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.

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.

More on Imagination

[Note: the following is a response to some questions posed in the previous post. JDB]

Do I have to imagine a thing before I can desire and create it, or must I see something before I can desire it?

Observe your own imaginative process. You can be hungry before you know what you want for dinner. You desire something to eat, but you’re not sure what sounds good until you give it some thought. But this is only a very surface example.

In one of my books I referred to the connection between the term desire and the Latin phrase, de sidere, meaning of the stars. The spiritual root of all desire is absolute freedom, likened to the experience of gazing into that heavenly, star-filled expanse.

Examine every one of your desires and you can trace it back to the need to be free of some limiting condition. Freedom is a universal desire shared by every living thing. The reason we experience the desire for greater freedom is because the soul is already free, and we’ve done something in our thinking to restrict it.

This universal desire for freedom is imparted into our awareness through the intuitive aspect of the imagination. Because we are so tuned into outer noise, this natural impulse is like a still small voice. We have to retrain ourselves to specifically tune into it. This is where the meditative process comes in. In meditation we commune at the intuitive level with this natural impulse. The visualizing (intellectual) aspect of the imagination begins to clothe intuitive impulses with images (ideas) that we can then act upon. These ideas become the basis of affirmative prayer, which is really the natural formation of imagery that rises from this intuitively inspired process. Meditation is the inlet and prayer is the outlet of our unique connection between heaven (spiritual, unseen) and earth (material, the seen), so to speak.

I believe this is the process Jesus was referring to in his, seek first the kingdom and all else will be added, statement. Finding the kingdom is experiencing the soul in its pristine state of absolute freedom.

I think from what you wrote, an animal must see (or sense) something before it desires. But a human being can imagine something that does not yet exist, if I am reading you right.

The animal responds only to the moment, but we humans have the ability to dwell on tomorrow or yesterday, or imagine countless scenarios that may never happen. The animal does not have the ability to imprison itself in dysfunctional loops of thought and emotion. We do. The imagination is a faculty that sets us apart. But due to a lack of spiritual understanding, we have abused it. We’ve been using it to prop up and strengthen the self-image rather than to express the natural impulses of the soul.

We love and admire our animals for their ability to accept us unconditionally. But this is not a quality they developed. They do not possess the imagination that is capable of placing conditions on our relationship with them. We do have this faculty, and it is vital to our happiness and peace of mind that we learn to use it properly. If we were suddenly stripped of this faculty of imagination, then we too would love unconditionally. But we might also become stricken with an insatiable need to chase cars, kill rodents, and put our noses in places that would likely get us into trouble. We don’t want to eliminate this faculty, we want to point it in the right direction.

I recall reading sometime in the past that we are unable to imagine (visualize) something that we have never seen. This may be true of the color red, for example, to a blind person. But must a sensory impression be in one’s memory before he can imagine it in some current relationship?

If we were unable to imagine something we have never seen, then there would never have been a first man in space, exploration of the ocean depths, airplanes, cars, cell phones, iron ships that float on the sea, etc. In its spiritual usage, the visualizing aspect of the imagination is not a function of memory. It draws from our intuitive connection with God.

Let’s flash back to the Christmas story, the virgin birth in particular. Jesus was born of the virgin Mary. Mary is the intuitive function of the imagination open to the soul (the Christ). Joseph, the intellect, does not participate in bringing forth this child, but he does participate in raising it. The soul (the Christ) is not born from the memory or any intellectual activity. It is a projection of the self-existent, omnipresence of God.

To be made flesh, the soul requires a transforming mechanism. This mechanism is the imagination-equipped human being. In a spiritual context, the Christmas story is not about the birth of a man 2,000 years ago. It’s about you and me, and how we are designed as this transforming mechanism.

Shifting metaphors, the so-called “fall of man” happens because we turn our attention away from the soul and place it on the self-image. The self-image is indeed a product of the memory and an abuse of the original purpose of the imagination. The self-image is derived from ideas gleaned through the senses and stored in the subconscious mind. We keep trying to fix this broken replica of the soul, but we cannot. We try to squeeze it back into the garden, but the gate is guarded by flaming swords that do not let it enter. This is the bombardment of thought that keeps us from achieving inner stillness.

The virgin birth is the soul entering our awareness through the intuitive aspect of the imagination. We realize that the soul never left the garden and, in fact, is the garden.

This is undoubtedly much more than you asked for, and it’s not nearly as complicated as I fear I’m making it sound. So, all further questions are welcome.

Moving the Mountain

We acknowledge there is a gap between where we are in understanding and where we want to be. How do we close this gap? The soul evolutionist says we do things like study, learn from our mistakes, and we try to be more loving. In other words, we seek to acquire something in knowledge and behavior we do not presently possess.

In contrast, the one who grasps the completeness of the soul understands we are already all that we believe we lack. Closing the gap does not involve the acquisition of something we do not have. It involves the letting go of the false sense of self that we are attempting to improve, appease, and satisfy.

The motive behind each of these approaches is exactly the opposite. The soul evolutionist seeks to acquire while the one who understands the soul’s completeness engages in the release of false beliefs. The treasure hunter seeks a fortune they do not have. One who finds the treasure engages in recovery of the fortune that is already theirs.

The Complete Soul treats the terms Christ and soul as synonymous. I think it’s safe to say that most people treat these as two different things. Spiritual growth, they assume, is the process of making the soul more Christ-like. Words are powerful influencers, and I belive this one throws up a major blockage in our thinking.

To the soul evolutionist, Christ represents a foreign object, an ideal that may be achievable – some day in the future. They can easily say, I am the soul, but saying I am the Christ sticks in their throat. Yet until they can say this, their so-called spiritual path will look more like a treadmill. 

I suggest removing this term from our spiriutal vocabulary, at least until we understand Christ and soul are exactly the same. As we read in the Gospel of Thomas: “Jesus said, ‘When you make the two into one, you will become children of Adam, and when you say, ‘Mountain, move from here!’ it will move” (#106). Making these two terms one moves mountains of misunderstanding. No one on the spiritual path is obligated to apply Christian terms to their own process of soul recovery. Each must come to understand that we stand on our own holy ground, that our relationship with the Infinite is truly our own.

The spiritual community consists of two sectors: There are those who are seeking and there are those who have found. The seeking sector is, by far, the largest. Those who have found have always been a minority. These are the teachers. These teachers consistently say that that which one seeks is within, it’s here now, and it’s you. The seeker, on the other hand, consistently says, Yes, I get it. I love hearing this. And some day I’ll get there.  

When the object of our search becomes the thing we already are at the deepest level, when these two become one, we’ll see the mountain move.

Dancing Through Eternity

Click for Youtube: Dancing Through Eternity

Click for audio: Dancing Through Eternity

“When you are tempted to think a life has been cut short, remember that every soul is dancing through eternity.”

Memorial Day is a holiday for remembering men and women who died while serving our country’s armed forces. Many use this time to remember all loved ones who have passed. It is certainly a good time to reflect on perspectives we hold on matters of life and death. In ways we may not even be aware of, our view of death impacts the way we live our life.

Recently, a woman was telling me of a family who lost their three-year-old daughter to leukemia. “I don’t understand why some lives are cut so short,” she said. “It just doesn’t seem fair.” While we are empathetic toward those who experience such a loss, we do well to consider the grander picture. We always feel the time we shared with a loved one now passed was too short. But whatever its duration, the earthly experience is temporary. The soul, momentarily tethered to a body, is not the sum of the loved one we knew in bodily form. They are experiencing life free of the blinders imposed by the physical senses. Their stay on earth may have been brief, but their life has not been cut short.

In our consideration of death, the disadvantage most of us have is that we only have memories of events connected to this incarnation. Life, as we understand it, is what happens between the bookends of birth and death. Everything beyond is unknown. Yet the one who sails over the horizon of visibility gains an insight those who remain on the shore rarely grasp. Whether they were killed in the heat of battle or silently slipped away from the quiet of their hospice bed, they would long for us to know that there is no death. They would know that if we do not grasp it now, we will discover it soon enough.

We are all dancing through eternity. The day will come when we step from this plane, but we will never step from life. Jesus reminded us that in the Father’s house there are many rooms. Earth is but one of these rooms. Hold your loved ones in the light and beauty of life and know they are doing the same with you.

The God Perspective

Click for audio: The God Perspective

Click for YouTube video: The God Perspective

In the New Testament letter of James, we find this reference to God as the, “Father of lights with whom there is no shadow or variation due to change” (James 1:17). Presenting God as changeless is a significant departure from the traditional view of a moody Deity. We so routinely ask for God’s special favors that we may not be aware our perception of the behavior of the Divine as subject to change. Could James’ changeless Father of lights bless and not bless or pass out serpents and stones when we ask for fish and bread?

It is certainly easiest to think of God in terms of our human relationships. At times, we feel close to those around us and other times it seems there is not enough distance. For some we would grant favors without question while for others, our favors come with conditions.

There is a similar dynamic in our relationship to the sun. We have sunny days, cloudy days, daylight and darkness, sunrise and sunset. Depending on how near or far earth is from the sun, we have skin-burning summer and icy cold winter. The sun, it appears, has many moods. These variations, however, have less to do with the nature of the sun and more to do with our relationship to it.

When you think from the perspective of the sun itself, you see a different picture. How many days has the sun seen? We say this closest star is roughly 4.6 billion years old. But how do we measure a year? Multiply 365 sunrises by 4.6 billion and you have more days than most of us can wrap our minds around. The sun itself has seen but a single day, and that day has stretched throughout the duration of its existence. The sun has never risen, never set, never known the cold of winter or the blackness of night. It has never seen a shadow or shivered in the dark corner of a dank cellar. There is no variation due to change.

We cannot understand God from our ever-changing human perception. We must think of God from God’s perspective. From the sun’s point of view, we can understand how there is only one condition and that condition is light. It is only as we think of God from God’s perspective that we begin to grasp the truth that there is but one Presence and one Power. There is not good and evil, not light and shadows. There is only absolute good, as in absolute light.

The light that you and I seek is here now, has always been here, and will always be here. As we commit to opening our minds and hearts to the God perspective, every shadow dissolves into the nothingness from which it came.