The Truth About Spiritual Enlightenment  

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The belief that our soul is evolving produces a number of side effects that have a subtly negative impact on how we approach our spiritual quest. One of these is our view of spiritual enlightenment. Many see this as a state they will reach after years of study and devotion, a time when they will live with the perpetual awareness of the wisdom of the ages and remain blissfully unperturbed when negative appearances arise.

The principles presented in The Complete Soul challenge this spiritual stereotype. Spiritual enlightenment is not a condition we find at the end of our spiritual journey; it’s a shift in values that truly marks the beginning of our spiritual journey.

I refer often to the parable of the man who discovered the buried treasure in a field, then sold his possessions so he could buy that field. This man was not enlightened after he owned the field. He was enlightened the moment he discovered the treasure. At that moment, his search for treasure ended. All his actions were then focused on possessing that which he had discovered.

You are enlightened the moment you realize you are an eternal, spiritual being who currently inhabits a physical body. You have discovered the buried treasure. Your work now is to free yourself from all previously learned falsehoods and bring the realization of your spiritual understanding to bear in every area of your life.

Implementing this truth is a progression. Coming to know it is not. When you connect with an idea you know at your very core is true, you cannot turn back. You will, of course, expand your understanding, but when you are moved by an exposure to what your soul knows is true, you are changed for life. No one can argue you off what you know is true. You are an enlightened being.

It is not wise to discuss this with others, as they will consider you arrogant. It’s nothing to brag about. You have simply reached that point in your journey where you have made a significant and permanent breakthrough. Recognize and cherish it.

The Body is a Choice

[excerpt from, The Complete Soul]

I want to close this chapter by sharing a few thoughts on the idea that we incarnated by choice, that we did so with the full understanding of the limitations and drawbacks involved. By this, I do not mean we knew we would have abusive parents, for example, or that we would suffer some handicap, or that we chose these or other issues for the lessons our soul needed. I realize some people draw comfort, even closure from this idea. Like many in my profession, I once embraced this theory as a way of helping others make sense of difficult experiences. Now I see this as an unnecessary spin-off of the evolutionary model. The idea of the complete soul offers a more spiritually productive, logical, and fulfilling perspective. From this starting point, logic dictates that further incarnations, with whatever experiences they hold, will not make the soul more complete. A full pail, after all, can hold no more water.

Someone will ask, if our soul did not come for the lessons life has to offer, then why would we go to the trouble of incarnating? I’ve given this question a lot of thought over the years, and I believe the answer is a lot less complicated than the evolving soul model allows. For reasons of our choosing, we came simply because we wanted to be here. Getting here meant we needed a vehicle, a way to bring our soul from the spiritual to the material plane. The most efficient way of doing this is through a body.

Saying the body is the most efficient way of bringing the soul into expression doesn’t mean that our experience of incarnating has been perfect. Stepping into the body vehicle made us susceptible to rough roads and all kinds of foul weather, so much so that the bulk of our attention has gone to the maintenance needs of the body vehicle and its journey, while the soul, in a sense, remains nearly unnoticed in the cargo hold.

A major pitfall of the evolving soul model is that it makes the spiritual experience about the vehicle, its journey, and the belief that we will one day arrive at some special destination on this earthly sojourn. The truth is we have arrived. We’ve been so busy looking for specific conditions on this planet that we have forgotten that earth itself is our destination. We didn’t come to experience life from the cab of this delivery truck, driving endlessly from one place to another, looking for the right location to offload and unpack our cargo. We came here to experience life from our soul, right here and right now, using this body vehicle as our means of being here.

I said earlier that we are here for reasons of our choosing. We may doubt this because, unlike picking last year’s vacation spot, we have no clear memory of making such a decision. This memory is there, however, embedded in those things that truly interest and come most natural to us. These things do not boost our egos, advance our positions, or make us feel powerful. These are the things we quietly and reverently give our time and attention to without pay, persuasion, or recognition.

I see in the process of writing books some useful parallels that may help shed light on our reasons for incarnating. People write books for all kinds of reasons. Some write for sheer entertainment, others for educational purposes. Still others combine education with entertainment. I write because I want to share ideas that I think are important and will be of value to my readers. Sharing these ideas requires a way of doing that and the book is my vehicle of choice. Writing a book is fraught with challenges. It involves embodying inspired ideas in words, sentences, paragraphs, and chapters that create a cohesive presentation one can read on a bus.

In the beginning of this section, I said we incarnated by choice, and that we did so with the full understanding of the limitations and drawbacks involved. I say this in the context similar to that of writing a book. When I made the decision to undertake this project, I knew from previous experience the nature of the challenges involved. Ideas often come in a flash and I can jot them down with relative ease. Including them in the context of a book is another matter. This can take hours, days, weeks, even months to accomplish. I have spent days working on a single paragraph only to delete it later. What comes quite easy on one level, is not so easy to express on another.

If we think of the soul as a set of ideas and the body as the book (our means of literally publishing the soul to the world), then we see the challenges we encounter in this incarnating/publishing process have little if anything to do with the soul itself. The ideas I want to convey through a book are largely unaffected by my struggle to convey them.

It is our associations of soul with body (our body-based self-image) that make our body-oriented challenges feel so personal. We mistakenly associate these challenges with the condition of our soul, but a clear understanding of the difference spares us this unneeded stress. Having great ideas is not the same as having the ability to put them in writing. This is where the work comes in.

If, as I have suggested, you were unfortunate enough to have had the experience of abusive parents, you may have made the mistake of interpreting this situation as something your soul needed to learn from these people. Dysfunctional, abusive people have little or nothing to teach our soul. Assigning them the role of teacher is often an attempt to put a positive spin on destructive behavior we struggle to forgive, a willingness to blame ourselves so we can let them off the hook and move on. Genuine forgiveness, however, has nothing to do with making peace with the actions of another. Forgiveness occurs when we touch our own wholeness and realize that the power and soul integrity we thought they took from us has remained with us all along. They may indeed provide the catalyst that causes us to look deeper into our soul, but what we find is nothing they brought. Nor does their negative influence have the power to detract from our real purpose for incarnating. We did not need their negativity to enrich or advance our soul. If we are giving people and various conditions this kind of power, we ourselves are obscuring our purpose for incarnating. We’re experiencing writer’s block, so to speak, staring blankly out the window, hung up on some writing issue, while our book goes unpublished.

The specific issues we encountered by taking on a body were, in all likelihood, unknown to us. Our soul did not choose them for the growth opportunities they might offer. On the other hand, fully aware of our soul’s completeness, we understood there would indeed be challenges associated with temporarily tethering this vast, nonlocalized essence we call our soul to a vehicle subject to the restrictive laws of time, space, and gravity. We are not here to work our way through the school of soul development, or to pay some karmic debt. We have incarnated for reasons similar to those I have agreed to take on when writing books: I do it because I want to. You and I are here because we made the choice to be here.

The Road Never Traveled

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“Each man must sooner or later learn to stand alone with his God; nothing else avails. Nothing else will ever make you master of your own destiny. There is in your own indwelling Lord all the life and health, all the strength and peace and joy, all the wisdom and support that you can ever need or desire. No one can give to you as can this indwelling Father. He is the spring of all joy and comfort and power” (Emilie Cady).

If I were to state the single most important message that I gleaned from Unity, it would be the thought that is embodied in the above paragraph. I shared a similar idea in an inspirational message I posted on Facebook:

“Many take the road widely traveled. A few take the road less traveled. Only you can take the road never traveled.”

Jesus said it in a slightly different way.

 “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head.” Matthew 8:20

You and I have our own unique connection with God. Cultivating an awareness with this connection will take us down a path that is unique to us. If we feel something is missing, we are likely in a situation that is out of sync with that son of man part of us that does not lay its head in the examples or the trails blazed by others. Our single-most important work is to know ourselves at the soul level and to bring our divine originality into expression.

Cady explains that, while there is a place for books and teachers, our ultimate guide is our own indwelling Lord, that divine fountain of life that is our soul. Some seek to be different as a kind of fashion statement of their spiritual independence. This never lasts. We are seeking to connect with that which we are at the spiritually authentic level, that aspect that requires no manipulating control of how we express. The dandelion does not emulate the rose, even as the rose draws the most positive attention.

When Jesus said he came to bear witness to the truth, he was speaking for you and me as well. We were born to bear witness to the truth, to take the road never traveled, the way of expression that is unique to our being.

 

The Immeasurable Mind

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Down by the Riverside

[From A Spiritual Journey]

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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?

Paper Pulp or Flour?

[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.

A Guiding Principle in Relationships

[Excerpt from, A Spiritual Journey]

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A question I hear often has to do with relationships. What is the best way to deal with, or interact with a negative person? There are, of course, many kinds of relationships. Some are close and long-term while others are casual and short-term. Because of the wide variety of relationship types, there are no pat answers to prescribed actions. There is, however, a guiding principle in relationships that you will eventually discover, if you have not already.

We are trained to think it is our religious duty, or the mark of a spiritually enlightened soul, to love everyone in spite of his or her immature, manipulative or needy behavior. Love, however, is not something we do for others. Love is a word that describes the true nature of our being, and being true to our spiritual nature is our first responsibility, our guiding principle.

If a loved one decides to sit waist deep in a pit of mud and asks you to join them, and they express clearly that if you do not grant their wish, they will be very hurt; would you feel it is your duty to appease them? Of course, you wouldn’t. You can offer your hand and help them out, but if they don’t want to come out, you will do the most for them by staying out of the pit.

There are many who desire to control others with the goal of building or maintaining their not-so-grandiose empires. If you allow yourself to be a pawn in their scheme, you become resentful. You will resent them for using guilt, shame, and pity to get their way, and you will resent yourself for confusing your compliance with love.

To love is to be a giver, but not necessarily at the level the requester is making. I give most when I believe in others, when I see that they are the inlet and may become the outlet to all there is in God. If I only give at the level they request, then I encourage them to stay at that level. This is not a very loving act when you think about it.

The best way to deal with a negative person is to continue to act from the highest that is in you. Either you’ll inspire them to follow your example or you’ll pry their fingers from your arm and move on. Either way, things will ultimately improve for you both.

Event Versus Experience

[Excerpt from A Spiritual Journey]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Revisiting Forgiveness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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