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Goldfish and Trout

[Excerpt from forthcoming revision of Native Soul.]

Some, having come to realize that their consciousness is structured around misleading senses-based information, con­clude that the surface identity they show the world, the personality, represents a barrier between where they are in their current spiritual understanding and where they need to be. Because the majority of our perceived restrictions do indeed have their origins at this surface level, we’ve come to regard the personality and the soul almost as polar oppo­sites. The soul is good and in need of development while the personality is a thing to be overcome, perhaps even discarded.

In her classic work What Are You? author Imelda Octavia Shanklin explains why living strictly from the personal level is so unsatisfying:

When you identify yourself solely with the personal you are not satisfied. There is a lack for which you cannot account, but which is very real to you. If you should voice your feeling you perhaps would say, “I want something. I do not know what it is that I want, but when I receive what I want I shall be satisfied.” Knowing the personal, only, you have but superficial knowledge of yourself. Beneath the surface the rich deeps of life summon you with overmastering appeal. Not knowing how to respond, you have a sense of confusion and restless­ness.

The personality does indeed become a restricting factor when we see it as the defining essence of our being. A goldfish raised in a small fishbowl, for example, is perfectly content with its limited envi­ronment, for it knows nothing different. Place a wild trout in that same glass bowl and it will jump out. The trout knows a world beyond that glass boundary and it will not adapt to this confinement.

Our soul is the wild trout that we’re attempting to stuff in the fishbowl of personality. In our quest for finding satisfaction within the artificial confines of this bowl, we adorn it with a pretty ceramic castle, colored pebbles and some plastic greenery. This works for a time, but soon the frustration returns. So we buy a prettier castle, adorn our bowl with designer pebbles and decorate it with living greenery. It’s perfect—if you happen to be a goldfish.

Though we wander far into the distractions of maintaining the surface self-image, we never forget who we are at the soul level. The soul constantly asserts itself as an intuitive whisper of discontent, a still small voice[1] that never fully endorses the artificial trappings of the fishbowl.

Our cultural training suggests this dissatisfaction is a personality or character issue, so we engage in a determined effort for self-improvement. Improving the personality, however, isn’t the answer, as the personality is not the problem. The personality an effect. It simply echoes our own self-definition. The problem is that we carry the self-image of a goldfish when we’re really a trout. We’re trying to stuff our soul into a fishbowl personality that just doesn’t fit.

As we turn our attention to the gentle radiance of the soul, we return to the figurative wild stream, the most fitting personality of our natural being.

[1] 1 Kings 19:12

One Presence, One Power

YouTube: One Presence, One Power

For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen

This final line in the Lord’s Prayer is our equivalent of saying, There is but one presence and one power in the universe: God, the Good, omnipotent. This is a fitting realization to hold for any prayer.

How many times have you prayed for some greater good in your life and then you closed your prayer with the attitude: I hope it works. The closing line, which is not actually found in the Bible, is an affirmation that there are no blocks, no negative powers working against you, and no reason to expect anything but the highest and best outworking of the thing that concerns you. Amen is a seal of acceptance, an affirmation of so be it, or so it is. You could conceptually translate the line like this: My greater good now unfolds completely unhindered in wonderful ways that work for the highest good of all, and I receive it now.

One of the best ways to approach the idea of prayer is to treat it as a creative process. When you pray, you are opening yourself to God as a Creative Life Force. You are planting a seed and agreeing to allow it to grow as a new condition in your life. When you plant a seed, you release it with the certain expectation that this tiny package of potential will produce in a certain way. You do not, however, meddle in the growing process. You trust, and you keep the growing environment free of hindrances to its growth. The tiny sprout that appears looks nothing like the full plant that you know is coming forth, but this does not concern you. You know something good is happening and you are patient and expectant with the growing process.

You and I do not have the power to influence the way God behaves. We do, however, have the power to put ourselves in harmony with God’s expansive behavior. We do this through the acceptance that the greater good we desire is now coming forth in perfect timing and in perfect order. And so it is.




[The question that follows was presented to me yesterday via email. I thought a good way to respond was to share this brief excerpt from the revised introduction to my forthcoming book, The Awakened Soul. JDB]

Question: I’m a little confused about the whole idea of meditation. What’s your take on it?

The practice of meditation—periods of deliberate spiritual receptivity—is the narrow gate (Matt. 7:13-14) by which you enter the domain of your fully developed soul. If you are meditating yet failing to experience your spiritual essence, you are not meditating, you are thinking. Meditation is the act of opening your intuitive portal, a faculty specifically designed to tap the domain of the soul.

Becoming successful at meditation does not require years of training, for there is actually very little to learn. Meditation is a receptive state that opens your awareness to the natural influence of your soul’s radiance, a practice of internal reflection to be treated, not as spiritual development, but rather as a spiritual homecoming.

You already know how to receive spiritual light from your own inner source, as you’ve been doing so all along. The inspiration you think you receive from books and teachers is actually a confirmation of what you already know to be true. Those passages you highlight with a yellow marker represent your gospel embodied in the words of another. If you didn’t already have the eyes to see and the ears to hear it, these soul-stirring ideas would pass unnoticed. It is not something new in you that is being stimulated. Rather it is something that has been with you always. You are responding from your soul, this authentic core that has become lost in the plethora of confused crosscurrents generated by your body-based identity.


Question: I look forward to reading your book. Could you please explain the sentence about spiritual discernment and how the world we see is a reflection of how we see ourselves?

Response: Let’s say we have two people, one is a real estate developer and the other a farmer. Both see a fifty-acre parcel of land for sale. One, the developer, will see the potential for new housing on this land. The other, the farmer, will see the potential for growing produce. Each is seeing this same parcel of land (the world) but from a very different perspective (how they see themselves).

Do we see the world as a place to give or do we see it as an opportunity to take? It depends on how we see ourselves. If you are self-confident and feel you have a gift to share with the world, you will be a giver, and you will treat the world accordingly. If you suffer from low self-esteem and you’re always trying to fill that inner void with people, places, and things, you’ll be a taker, and you’ll treat the world accordingly. The first sees the world as a place to express their strength. The second sees the world as a resource to help cover for their weakness.

I’ve performed around a thousand weddings in my career. I can tell the difference between a couple who has come together in strength and a couple who has come together in weakness.  Two halves don’t make a whole. Only two wholes make a strong and lasting relationship. We don’t find the rest of our self in another. We find the rest of our self in our self.  That saying, “You complete me” was obviously written by a person who didn’t get the memo. How much better it is to say, “You inspire the best in me.” How we view the “world” of relationships, is determined by how the individuals involved view themselves.

In the “world” of careers, do I enter one for what I can give, or do I think only of what I can get?  Say you own a business and you have a position to fill. You have two applicants. After long interviews you see person #1 is applying because they love the business, and they’re very enthused about what they can do to help it succeed. Person #2 is applying because you’re offering great benefits. Which one will you hire, the giver or the taker? Each sees the position (the world) according to how they see themselves. I want the position because I have much to give. I want the position because I have many needs.

Some see the world as a grand opportunity. Others see the world as a prison. Why? What’s the difference? Do we not all occupy the same beautiful blue ball we call earth? On the surface, the answer should be yes, we all occupy the same planet. In truth, however, each person occupies the planet as they understand it. We don’t see the world as it is. We see the world as we are. Emerson said it this way: “You can only see what you are.”

I’ve used this illustration before, but it’s appropriate here. When I first learned to downhill ski, I was completely intimidated. Growing up in Missouri, we were not in the habit of strapping seven-foot boards to our feet and sliding down snow-covered hills … standing up. On my second or third time out, a friend took me to Vail and left me to fend for myself on a very tame slope. Somehow I got off that green level slope and ended up on a terrifying blue. Fortunately, an angel dressed like an elderly man saw that I was not actually an ice sculpture frozen on the side of the mountain. He helped me ease down to safety. To make a long story short, by the end of that season, I skied that terrifying slope without even realizing it was the same place until later. Same slope, different person. The first time I saw myself as a quivering wannabe skier. The second time I saw myself as a skier. This shift in my own self-perception had everything to do with how I saw that mountain.

I hope this helps. Thanks for asking your question.




How to Change The World

[Note: As I’ve mentioned, I’m in the process of editing my book, Native Soul (first published by Unity House in 2011). I’m making a few minor changes to bring the manuscript more in line with my current thinking. I’ll release this work under the new title, The Awakened Soul. The following excerpt is a brief tidbit I thought you might appreciate. JDB]

It’s fair to say that most of us believe the visible realm contains the things that will complete us. We spend a great deal of time and effort looking to the visible for these missing and elusive elements. In this quest for completion, we are likely to think that getting what we want from life is the process of being directed to material success, which increases our stature and makes us feel complete with the least amount of effort. If, on the other hand, you see yourself as a spiritual being that is already complete, and you think of the material realm as offering  opportunities to reflect your completeness, you will have a very different relationship with the material dimension.

Many are convinced that the world is in dire need of change. Spiritual discernment reveals that the world as we see it is simply a reflection of the vision of ourselves that we carry. In your quiet time, observe the part of you that is chasing after things, even spiritual enlightenment, and stop the chase. Incessant thinking is only you running after a state of being that you fail to see as already present as you now. Let your awakening spirit change your vision and you will be amazed by how different the world appears.

The Tempter Within

Youtube: The Tempter Within

Audio: The Tempter Within

The Lord’s Prayer: part 4 of 6

And leave us not in temptation, but deliver us from evil.

There are a number of versions of this line in the Lord’s Prayer. The traditional version is, And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. The Aramaic version reads, And let us not enter into temptation, but deliver us from evil. The version I’m using is suggested by Charles Fillmore who argued that the Lord would never lead us into temptation. Likewise, it is a bit awkward to think that if we succumbed to temptation, we could blame the Lord. I asked you to make sure I didn’t enter temptation, and here I am. Do you mind explaining why you let me do this?

Again, if we take the affirmative approach to this line, we will find it a helpful reminder that our strength is always present even in our weakest moments.

There are times when you feel flush with strength and optimism, when you know that you can move forward with confidence regardless of what the obstacles appear to be. Then there are those times when the appearances get the best of you. You look out and survey the landscape of your life and you wonder why you ever thought you could succeed. At such moments it is important to remember that God, your unfailing source of strength, power and wisdom, can never leave you.

The tempter within is not an entity that is trying to snare your soul and lead you to a path of self destruction. It is that lesser self in you, that region of consciousness that does not grasp the fuller truth of the omnipresence of God. The word evil can be understood as error or erroneous thinking, thinking that is based on appearances and half truths rather than on the truth of your wholeness and the potential for wholeness that your life holds perpetually. So, our conceptual translation of this line would go something like this: In my moments of weakness, your limitless love, power and wisdom lift me above all erroneous appearances … Making this inner shift connects you with your point of strength and you again move forward in confidence and in peace.