Showing posts with label The spiritual life. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The spiritual life. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

The Spiritual Life - Spiritual health: the concept and map

Spiritual Health - Home | Facebook

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:

  1. Peace and joy
  2. Kindness
  3. Forgiveness
  4. Attunement with the non dualistic Oneness
  5. Unconditional love
  6. Mindfulness
  7. Felt connection to the interdependent web
  8. Freedom from and freedom to
  9. Self efficacy
  10. Authenticity
  11. Laughter
  12. 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
Unconditional love
Felt connection to interdependent web
Freedom from and freedom to
Self efficacy
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

The Spiritual Life - Spiritual health: not knowing and curiosity

CEOs and Sales Leaders: Is lack of curiosity impeding your ...

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 Spiritual Life - Spiritual health: laughter

There's an evolutionary explanation for why we're surprisingly bad ...


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?

Sunday, June 28, 2020

The Spiritual Life - Spiritual health: Authenticity

Authentic Living - Creating a Life You Love


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 Spiritual Life - Spiritual health: Self-efficacy

To Thine Own Self-Efficacy Be True | Psychology Today


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

The Spiritual life - Spiritual health: Freedom from and freedom to

Holly Brook, graceful meanders, Eagle Cap Wilderness | ON THE ...

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.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

The Spiritual Life - Spiritual health: A felt connection with the interdependent web of existence

Religious Education Principle 7 - Shoreline Unitarian Universalist ...

A felt connection with the interdependent web of existence.

The seventh component of spiritual health is a felt connection with the interdependent web of existence. This component is referred to in the joke about the Buddhist monk who asked the hot dog vendor to “make me one with everything.”

The felt connection with the interdependent web is similar to the attunement to the non dualistic Oneness but a bit different in our cognitive models. The attunement to the non dualistic Oneness is the clearing the mind of all thoughts and arriving at awareness of pure being and thinking of “no thing,” nothing. The felt connection with the interdependent web is paradoxically the opposite when we feel a part of all existence. This component of a felt connection to the interdependent web of existence is a significant feature of Earth Centered Spiritualities.
This feature of Earth Centered Spiritualities is centered around the idea that we are part of everything and everything is a part of us. Our atoms intermingle and our energy which animates life is eternal and infinite. This idea is stated in physics as the law of conservation.

The everyday practice of this component is captured in the slogan of the Golden Rule which is “do unto others as you would have then do unto you.” However the felt connection of the interdependent web is not a matter of altruism or a transactional interaction, but an existential awareness that the others are us is a systemic way.

This component of spiritual health is glimpsed momentarily but rarely as an ongoing conscious part of our spirituality because it seems paradoxical to the ego mind. However, this component is captured in sayings such as “we learn what we teach,” “we get what we give,” “if you would get love then give love,” etc. Sometimes people refer to this component as “karma,” what goes around comes around.

The skills involved to further develop this component of  spiritual health are based on systems thinking. Systems thinking requires a distance which allows perspective and objectivity. It requires emotional distance so a person can be responsive and not reactive. It requires a “big picture” apprehension and not knee jerk reactions in the here and now. The felt connection to the interdependent web is probably based more in the prefrontal cortex of the brain rather than in the amygdala.

The felt connection to the interdependent web requires reflection and a centered appreciation which flows from mindfulness and forgiveness. People who have nurtured a felt connection to the interdependent web are naturally kind and compassionate. This felt connection with the interdependent web fills one with peace and joy.

In our busy, competitive, status and success conscious world of the ego, we are taught to put our faith in “getting ahead” and becoming “successful” rather than being sensitive and responsive to the welfare of the whole. In our capitalistic society our values have become perverted to enhance the ego rather than nourish the spiritual. We put our faith in money and success rather than in Love, appreciation, and gratitude. The love and respect for the interdependent web of existence is an essential component of spiritual health.

Friday, June 19, 2020

The Spiritual Life - Spiritual health: Living the examined life

The Unexamined Life: New Yorker Cartoon Written Just for my Blog

Living the examined life.

The mission of UU A Way of Life is to improve spiritual health, reduce immoral and sinful behavior, and work across systems for positive social change. Over the last several weeks, there have been several articles defining spiritual health, its components,  and some activities which can enhance and improve those components. To date we have described six of these components and this article will provide a review before we go on to the remaining components.

The components of spiritual health which we have covered so far are: peace and joy, kindness, forgiveness, attunement with the non dualistic Oneness, Unconditional Love, and mindfulness. These components are not in any particular order. The components interact with one another in an oscillating way to invigorate and enhance one’s experience of an interior spiritual life.

Religion should nurture one’s spiritual life, but so often it doesn’t. Religion and spirituality can overlap somewhat in a venn diagram. Some people are religious but not spiritual, and some people are spiritual but not religious and some people are, to some extent, both. The idea that religion inherently nurtures spirituality is mistaken as well as the idea that spirituality enhances religious belief.

Spirituality is about experience and not about belief. As Francis David, the Unitarian pioneer, said, “We need not think alike to love alike.” The Beatles had a song with a lyric which said, “Love is all there is.” The fundamental component of spiritual health is Unconditional Love and Unconditional Love comes from forgiveness which is the activity of giving up making other people and circumstances responsible for one’s unhappiness. Forgiveness comes from mindfulness which is an awareness of one’s attunement with the non dualistic Oneness and the indicator of this attunement is kindness. When one is kind, one experiences peace and joy.

As with our physical health, it is helpful to find a spiritual director with whom to do a check up. The components can be thought of as being present in a person’s life 100% of the time, 50% or the time, or 0% of the time. Pick a time frame, for example, over the last six months, and give the component a rating from 0 - 10 in terms of its presence in your life. Once you have given yourself a rating, consider how you might increase that component in your life in the coming six months.

Spiritual health takes deliberate practice which involves daily review and reflection. As Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” To what extent have you been living an examined life? Would living an examined life be helpful in enhancing your spiritual health?

It is part of our faith here at UU A Way Of Life that living an examined life is the best life to live.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

The Spiritual life - Spiritual health: mindfulness

Master of mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn: 'People are losing their ...


The sixth component of spiritual health is mindfulness. Mindfulness has become a buzzword and there are many books in the self help section of the bookstore on the topic. Mindfulness is a fuzzy idea and it seems that every author, teacher, and practitioner has a different definition of what the term refers to and how one can apply it.

Mindfulness is often equated with meditation. Meditation is the emptying of the mind of all thoughts and going inward the practitioner strives to arrive at a place of peaceful “no-mind.” It sometimes has been called “centering.”

Perhaps the best definition when it comes to thinking of mindfulness as a component of spiritual health is to call it “the witness.” The witness is that part of ourselves that simply, nonjudgmentally, observes our cognitive, emotional, physical, social, and psychological functioning. Socrates said that an unexamined life is not worth living. How does one examine their life? They simply watch it and go below the surface.

Does a person love themselves? Do they love what they are? Do they know what they are, not who they are but what they are? Who they are refers to the world of the ego and what they are refers to the existential awareness of their eternal being.

To be mindful and develop this component of spiritual health, a person needs to take time to reflect and quiet their mind, what the Buddhists call the “monkey mind,” the constant chatter that seems to be incessant. As the poet suggests, take time to smell the roses. Some teachers encourage their students to be aware. Jesus encouraged His disciples to be watchful. In Christian monasticism this is called “recollection.” Take time every day or several times every day to recollect, to meditate, to go inward and simply watch one’s breath emptying the mind of all the monkeys chattering away.

People put their faith in the things of the external world to make them happy. People are acquisitive and desiring and striving for external objects and experiences when heaven is already within them if they would only turn inward and become mindful of their natural inheritance.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

The Spiritual Life - Attunement with the non dualistic Oneness

How Spiritual Teachers Make Sense In The World Of Change

Attunement to the non dualistic Oneness

In the description of the components of spiritual health we have discussed the first which was peace and joy, the second which was kindness, the third which was forgiveness, and in this article we are describing the fourth which is the attunement to the non dualistic Oneness.

The non dualistic Oneness is the oceanic existence from which we, as individuals, emerged when our spirit was incarnated in our bodies at conception or some would say at birth. We each are but drops of the ocean and we will merge with that Oneness when we shed our bodies at physical death. This means giving up the ego born from our sense of separation.

Some people have more of  a sense of the transcendent and enjoy more of what some call “cosmic consciousness.” We make jokes about the Buddhist monk who asked the hot dog vendor to “make me one with everything.” Why do some people laugh at this joke while others don’t get it?

There are skills involved in achieving and deepening this attunement. Nowadays, it is often referred to as “mindfulness.” Others encourage a practice of meditation. The more philosophically inclined follow the advice of Socrates who said, “the unexamined life is not worth living.”

The attunement with the non dualistic Oneness has nothing to do with thoughts, thinking, and cognitive processes. It has nothing to do with external perception and apprehension but rather with the internal letting go of all thoughts, feelings, desires, and intentions. The attunement is achieved with letting go of all external experience and focusing on our deep inner state of pure existence, our being not our doing.

The attunement with the non dualistic Oneness requires a refocusing of our faith from the ego and the things of the world to the spiritual which involves a recovered awareness of our natural inheritance which is Love. Attunement with the non dualistic Oneness is a letting go of all fears and an experience of peace and joy the first component of spiritual health.

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