Tuesday, August 25, 2020
Sunday, July 26, 2020
For an overview of the concept of spiritual health and a way of working with the model to assess one's level of spiritual health, click here.
To review the twelve components of spiritual health, this list with links is provided:
Wednesday, July 1, 2020
Spiritual health - the concept and map
One of the components of the UU A Way Of Life mission is to improve spiritual health. Before we can improve spiritual health we have to have a baseline, a reference point from which to compare. To ascertain a baseline we have to have a description of its components and indicators of the presence and strength of those components we can measure. What are the components of spiritual health? Here’s a suggested list to start:
- Peace and joy
- Attunement with the non dualistic Oneness
- Unconditional love
- Felt connection to the interdependent web
- Freedom from and freedom to
- Self efficacy
- Not knowing and curiosity
The way these components can be measured simply is to answer the question, “To what extent has this factor been present in your life in the past several months or year on a scale of 0 -10 with 0 meaning 0% of the time, 10 meaning 100% of the time and 5 meaning 50% of the time?” This is meant to be a self report, and it may be helpful to get a best friend or trusted other who knows you very well like a spiritual director, a therapist, a life partner to rate their perception of the presence of these factors in your life as well.
Once a rating has been identified, this is your baseline. The next question is how can you kick it up a notch over the coming weeks, months or year?
Plan to increase one unit
Peace and joy
Attunement to non dualistic Oneness
Felt connection to interdependent web
Freedom from and freedom to
Not knowing and curiosity
These components are not listed in any particular order. They all are important and exist in balance with each other. They comprise a part of a system.
Once you have done the rating, pick one to work on for a period of time, a day, a week, a couple of weeks, a month. At the end of the practice time period re-rate the existence of the component in your life, and develop a further plan of practice either on the same component or choose another one.
Enhancing one’s spiritual health is facilitated by intentional choice and practice. However, the basic choice is simple: the path of the ego or the path of the spirit? This choice is called in many religious philosophies as “wrong mindedness” or “right mindedness.” You will know when you are on the right track when you experience less fear and more peace and joy.
Tuesday, June 30, 2020
Not knowing and curiosity
The twelfth component of spiritual health is not knowing and curiosity. This afterall is what the word “faith” means. Faith is not belief and not knowing. If we know, we have no need for faith because we have certainty. Nothing kills faith quicker and more easily than certainty. When it comes to God and the transcendent there is no place for certainty.
On the other hand, curiosity is wonderful, enjoyable, opens us up to all kinds of possibilities. Not knowing, and knowing that one does not know, is the hallmark of humility, and reverence, and awe. Socrates taught that the hallmark of wisdom is knowing that one does not know. We learn as we get older that we but witness the shadows on the wall of Plato’s cave. As St. Paul says, we look through the glass dimly.
When we are sixteen we know everything. In each decade of life, as it progresses, we become more and more humble and recognize how little we know. Least of all, do we know ourself. We don’t know from where we have come, what we are doing here, or where we are going. These existential questions fill many people with terror. The anxious and fearful grab on to any promise of happiness and certainty offered. They cannot withstand any more uncertainty in their lives and there are plenty of charlatans who stand ready for a buck, for power, for status and prestige willing to give them the answers. People are more than willing, even grateful, to surrender their sovereignty and give their power away.
It takes courage and bravery to live with uncertainty, to give it up and admit not knowing, and to engage with the existential questions with an attitude of curiosity. Not knowing is not only a sign of wisdom but a sign of spiritual health. Life is a journey in pursuit of truth and meaning, a pursuit which never concludes here on the ego plane until our body dies. Then who knows?
The choice is simple. Do we put our faith in certainty or uncertainty. There is a slogan, “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.” There is a bar card which reads, “If you think you know what you are talking about, you are full of bull shit.” As we advance in spiritual health, we put our faith in curiosity and not knowing and eschew those who would profess certainty.
Monday, June 29, 2020
The eleventh component of spiritual health is laughter and a sense of humor. St. Paul writes in his first letter to Corinthians that we are fools for Christ. St. Paul is maybe alluding to the fact that when we give up faith in the path of the ego and embark on the path of the Spirit, we look to people still on the path of the ego like fools. And indeed this is correct perception. We no longer have put our faith in the idols of the ego to make us happy. The whole idea has come to seem ludicrous.
When we start to tune in to the absurdity, incongruity, and paradox embedded in the path of the ego what could be a more appropriate response other than to laugh? We laugh with, not at. The holy laughter is not sarcastic or derisive. Holy laughter does not put people down and is not the laughter of contempt and disdain. Holy laughter empowers and broadens perspective. Holy laughter opens up our hearts and contributes to a joining which comes from the recognition, acknowledgement, and understanding of our foolishness. Holy laughter provides a broader perspective which comes from a rising above the nonsense of the ego.
Not all math puns are bad, just sum.
What if the hokey pokey is what it is really all about?
To hear God laugh, tell God your plans.
Kurt Vonnegut, the short story writer and novelist created a great tag line, “And so it goes….”
Laughter is a lightning up and not taking things so seriously. As psychologist Richard Carlson said, “Don’t sweat the small stuff and it’s all small stuff.” Look at life with a twinkle in your eye and look for the absurdity. When you find it, it will make you laugh.
Is life a joke? The lives we have created on the path of the ego are indeed a joke. They are illusionary. None of it is real. We have just made it up and so how could we, in our right mind, take it seriously? The only true and real thing is unconditional love. Everything else is a joke and often a cruel joke at that.
In what do we put our faith? In the seriousness of the ego that would have us believe its lies and pay homage to them, or in unconditional love which bestows mirth, peace, and bliss?
Evasiveness or genuineness: which is the path to the kingdom?
Lewis M. Andrews writes in his book, To Thine Own Self Be True, “Many of us grew up in families where evading certain sensitive issues may have been the only way to survive; and having once become accustomed to our deceptive habits we proceed to attract a network of friends, business associates, and even lovers whose trustworthy habits were, if nothing else, familiar.”
It is easy to understand how evasiveness and deceptiveness becomes a way of life. Perhaps we all are evasive and deceptive to some extent to protect ourselves from criticism, disapproval, and conflict with others. What is the price to our soul of such a way of life?
I suppose that being evasive and deceptive can be thought of as being on a continuum from highly evasive and deceptive to low or nonexistent. We all have a right to our privacy. I make a distinction between privacy and secrecy. My definition of secrecy is the withholding of information when others have a right to know. It is morally correct to protect our privacy, but it is not morally correct to keep secrets in the context in which I am using these words.
The problem with keeping secrets is that we are deceiving others and over time we deceive ourselves because one lie takes another lie which takes another lie and we loose track of what the truth is and who we are. Keeping secrets takes a lot of energy and vigilance and it has a negative effect on us physically as well as emotionally, socially, and spiritually.
The mature soul has given up evasiveness and deceptiveness and become genuine, honest, and sincere. The mature soul has nothing to hide and everything to gain by telling the truth and being authentic. This may have taken years to achieve, and to know who one is, what one is about, and to come out of the closet and to live freely in our associations with others is a liberation with profound benefits.
Of course, begin honest, genuine, sincere, and free can get your killed. They killed Jesus, and Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcom X, and Bobby Kennedy. Being free spiritually sometimes puts one physically in danger of loosing one’s life. However, Jesus told us that if you would have life you may have to loose it. What he meant, I believe, is that to have a mature spiritual life sometimes entails risking our physical life. Giving up the ego is the path to the kingdom and few are willing to make the sacrifice, and so evasiveness, deceptiveness, disingenuousness rules the day.
In the end, a person has to know what he/she wants. Important things in life take sacrifice. Wisdom is knowing what matters and acting accordingly. Approval can be a drug and like any addiction it can kill us. Recovery requires surrendering to our Higher Power, whatever we conceive our Higher Power to be, and paradoxically, it is in the surrender that we are liberated. Evasiveness and deception while they may help with temporary survival are , in the long run, the path to hell. Truthfulness, genuineness, and honesty are the path to the kingdom of justice and peace.
Sunday, June 28, 2020
The tenth component of spiritual health is authenticity. Back in the 60s we talked about whether someone “had their shit together,” and whether they were “the real deal.” We admired and respected people who were genuine and sincere and not phoney and pretentious.
Psychologists talk about the “real” self and the “false self.” We are socialized from birth into the world of the ego which is false. The world of the ego is an illusion of which we are unaware and socialized to believe is real. Holden Caulfield, in J.D. Salinger’s classic novel the Catcher In The Rye, called his disillusionment experience as he was coming of age the “Big Lie.” Satan is called the father of lies.
Osho teaches that we all grow old and some of us grow up. Growing old is involuntary as it is the biological process of aging. Growing up on the other hand is a choice and the choice is giving up the false, the pretense, the inauthenticity of the ego for the genuineness of the spiritual.
Jesus tells us that unless we become like little children we cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven. What Jesus is describing is the reclamation of our innocence which has been corrupted. Jesus does not tell us to become childish meaning selfish, willful, demanding, but childlike meaning curious, in awe of the universe around us, playful, and a celebrant of existence of which we are a part.
Spiritual health requires that we know who we are, what makes us tick, and in touch with the source of our existence. Socrates said that the hallmark of wisdom is to know oneself. This knowledge comes from an inner exploration not an external one. This kind of self knowledge and wisdom comes from meditation not from an external source.
A person who values authenticity examines their life and strives to rise above the illusions of the ego and focus on the unconditional love which is the source of our existence. Authenticity arises when we put our faith in wonder, mystery, gratitude, and Unconditional Love and eschew the attributes of the ego..
Thursday, June 25, 2020
The ninth component of spiritual health is self-efficacy. What is “efficacy”? Efficacy is the combination of effectiveness and efficiency. It is the ability to produce the desired result in an elegant and gracious fashion. In everyday language, the person knows what they are doing. As we used to say back in the 60s, the person has their shit together.
Self-efficacy depends on certain knowledge, skills, and values. First the person must know themselves and know what makes them tick. Second the person has developed a higher degree of self knowledge and self awareness that contributes to successful self management. The person has effective emotional, cognitive and behavior management skills. Thirdly, the person has healthy and beneficial values that allows them to discern what matters and focus with intention, motivation, and integrity on their self development and the growth and development of other people and other things.
Self-efficacy develops from curiosity, honesty, and openness to feedback and learning. It also develops from courage, bravery, and initiative. The person who manifests self-efficacy is goal directed and has a sense of purpose and meaning in their life usually supported by an intuitive sense of the transcendent of which they feel themselves to be a part.
The person manifesting self-efficacy is able to tap inner resources which fuel their functioning. They often have a rich interior spiritual life which is the bedrock of their awareness and functioning.
In what does a person with self-efficacy put their faith? It is not in the superficial rewards of the ego but the interior rewards of the spirit which provide a sense of wholeness (holiness), peace, and bliss.
Monday, June 22, 2020
Freedom from and freedom to
The eighth component of spiritual health is freedom. Freedom is one of those words like “justice,” “beauty,” “goodness,” that can mean very different things depending on the perspective and the context. Isaiah Berlin, the philosopher, described freedom from and freedom to.
There is freedom from constraint and restraint which is probably the more common meaning of the term, but then there is freedom to meaning that people have knowledge, skills, resources, and opportunities. In our American declaration of independence there is a statement that citizens are free to pursue happiness, but whether they can and will attain it is left to the individual and the community.
In the era of rugged individualism, individuals are left to their own resources to “pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.” This idea is nonsensical and blames the victim of social circumstances over which the individual has little or no control.
It is not until a person gains some maturity that they understand that the ways of the ego are an illusion and what Holden Caulfield called, in The Catcher In The Rye, the “big lie.” Once a person begins to see through the deceit and delusionary world of the ego, they begin to understand that they do have a choice, the freedom to choose between the world of the ego and the world of the spirit. Once awareness of this choice occurs, the decision is simple. Would we live with unconditional love, our natural inheritance, or in the world of the ego with its false promises of happiness? Will romance, money, status, power, material things really make a person happy and if so, for how long?
It is not until we begin to free ourselves from the blocks and obstacles to our awareness of Love’s presence, our natural inheritance, that we become essentially free. We liberate ourselves from desires, attachments, motivations, and dependencies on the illusions of the ego. We finally become free merging with the non dualistic Oneness from which we separated ourselves to begin with thinking that we could become the king and queen of our small world of the ego rather than the emperors of the Universe of which we are a part.
The freedom from is the attempt to purify, to eschew false promises and attachments. We need to free ourselves from the things of the ego in order to be free to attain the things of the spirit.
This freeing from takes consistent effort and a giving up of the things of the ego and surrendering, in the best sense of the word, to the things of the spirit. This desire and attempts to free ourselves from the things of the ego takes periodic review with a growing awareness of our attachments. In A Course Of Miracles this activity is called “forgiveness” which means being willing to give up making other people and circumstances responsible for our unhappiness. Gary Renard, a teacher of the Course, calls these instances “forgiveness opportunities” and he looks forward to many forgiveness opportunities throughout his day. Being aware and taking advantage of forgiveness opportunities makes us free to enjoy the peace and comfort of the Unconditional Love of the Universe.
To be spiritually healthy we have to decide in what we will place our faith: is it the world of the ego or the world of the Spirit? Do we believe that the things of the ego will make us happy or the things of the spirit? We come to realize that until we can free ourselves from the things of the ego we are not able to be free to enjoy the things of the spirit which are peace and bliss.