Run To, Not From

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“It is perfectly natural for the human mind to seek to escape from its troubles by running away from present environments, or by planning some change on the material plane. … There is no permanent or real outward way of escape from miseries or circumstances; all help must come from within.”   Emilie Cady

Most all of us have dreams and desires that would have us leaving one condition and moving to another. While the motivation for some of these changes may seem obvious—simple improvements to our life conditions—others may be pointing to our need to be still and take another look. We might be running from an inner call to come up higher, to begin filling the undesired condition from within.

We usually see unsatisfying conditions as a glass filled only half way with water. We want a full glass and so we set aside the half-empty glass and pursue one that is fuller. Rather than set the half-filled glass aside, it may be that we simply need to fill the glass we have rather than seek another.

When Cady suggests that help must come from within, she is pointing to the idea of beginning right where we are, using the conditions we have, to begin filling our life. In other words, rather than curse our conditions, we start blessing them and asking how we can give more of ourselves to fill them.

You may be in a demanding relationship and you say, “I’m already giving as much as I can, and they just keep wanting more.” Maybe you’re feeling drained, not because you are giving so much but because you are giving against your will. If you want to fill this glass, you must stop denying how you really feel and begin giving from a basis that is true. You are going along to get along, so you’re not really giving out of who and what you are, and the relationship suffers because of it.

Pour the full force of your being into your present circumstances. Top off the cup that is yours to fill. When it is full, you may decide you want to keep it.

 

 

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.

Are We Here To Learn?

Earth is a school and we are here to learn.

Of all the arguments I’ve heard attempting to counter the notion that our soul is now complete, this is by far the most common. As a recovering soul evolutionist, I understand the argument. I believed for years that our struggles — from accidents to serious illnesses — came with a lesson we needed to learn and advance our soul’s evolutionary process.

I think most rational people agree that we can learn from our mistakes. But suppose someone blindfolds you and sends you into a field full of pits, bogs, fences, fires, spikes, and other hazardous obstacles. After experiencing a series of unpleasant encounters, they lift your blindfold and ask what you learned from all this hardship. Fire burns, spikes hurt, pits are frightening, and bogs cause tremendous struggle. Okay. So they blindfold you again and send you back into the field to apply your new understanding. Does this knowledge keep you from repeating the same, pain-inflicting mistakes? No. You will continue to repeat them until you take off the blindfold.

What is this blindfold? Simply stated, it’s the belief that some day in the future we will be more spiritually complete than we are right now. If we lift this blindfold, we walk through the field unharmed. The knowledge we gain while blindfolded has no value to those who reject the belief that spiritual fulfillment is a hope of the future.

Another consideration that raises doubts about the schoolhouse theory is the question so often posed: What about the Hitlers of the world? Are we to imagine they chose such destructive, hateful, and harmful paths because their soul’s had certain lessons to learn, and this learning required millions of victims? And what of these millions of victims, each with family, a circle of friends, dreams, interests, curiosities, a love of beautiful music, and a list of favorite foods? Did their souls require the terror, the torture, the loss of homeland, dignity, family, and freedom because they could only advance under such horrific conditions? Certainly there are stories of unbelievable heroism, perseverance, and endurance that emerge from these dark periods of the human experience. But are such horrors required so their soul they may take a further step? I think not.

We can, of course, sidestep these questions by saying we can never really know what another soul needs to advance. We can keep our schoolhouse open with a shrug of acceptance that there are simply spiritual mysteries we can never resolve. In other words, there are many ways to justify wearing the blindfold.

In examining near-death research, it would be easy to conclude that the body itself is the blindfold. Many experiencers report that, momentarily free of the body, their ability to see and hear far exceeds normal ranges of sight and sound detected by our physical senses. Likewise, we could easily surmise that the brain, as a transmitter of consciousness, imposes major restrictions on our ability to know.

It’s important to understand, however, that taking on a body does not mean we lose our intuitive ability to “live with the privilege of immeasurable mind,” as Emerson put it. It only means that we have the additional possibility of succumbing to a falsely perceived world fabricated by the senses. In such a world, the soul is reduced to a conceptualization that, like all things appearing in the realm of the senses, has a beginning, a middle, and an end. The soul is assigned a potential flowering culmination when in truth it is and has always been in full blossom.

So the blindfold is not actually the body, but a collectively agreed upon version of reality constructed from senses-based facts. The Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, pointed out that “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” The focus here is on that ever-changing river of circumstance and the endless gathering of new facts that produce universities and drive all aspects of our developing technology.

Heraclitus does not take into account that the man, wherever he is standing, can only be in one place at a time. He can only be here, never there. Intellectually, he can learn more facts and he can acquire more things, but at the soul level he can never be more than he is right now. Why? Because he can never step from this now moment. The blindfold is not an inability to know this freeing truth. The blindfold is his fixation on using this ever-changing river of material appearances as his basis for reality.

When we think of evolution, we tend to think of it as occurring over time and moving toward a goal. The fossil record provides the best support for this view. But is it true? The energy we know as life does not struggle to be something more than it is right now. Each of the many forms life takes, on the other hand, engage in perpetual adaptation to their ever-changing environment. The point we often miss is that this process completes within each moment. Evolution has no goal. If a change in the environment requires a response, the response is made. It’s like putting on a coat when you go outside because there are icicles hanging from the roof. You adapt. The purpose of every facet of the natural world is to bring itself, at full capacity, to this now moment. There never has been and never can be one moment when this purpose is not fully realized.

I am convinced that the greatest cause for misunderstanding Jesus, both in his day and ours, is that he was speaking of a kingdom of God that is presently spread over the earth but men do not see it. Then as now, they wait for the kingdom to come. The birds of the air and the lilies of the field are not waiting for a coming kingdom. They are not storing up knowledge so they may live a better life in the future. They apply their full being to the present. This is the fulfillment of Jesus’ seek first the kingdom and all else will be added. Come into the conscious awareness of your spiritual wholeness and live your success within each moment of the day.

There is but one lesson to learn: Your soul and its spiritual environment is now complete. Quietly dwell in this understanding and carry it through your day. Jesus did not suggest that the lessons we learn from problems in life will help brighten our light. He simply said, let your light shine. This light rises from your very core, from the center to the circumference of your being. Become willing to remove your blindfold of preconceived notions about your spiritual inadequacies, and surrender to the radiance of this healing, balancing light that is your soul.

[Watch Spiritual Adaptation on YouTube]

Spiritual Adaptation

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It is common to associate our ongoing spiritual interest with a quest, a journey, or an evolutionary process of development. We think of ourselves as being at one place in understanding and we’re slowly moving to another. This perspective is strengthened by observing our typical method of learning. Acquiring knowledge on any subject involves the acquisition of information we do not currently have. The more information we gather, the more informed we obviously become.

When we think of someone we consider a spiritual giant, Jesus, for example, we assume he applied the same information-gathering process to his own spiritual development. The people of his day were certainly baffled. “How did this man get such learning without having been taught?” (John 7:15). Today, still applying the evolutionary model, we speculate that during the so-called missing years – that 18-year gap between ages of 12 and 30 – he may have retired to the desert to study with the Essenes, or traveled to India to study with Hindu mystics. Some speculate that he was a very old soul. Still others hold that he was sent by God, that his great wisdom is explained by his unique spiritual pedigree.

Let’s look at this with fresh eyes. All of creation is constantly tuning itself to its present environment. Any living form that does not do this successfully goes extinct. What we are calling a progression – moving from a lesser to a greater, more complex state – is really a perpetual adaptation to the present. This is a very different process that suggests all the pertinent forces of this universe are active and fully engaged now.

This is how we must think of the spiritual dimension and our relationship to it. We, like all of nature, are designed to interface with this omnipresent reality we call God. We won’t eventually evolve to this capacity, we have it now. To think something so essential to our spiritual well-being is somehow withheld, or that we have to earn it through lifetimes of searching is spiritually illogical. Who would withhold information critical to the well-being of their own children? If we as parents would not do this, why would we think it’s happening to us?

Man has the greatest capacity for creative expression. That natural hurdles would be thrown in front of us to hinder us is ludicrous. We are blinded by our own ignorance.

 

Spiritual Guidance

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“Is there a man among you who will offer his son a stone when he asks for bread, or a snake when he asks for fish? If you, then, bad as you are, know how to give your children what is good for them, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:9-11).

If we apply this logic of Jesus to the notion of spiritual guidance, we can know that our need and request for guidance is being fulfilled at this very moment. This is true even when it appears we’re being given a stone rather than bread, or a snake rather than a fish.

Stones and snakes are not really stones and snakes. They are more likely answers to our prayer for guidance. They just don’t look like the bread and fish that we’re expecting. When we ask God for guidance, we are to believe that we have received the guidance we seek. This means that everything we do, everyone we encounter, every new unfolding circumstance is part of the solution to our desire for guidance.

In some cases, our circumstances may take an unexpected turn that seems to have no relevance to the greater good we seek. But Jesus also cautioned against judging by appearances. This is good advice, because intellectually, there is no way we can have all the facts about unfolding events. Neither will we fully encompass all the possible scenarios that can present themselves. While we’re looking in one direction, our answer can sneak up behind us.

Think of how many times this has happened. You get something fixed in your mind, but the actual solution unfolds in a very different way. What may look like failure or a misstep from one angle, turns out to be the exact right thing for the whole picture.

Paul reminded us that all things work together for good for those that love God. We can reframe this thought to all things are working together for our highest good, as we trust that God’s guiding wisdom is fully in play, right now. Our every step is the right step, our every move, the right move.

Hold this thought. Know this truth. At this very moment, God is guiding you to the highest and best solution to your need.

 

When Your Life Falls Apart

While I am reluctant to offer any firm definitions of God, I am perfectly comfortable describing four characteristics of God that I, and many before me, have come to recognize. These characteristics, or fundamentals, are life, love, power and intelligence. Of these four, I have had the greatest difficulty understanding the role or function of love.

I had no trouble stating that God is love and, therefore, loving, but this imagery always suggested the big parent in the sky caring for and watching over his children. It is relatively easy to draw some comfort from such an image, especially in those moments when life seems to be falling apart. The feeling that God loves and cares enough for me to guide me safely through my trying times was assuring. Still, it left me wondering why a loving God would allow me have such experiences in the first place.

I have since come to the understanding of love as that aspect of God that paves the way for the soul’s freer expression through the material plane. Its work is two-fold. Love dissolves all hindrances to the expression of the soul and it attracts those conditions that allow for the freest expression of the soul, our true self. This dissolving and attracting action is internal, but its effects ripple through every aspect of our material experience.

To understand this, we have to take our attention away from external conditions and focus on the internal process that influences the way our life seems to be going. The soul, though presently in a complete and unhindered state of freedom, is not expressing this freedom through much of our daily experience. Most people could furnish a lengthy list of reasons why this is true, all of which would have to do with flawed conditions. I would be happier if I could get out of this job or this unsatisfying relationship or if I could just make more money.

It is this act of externalizing the source of our problems that has given rise to an increased interest in the so-called law of attraction. If you visualize the better job, the perfect soul mate or the boatload of money that will make you happy, you will surely draw these things and your life will be wonderful. In truth, this practice does little more than feed our addiction to a low-level form of spiritual alchemy. With a slight change in our thinking, a restatement of intention or an easy shift into an attitude of allowing, we hope to magically turn the base-metal of our experience into the gold of happiness, peace and abundance. From the basis of spiritual development, this practice would be better described as the law of distraction.

The fatal flaw in this practice is its attempt to protect and bolster the self-image. All fear and all feelings of lack originate at the level of this manufactured self-image, this senses-based self-portrait that Paul referred to as the carnal mind or mind of the flesh. The dissolving work of love does not focus on the bad relationship, the unsatisfying job or the shortage of cash. It focuses on the self-image that is responsible for casting these negative shadows over the landscape of our external experience. Likewise, the attracting work of love does not take place in the realm of people, places and things but at the soul level. The soul is the fulfillment we seek. The more of the soul’s light that shines in and through us, the more attractive we are to conditions best suited for our soul’s expression. In other words, our life becomes on earth as it is in heaven.

When our life appears to be falling apart, our knee-jerk response is to do everything within our power to pull it all back together. What we cannot do on our own, we call upon God to do for us. This usually involves a kind of spiritual bartering of promises to do things for God if God will just get us through this mess. But here’s the thing. The very mess we are are experiencing can likely be traced to the inadequate self-image. The answers we seek are actually our attempts to protect the many weaknesses of this straw man that we have created. We are not calling upon God to actually help us. We are calling upon God to help protect the weakness of this self that is responsible for generating the problem.

Love, therefore, does not work to dissolve the many problems of this self. Love works to dissolve the very self that is praying for help. Its attracting aspect is to broaden our awareness to the truth of the soul, to prompt us to the revelation that I am not this frightened self-image, I am this eternal, God-sustained soul.

Our fears provide a spotlight on the self-image. If we follow them to their core, we find they always represent our attempts to protect the weakness of the self-image. When you understand your soul as light, you can see that your self-image is an unnatural object that blocks this light and casts that shadow you see stretching through your life. Try as you may, you find there is nothing outside of yourself that will fill in the darkness created by this shadow. Only the removal of its cause—the self-image—will remove the shadow.

Follow the spotlight of your fear and you will find the self-image cowering in prayer, begging God to remove the thing that is upsetting its little kingdom and making it miserable. When you call upon love, you must be willing to let love do its perfect work. It will not focus on dissolving the many things you fear. It will focus on the self-image that is doing the fearing, that very one you are striving to protect. As this shadow-casting self-image weakens and dissolves, the attracting light of your soul’s authenticity shines through.

This is what Jesus was talking about when he spoke of the need to be born again. The ritual of baptism is the symbol for this new birth. One goes down into the water as one thing and emerges as another. This describes a shift in our awareness from a frail self-image to an eternal soul.

Think of the problems you now face as a kind of baptism. You enter them as one thing and you emerge from them another. If approached in this way, your troubles become a kind of holy water that will cleanse you, not of the things you fear, but of fear itself. Love is the baptizer. In its safe embrace you surrender to its submerging you beyond the realm of your worst nightmares and to bring you safely up into a world made new.

Your life may indeed be falling apart, but only because it is falling together. Let the negative appearance remind you that love is doing its perfect work in you now.

A Simple Illustration with Profound Consequences

The concept of nonduality is the very simple understanding that all the many apparent separate pieces of the universe rise from the singular reality of Consciousness. Attempts to characterize the nature of this underlying reality will be familiar to the student of Unity and other similar New Thought approaches. It is God, the one presence and one power in which all things live and move and have their being.

When it comes to the human condition and each individual’s relationship to God, there is a marked divergence in understanding in this spiritual community. Most metaphysical teachings of the West assume spiritual ignorance, experienced as feeling distant from God, is the result of an undeveloped soul. The soul is placed on a linear scale of time and treated as if it is engaged in a process of maturing. This has produced a kind of spiritual class distinction of young and old souls. Judging by the ongoing human struggle, attributed to soul immaturity, the concept of reincarnation is adopted to explain why we do not see more enlightened souls running around on earth. Every individual is traveling through one incarnation after another, all for the purpose of advancing the soul. What we do not learn in one lifetime we learn in another. A teacher like Jesus is held up as the brass ring of spiritual accomplishment. He represents the prime example of a mature soul to which we are to aspire. Nonduality does not share this model and to explain why, I’ll modify an example I used in The Complete Soul.

Imagine that we submerge ten sponges into an ocean. Each is completely saturated with water. The water inside the ten sponges is obviously the same composition and age as the water outside each sponge. Likewise, the water that permeates the various sponges is exactly the same. What is different is the degree of awareness each sponge has of the water. Most are so focused on their identity as a sponge that they do not think of the water in which they live and move and have their being as anything but an abstract concept. All things cellulose is the foundation of their understanding of reality and they spend all their time studying and thinking about its nature. Only one sponge understands that it and all the other sponges are permeated with this identical substance called ocean water.

This simple illustration is nonduality in a nutshell.

What stands between the unenlightened sponge and the water? Nothing. How much time is needed for the unenlightened sponge to become closer to the water? None. When the unenlightened sponge will begin to understand its relationship of oneness with the water is anyone’s guess. Are there any natural barriers that exist between the unenlightened sponge and the water? No. Are there any forces working against the unenlightened sponge to prevent its awakening to the presence of the water? Yes, there is one force that is working to prevent this awakening. This is the force of self-perception. The identity is grounded in the experience of cellulose. The unenlightened sponge touts the banner: I am cellulose that may one day enjoy a relationship of oneness with the ocean.

The enlightened sponge, on the other hand, understands itself as a point of awareness floating in its environment of the ocean. There is no point where the ocean water outside of itself leaves off and the ocean water inside of itself begins. It says, I am in the ocean and the ocean is in me, but the ocean is greater. I am not the ocean, but I am a point where the ocean is expressed as a relationship with a sponge. The sponge may come and go, but the ocean remains. I, therefore, am the ocean expressing through a sponge.

The unenlightened sponges have created an entire religion based on their identity as sponges. It’s about making life as a sponge more comfortable, healthy and prosperous. These conditions become the markers used to measure enlightenment. The enlightened sponge floats by and he looks so serene and peaceful, and they want to be just like him. And so they study, pray and meditate very hard on how to be a better, more peaceful sponge. Among themselves they argue about who is most enlightened. They learn to imitate the appearance of serenity and they carefully adopt the vocabulary of the enlightened sponge. They have great conferences that reinforce the belief that more and more sponges are fulfilling their potential. They greet one another with hugs and treat each other with greater kindness. They see the dawning of a world where all sponges do the same. Their growing numbers convince them that this long prophesied new age of enlightenment is drawing near. Sponge society is on the verge of a breakthrough. They are reaching the tipping point where more sponges than not will stop competing and will live in peace, mutual respect and love for one another. In other words, the day is coming when the ocean will absolutely saturate every sponge in the same way it has saturated the enlightened one.

Now, by this illustration we can see that such a hoped-for condition has nothing to do with time, spiritual evolution or any other factor deemed an obstacle to enlightenment. The difference between the enlightened and unenlightened sponge is not found in their actual state of being. It is found in their self-perception. One is the ocean expressing through a sponge, the other is a sponge who lives with the hope of becoming one with the ocean and its fellow sponges.

Think of the soul as this ocean water that flows within each sponge. When you think of this water in relation to the water flowing outside of this sponge, you see there is no difference. The sponge simply provides a unique point of awareness within the infinite context of the ocean. There are not many souls. There is but one. But this one soul expresses through many channels. There are many kinds of sponges, but there is only one ocean.

When we engage the practice of denial and affirmation, we deny (release) what is not true of the soul and affirm what is. What is not true of the soul is that it is immature and undeveloped and in need of many more lessons to grow in strength and stature. What is true of the soul is that it is complete, fully present and composed of exactly the same life, love, power and intelligence that is found in God. The soul is life, love, power and intelligence. We do not call upon or affirm these elements into being. We release our belief that the trauma we are presently going through indicates these elements are not fully present. Our attention has shifted from the peace of the ocean to the plight of the sponge.

We align our awareness with the truth that life, love, power and intelligence are present and they are, in fact, the very essence of our being. We would call the practice of this alignment prayer. However, the more important practice we would first engage is that of re-establishing our awareness in the ocean. This is meditation. Without this experience of the ocean, we pray amiss. Prayer becomes a mind game whose objective is to enhance the comfort of the sponge. We want the sponge to experience more peace, so we pray that those conditions that are upsetting to the sponge go away.

We first seek the experience of ourselves as ocean water, we then release that which is not true of the water and affirm that which is. What Paul called the mind of the flesh, we could call the mind of the sponge. The mind of the sponge is all about the preservation and comfort of the sponge. We want to shift our awareness to the indestructible truth of the water, to have in us the mind of the water that sets us free from the struggles of the sponge.

Many metaphysical teachings embrace the model of having to move from a point A to a point B to make our world a better place. Nonduality erases the notion of two points and makes them one. That one point is the realization of what is true of the soul: It is complete, it is present and it is the fulfillment of all we seek.