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.

The Resurrection Principle

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Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24).

According to Matthew’s version of the resurrection, when “Mary Mag’dalene and the other Mary went to see the sepulcher,” they found it empty. An angel was there to tell them Jesus had risen from the dead. The Easter story presents the defining principle for both mainstream and alternative Christianity. In both cases, Easter illustrates that life, not death, is the truth behind all appearances to the contrary. We celebrate Easter in the Spring because all around us we see the resurrection of new life from the dry stalks and branches of apparent death, and we marvel at the tenacity and the proliferation of this mysterious, living energy. Traditional Christianity draws its meaning of Easter from the past, projecting its fulfillment as a glorious and everlasting future. In metaphysical Christianity, we invoke the principle of resurrection in our current affairs by letting go of the old and affirming the new. Life is always creating new channels through which to express itself. Our work is to make ourselves as open as possible to the renewing energy of this resurrecting force so that every point of our experience may expand and flourish. Are you sealed in a tomb of fear and negation, worried about your future, uncertain about the outcome of some current situation? Then begin to release this fear and affirm that the resurrecting power of life is now lifting you beyond all restrictions, all uncertainty, all inhibitions, and that your life is full of new possibilities, and those possibilities are unfolding now, like the spring buds bursting all around you. Open your mind to God’s resurrecting life right now, right where you are, and enjoy the blessings of a transformed experience.

Paper Pulp or Flour?

[Excerpt from A Spiritual Journey]

Someone raised the question of how we can consider God as being personal and universal at the same time. If we continue to assign human attributes to God, this is a difficult question to answer. If we think of God as the creative life force expressing through all, then it becomes much easier to grasp.

Let’s step back in time a bit and imagine diverting water from a river into a small channel (millrace) that turns the water wheel of a mill. The mill may be designed for any number of purposes, like grinding flour or making paper. In this simple but ingenious machine, we see a clear illustration of how the universal and personal can be understood.

The river and the water diverted into the race are universal. The water, indifferent to where it goes or how it is used, creates a current by forever seeking the lowest level. The mill is designed to utilize this current. What the mill produces is a personal choice of its builder. The mill (the personal), taps into the river (the universal), in a way that utilizes the river’s current.

In a very real sense, every individual is a kind of mill through which the creative life force (life, love, power and intelligence) is diverted. What we produce as our personal experience is not the effect of this universal source, but the effect of what we have set up to mill.

Our milling mechanism consists of our executive faculties of imagination, faith, judgment, will and elimination. Through the interactive combination of these faculties, we churn out the experience we see as our life. When we don’t like what we see, our normal reaction is to ask God to give us different results. This would be like the miller saying to the river, “I want to produce flour but all I’m getting is paper pulp.” What goes on between God and the individual is not the issue; it’s what goes on inside the mill that matters. The wheel of manifestation is always turning.

What do we do when we’re making paper pulp and we would rather be grinding flour? Although I list elimination as the fifth of our executive faculties, this may be a case where we bring it to the forefront. We may need to focus on letting go of our habit of making paper pulp when we really want flour.

“But I’ve always made paper pulp,” someone will argue. I don’t know what else to do. There is a bit of good news here. You don’t have to let go of your paper pulp business to begin the process of releasing it. You start exploring and releasing within yourself all the reasons you believe you are trapped making paper pulp. For example, you may be saying, I want to make a change but it’s going to cost money, so I can’t make the change until I get the money. Because you’ll probably never get enough money to feel comfortable about making the change, you’ll just keep pumping out the paper pulp and maybe hoping the river will rise, turn your wheel a bit faster and make enough pulp to sell out and move on.

Rather than list and rehearse all the many reasons you can’t make the change, simply say to yourself, it’s okay to go. This is your faculty of elimination at its best. It’s okay to go. This simple statement stirs the imagination. It awakens your faculty of faith to new possibilities. You willingly agree that it’s okay to go. Your faculty of judgment comes alive discerning the many ways you have been telling yourself it’s not okay to go.

The problems of the personal are not the effects of the universal. Don’t pray to the river to change the mill. You and I are not grinding away in our paper pulp mills because the river is forcing us to. We’re doing what we do because we’ve set up our mill to do it. The river is no happier when we’re making flour than when we’re churning out paper pulp. Nor is it forcing us to make paper pulp to pay off some karmic debt or because we happened to have a couple of dysfunctional parents or we married the wrong person. The river happily flows along letting us make whatever we want – paper pulp or flour.

The Grasshopper Mentality

[Slightly revised excerpt from A Practical Guide to Prosperous Living]

The Old Testament offers a good illustration of the importance of self-image and the role it plays in determining how our circumstances unfold. The story is found in the thirteenth chapter of the book of Numbers.

According to the story, after having wandered in the wilderness for many years, Moses brought the nation of Israel to the border of the land the Lord had promised Abraham a few generations before. Moses, desiring to measure the strength and numbers of the occupants of this land, sent in twelve spies to gather intelligence. Upon their return, he summoned the twelve to give their assessment of the situation. They returned from their intelligence gathering mission with good news and bad news. The good news, and all twelve agreed on this, was that this was indeed a land of abundance, a land flowing with milk and honey. The bad news, which they all did not agree on, was whether Israel was capable of overcoming the inhabitants. The majority of spies, eleven to be exact, reported that the people of the land were strong and the cities were large and well fortified. Their conclusion? “We can’t take on these people, for they are stronger than us.”

There was one spy, Caleb, who did not agree. His advice to Israel was this: “Let us go up at once and occupy it; for we are well able to overcome it.”

How could it be that Caleb and his eleven companions could see the same people but evaluate them in two completely different ways? The answer is simple. These conflicting evaluations were not based on the actual people they saw. Their evaluations were based on how they saw themselves. This interesting fact is revealed in the report of the eleven when they said, “We seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers and so we seemed to them.”

Naturally, if you see yourself as a “grasshopper,” it is going to affect the way you create your circumstances. A grasshopper mentality affects what you believe you can and cannot do. These grasshopper beliefs influence the decisions you make, your decisions determine actions that are in keeping with your grasshopper beliefs and your actions influence the way your circumstances unfold. In other words, if you see yourself as a grasshopper, you will naturally want to create an environment that accommodates grasshoppers.

Because they saw themselves as grasshoppers, the eleven did not believe they could overcome the inhabitants of the land. They recommended to Moses and the assembly that Israel should take no action against these inhabitants. If the assembly had accepted their recommendation, Israel would never have occupied their land of promise. The circumstances of an entire nation would have been adversely affected by the grasshopper self-image of these eleven spies.

Caleb, on the other hand, did not see himself as a grasshopper. He saw himself as a warrior for the Lord who was simply accepting the land that the Lord had promised Israel through Abraham years before. This divinely-sanctioned self-image gave him quite a different perspective of the situation. It caused him to believe Israel, through the strength of this sacred promise, could overcome these inhabitants.

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.

Good Questions

Questions: You say that evolution is environmentally driven. Wouldn’t learning more about our spiritual nature be considered an evolution in understanding? Are you trying to say that the human race is not moving toward a more spiritually enlightened state?

Response: When we think of spiritual issues, we have to think in terms of two realms: The spiritual and the biological or material. The spiritual is the unseen, first-cause and the material is the visible vehicle that carries it. The spiritual realm is not subject to the material environment. If the spiritual is to continue to express through material form, however, then the material form must be in sync with the environment. If, due to significant environmental changes, a material form goes extinct, the spiritual realm continues unaffected and will express as a different form suited to the new environment. Scientists tell us that 99.9% of all species that have ever existed have gone extinct. Yet this energy we know as life persists as strong as ever.

When science says that life evolves, they are referring to the biological forms that life takes. This is because science is dominated by materialistic thinking. It is assumed that life is generated by the physical forms that express it. Unfortunately, many in the spiritual community have done the same thing. The state of humanity is associated with environmental values which include the state of the physical body and the current state of social conditions. At a certain level, we accept that life cannot die and the source of all peace and harmony must be found at the spiritual level. Because disease, aging, death and discord are still mingled in the human experience, we mistakenly interpret these conditions as evidence of spiritual immaturity. In defining the core and condition of man, we take our eye off the soul (the changeless) and focus on the body and social environment (the ever-changing). We place the soul in an evolutionary framework that simply does not apply.

Is the desire to learn more about our spiritual nature evidence of an evolving soul? Not necessarily. The accumulation of facts, even spiritual facts, has nothing whatsoever to do with the state of the soul. It’s the difference between looking at a beautiful photograph of a mountain and actually experiencing the mountain. One can accumulate a library of books full of mountain photography, but this is not the same as actually experiencing mountains. We can argue that an interest in collecting mountain photography is a sign that the collector is moving toward a mountain experience, but this is not necessarily true. In addition, a person who does not have even a single photograph of a mountain can have a mountain experience. Photos are not required.

In our quest for spiritual understanding, we naturally pick up books and look to teachers to guide us on our way. While these prove to be inspirational and helpful in many ways, these sources of information serve to shape our opinion of our spiritual state. Drawing inspiration from another is not the same as a direct experience of one’s own soul. Yet we’re not aware of this distinction. We actually mistake inspiration for a spiritual experience. Because of this, inspiration becomes a kind of drug that we inject first thing in the morning and hope it gets us through the day. We probably require several injections to keep us positively upbeat. The whole notion of soul evolution is tied to the belief that we must acquire so much spiritual information that we stay spiritually high forever.

As seen in this paraphrase, Jesus debunked this false notion: You say four months to harvest, but I’m telling you to lift your spiritual eyes and see the fields ready for harvest now. The “four months to harvest” is tied to the false belief of soul evolution which, in turn, is tied directly to the evolutionary process we see at work in the material domain. In this regard, the spiritual and the material realms are absolutely unrelated. The material, not the spiritual, is subject to evolution.

Is the human race evolving toward a more spiritually enlightened state? No. If anything, the human race is moving away from its true source of enlightenment. An individual does not discover his or her soul in a community of like-minded believers. The individual must go alone to actually experience the inner fountain of the soul. This is how we are designed. I have pointed out that our faculty of imagination has an intuitive side that opens directly to the soul and a visualizing side that opens to the world of externals. Collectively, we have closed the intuitive side and relied only on the visualizing side. We visualize images given to us by the get-rich-quick prophets posing as spiritual teachers (who are usually the only ones who get rich), while ignoring that gnawing question of the value of gaining the world at the expense of losing sight of the soul. As long as we follow the pied pipers of materialism — those who assure us we’ll find our missing core in the accumulation of things — we will never be free of the feeling that something essential to our being is missing.

The senses-based self-image – the mask, the personality – is a herding animal. It needs to be surrounded by a group from which it may draw its strength and identity. In contrast, the soul is self-existent, self-sustaining, drawing its strength and identity directly from the creative life force we call God. It does not matter that the bulk of humanity is engaged in an endless splashing through the shallows of popular culture (especially spiritual popular culture) chasing that eternally elusive brass ring of spiritual enlightenment.

Every individual has direct access to their fully developed soul. The soul is what we seek. Find this and all else is added.

Your All-Knowing Center

Behind every desire, whether it’s health, supply, or relationship related, the two conditions we seek are freedom and peace. Unfortunately, we often fail to experience either because we make both contingent on the achievement of some other thing. I’ll be free when I make that last payment. I’ll be free when I ditch this job and get a better one. I’ll find peace when I meet my soulmate, or when the world starts getting along.

When Jesus spoke of the truth that sets us free, and a peace beyond that which the world offers, he was articulating a principle of the complete soul. The soul is always free and at peace. We may argue that we are shaken to our core, but we’re really saying we’ve been shaken to our center of focus on the more surface values of the self-image. We’re imprisoned by the fear of losing something that is empowering, not to the soul, but to the self-image.

The soul is not threatened. The soul has no need of money, a healthy body, or the companionship of another. Remembering this, we move from the life and death struggle of the self-image to our free and peaceful center. We find our true point of strength. We also discover the straightest, clearest path to resolving these surface ripples that we mistakenly believe have the power to rob us of our freedom and destroy our peace.

Sound impractical? It’s not. I was recently confronted with a situation that, at first, appeared to have the power to enslave me in doubt and fear and rob me of my peace. I have been at this juncture many times and I have observed the futility of succumbing to the appearance. However, in every case I have eventually rediscovered my point of strength, my soul, and I have worked through each situation to a successful conclusion. This time I started at the soul level, holding my peace from the strength and freedom of my soul.

The valley of the shadow of death, those seeming dark moments in life, are never experienced at the soul level. Only the senses-driven self-image makes this plunge. It’s not a requirement, it’s only a really bad habit. The self-image has created a list of required items for freedom and peace. When these are threatened, our spiritual ideals fly out the window. We then compound the problem by calling these inner skirmishes lessons for the soul. But it’s not the soul that’s in need of learning. It’s the self-image trying to imitate the soul that keeps affirming this spiritual insult.

We cannot teach the self-image how to be free and peaceful. We can use the challenge before us now to remind ourselves that any fear we may feel is but an indication that we are not consciously centered in the soul. We were not given a spirit of fear. Nothing in the world is greater than the eternal core of our being. Freedom and peace are the present and unchanging condition of the soul. We can keep telling ourselves we have much to learn, or we can move again to that all-knowing center of power that is our soul.