The I That I Am

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I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach everyone his fellow or everyone his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know me, from the least of them to the greatest.”

Jeremiah 31:31-32

Following up on last week’s idea of the new covenant, I want to shed more light on what it means to recover your center of power. To have the laws of God put into your mind and written on your heart is a metaphorical way of referring to the central I that you are. The heart is the soul, the spiritual essence that we are and that we always will be. To say these laws are written, is simply a way of saying the soul is a direct expression of God, the very heart of the principle of oneness.

Science tells us that no two snowflakes, no two blades of grass, no two leaves are alike. It is even more obvious that, as our fingerprints suggest, no two people are alike. Why do you suppose this is? The simplistic answer is that God, the universal, creative life force, expresses, from snowflakes to humans, as unique individuals.

In today’s culture, the term “diversity” has been hijacked. It no longer applies to the unique nature of the individual, but to the group to which the individual belongs, or wants to belong. Of course, there is nothing new about this problem. I nearly got brain damage trying to fit into the high school football culture. We hear of teen suicides prompted by those who threaten to bully another out of the so-called “in” group. That shallower part of us that drives us to fit in, is taking us further from the genuine security and self-confidence we seek.

While the world about us is in a state of perpetual flux, that which constitutes our center of power never changes. Coming to know our spiritual core as the true anchor in this ever-changing world will never become outdated. Each soul is a unique expression of God bringing a special light that only we can give. Tapping into this light and letting it shine is living from the awareness of our changeless nature. The I that I am is the only I that I can ever be. It is my unique privilege and responsibility to bring it into this world. 

The New Covenant

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“I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach every one his fellow or every one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know me, from the least of them to the greatest.”

Hebrews 8:10-11

When writing about old and new covenants between God and Israel, the author of Hebrews draws from the prophet Jeramiah. Though this passage clearly depicts a relationship of oneness between God and man, which is the very heart of Jesus’ message, the author of Hebrews interprets it differently. In the past, the Law of Moses was used to keep people in good standing with God. Now, this New Testament writer is saying that the acceptance of Jesus as the Christ supersedes the old covenant. The New Testament writers have transitioned away from Jesus’ message of oneness to the old belief in separation.

After the death of Jesus, a movement formed. Where Jesus taught that the individual’s center of power is God within, the evangelists that followed taught that one’s center of power is derived from belonging to the movement. Jesus encouraged building up the individual. The leaders that followed encouraged building the movement and essentially diminishing the individual.

“Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had everything in common.”

Acts 4:32

It is easier to join a group (the wide gate) than it is to find and experience the presence of God within (the narrow gate). This explains how the actual message of a mystic like Jesus could be eclipsed by the message of the evangelist. Jesus proclaimed the laws of God were already written in the minds and hearts of each person. The one who persists in asking, seeking, and knocking will learn the value of this truth. This understanding was the new covenant that aligned the individual with their true center of power. The evangelist missed this message by putting a new slant on the old covenant which maintained a distinct separation between God and man and, therefore, ensured allegiance to the movement while marginalizing the individual’s spiritual empowerment. As Jesus himself demonstrated, a strong individual is often a threat to the establishment.

Rest For Your Soul

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“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

If there is one message from Jesus that would have the greatest appeal to the common person, the peasant class of his day, I would say this is it. I would paraphrase this message as follows:

If you struggle and are filled with worry, listen to what I say. I have discovered the way that brings true peace and rest. As you learn to be still and receptive to your indwelling Spirit, the burdens you carry are lifted, and your life is truly blessed.  

When we couple this with his teaching of the lilies of the field and the birds of the air, and how the heavenly Father cares for them, Jesus was telling this struggling class of people that the Father knew their needs even before they ask. There is a way to tap into the natural flow of infinite intelligence that brings peace of mind and rest to the soul.  This was not the kind of message the people were used to hearing from their religious leaders.

For me, it is a message with the same appeal as Emerson’s oft-quoted line: “There is guidance for each of us, and by lowly listening we shall hear the right word.” Jesus was telling his followers that, right where they were, amidst the ordinary circumstances of daily life, the same living presence that prospers and beautifies every aspect of the natural world, is doing the same for them. He was instructing them to stop frittering away their spiritual energy through worry, which has no positive benefit, and instead develop an active trust in this quiet way of truth that sets one free from the burdens of life.  

Where the religious professionals were telling people that the kingdom of God would one day arrive, Jesus, from the authority of his own first-hand knowledge, was teaching that the kingdom of God was present, and the way to know it is found in the temple of one’s own heart.


The Crossing

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“Think of religion as any of the many paths that lead to the river’s bank. The spiritual quest begins the moment you understand that the way to the other side is a solo journey.”

J Douglas Bottorff

Though America was founded on Judeo-Christian values, one of its founding fathers and primary author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, undertook a remarkable project. Armed with a razor and paste, he cut from the Bible only those passages attributed to Jesus that he considered authentic. He then pasted them in a book that today is known as The Jefferson Bible. In a letter to John Adams, he wrote:

“In extracting the pure principles which he [Jesus] taught, we should have to strip off the artificial vestments in which they have been muffled by priests, who have travestied them into various forms, as instruments of riches and power to them. … There will be found remaining the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man.”  

While Jefferson remained true to his religious values, he did not stop there. In his own way, he took up the spiritual quest and began swimming. He found in the gospels a deeper message than was being offered in the mainstream religion of his day.

All religions represent a set of preconceived beliefs that have been worked out by other minds. We stand on the bank of the river and wonder what lay on the other side. We know what the professionals have told us. Some of it makes sense, and some of it we question.

The spiritual path is ultimately a solo journey. Like Jefferson, we should reach a point where we are no longer satisfied with those who are merely “… teaching as doctrines the precepts of men” (Matthew 15:9).

The Soul Physician

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“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” (Mark 2:17).

This saying of Jesus is found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. As with many other sayings, he is not actually referring to the well and the sick, or to physicians. This is a figure of speech which I assume was a reference to the religiously complacent and those who question the system of belief they were born into.

To the mainstream Jew, it is likely that one of the most radical aspects of Jesus’ teachings was the concept of the kingdom of God within, and the notion of man’s oneness with God. The Jew, like today’s Christian, believed that God and man were separate, and that claiming oneness with God was nothing short of blasphemy. “It is not for a good work that we stone you but for blasphemy; because you, being a man, make yourself God” (John 10:33). Jesus’ message did not appeal to those who were uninterested in exploring anything outside the mainstream teachings. These are the “well” that have no need of a physician. It is the unsettled, those who are willing to consider the God within possibility, that require the physician, the spiritual guide.

My own spiritual journey has taken me off the superhighway of mainstream religion. I, and others like me, discovered quickly that those who insist on staying with conventional doctrine have no interest in alternative approaches. In contrast, many of us have taken the off-ramp from the mainstream because we were disenchanted, weary of espousing dogmatic teachings and the practice of hollow rituals to simply fulfill religious duties. We gladly consulted with those physicians, those books and teachers, that helped us navigate this unchartered territory.

Jesus was a healer, a soul physician that, for those who have the eyes to see and the ears to hear, still stands as a ready guide to a way of thought that continues to this day to be a fringe to the “straight-thinking” orthodoxy of mainstream religion.

Event and Experience, Understanding the Difference

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“Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. 

Matthew 13:47-48

One of the keys to our spiritual approach is understanding the difference between an event and how we experience it. We don’t always have control over events, but we do have much to say about how we experience them.

This parable includes two kinds of fish: good and bad. Think of these as the choice between a positive and negative response to a given event. The good fish represents the experience of peace of mind and freedom from fear. The bad fish represents a response that evokes mental and emotional chaos and fear. When responding to one of life’s events, which type of fish do you want in your basket?

The parable instructs us to keep good fish only. Does this mean we are to force a positive attitude despite the negative event? No. Forcing a positive attitude means we are addressing the mental side only. We are neglecting the emotional side, which is the most important component of our internal experience. The good fish includes the mental and emotional aspects of our experience. This means our response to an event is grounded, not in appearances, but in spiritual truth.

When life throws us a negative event, our good fish response would go something like this: Greater good is now unfolding. The path forward opens before me. I know what to do and I do it.

We know our prayer is answered when we can observe the event with genuine peace of mind and freedom from fear. The spiritual principle embodied in this parable is, in fact, the truth that sets us free. 

Your Spiritual Reset

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The feeling of being stuck in life is probably one of the most common expressions of frustration, and the likely reason Henry David Thoreau wrote this famous line: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”

We like action. We like to initiate changes, see results, and go on to the next thing with the feeling that our life is progressing. Sometimes we initiate changes, and nothing happens, or everything seems to go wrong. Nothing appears to work, and we feel as if we are floundering.

A line attributed to Jesus contains a spiritual gem that can help us reset and begin again. “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Jesus would not be calling attention to himself, but to the spiritual core of his listener. If you think of these words arising from your own spiritual center, your central I, you will get an idea of why these words can help at a time of confusion and uncertainty.

Think of your own I AM as the axle that holds the spinning wheel of your external life. At your center you are always at rest regardless of how fast or how slow your life seems to be moving. It is important to reconnect with this stable, unmoving part of yourself, to withdraw for a time from all your efforts to spin the wheel and surrender to the healing action of your guiding Source.

It is easy to get caught up in the ways and means to a desired end, forgetting that you desire the greater good because you are responding to that still small voice emanating from your central core. God as your source has urged you this far. Will God not also guide you through each step of the way? Perhaps it is time to rekindle your faith in your indwelling guidance, to experience the assurance that “I am with you always.”

Surrender in trust to the all-knowing, all-loving presence of God within you. Right where you are, open yourself to knowing that every step you take is the right step, that you are now being guided and protected in ways that will soon be perfectly clear.

The Resurrection Principle

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Easter is a time when the Christian community turns its attention to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Because of its promise of eternal life, this aspect of the Jesus story is considered the epitome of the Christian message.

As with all religious celebrations, there is an important principle behind this story. It is no accident that Easter occurs in the spring, when we see new life beginning to stir everywhere. We are witness to the passing of the dark days of winter, into the longer, warmer days of spring.

When conditions turn favorable, the life process in, say, a tulip bulb begins to stir and soon the flower appears. The sustaining aspect of this plant, the part that fuels its annual resurrection, is not the flower that we see. It is in the bulb we do not see.

It is not difficult to draw a parallel between the perennial flower and our own incarnation. Our soul is to us what the bulb is to the flower. The body is the flower. The flower experiences birth and death, while the bulb persists through the span of many floral lifetimes. I am convinced that the same is true with us. Our spiritual essence, the soul, serves as the perpetuating foundation for numerous incarnations. Like the flower, the body experiences a birth, a lifespan, and a death. But the soul, like the bulb, continues. When we decide the time is right, we do it again.

Why would we do it again? Is it because we have so much to learn? Does the flower go through these many births and deaths because it has to learn how to be a better flower? I don’t think so. The flower achieves its purpose with every incarnation. And what is this purpose? Is it to please the eye of the one who planted it? No. Its purpose is perfect self-expression. It is not in competition with a neighboring flower. It lets its own light shine.

Speaking of light, this analogy sheds new light on a statement attributed to Jesus.

“For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to bear witness to the truth” (John 18:37).

The flower is bearing witness to the truth of its being. This is why it continues to come into the world. It is an already, fully accomplished flower and it bears witness to this truth each time it appears. Its annual resurrection is not a progression through ascending grade levels that will culminate in a fully illumined being. It has always been a fully illumined being that lets its light shine for the joy of it.

The resurrection principle points to purpose. Are we here to learn to be a better flower, or are we here to bear witness to the truth? This is the question I hope Easter stirs in us all.

No Natural Barriers

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“Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”        

John 7:24

In my book, The Complete Soul, I state that there are no natural barriers to the soul’s expression. It would make no sense for the Divine to put obstacles between us and the peace and freedom we desire. Accepting that this is true means that our executive faculty of judgment is naturally optimistic, biased toward all possibility.

The problem is, there are plenty of unnatural barriers to our soul’s expression. We are constantly evaluating our circumstances either as friendly or hostile. As a spiritual teacher, Jesus is giving a simple but very important reminder to his audience. We are judged by our own judgment. The choices we make in our mental and emotional responses to appearances, determine the quality of our inner experience.

Jesus also said, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eye is single, your whole body will be full of light” (Matthew 6:22). The eye, in this case, is the way you see things, your mental and emotional disposition. The body is the whole of your life.

When perceived barriers to your peace and freedom crop up, one way of keeping your eye single and your life full of light is to remind yourself that, despite this appearance to the contrary, there are no natural barriers to your soul’s expression. In other words, you have a choice. “Choose this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15).

I remember a person once suggested that when Jesus said to not judge by appearances, he was the first to say, Don’t confuse me with the facts. I think he was saying that if we let appearances set the standard for our internal quality of life, then we will never experience the peace and freedom we desire. He didn’t say, ignore appearances. He was saying there is always a deeper truth than our snap judgments may indicate. Learn to tap into this deeper truth.

The Spiritual Principle of Nonresistance

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Do not resist one who is evil.” (Matthew 5:39)

This week I was asked if I could share some thoughts on the spiritual principle of nonresistance.

My understanding of nonresistance is that it does not mean we are to refrain from taking needed action. It means we do not react at the level of the problem. We approach our challenge from a place of strength rather than from a place of fear.

Whether it comes in the form of a person or a situation, most of us will react to a negative development with resistance. We feel threatened and we want to protect our perceived vulnerabilities, so we take the problem at face value and react accordingly.  

One of the most important pieces we will leave out of our reaction is the strength that is available to us from our own center of power. The experience of fear is like the red oil light coming on in our car. The light is telling us that it is time to add some oil. Fear is telling us it is time to replenish our strength.  

Scripture reminds us that God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power and love (2 Timothy 1:7). Should we attack the problem by blasting it with an artillery of affirmations of power? Not according to Jesus. Such an approach might be considered the weaponization of spiritual principles. We treat the problem as a power greater than ourselves.

It has been rightfully said that we do not affirm something to make it true. We affirm it because it is true. Once we get past our initial jitters, our first job is to establish our thinking in what is true.

One way of doing this is to consider the worst-case scenario. Once we work this out in our mind and heart, we seek to move to our center of power and view the situation from this place of strength. In the beginning, we will most likely waver between strength and our old reaction of fear. We take a deep breath, bring ourselves back, and hold fast knowing this too shall pass.