The Teachable Mind

YouTube: The Teachable Mind

Step 4: I am willing to release all preconceived beliefs about God, myself, and my relationship with God.

This may sound overly simplistic, but all formal religious teachings are based on the belief that we are either separate or one with God. The mystical aspect of the Christian teaching affirms our oneness with God. In contrast, the more prevalent, mainstream Christian teachings assume that we are separate from God.

Roughly 75% of America is Christian, which means most of us were programmed on how to think of God, ourselves, and our relationship to God. It is important that we understand all religious doctrines are products of the human mind. One of the greatest challenges we encounter in spiritual recovery is learning to recognize and set aside this programing and seek direct knowledge of what is spiritually true. This requires a teachable mind.

When Jesus talked about new and old wineskins, he was referring to two states of mind. One is expandable, the other is not. The lesson he was teaching concerned the need to let go of our old, preconceived beliefs so that we may truly have a deeper, more meaningful spiritual life. Then as now people were taught what to think concerning spiritual matters. Much of the power of Jesus’ ministry lay in the fact that he encouraged his followers to go alone, to pray to their Father in secret. In other words, seek a firsthand experience with their own spiritual source, to be inspired and instructed by it.

When Jacob fled his homeland, he feared he was leaving the presence of God, for this is what he had been taught. In the night he dreamed of a ladder with angels ascending and descending between heaven and earth. He awoke realizing that he could never leave the presence of God, that wherever he was, God was also. The experience gave him a teachable mind, one that could expand far beyond what he had been told. He knew for himself the truth of omnipresence.

Make a habit of practicing this third step of spiritual recovery: I am willing to release all preconceived beliefs about God, myself, and my relationship with God.

Recognizing Divine Guidance

Step 3: Recognizing Divine Guidance

I affirm that I am guided by the infinite wisdom of God.

Learning to trust the positive direction of an activity we cannot see is an important aspect of spiritual recovery. The activity we cannot see is the quiet working of Spirit guiding our every step. Unlike hope that leaves room for doubt, trust is a definite set of the mind, an intuitive assurance that the thing we affirm is true.

We have learned that water always seeks the lowest level. As we sit mesmerized before a waterfall, we take for granted the fact that the water is fulfilling an irrefutable law of physics. Its nature and environment propel it to the lowest level possible.

In a similar way, Spirit is also governed by law. In this case, it is the law of expansion. The life, love, power, and intelligence of God is seeking to always expand through each of us. Like water, it finds the path of least resistance. We use spiritual affirmation to create in our consciousness a path of least resistance to the expansive activity of Spirit.

You have probably seen an irrigation ditch that has become so silt-bound that the water barely flows through. It becomes necessary to dredge out the silt so the canal can do what it was created to do. Negative mental and emotional states can act as a kind of silt in our consciousness. When you affirm that you are being guided by the infinite wisdom of God, you are agreeing to dredge out the mental and emotional states that hinder your experience.

When you think of your life, see yourself as an open canal that allows Spirit to do its expansive work through you. As you affirm that you are guided by the infinite wisdom of God, feel all doubt, fear, and feelings of uncertainty fall away. Know that the life, love, power, and intelligence of Spirit are all doing their perfect work in you now.   

Step 2: The Work of Love

12 Steps to Spiritual Recovery

Step 2: The Work of Love

Divine love draws to me that which is for my highest good and dissolves that which is not.

We have learned that God as omnipotent Spirit is changeless in nature. The biggest takeaway from this understanding is that God will not one day begin working on our behalf; God is doing so already. This second step is intended as a reminder of this truth.

It is not always easy to see that Divine love is now doing its perfect work in our life. The presence of difficult people or circumstances may cause us to question how we could consider either as our highest good. Or our experiencing some loss may leave us feeling that something important to our life has been dissolved. How can we think of this as something good?

On an occasion when the disciples tried and failed to heal an epileptic boy, Jesus pointed out that there are situations that require much prayer. Their apparent failure turned into an important lesson. When appearances are confusing and it feels as if life is playing tricks on us, it is time to take a deeper look. In so doing, we gain a higher perspective. This frame in the film is not the whole movie. As the condition evolves, we are confident that we will understand how all the pieces fit and come to see how things worked out for our highest good.

This second step is also a powerful prayer we can use for others. Divine love draws to you that which is for your highest good and dissolves that which is not. As this silently held thought for another becomes our conviction, we are able to release them into the healing, guiding light of love. It is not our duty to determine what is best for another. It is our duty to affirm that Divine love is doing its perfect work in and through them now.

We remind ourselves that spiritual recovery is not about gaining something we did not have. It is about claiming something we have forgotten is ours already. Divine love is now doing its perfect work in our life, in the lives of our loved ones, and in those who have entered the sphere of our experience.

Step 1: The God Perspective

Step 1: The God Perspective

I accept that God as Spirit is the one presence and one power of good now active in my life.

We start with the understanding that our process of spiritual recovery is one of reclaiming ownership of a vital relationship that we have already. In this case, we are talking about recovering our conscious unity with God. We think of the woman in Jesus’ parable who had ten coins but lost one (Luke 15:8-10). She swept her house clean until she found it. We can think of these 12 steps of spiritual recovery as sweeping our own house, a sincere reexamination of our spiritual belief system, and regain our conscious union with God.

Though Jesus often used masculine pronouns when referring to God, he gave his best direct definition to Nicodemus: “God is Spirit” (John 4:24). He went on to explain that Spirit is like the wind we cannot see but whose effects in the swaying branches of a tree make it apparent.

When we think of Spirit, we do not think of a being. We think of Being, the omnipresence of the creative life force. Paul pointed out that it is within this Spirit that we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). God as Spirit is the infinite ocean of life, love, power, and intelligence that is in all and through all. Like a sponge immersed in water, we are each immersed in God and God is immersed in us. Jesus explained this relationship of oneness very clearly. “The kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21). Our point of contact with God is within our own being. Though we may have falsely believed that we are separate from God, this never has been nor never can be true.

The story is told of a young student asking his teacher, Socrates, how to find wisdom. Socrates grabbed the youth by the back of the neck and held his head under water. The student flailed violently trying to escape. When Socrates lifted him from the water, he asked, “What did you want more than anything?” The student replied, “Air.” Socrates said, “When you want wisdom as much as you wanted air, you will find it.”

Though the woman in the parable momentarily lost sight of her 10th coin, she knew it was hers and she made it her complete mission to recover it. So it is with us. We practice reminding ourselves daily that God as Spirit is the one presence and one power of good now active in our life. We make a habit of affirming the truth of this statement in all that we do.


Youtube: Five Faculties for Effective Prayer: Elimination

In countless ways, nature illustrates how the faculty of elimination is inherent in plants and creatures. For example, in response to the mysterious urge to be something more, the caterpillar lets go of its identity as an earthbound, worm-like creature and submits to a transformation that, in our eyes, seems nothing short of miraculous. There is an inherent willingness to let go of one aspect of the identity so something new can emerge.

I have pointed out that the process many think of as soul evolution is really an evolution of values. Can we not imagine that, from the beginning, the soul of the butterfly existed within the caterpillar? The faculty of elimination is the ability to know when it is time to reevaluate our values, to determine when we are clinging to our caterpillar thinking, and when to yield to our soul’s nudging to expand into our butterfly level of expression. While we tend to cling to things we value most, moving forward always involves letting go of something we once considered an essential part of our identity.

Most of us identify strongly with our body. As it matures, we say, “I’m getting older.” But as I pointed out last week, the soul does not age. It is more accurate to say, “This physical vehicle that I am using is maturing. I myself am eternal.” This may seem like a metaphysical mind game, but it is the truth. We will not always have this body, but we will always be alive.

Eliminating the thought of the physical body as a core feature of our identity opens new ways of thinking about our earthly experience. Rather than lament over activities our bodies no longer allow, we are still capable of living a fulfilling life. I doubt the butterfly laments over its days as a caterpillar.

As I think of my own life, there is no time to which I long to return. If I could live it all again, would I do it differently, possibly better? Since I’ll never be able to find out, it is best to let go of that thinking. I’m here now and it’s up to me to make the best choices. Like the butterfly, I let go of my identity as an earthbound creature and focus on the best way that I can be here now.  

Classes on Zoom

Go To Form

Dear Friends,

In an effort to expand Independent Unity’s online presence, I would like to begin conducting Zoom classes on various spiritual topics. To allow for the most interaction, I want to keep each class small, around 4 or 5 participants. If there are more requests than this, I will schedule additional classes at different times. To start, I’m thinking of meeting once a week for a 4-week period.

If this is something that would interest you, please click the “Go To Form” link and fill in your name and email. You will be notified when a class is scheduled. Your information will only for Zoom meeting invitations and for announcing upcoming classes.

I think this will be a great way to make new friends and to explore spiritual subjects near and dear to our spiritual quest.

Warmest blessings,

J Douglas Bottorff, Independent Unity  

Go To Form


Five Faculties for Effective Prayer: Part 4: Will

If we think of the Way, as taught by Jesus, aligning with the Way of Taoism (the natural flow of the universe), we see a new layer of meaning in at least two familiar passages from the New Testament. In the Lord’s Prayer, for example, we have this passage: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.” Thy will be done is an affirmation of the Way, this natural, unseen flow through the material aspect of our life. In our modern vernacular we might simply say, go with the flow, or don’t push the river.

In the context of the soul, the meaning of will aligns with volition, the commitment to a particular course of action and direction. It is a willingness to allow for a desired good or something better. Again, in Gethsemane, when Jesus prayed three times that this cup be removed, he concluded with, let Thy will not mine be done.

From the point of view of our spiritual homecoming, the will is the faculty that allows us to raise our point of view to greater possibilities and then keep our every step pointed in the new direction. We exercise the faculty of will as our means of keeping the picturing aspect of the imagination properly focused, our faith directed to spiritual wholeness, and our judgment functioning at a higher level.  

We exercise the will when we reign in negative thinking and emotion that has been carried away by challenging appearances. We become willing to look beyond immediate circumstances and consider different possibilities. The soul has but one desire, and that is its commitment to freedom of expression without limits.

Our desire to reconnect with the soul is prompted by this internal call of freedom. Let thy will be done, then, is the highest form of prayer when directed to the soul. Follow this with the acknowledgment that thy will is being done, on earth (in expression) as it is in heaven (the unseen realm of the soul). Affirm the willingness to let go and trust that greater good is now naturally unfolding through your life.

Part 3: Judgment

Youtube: Judgment

The subject of judgment is probably one of the most controversial in our spiritual studies. For the most part, our attitude toward judgment is based on this passage from Matthew:

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? (Matthew 7:1-3)

The message seems pretty straight forward. We should focus on correcting our own shortcomings before we criticize the shortcomings of others.

In this series we are treating judgment as a faculty rather than as a morally correct practice. The key to understanding judgment from this perspective is found in the line, “… the measure you give will be the measure you get.” The spiritual principle involved here could be stated like this: The level you see from is the level you experience. Emerson said it in a more direct way. “You can only see what you are.”

If you are driving and in a hurry and you hit a red light, you’ll experience the light differently than if you are relaxed. The light itself is what it is. Your state of mind gives it the meaning of good, bad, or indifferent. If you have a challenge in your life and you do not believe you are up to the task, you are using your faculty of judgment to degrade your quality of life, at least momentarily. Jesus also taught that we need not judge by appearances. We are not required to define ourselves according to a passing feeling of inadequacy.

Next time you are confronted with a challenge, try using your faculty of judgment like this: Things are not as they appear. Greater good is now unfolding through this situation. God’s perfect wisdom shows me the best and highest way to my greater good.

When this attitude becomes the measure you give, you can be sure that the measure you get will be equally rewarding.


Youtube: Effective Prayer, Part 2: Faith

Faith is a word often used to describe a system of belief. We usually use it in a generalized manner, assuming we know something of a person’s faith if we know what religious denomination they subscribe to. This may tell us something of the religious tenets they subscribe to, but it tells us nothing about how they actually engage their faculty of faith.

Belief and faith are not synonymous. We can say we believe a certain way, but on closer examination we discover that we really don’t have faith in what we profess to believe. Belief is an intellectual construct. Faith is expectation at the gut level.

Depending on how we are using it, faith can manifest as peace of mind or as stress. We experience peace when our expectation is focused on greater good unfolding. Stress is the effect of expecting the worst. We do ourselves a favor when we get in touch with our expectation at the gut level. Then we can redirect our faith in a way that is conducive to the peace we desire.

The faculties of faith and imagination work closely together. Jesus advised that we lift our eyes and see the field ready for harvest. He is referring to the mind’s eye, the imagination. Faith is the expectation of reaping this imagined harvest.

Whatever challenge you may have in your life, get the feeling that it has already reached a successful conclusion. On one level it may appear that there are “four months to harvest” but turn your faculty of faith on the harvest you desire, as if it is already complete.

Jesus also advised that when we pray, we should go into our room and shut the door, to pray in secret. It is best to keep your prayer work to yourself. Hold the highest vision concerning your situation and then expect that vision to come forth either in the way you see it or in some better way. If we focus only on the opening of a specific door, we may not notice the other door that now stands open.