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.

Coming Home

I was talking to a friend the other day who had asked a question I get frequently: “What makes you think the soul isn’t evolving? Aren’t the advances in medicine, science, and technology evidence that we’re in the midst of a spiritual renaissance? Meditation has become widely accepted and people seem to be moving from dogmatic religion to a more spiritual approach to life. Aren’t these all hopeful signs?”

I responded that it was obvious we were making advances in all these fields, but these are examples of intellectual, not spiritual evolution. It’s also true that we hear more people touting a spiritual rather than religious leaning, but in my observation, much of this quest should still be classified as an exercise in spiritual intellectualism.

The spiritual dimension is self-existent, changeless, it does not evolve. Nor does the experience of this dimension require further development of any faculty, especially the intellect. Every person is presently capable of experiencing the spiritual dimension. The problem is, most treat it as an intellectual prize that must be earned, like an academic degree or a greatly sought-after scientific breakthrough. The spiritual awakening comes, not in waves to the masses, but like a thief in the night, through the intuitive portal of each individual.

There is widespread belief that if we continue to fill the intellect with spiritual concepts gleaned from the minds of others, we’ve joined a collective march toward enlightenment on a massive scale. This is simply not true. Thanks to social media, more people are indeed throwing around spiritual terms like so much confetti, but this is not proof that greater numbers are actually tapping into the spiritual dimension. It only means more have learned the language, the correct postures, and buzz words that suggest they are part of the pop culture of the spiritual set. In this arena, what passes for spiritual understanding tends to be as shallow as the false bonds of social media, where the course of most relationships is not determined by actual interaction, but by the click of a mouse.

Spiritual and intellectual progress are not measured by the same yardstick. The genuine spiritual awakening does not run with the crowd. What’s popular today is forgotten tomorrow. We’re reminded in the Gospel of Thomas: “There are many around the drinking trough, but there is nothing in the well. There are many standing at the door, but those who are alone will enter the bridal suite” (#74-75).

Imagine two people in a windowless room, each with a flashlight. In one flashlight the batteries are low and the light is a dim yellow. In the other, the batteries are new and the beam is very bright. The natural comparison here is that of battery power. One sees their world through the dim light of low batteries. The other sees more clearly with batteries fully charged. So we have a scale of dim to bright with which to measure and compare.

Now imagine a third person who has left the windowless room and experienced the full brightness of sunlight. For them, the brightest of the two flashlights pales in comparison to the sun. They understand that the availability of sunlight has nothing to do with the level of charge in the battery of a flashlight. The one holding the dim light can just as easily step outside as the one holding the bright light. Fully charged batteries are not a requirement for stepping into the brighter world of daylight.

The room represents the self-image, the batteries and flashlights are the “brainpower” we associate with intellectualism. Spiritual development is not about charging the batteries of the intellect with spiritual ideas. It’s the experience of stepping outside the room. The intellect of the person who steps into the direct light of the soul is transformed by this experience. It is not a process of evolution but a condition of direct exposure. Nothing in the room can prepare one for the experience of sunlight. It is the understanding that the experience we seek is not of this world of rooms and flashlights. The belief that we’re making spiritual progress by charging our intellectual batteries is simply false.

The driving force behind the true spiritual awakening is often discontentment, dissatisfaction. We’ve seen enough in the room to realize it can never fulfill the yearning we feel at the soul level. We intuitively know there is sunlight beyond the confines of this room. We have observed those who believe that fully charged batteries are the epitome of human achievement, that, in their thinking, the concept of sunlight is but a myth, wishful thinking for those who cannot adapt to life in the room. We may not posses the facts to support what we know is true at the deepest level, but we know these folks are wrong.

We are naturally drawn to the outdoors because this, not the room, is our true home. The soul does not forget its Source. Its light seeps through this battery-powered realm of thought and draws us out of the cultural standards that use the room and flashlights as its basis of reality. The room, we instinctively know, is no more the center of the universe than was the earth, as all room-dwelling authority once believed.

Evolution applies to life in the room. Outside the room, the light of self-existence shines eternally, without shadow due to change. The light forever beckons every soul to open the door and come home.

 

The Immeasurable Mind

It was Emerson who challenged his readers “ … to live with the privilege of immeasurable mind.” I’ve always loved this statement, and to the extent that I have experienced it, have understood its value.

In my most recent exploration of nonduality, I have discovered that a few teachers who promise instant illumination. A student will ask how one enters the experience of oneness and the teacher will say, “Come, let’s do it now.” So he or she takes the student through an exercise where they experience a flash of pure awareness, a momentary dropping the baggage of the self-image and proclaim, “WOW!!!” It is as if that moment marks the beginning of their new life free of all the body-based distractions and attachments. My sense, however, is that most, if not all, will once again begin collecting the baggage they dropped in that emotional moment. It seems but another version of the intoxicating, hand-raising, born-again revival. All things seem possible with a charismatic speaker and the emotionally stimulating energy of two-thousand believers.

If I accept that the soul is complete and that there are no natural barriers between where I currently stand in my awareness and a full experience of the soul, why would I be skeptical of such claims? Because short of a dramatic shift in values, a brief and emotional moment that may positively stir dormant energies does not carry the power to lift us out of the gravity of the self-image. A speaker can lay out the logic, pose many leading questions that prompt a willing submission to leave the old and strike out for the new. The listener may, for one day, three days, a week, a month or a year, take their steps down this path before they find the shimmer of the new begins to fade. It’s like buying a new pair of shoes that you really love only to find they, like the old pair, eventually take the same form of your foot. Anything we put on is subject to aging. Only the actual and perpetual experience of the soul provides the longevity of newness we crave.

Material science says that even the most brilliant of our species uses approximately ten percent of the brain’s capacity. I believe it would be more accurate to say that the brain and body greatly restrict the soul’s capacity. Imagine the situation where your soul enters a body that has no limbs, is blind, deaf and unable to speak. And then you are told that you must learn to be happy in this situation. Before entering this body, your soul is complete. In time this body will die and your soul will be freed from its physical prison. What would be gained from such an experience? If the soul remains unaffected by taking on such a body, then what’s the point of the experience? The same can be said of taking on a whole and healthy body. It’s not about increasing brain power. It’s about soul recognition.

It is clear that most spiritually-minded people see their earthly tenure either as a test or as an educational opportunity for their soul. But it makes no sense to think something will be learned by anchoring an unlimited soul to a body for eighty-five or so years and then return it to its native state of freedom. The soul is free before entering the body and it is free when it lays down the body. It does not learn this freedom from grappling with the distractions of inhabiting a body.

So, if our soul is not here to learn, what’s the point in taking on a body? To bring this question into perspective, we must first drop the notion that the body and earthly experience are some kind of testing ground for the soul. These in no way shut down the capacity of the soul. The soul already knows more than anything we can learn on earth. The earthly experience triggers a shift in our center of gravity, from the soul to the self-image. This shift in values means that we now measure our perceived spiritual progress by mental, emotional and material standards. Because our quest for happiness becomes an endless attempt to bring the self-image into a state of peace and contentment, we brand ourselves as incomplete and we spend our lives trying to fill this void.

It is the self-image, not the soul, that feels the void. If any one of us could safely drop our body at this very moment, we would be astonished to discover that we already are everything and more that we have been looking for. The soul is in perfect harmony with the music of the spheres. The distortions and distractions of the self-image do not tarnish the soul in any way. Regardless of how far from the soul we stray, we will return, either in the body or out, because the soul is our eternal and essential nature.

Is it possible to bring the fullness of our soul into this bodily experience? This is the real question. The answer depends on our understanding of where we have placed our center of gravity, our core values. It’s important to know that whether or not we make the transition of values from self-image to soul, the soul remains unscathed. Many on the spiritual path act as if they are walking a spiritual tightrope with reincarnation spread beneath them like a safety net into which they will once again likely fall. The only thing that suffers is our present quality of experience. The body does not actually shut down the capacity of the soul. It is only our shift in values that distracts us away from who and what we are at this deepest level. So yes, it is possible to bring the fullness of our soul into the bodily experience. Doing so requires the releasing of a lifetime of body-based values, a process that will likely pit us against the conventions of our cultural and spiritual training. An instantaneous shift can and does happen, but usually as the result of a significant crisis.

An important takeaway from near-death research is its demonstration of a person’s instantaneous shift in values. These are cases where the soul is momentarily released from the confines of the body, revealing the true eternal and limitless nature of the individual. Researches say that it takes a person an average of seven years to integrate this incredible revelation into their life. Many suffer extreme depression for being crammed back into the confines and pain-filled experience of a body. Most return to a life made instantly alien from only moments of rising above the gravitational pull of their body-based self-image. They find that the only community that truly shares their rediscovered, soul-centered values are fellow experiencers. Their approach to life in a body is completely changed by the revelation of who and what they truly are.

We do not need the trauma of a near-death experience, but we do likely need some significant shock to our current body-based value system. We won’t get this in an afternoon seminar whose presenter offers to take our hand and lead us into some paradise of pure awareness. They may stir our emotion, but only we have the power to change our values. And we do it to the extent that we recognize the value of doing so. Otherwise, we will likely continue to tread spiritual water till the death of the body.

The habit of trying to raise the quality of our experience using people, places and things is deeply ingrained and so habitual that we scarcely recognize that we are doing it. We’re drawn to those so-called spiritual teachings that promise more prosperity, health and harmony in relationships not realizing that we are simply attempting to pad those abrasive aspects of the body-based self-image. We long to live with privilege of immeasurable mind, and we will, either in the body or out of it. If we want to experience it in the body, then a major shift in values is required. We are not forced to make this shift, but the opportunity is here if we choose to engage the process. I think we’ll find it helpful to remember that it is the quality of our experience, not our soul, that will be the benefactor. The soul is doing just fine.

Down by the Riverside

[From A Spiritual Journey]

[View: A Path to Self-Forgiveness] 

In my book, Native Soul, I point out the importance of meditation and I comment on one of the most commonly expressed issues I’ve heard from people on this subject. How do you get past the incessant flow of thought when you are trying to be still and experience your spiritual center? I compare this flow to a rushing river. If someone asked you to cross that river but you could see no benefit in doing so, you may wade in, feel the power of the current and then step back out with the feeling that crossing it is not worth the risk. If that same person pointed to a tree on the far bank and explained there was a winning lottery ticket worth millions with your name on it, do you not suppose you would figure out how to cross that river?

In the first scenario, you see little value in the risk or effort of crossing the river. In the second scenario, the ambiguities of value disappear. When you understand the value of crossing that river, you will figure out how to do it, no matter how long it takes or how difficult it is.

The problem most of us face with the incessant mind is that we do not understand the value of what we might find on the other side. We have opinions given to us by others of what it means to be spiritually enlightened. We read of the ecstasy and boundless stores of wisdom tapped by those who have crossed the river. We read of great spiritual power awaiting those who have made this crossing. Yet we encounter this river, feel the force of its current and conclude that it must not be our time to cross. Perhaps if we read more about it or gather and speak affirmations that are more powerful we’ll build up the strength to take this plunge.

None of this is true. Every person alive is fully equipped to cross the river of the busy mind, no soul evolution or further learning required. The only thing that has to happen is that a shift in values must occur. Each person has to grasp the true value of crossing that river, and each person must stay with this process until he or she experiences the breakthrough.

There have always been those who promise that they can get us across. Join a special group, pay the fees, jump in their boat and they’ll take you to the other side. Or, with the touch of our specially trained hands, and a small fee, we will get you to the other side, instantly or very soon. This is all pure nonsense at best, spiritual charlatanism at its worst. The reason? Neither approach requires a genuine shift in values. The belief that people or money can get you to the other side of the river changes your focus from actually crossing the river to seeking the right people and enough money to get you across. Your values, no longer placed in the end you seek, are now placed in the means to the end. The means to the end of the spiritual breakthrough, however, is not found in people, in study or in expensive courses of spiritual instruction. It is found within you.

As a teacher of meditative technique, Jesus was what I consider a minimalist. He pointed to the other side of the river (the kingdom of God is within you) and said, go there.

But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him (Matthew 6:6-8).

He was undoubtedly approached by those who went into their room, shut the door and prayed to their Father in secret but found they could think of nothing more than their health issue, their failing business, their unscrupulous neighbor with the barking dog or gathering the needed ingredients for the evening meal. To these he offered this simple instruction:

Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened (Matthew 7:7-8).

I have to think that if he had discovered a better, faster way to spiritual enlightenment, he would have offered it. If it were truly possible for one human being to pass enlightenment to another with the simple touch of a hand, I seriously doubt he would have offered such bland instructions that obviously put the ball of enlightenment in the court of each individual.

Socrates responded to a student’s question about obtaining wisdom by plunging the student’s head into water until he nearly drowned. Pulling him from the water, Socrates asked the student what he wanted most in that moment. Air, of course, was the answer. Socrates explained that when the student wanted wisdom as much as he wanted air, he would obtain it. A shift of values was the only requirement.

The spiritual path does not require an abandonment of material pursuits. If anything is abandoned, it is because, like the man who discovered the buried treasure, we joyously let go of those possessions that wrangle our attention from a first-hand experience with God. As this experience begins to emerge in our committed quiet times, the value we place on moving deeper naturally arises. We are guided by the greater freedom we experience.

We have to have enough faith to take the plunge, even if it is blind faith the size of a grain of mustard seed. The fact is we do have the required faith. Why else do you think we keep showing up at this particular riverbank?

Anchoring in the Eternal

[Excerpt from my book, A Spiritual Journey]

In one of my books, I wrote about the moth and why it circles streetlights. It is believed by some who research such things that the moth uses the moon as a navigational beacon. With the advent of artificial light, the moth mistakes the streetlight for the moon. It begins with large circles around the light that gradually tighten into the frantic aerobatics we see on our night walk.

What struck me about this bit of information was the fact that we humans do very much the same thing. Our natural navigational beacon is our spiritual center, our soul that rises up from our eternal Source we know as God. We become so centered in the roles we play – careers, relationships, service organizations, etc. – that we lose our conscious contact with this deeper aspect. Like the moth, we often find ourselves rapidly circling a multitude of “light” sources that leave us feeling empty. We come to believe that our life is about the sum of these artificial lights. While we go through periods where these various centers of interest are satisfying, none can provide the permanent anchor we crave and we find ourselves flying in tight and meaningless circles.

To re-establish the moon as our true beacon, so to speak, it is necessary to go out into open country, away from the city lights. That is, we take time to lay down our roles and all issues that surround our involvement with them, and simply allow ourselves to be. I find that when internal pressure is building, when my thought and emotion is invested in resolving the many issues that rise in my own city of lights, it is always because I have lost my center. I am flying around streetlights. My life has become an endless process of resolving problem after problem in an artificial world. There is little in the way of true satisfaction, little in the act of circling the streetlight that is peace enhancing, regardless of how bright and promising it is. Only the true light that “lighteth every man” gives us the inner peace we seek.

Anytime we seek fulfillment in the roles we play, we are putting impossible expectations on these roles. We cannot draw from them what we are looking for. Many try to convince the world that this is possible, that they are spiritually enlightened because they were ordained, or they are at peace because they are wealthy, or that they are prosperous because their kids are in the right schools. We can only draw what we are looking for from our inner depths. To make the role meaningful, we bring to it the healing balance we find within. If we never venture into our depths, then this inner disconnect will send us flying from streetlight to streetlight, from role to role, accomplishment to accomplishment, circling, hoping we can take away from these the satisfaction we can only find within.

We’re all in this world but not a single one of us is of it. Try as we may, we cannot draw our true being from any source outside of ourselves. Attempting to do so leaves us flying in unsatisfying circles. The resulting unrest can be our signal to momentarily leave the city, let it all go for a time and reconnect with that true beacon, that eternal anchor that we are when we allow ourselves to be free of the roles we play.

Event Versus Experience

[Excerpt from A Spiritual Journey]

I am sometimes asked how I can say on one hand that the soul is complete, and on the other hand acknowledge the challenges of the human condition. Are not these challenges evidence of a partially evolved soul? And will not the human condition as a whole be vastly improved when we finally reach the tipping point in our evolutionary process, where the lion lays down with the lamb, the hundred and first monkey begins reproducing and a new age marked by world peace finally begins?

If we ask whether Jesus was a highly evolved soul, the vast majority of the New Thought community would likely agree that he was. What this same group may ignore is that the Gospel accounts tell us that from the moment of his birth to his death, Jesus lived in the swirl of controversy that culminated in his crucifixion. As the designated Lamb of God, he left in his wake a string of carnivorous lions that threatened him throughout his life. Would we not expect a highly evolved soul would demonstrate a peaceful and prosperous life free of contention?

What we may not consider is that our Gospel accounts represent an evangelical interpretation of a series of events that, strung together like beads, present a snapshot of the life of Jesus. Virtually nothing is known of how Jesus actually experienced these events. Unlike Paul, we have no letters expressing feelings and viewpoints that would have been important to him. Considering some of his sayings, it would appear that Jesus did not equate the character of events with the quality of internal experience. The tribulation that occurred in his external world did not seem to be the yardstick by which he measured his own inner experience of peace. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you” (John 14:27).

Failure to discern the difference between events and experience is, I believe, a significant contributor to the conscious disconnect we have with our own wholeness. Our “eye” is indeed single, but it is turned on events. We are like a person with a telescope pointed to the ground and asking, Where are the stars?

Few of us in New Thought have trouble with the idea of a spiritual body that we conceive as maintaining its wholeness even when the physical body displays episodes of illness. One healing technique is to mentally and emotionally lay hold of this spiritual body and see it manifesting throughout our physical body. In the best way we know, we take our attention away from the event of physical illness and place it on the wholeness of the spiritual body until we experience this wholeness shining forth through the physical. We may be distracted by pain and other significant inconveniences, but we slowly move the telescope of our attention from this terrestrial event of physical limitation to the heavenly experience of the vast universe.

Spiritual teachers of all time have warned against determining what is true by looking to appearances and events. To look at the turmoil in one’s life and determine that its presence is the result of spiritual inadequacy is a false judgment that forever keeps us locked into an event-oriented measure of spiritual progress. This is like looking out the window on a rainy day and thinking we are in some way responsible for the sun not shining. Despite the presence of clouds, the sun still shines. The event of rain has nothing to do with the behavior of the sun. Nor does it have anything to do with the constitution of our consciousness. The rain falls on the just and the unjust. It’s how we choose to experience the rain that makes the difference for us. If we see the clouds and the rain as effects of our inadequate understanding, then inclement weather will always serve to remind us that we have some evolving to do. If, on the other hand, we know the sun shines regardless of whether or not it rains, and that we have absolutely nothing to do with how weather systems play out, then we are free of this impossible burden. Even when we turn our telescope to the stars and see nothing but clouds, we still know the stars have not gone away. The event of a cloud cover does nothing to alter our conviction that the star-studded sky remains.

It is the dominating belief in the power of events that keeps us from experiencing the completeness of our soul. It is easier to believe in the advanced state of a Jesus, or the advanced soul of one of our favorite authors than it is to believe in ourselves. We turn our attention to these people, strip them of their life’s events and imagine that their superior understanding has allowed them to navigate through this life in ways of which we can only dream. Our experience may seem anything but divine, so we look to others with the hope of learning how they did it so we may do it as well. Regardless of how pristine an experience another may have had, looking to them for spiritual help is looking in the wrong direction. We have turned our telescope to the earth. Not a single spiritual teacher worth his or her salt ever said, Turn your telescope toward me. To the contrary, all have said, that which you are seeking is within you. Do not judge your spiritual status by the events transpiring around you. Do not compare yourself with me. Connect with your own completeness, your advocate, your comforter, your Christ. Love the lord your God.

In this way alone, you find the peace for your restless soul that longs to step forward into the full field of your vision, your understanding of yourself. Events are things that happen. Experience is the way you choose to relate to events. You do not change your experience by changing events. You change your experience by knowing the truth of your completeness.

Revisiting Forgiveness

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There is much written about forgiveness and how important it is in relation to our spiritual advancement. And yet I think so much is written about it because we find it difficult to put into practice. Because it involves personal feelings of being wronged by another, it’s usually easier to advise a friend or family member of the need to forgive while overlooking our own reluctance to do so.

In his book, From Science to God, Peter Russell makes this very helpful observation:

The conventional understanding of forgiveness is of an absolution or pardon: “I know you did wrong, but I’ll overlook it this time.” But the original meaning of forgiveness is very different. The ancient Greek word for forgiveness is aphesis, meaning “to let go.

In this sense, letting it go carries a very different feel than merely letting it pass. While we may be completely justified in our anger toward one who has wronged us, the impact of clinging to a falling-out has the effect of binding us to that negating energy we abhor. It was with this idea in mind that I shared this thought with our Facebook audience:

Forgiveness is the choice to leave behind a bit of baggage that no longer serves your highest good.

Probably one of the most common issues I have faced in ministry is the challenge of letting go of people who, in their moment of anger, have been moved to inflict harm on myself or my ministry. Even now, our church is rising from the ashes of one such incident. There are those who are quick to suggest reconciliation as the right and spiritual thing to do. I have found, however, that letting go is the better way. Those who have sought to inflict harm once are usually repeat offenders. There is no principle that says you must demonstrate your spiritual strength by again placing yourself in the path of an oncoming train. It’s much better to let it go by stepping off the tracks and letting the train pass.

If you are dealing with the question of forgiveness, try thinking of it as the act of leaving behind a bit of baggage that no longer serves your highest good. This simple shift in attitude could be the very change you are looking for.