location, for example, but to get your body to that location, you must travel through time and space. I don’t believe Jesus was suggesting that if you want to be in a distant location, you simply close your eyes and believe you are there. When you open your eyes, you will be there. Your mind is obviously not subject to time and space, but your body is.

Thomas Troward dealt extensively with this subject throughout his many writings. In my book, Native Soul, I included a summary of what I believe to be a practical application of the principle Jesus was referring to. I hope you find this a useful reminder.

Step 1: Form a clear picture of your desire with the understanding that, by so doing, you create a prototype that is impressed upon the creative life force.

Step 2: Understand that you are working with spiritual law. With calm expectation of a corresponding result, know that all necessary conditions are coming about in proper order.

Step 3: Enter your daily routine with the assurance that conditions are either present already or will soon present themselves. If you do not see evidence at once, know that the spiritual prototype (your desire) is already in existence.

Step 4: Wait until some circumstance pointing in the desired direction begins to show itself. It may be small, but it is the type and not the magnitude of the circumstance that is important. This is the first sprouting of the seed.

Step 5: Do whatever the circumstance seems to require. This action leads to the further unfolding of other circumstances in the same direction. By addressing each one as it appears, you move step by step toward the accomplishment of your desire.

 

The Truth You Seek

“What we are trying to grasp with our head (intellect), the heart has always known. The spiritual pop culture worships the quest. It thrills in filling its bookshelves, accumulating credentials and traveling through all the wide gates of the world in search of the fulfillment that can only be found at the quiet center of every individual.”

Question: Could you elaborate on this part of your previous post? I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying.

Response: If you declare yourself on a spiritual quest today, you will be on a spiritual quest tomorrow. You will still be on this quest a year or ten years from now. This means you are not finding what you seek. Because you are not finding what you seek, keeping the quest going becomes your objective.

The truth is that God is centered in you. To experience God, you must make a conscious connection with this divine center. At this moment of awareness, your quest ends because you now know the location of that which you seek. You are the man who finds the treasure hidden in the field. His quest for wealth is over. Knowing this, he is entirely devoted to letting go of that which is of less value than the treasure he found.

The trap that many fall into is that they tie the spiritual quest to unity/oneness among people. Because global unity becomes the benchmark of success for so-called spiritual movements, we consider the success of such movements as a sign that collective spiritual progress is being made. This deception turns the individual away from their inner connection to God and places their hope in the growth and success of the external movement. They then take their cues from the movement, which can only promise a perpetual quest and a dissatisfying spiritual void that never can and never will be satisfied.

The world changes but Truth does not. All valid spiritual disciplines teach that the individual’s connection with God is internally accessible. The spiritual movement, the book, or that particular teacher that reminded you of this truth is not the one that will make it real to you. They were but the catalyst that reminded you what you already know at the deepest level of your being.

Have enough faith in yourself to uncover this buried treasure, to declare an end to your quest for Truth, and dare to live the life your soul longs to express.

 

The Narrow Gate to Freedom

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“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter though it” (Matthew 7:13).

Though I have referenced this scripture many time in my talks and writings, I return to it again to reiterate the profound truth it embodies. Many on the spiritual path today distinguish between religion and the quest for a deeper understanding of their spirituality. What is implied here is that the old worn paths of religious dogma and creed no longer suffice, that the seeker is looking for a more organic, experiential approach to spiritual understanding. While this quiet rebellion against stiff tradition is understandable, this new version of the spiritual quest has also become a wide gate through which many have entered. There exists a spiritual pop culture that makes the same undeliverable promise of enlightenment.

The narrow gate that Jesus spoke of is so simple that it is easily missed. The fulfillment of our spiritual quest is present, right where we stand. We are looking for our soul. To label our search a spiritual quest is to guarantee that we will not find what we seek. What we are trying to grasp with our head (intellect), the heart has always known. The spiritual pop culture worships the quest. It thrills in filling its bookshelves, accumulating credentials and traveling through all the wide gates of the world in search of the fulfillment that can only be found at the quiet center of every individual.

The truth Jesus conveyed is true still. He was not talking about the narrow gate of religious belief. He was talking about the correct understanding of the soul. The soul is complete now. How do you get to the now? How do you experience that which you already are in truth? You settle in, you turn your focus away from the demands of the self-image and you observe that changeless point of awareness you have always known as I. This is the narrow gate to freedom. The moment you step through it you will know without a doubt that your spiritual search is over.