Sunday, March 11, 2018
As we have been described the interior spiritual life begins with “the dawning” which leads to “the turning” which initiates “the search.” Where does the search take people?
Often the searching takes people back to the religion of their family of origin and onto “new age” ideas and self help.
Sometimes, if the symptoms are severe enough they will seek psychotherapy. Often psychotherapy is not sought until the seeker has exhausted the exploration of obtaining meaning from romantic relationships and/or friendships.
Sometimes the seeker will jump wholeheartedly into some avocational interest or get involved in becoming a diehard fan of a sports team or athletic figure or entertainment celebrity.
Sometimes, the seeker takes solace in chemicals such as alcohol or cannabis or some sort of compulsive activity like gambling, pornography, or video gaming.
All of these worldly activities and solutions provide only temporary respite to the deeper hunger and spiritual longing.
Sooner or later the seeker will become intrigued with a mystical path. The mystical path involves the eschewing of the ego and the involvement with cosmic consciousness.
There is no one mystical path that is best. There are hundreds if not thousands which have been taken over the centuries. Asceticism, meditation, tantra, yoga, fasting, repetitive praying, whirling, chanting, singing, snake handling, baptisms of all sorts, altar calls, hallucinogenic drugs, scripture study, and alms giving all have been tried.
What all these methods come down to in the last analysis is a change of heart and mind. Jesus tells us very simply that the way to the kingdom is to “love as I have loved.”
The mystical path is the answer to the question, “What would Love have me do, think, say, believe?
The search takes us, ultimately, to Love. It says in the introduction to A Course in Miracles, “The course does not aim at teaching the meaning of love, for that is beyond what can be taught. It does aim, however, at removing the blocks to the awareness of love’s presence, which is your natural inheritance. The opposite of love is fear, but what is all-encompassing can have no opposite.”
The mystical path takes us on a journey of miracles, a miracle meaning, simply, a change of heart and mind. The change is from the path of the ego to the path of the spirit. The ego will die but the spirit lasts forever.
This stage of spiritual development is called “walking with Love.”
Saturday, March 3, 2018
Sunday, February 11, 2018
Religion and spirituality are not the same thing
The first step on the path of the spirit and the interior spiritual life is the realization that one has a choice. They can continue on the path of the ego or move to the path of the spirit. A person cannot make a choice if the person doesn’t know the person has one. It is awareness of the choice that the interior spiritual life is born.
The choice between the path of the ego and the path of the spirit can lead to investigating what the path of the spirit is all about and where this path might take one. The path of the ego, the world, does not encourage this search and if it does it fills this search with more ego.
Most religion is about the ego. Most religion has rules, and authority figures, and traditions and rituals and these things contribute to comparisons and judgments and exclusionary decisions based on “one or the other.” Anything that divides and excludes is not of the spirit. It is of the ego.
The first place that people turn in their search is to religion, either the religion of their family of origin or another religion. At first, religion may seem to offer some guideposts along the path of the spirit but then religion seems to become full of conflict, disagreement, judgment, and animosity which requires a “give to get” and a “one or another” mentality which the seeker intuitively senses is not conducive to a genuine spirituality because it does not create peace but dissension and distress.
Some people are spiritual but not religious and some people are religious but not spiritual and rarely a person can be found who is both religious and spiritual but true spirituality is based on non-duality, oneness, while religion is about comparison, judgment, and exclusion.
Jesus tells us to be aware of false prophets, of wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing. Religions are full of false prophets dressed in clerical trappings and credentials. As in Jesus’ day, the Pharisees abound.
The seeker usually comes to the awareness that the path of the spirit rarely but occasionally takes one through religious territory. The simple litmus test is, "is it loving?" If it is not loving, it is not of the spirit. The spiritual seeker comes to realize that the health of their interior spiritual life may require them to move on. The question then becomes where else to turn?
Saturday, February 10, 2018
The dawning of the interior spiritual life
We are still in the first week of our 16 week course on the Interior Spiritual Life 101.
This first week we have been covering the introduction to the course and the housekeeping and now at the end of the first week we turn to the question, “How do people come to realize that they have a choice between the path of the ego and the path of the spirit?”
This question doesn’t arise for most people until mid life unless they have been subjected to some trauma and dysfunction earlier in their lives.
I remember at age 10 reassuring myself in my unhappiness, “This can be a good life if you know how to live it.” This is not an observation that most 10 year olds would make. Usually, it is not until middle age that a person in his/her distress observes “There must be a better way.”
In the Substance Abuse counseling field, it is widely recognized and acknowledged that people are not ready to question their behavior and lifestyles until they “hit bottom.”
In A Course In Miracles it is written, “Tolerance for pain may be high, but it is not without limit. Eventually everyone begins to recognize, however dimly, that there must be a better way. As this recognition becomes firmly established, it becomes a turning point. This ultimately reawakens spiritual vision, simultaneously weakening the investment in physical sight. The alternating investment in the two levels of perception is usually experienced as conflict, which can become very acute.” T-2.111.3:5-9
It is in this dawning awareness that there is a better way that the interior spiritual life is born. Unfortunately, in our contemporary culture, we don’t have a vocabulary to name this experience and growing awareness other than to psychologize it. Often the person presents with complaints of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, infidelity, various compulsions such as gambling, shopping, hoarding, workaholism, video and social media addictions, relationship conflicts, etc. The person realizes that the path of the ego is working for them any longer.
Sometimes if the individual has a faith tradition in which they have participated there is a tendency to return to the religious practices and membership of one’s youth even though there is an increased ambivalence about the “faith” required for membership in such groups. These individuals come to distinguish and discriminate between religion and spirituality as being two separate things. Some religious people are not spiritual, and some spiritual people are not religious. Some people can be both religious and spiritual, but increasingly, in our contemporary culture, this is becoming increasingly rare.
This awareness that there must be a better way and the desire for an interior spiritual life initiates a search. The individual has become a “seeker” even though it is not clear what, exactly, he/she is seeking. In what direction do seekers typically go? We will explore this question next.
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
This week we will be considering what an interior spiritual life might consist of and what models there are for the development of spiritual lives.
There is a field of spiritual direction which offers guidance to people seeking assistance in further developing their spiritual life. I am not a spiritual director and I am hoping that if there are UUs who practice this discipline they might share with us their methodologies, intentions, and services they provide.
I am a Licensed Clinical Social Work Psychotherapist and I often find myself discussing my client's spiritual life with them. I am drawn to the field of mental health and substance abuse counseling because of a spiritual desire to be of service to other people in their lives. I firmly believe that people in recovery are greatly assisted, as is anyone, in developing a rich interior spiritual life. John Bradshaw, a substance abuse counselor, who became famous back in the 80s when he lectured and wrote several books on recovery especially as it involves one's experience of one's family life. John Bradshaw described a recovering addict's spiritual hunger and emptiness as the "hole in the soul."
John Bradshaw said this in an interview published on Healthy.net back in 1995:
I'm also troubled that there is not more stress on the etiology of addiction. While I believe that I may have a genetic predisposition to alcoholism, it's also true that you have to learn to be an alcoholic or an addict, and you learn through the ideology of abuse, through abandonment, neglect and enmeshment. You get this emptiness, a hole in your soul, and you've got to keep filling it up. You numb out emotionally, so the only way you can mood alter is with your addiction. I would like to see a lot more emphasis on that.
I'd also like to see somebody come along and start talking about soul, restoring the soul of our culture, because I think we've lost our soul in a lot of ways. I'm more of the prophetic voice, which is easier than being the practical one, who knows how to put that into action. But I guess you need prophets, or at least prophetic voices.
The model for an interior spiritual life which I am developing revolves around two main ideas:
How well do I know myself?
What makes me tick? What are my motivations, intentions, desires which fuel my behavior, my thinking, my emotional awareness?
In other words:
Who do you think you are?
What do you think you are doing?
Your first assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to write a brief essay of 500 words answering those two questions. If you could boil them down and add some comments on the blog or send your essay to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, I'd love to read it and I will respond to you personally.