The Goal of the Goal

Click for YouTube: The Goal of the Goal

Click for audio: The Goal of the Goal

“For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice” (John 18:37).

This passage represents a partial response of Jesus while under interrogation by Pilate. When Pilate asks, What is truth?, Jesus makes no reply. Among Christian theologians, however, there is no shortage of answers as to the nature of truth, and Jesus’ purpose on earth.

Stripping this statement of its theological implications, we can see Jesus is simply saying that he understands the purpose of his incarnation as that of giving full expression to his soul, unhindered by the restrictions of the body-based self-image. Pilate, firmly established in his own position-oriented identity, could not grasp the profound implications of Jesus’ statement.

Think of Jesus as a window who is saying he is here to let in sunlight, to bear witness, not to himself as a window, but to the truth of the sun. The window may be dressed and beautified in a variety of ways, but always its purpose is to bring sunlight into the house.

You and I are designed to bring the light of our soul into everything we do. Our desire for greater freedom is the warmth of the spiritual sun shining from our innermost depths. We feel this warmth and we are inspired to find new ways to express it. All our endeavors become the means to the end of bringing forth the light. Our window can be as complex as a career or as simple as a kind word or gesture.

Try beginning your day with this thought: I enter this day with the single purpose of bearing witness to the truth of my soul. In all that I do, I let the light of God shine through. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth of who and what I am as an expression of God.

 

 

Seeing Through the Fog

Click for YouTube: Seeing Through the Fog

Click for audio: Seeing Through the Fog

It is often when your world is shrouded in fog that you gain your clearest vision.

We all have moments of doubt, times when the road ahead seems shrouded in a fog of uncertainty. Perhaps we are on a path that felt right when we started on it, but now seems unclear and confusing. Our original inspiration has evaporated, and we are in a quandary as to what to do. Or, we may have experienced major changes in our conditions that have left us baffled. People or things that served as anchors are no longer present and we feel adrift in a sea of apprehension.

In such times, it is good to remind ourselves that the inspiration that brought us to this ever-changing life rose from our depths. Our circumstances are simply the temporal clothing of the presence of God expressing through us. I always draw comfort from a verse given by Emma Curtis Hopkins:

He who hath led me to this way,

still on the way will show.

He who hath taught me of this way,

still more will make me know.

We naturally seek stability and predictability in our circumstances, for we feel safe when we achieve it. However, it is when our trust shifts from God to circumstantial stability that we begin to move away from that creative live-wire of faith that brought the seeming external stability in the first place. Drawn by the power of the sea, we built a magnificent sand castle on the beach. We admired and identified with it for a time, only to have it washed away by the restless tide of change. But the sea and its eternal inspiration remains. It is this living, ever moving ebb and flow that never leaves us that is as quick now to inspire and guide as ever.

We live in a world of change and absolute stability. Focused on that which changes, we gain and we lose. With God as our anchor, we lose only to gain. In our moments of uncertainty, we open our hearts to the assuring truth that God is with us, that new ways of being in this life are now unfolding for us, that the apparent end we are witnessing is only a new and fresh beginning to something at least as beautiful as we once had.

 

 

The God Perspective

Click for audio: The God Perspective

Click for YouTube video: The God Perspective

In the New Testament letter of James, we find this reference to God as the, “Father of lights with whom there is no shadow or variation due to change” (James 1:17). Presenting God as changeless is a significant departure from the traditional view of a moody Deity. We so routinely ask for God’s special favors that we may not be aware our perception of the behavior of the Divine as subject to change. Could James’ changeless Father of lights bless and not bless or pass out serpents and stones when we ask for fish and bread?

It is certainly easiest to think of God in terms of our human relationships. At times, we feel close to those around us and other times it seems there is not enough distance. For some we would grant favors without question while for others, our favors come with conditions.

There is a similar dynamic in our relationship to the sun. We have sunny days, cloudy days, daylight and darkness, sunrise and sunset. Depending on how near or far earth is from the sun, we have skin-burning summer and icy cold winter. The sun, it appears, has many moods. These variations, however, have less to do with the nature of the sun and more to do with our relationship to it.

When you think from the perspective of the sun itself, you see a different picture. How many days has the sun seen? We say this closest star is roughly 4.6 billion years old. But how do we measure a year? Multiply 365 sunrises by 4.6 billion and you have more days than most of us can wrap our minds around. The sun itself has seen but a single day, and that day has stretched throughout the duration of its existence. The sun has never risen, never set, never known the cold of winter or the blackness of night. It has never seen a shadow or shivered in the dark corner of a dank cellar. There is no variation due to change.

We cannot understand God from our ever-changing human perception. We must think of God from God’s perspective. From the sun’s point of view, we can understand how there is only one condition and that condition is light. It is only as we think of God from God’s perspective that we begin to grasp the truth that there is but one Presence and one Power. There is not good and evil, not light and shadows. There is only absolute good, as in absolute light.

The light that you and I seek is here now, has always been here, and will always be here. As we commit to opening our minds and hearts to the God perspective, every shadow dissolves into the nothingness from which it came.

Down by the Riverside

[From A Spiritual Journey]

[View: A Path to Self-Forgiveness] 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Grasshopper Element

[From, A Spiritual Journey. Adapted from, A Practical Guide to Prosperous Living, revised edition, J Douglas Bottorff]

[For your enjoyment: Moments of Inspiration]

The Old Testament offers a good illustration of the importance of self-image and the role it plays in determining how our circumstances unfold. Found in the thirteenth chapter of the book of Numbers, the story tells of how the nation of Israel, after having wandered in the wilderness for many years, was led by Moses 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 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, of which they did not agree, 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 thought otherwise. 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 interact with 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 is safe for 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. Caleb’s recommended action was that they proceed. If they had, they may have avoided the necessity of wandering for decades in the wilderness.

The eleven spies, operating from their grasshopper self-image, their strong sense of personal inadequacy, evaluated the problem from the basis of their inventory of external assets. Because they were physically smaller and probably outnumbered, their inventory appeared to be lacking, which meant they would be unable to defeat these inhabitants.

Caleb considered these obvious facts, but he did not allow them to influence his recommendation to move forward. Because the spiritually grounded individual does not base his or her decisions on appearances, they do not need all the answers to apparent problems before they begin moving forward. Armed with the awareness of their unlimited spiritual capacity, they know that solutions to every problem will present themselves as needed.

The important point of the story is this: Had the Israelites made their decision based on Caleb’s opinion, they wouldn’t have wandered aimlessly through the wilderness for all those years. Since they made their decision based on the majority’s opinion, their circumstances unfolded in quite a different way. The difference can be traced to the quality of the collective self-image held by this group.

The better you understand this dynamic, the less likely you are to call yourself a victim of circumstance. You will more likely take charge of your own destiny. If you measure what you can do in life by what you have in your personal inventory of external assets, you may not experience the life of your dreams. This inventory will never be quite large enough to instill in you the confidence to strike out in your desired direction. You can blame circumstances as the cause for not moving ahead, and you’ll probably get plenty of sympathy.

Remember, Caleb was the only one of the twelve who voted to go forward. The eleven, I’m sure, felt perfectly justified with their decision, even though they drew the strength of their conviction from each other’s opinions rather than from their spiritually sanctioned capabilities.

The problem often is not that a thing can’t be done. The problem is that when the majority agrees that it can’t be done, the chances are good that it won’t even be attempted. Caleb illustrates that the seemingly impossible is often possible, but the power to achieve it comes only when you agree to move forward.

Issue With the Self-Image

Question: If the self-image is the problem that you say it is, why is it so difficult to get rid of? Why isn’t the soul more assertive?

I have pointed out that I prefer to use the term self-image over ego because it encompasses more than we’ve been programmed to think. I think we could all agree that an inflated ego is a spiritual hindrance worthy of letting go. Few would agree that a shining self-image is as much a hindrance to the soul as the inflated ego. The reason for this is that everybody loves the shining self-image, the effervescent personality. Couple this with an attractive body and a pretty face and you have a winning combination, a magnet for success.

The self-image, in whatever form it comes, is our interpretation of a version of the self we think the world wants to see. It may be totally free of the characteristics we associate with an aggressive ego. It may be sweet, completely docile and give the impression that it thinks only of others. What the world cannot see is that this type self-image can be just as hungry for the approval of others as can the flamboyant egotist. Sweet or brash, neither self-image rests in the soul. Both are seeking compensation for the feeling that something essential is missing. They just go about it in different ways.

It is probably a mistake to set out to “get rid” of the self-image. We will more likely end up exchanging one version for another. The self-improvement industry is loaded with techniques designed to boost the self-image into a more polished look. It has, for example, become wildly popular to teach self-love as a healthy place to begin. Granted, loving your created self feels better than loathing it, but it does not free you of the need to continually try to escape it. Self-love, you hope, will somehow manifest as better conditions that will make you a happier person. Women in particular are targeted with this type of propaganda, encouraged to roar shamelessly to somehow prove their worth. It looks like an inside-out approach, but it’s really not. It’s just more noise from the inadequate self-image.

The ability to discern the difference between the soul and the self-image is critical to moving the I to its proper spiritual foundation. If you’re trying to change yourself to a more spiritual version, you are probably acting amiss. Your soul resides at the purest, easiest most natural level of your being. You don’t create it. You don’t enhance it. You find it. Until you find it, your value system will be grounded in this surface self forever in need of something more to make it feel okay.

If you were abused as a child or as a spouse, you may struggle with issues of worthiness. Trying to build worthiness into your self-image takes you away from the very source of power and self-worth that has always been yours. The soul is in no need of improvement or reinventing. The more you open your mind to its presence, the more you experience a natural shift in values. You will spend less time propping up an eternally inadequate self-image and more time practicing what it really means to let your genuine light shine.