Regain Your Spiritual Center of Strength

We all have a center of strength, a place from which we live life with a deep sense of confidence and well-being, the feeling that we’re on the right track. But it’s more than this. It’s a deeply intuitive knowing that we are something much more than our cumulative history. We know ourselves as a spiritual being whose essence is grounded in something greater than the surface personality we hold out to the world. This knowing is more than intellectual information gleaned from book studies. It’s the unshakable knowledge that our being is derived from the living presence of God, the source of all. This is the place we go when our world appears to be collapsing and our faith is shaken to its very core.

It’s obvious by the level of unrest we see in the world that many have strayed from their center of strength, that something essential to their happiness is missing. Ironically, the closer one lives to the surface of his or her being, the more prone they are to embrace the belief that this gnawing dissatisfaction can somehow be addressed through external means. They assume their place of rest and peace of mind is located on a distant horizon. Yet they reach that horizon only to find another. They set and accomplish goal after goal, with none ever being quite as fulfilling as they had hoped. The satisfaction gleaned never fully quenches their thirst for that missing element.

Does this mean that we throw in the towel and give up hope of finding satisfaction on this earth? No. But we need to learn to look in the right place to experience it. Our craving for that missing element is not satisfied by the temporal manna of material accomplishment. The fulfillment we seek is found in a much deeper yet more accessible place. And while it has become a cliché to say our answers are found within, this is still as true today as ever. Our challenge is to move beyond simply mouthing such feel-good words and come to know and experience the deeper reality they represent.

Emerson gave us an excellent way to understand this when he wrote, “Every man is an inlet and may become an outlet to all there is in God.” To appreciate the wisdom of his words, we can think of two types of ponds. The first is a simple depression dug in the ground and filled by the external sources of rain and runoff. This pond has no outlet. The second is fed from an underground spring. Because this pond is filled from a perpetual water source, it creates its own outlet to accommodate the natural overflow.

Now suppose we use each of these ponds to irrigate two separate fields of corn. We must pump water from the rain-filled pond. With the spring-filled pond, we only need to dig a canal from the outlet to the field. The corn in both fields starts out well, but it isn’t long before we notice a drop in the water level of the rain-fed pond. With no rain in sight, we begin rationing water. Soon we notice a difference in our two fields. Over time, the field irrigated by the rain-fed pond begins turning brown and becomes stunted from a lack of water. The second field, irrigated by the spring-fed pond, continues to flourish.

If you think of yourself as the pond and the field as your life, with which of these two ponds do you most identify? Many will respond positively to Emerson’s imagery, yet in practice will find themselves behaving more like the rain-fed pond. There’s a very good reason for this. In our daily life, most of what we do involves the field of material matters. It’s easy to tie our sense of happiness and well-being, even our identity, to the condition of the crop. We can so turn away from our natural inlet as to forget that it’s even there. We begin to define ourselves based on the condition of the field. Because of this, we turn to the sky (outside sources) for answers. When the rains come, life is good. When they stop, we wonder what we may have done wrong and what we can do to bring rain. We pray to the rain gods, so to speak, with the hope of influencing the weather.

The spring-fed pond, on the other hand, is unaffected by changes in the weather. Because it maintains the same steady flow of water in rain or drought, it thinks of the field and its crop in a very different way. The field is the effect of its oneness with the spring. We could direct its waters to any kind of crop, or no crop, and it would still be the spring-fed pond that it is. Lack is not a word in its vocabulary.

From the point of view of each of these ponds, how might we define success and prosperity? The focus of each is completely different. With the rain-fed pond, we associate prosperity with externals like rain and the condition of the crop. With the spring-fed pond, we associate prosperity with the pond’s natural internal connection to the spring. Having or not having enough are never concerns with this pond. In terms of peace of mind, we can see how the rain-fed pond might experience ups and downs while the perpetually supplied spring-fed pond, not subject to the possibility of lack, maintains a steady experience of peace.

Let’s return to Emerson’s, Every man is an inlet and may become an outlet to all there is in God. Notice he didn’t say that some people are rain-fed ponds and others are spring-fed ponds. He said that every person is a spring-fed pond. Many, however, believe and behave as if they are a rain-fed pond, that their good comes from external sources. The process we refer to as the spiritual path, then, is not a matter of evolving from a rain-fed pond to a spring-fed pond. It’s a matter of waking up to the truth that we are each now a spring-fed pond. Every person is an inlet and may become an outlet to all there is in God. How do we transition from a rain-fed self-image to the truth of our spring-fed nature?

Considering our illustration, it’s important to be clear on a couple of points. We are not an inlet to the cornfield. We direct our outlet to the cornfield. The cornfield is the effect of a our choice as to how we direct our water. Praying for more rain and visualizing a more abundant crop does not produce a healthy harvest. It’s the steady supply of water that ensures the better crop. Prosperity depends on our keeping the spring open.

Water in this case represents the universal energy that is God. This energy is brought to bear on the kind and quality of life we want. As Emilie Cady points out, it isn’t more things (corn and rain) that we’re after but a deeper awareness of God that we seek. Empowered by this awareness, we till and plant the field of our life knowing all that we need to take each step is provided. From the spiritual perspective, it’s never the thing, but the energy that produces the thing that we seek to experience first. It is then that, as Jesus pointed out, the thing itself is added. Like the spring-fed pond, we are supplied from the inside out. The successful crop is the inevitable result.

It’s not just individuals who fall into the trap of behaving as if they are rain-fed ponds. Many leaders in the New Thought community have turned from emphasizing the individual’s oneness with the spring to oneness with the rain-fed ponds of the world. This is driven by the notion that one rain-fed pond may have a little water, but a collective of rain-fed ponds has a lot of water. If we all ban together, there will be plenty of water to go around. Under the guise of such catchphrases as “spiritual social action” and “mission concentric ministry,” their emphasis is on finding ways to redistribute water from the haves to the have nots. In truth, a hundred rain filled ponds don’t hold a candle to the power of a single spring-fed pond. Imagine how powerful a hundred spring-fed ponds would be!

Bringing individuals back to their spring-fed source was the primary focus of the founders and pioneers of the early New Thought movement. Fortunately, it still is with some, but much of today’s spiritual pop culture has turned instead to the politically charged landscape of social reform. While they claim this is a natural evolution, the reverse is actually true. This makeshift, outside/in approach to changing the world is as old as civilization itself. The seers of all ages who have encouraged the inside/out approach have always been a minority voice crying in the wilderness of popular human thought. The shift back to our spiritual center cannot be accomplished in groups. Souls, again as Emerson wrote, are not saved in bundles. We each have our own inner spring and our return to it is a private affair. No spiritual community can take us to this inner sanctuary. They can only encourage and support us in our return.

If you feel your life has lost its meaning or is moving in a direction that does not suit you, it’s probably time to re-establish yourself in your spiritual center of strength. Take time to become still, to hold this image of yourself as a spring-fed pond being filled from within. As you regain your spiritual strength and power, you will view and approach your life with new vision, new enthusiasm, and possibly a whole new direction.

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.

Natural Supply

(Chapter 9 of The Complete Soul)

Our prodigal awareness, forever trolling the reef-laden shallows of the material domain, never quite forgets that our real home has no shores. We sit in the safety of the harbor with our books, our teachers and our sacred scriptures. We visit the beach, gaze in reverence and wonder into that mist-shrouded horizon that stirs in us a strange mix of mystery and primordial familiarity. With our values, our house and our affairs orderly and firmly established in harbor life, we think a certain way, the starting point always from these surrounding beaches. We contemplate and read about the sea and we seek to reconcile the fact that we are so deeply moved by this boundless vista, this restless living thing that stirs before us.

Then, at some unexpected moment, a profound revelation breaks into our awareness. Our house may indeed stand in the harbor, our ship, safely moored at the pier, but our true home is the open sea. This incessant longing that keeps bringing us back to the wonder we behold from this beach, to the feel of cool waves washing over our feet, is that completed part of us that never has and never shall leave the unconditional freedom of this eternal sea. To know this truth and to value it above all is to put our heart in the Truth that makes us free. – JDB

As we’ve seen, one of the restrictions we encounter with a body is its care and maintenance. Yet when Matthew included Jesus’ discourse on the lilies of the field and the birds of the air, he did so in a way that suggests a condition where the body is supplied by something transcending the usual sweat-of-the-brow approach to meeting our material needs. He may have been hinting at this with Nicodemus when he pointed out the need to be born anew, to dislodge focus on the body-centered self-image and move the awareness back to its rightful place … the soul. Might this have been why he also said, “And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.[1] Is he not calling attention to our true being as spiritual rather than biological?

Extended Dependence as Infants

Of all living creatures, we humans take the prize when it comes to extended dependence in infancy. Unless we were fortunate enough to be born to parents who did not confuse our soul with our body (this would be a cultural rarity), we have much to learn, not in the way of soul education, but in bodily disassociation. While in the womb, we took no thought of hunger, warmth, and security. The instant we emerged from this all-sustaining incubator, any absence of these accustomed comforts suddenly became a factor. We were, for the first time, introduced to the reality of lack. In addition, people took the place of the womb in providing our physical comforts and essentials.

It was during this critical phase of infancy that our life of service to the needs of the body began. The culture into which we were born inadvertently lured us into the hope that we could draw permanent sustenance and satisfaction from the material world. In the eyes of some, competition for resources began a cognitive arms race, as one evolutionary biologist describes it.[2] We experienced the nakedness of lack and decided we would do most anything to avoid it. Possession-based esteem issues were born (without this or that thing, I’m not good enough). These were our formative years, our conformative years, our fall, that transitioning period when the self-awareness shifted from the natural, inwardly oriented soul that took on a body, to a body-centered self-image that started carrying the abstract notion of having a soul.

This fundamental shift in identity, this separation of the self-awareness from the soul, becomes for us the “… way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way to [spiritual] death.[3]

The day, the very minute that our physical body entered this worldly harbor, was marked, recorded, and certified as the beginning of our existence. Programmed to associate who and what we are at the body level, the birthday clock began ticking, and our body-centered self, exposed and beholden to the restrictions of Newtonian law, kicked in. Suddenly we had our father’s eyes or our mother’s hair, and a physical brain treated as a blank tablet to be socialized and filled with the information that would enable us to cope with our strange new reality. We became the star pupil or the dumb kid in the class, the athlete or the nerd, the homecoming queen or the plain Jane. We were evaluated, not on the order of the once-familiar eternal scale of the soul, but on a culturally calibrated scale, subject to time and space, genetics, social performance, I.Q., age, looks, rich or poor, popularity and by all else that transpires between the book ends of the birth and death of our physical body. Perhaps our parents and educators determined that our natural talents and interests had no monetary potential and discouraged their development. You and I have stepped into a world that largely ignores the warning of Emerson:

“Don’t be deceived by dimples and curls. I tell you that babe is a thousand years old.”

Our world trades in the currency of dimples and curls, and is largely asleep to the soul. The materialists tell us that God is nothing more than a primordial need, a naturally selected configuration of neurons, evolved in the brain as a genetic response to our need to invent meaning in an otherwise meaningless world. The thousand-year-old babe is thrown out with the bathwater the moment the umbilical cord is severed and we are laid to suckle at our mother’s breast.

With the intuitive portal all but closed, the self-awareness merges with the ego and takes on the unintended role as the ruling force in the tiny universe that is the self-image and its accompanying galaxy of consciousness. Consciously cut off from the soul, the self-image measures its strength, worth, and relevance by the type and quality of external positions and possessions it acquires. This false sense of identity engages the visualizing aspect of the imagination and all other faculties in a life-long quest to draw fulfillment from external sources. The cognitive arms race is game on in earnest.

Law of Attraction/Positive Thinking

Those who discover the correlation between their consciousness and their life’s conditions may be drawn to a class of teachings that shift the focus from hard labor to positive mental attitudes as a means of acquiring the things they desire. This affirmative approach based on the law of attraction advocates developing and attracting conditions of healing and prosperity through the practice of positive mental attitudes and the power of positive thinking. This approach is good as far as it goes.

From the Gospel of Matthew, we get the sense that Jesus warned against the practice of laying up earthly treasures where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break in and steal,[4] regardless of the method of acquisition employed. Jesus bluntly distinguishes between God and mammon,[5] leaving little doubt that the worship of one meant the denial of the other. And yet, as I’ve already pointed out, one of the most beautiful passages of scripture also comes from Matthew’s account, with Jesus clearly stating that a genuine understanding of our spiritual heritage naturally translates into a life free of fear and material want; a condition already enjoyed by the birds of the air and the lilies of the field.

“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.”[6]

We may declare our main interest is in spiritual matters, but we would probably be most honest admitting our motive in seeking first the kingdom is simply a means to the greater end of having all these things. We are still shackled with the problem of the soul engaged in the human experience from within a physical body whose needs provide much of the incentive that drives our quest for spiritual understanding. We sit up and take notice when a man like Jesus suggests the triumph of spirit over matter. The quest for spiritual understanding can easily take a back seat to finding that elusive key to a restriction-free physical body and material environment.

The context of this saying clearly indicates that the “kingdom” is of far greater value than any material benefits it might generate. In addition, gaining an understanding of it does not seem to involve a patient process of consciousness building that will one day bring our evolving soul into alignment with a universe of material abundance. We are led to believe that it is our understanding and trust in the present and accessible spiritual domain, awaiting our recognition that fulfills our material requirements; a state that brings to mind that carefree harmony between soul and body that we enjoyed in the womb.

Not God or Mammon

The appeal of practical Christianity is the hope that the system Jesus taught will make us masters of our bodies and material environment. How to heal the body, generate prosperity, get a better job, or find our soul mate are the things we’re hoping to achieve through a deeper understanding of this kingdom. Though these represent practical solutions to the problems of the human experience, our focus only on what we deem practical may also keep us from asking and seeking answers to some deeper, much larger questions.

In some ways, the notion of spiritual progress becomes a set of blinders focused only on how adept we are at material demonstration. Rather than commit to actually entering this higher sphere, we often treat it as a means of drawing from a basket the goods we desire and solutions to the problems that confront us in this earthly endeavor. The point we may miss in our quest for things is that, from our soul’s point of view, it has never been a question of God or mammon. God is one presence, one power expressing at all levels. Our needs are met at each level. Are we settling for just the visible aspect of available support, or do we seek an understanding of that unseen Source that sustains the soul? I do not think Jesus is urging his listener away from fulfilling their material needs. I believe he is coaxing them toward an understanding of the fuller spectrum.

Because Jesus makes an issue of the worship of God and mammon, some have concluded that he was advocating material deprivation. The keyword here is worship. To worship is to venerate something as an idol. Whether we are idolizing a stone statue, a religious relic, or a pile of money there is a difference between seeing an object as a source of power, and seeing it as a symbol or a reminder of that deeper reality that is the source of all power. The trap many fall into with the practice of tithing, for example, is that they designate a percentage of their income as God’s. The real power of tithing kicks in when we look beyond percentages and realize that 100% of all that we receive and give is God’s.

Veneration of the symbol, seeing it as the object of fulfillment, is worshiping mammon. The symbol is an expression, an effect of the deeper reality. When our priority is to experience and understand at this level, then its material counterpart sheds its status as mammon. Who would consider a peaceful walk in the woods, with all the natural beauty that we see, hear, touch, and smell as mammon? Yet the material aspect of the natural world is the visible counterpart of an underlying, supporting reality we do not see. The issue is not the material realm as the cause of our problems, but our belief that material things can deliver what only the soul can give.

Take No Thought

Jesus’ statement that we take no thought, or refrain from being anxious concerning what we shall eat, drink, or wear[7] suggests a method of manifestation that does not require our physical blood, sweat, and tears. It does not tap our subconscious storehouse of information, or engage in the kind of extensive intellectual analysis that normally accompanies our attention to meeting the body’s needs. Given its natural means of expression, the soul projects directly from its own self-sustaining existence those ideas necessary to form the consciousness that inspires the kind of physical action that translates into the various aspects of our material environment. In other words, Jesus is suggesting a manifestation process that bypasses altogether all the wants and needs of the self-image we have created. Rather than the self-image — with its fears, inadequacies, and limitations calling the consciousness-building shots — it is from the soul that our flow of instruction comes.

The self-image has hijacked this otherwise very natural flow that we see in play everywhere in nature. Plants and animals do not have the intellectual capacity or the imagination that allows them to establish a self-image capable of interfering with the manifestation process. The soul of the simplest seed is complete. From this soul, a totally fulfilling manifestation process occurs. Why would we, of far greater creative capacity, think of ourselves as being any less equipped than even the least of these?

From this understanding, it is clear that Jesus knew exactly what he was talking about when he urged his listeners to seek first the kingdom and all else would be added. The problem that our self-image encounters with this instruction is that it has subconscious files filled with information on what it believes the “kingdom” is supposed to look like. When it gets no satisfactory results running to these files, it continues its pursuit to understand by checking the files of others. Perhaps if Jesus had not used the term “kingdom” and instead said the answers we seek are encoded in our soul, many might have been saved much grief searching for something in their own memory banks that already exists within their being.

As we begin to reopen the intuitive aspect of the imagination, our soul’s light gradually reaches the visioning aspect. New and spontaneous imagery is generated, possibly as mental pictures, but more likely as a deep and secure inner knowing that something transcending our normal thinking is beginning to emerge. This knowing will often come in flashes of insight at unexpected times throughout the day. We recognize the spiritual authenticity of this rising light as a stark contrast to any notion of spiritual illumination our self-image has conjured up thus far.

Our real adventure of contemplation, exploration and discovery on this earth truly begins with the conscious recovery of a soul-based perspective. To use another bit of wisdom attributed to Jesus, though we are missing one of our one hundred sheep, we still own them all.[8] The missing one is the understanding that our soul is now whole. This is but a perceptual problem, a forgetting that we are here in this earthly harbor by choice and we are still fully supplied and supported within the womb of God.

The practice of meditation, which we will explore in the following chapter, has but one purpose. This purpose is to open the intuitive portal of the imagination, to get a firm grasp on our true home at sea, to stir in us the courage to cast off the lines that bind us to this shore, and set sail for the open water


[1] Matthew 23:9

[2] Roeder, Mark. 2013. Unnatural Selection: Why The Greeks Will Inherit the Earth. HarperCollins.

[3] Proverbs 14:12

[4] Matthew 6:19

[5] Matthew 6:24

[6] Matthew 6:31-33

[7] Matthew 6:31

[8] Matthew 18:12