Spirituality 201

     Insightful questions demonstrate thoughtfulness and curiosity.  Some questions can be expressions of doubt, but more often questions can be the beginning of a journey toward deeper and more useful insights.  How can one “own” his or her faith without asking questions?  The temptation, of course, is to settle for what is handed to us along with the statement, “accept these beliefs and thoughts by
faith.”  But any system of beliefs that is blindly accepted may have little applicability to enhancing the skill level of believers.  Simply accepting a second-handed belief system may be making a statement that people would rather honor and reverence the insights of others than bear witness today to how God’s energy manifests through them.  Such thinking has helped the religions of the world to remain stationary while other disciplines have changed paradigms and made adjustments to meet the requirements needed to embrace the future. If the religions of the world do not change so that they engage the emerging world community in a more thoughtful manner, they will become property of those too fearful to change what has appeared sacred.  Thoughts and ideas that do not evolve soon perish.

     This is an interesting time in history.  Questions are not only allowed but they are actively encouraged.  The ancient thought patterns will evolve when enough people formulate conclusions about God and humankind that are different from those developed in the past.  Jesus instructed his listeners to pour new wine into new wine skins.  Our temptation continually is to refine the context and thinking of those in our past.  This activity is based on the conclusion that their thoughts have more significance than our own.  They do not.  Until we awaken and realize that we have access to the same source of inspiration that urged the ancients to write, we will continue to sabotage ourselves with a form of idolatry that is shrouded in sacred labels.

Thank you for asking your questions.

A. What is Faith?

Observation: For the purpose of this course, faith is not an organized system of beliefs, nor is it to have extensive knowledge of sacred texts, creeds, rituals or articles of faith.  Faith may not help someone interpret events meaningfully nor spare them from agonizing physical suffering.  Faith is the label we give to a person’s ability “to hang on” to their trust in God during periods of feast or famine.  Faith is an understanding that we know very little about what is happening to us, but we understand thoroughly that God’s will is being done.  A glowing spirit will result from having faith. Faith gives one the ability to look fear in the face and ask, “Where is your sting?  I am and will remain safe at all times even after I leave my physical form.  Absolutely nothing can ultimately injure me.  If my current life experience is filled with pain and misery, soon the nightmare will end.  Whether I consider my past, present or future, I have been and will always be safe.”  When such words describe a life orientation, they come from a being who is proclaiming their faith. 

B. What is the difference between having endurance or perseverance in order to learn a lesson that is unique to my personal evolution and realizing that it is time to move on?

Observation: The answer to this question may rest within our self-understanding.  When we begin to manufacture excuses for staying in an environment, generally this is an indication that we are sabotaging our own energy flow or we have desires for a particular outcome.  There is a difference between patience and sabotage.  The former creates peace; the latter generates suffering and low self-esteem.  For example, “What will people think if I . . . ?” is the voice of sabotage.  If your fear of an unknown keeps you within a situation, your energy is not reflecting trust.  You must consider, “What are my opportunities for staying or moving on?” rather than considering the security needs being met by remaining stationary.  Listen to yourself, e.g., are you creating a list of reasons that justify a decision one way or the other?  As you give such thought patterns energy, they become entrenched.  They become your reality.  If you resist making a decision, soon your body and mind may give you guidance.  What are you experiencing, peace or the erosion of spirit?  Your body is a print out of what is happening within you.  When your body is telling you that it is time to change and you refuse, you may find yourself turning to medication to mask symptoms.  When you embrace your fear, open your arms and walk toward the unknown in a spirit of trust and peace you will find release and relief.

C. How should I expect Divine guidance to come?

Observation: Stop expecting the extraordinary, e.g., the seas to part, the tablets bearing the commandments to appear, or that angels will come to make announcements.  Remember, God operates invisibly and appears in the ordinary.  Jesus was born in a manger in Bethlehem not in a palace in Alexandria or Athens.  Use your intuition, that voice that says, “You should not be doing this or, have you considered this unpleasant experience as an opportunity?  ” Begin being faithful to the smallest issues in your life and the larger concerns will take care of themselves.  If you are looking for deliverance, you are putting the responsibility on God for a decision that you must make.  Start trusting by letting go of the needs of Self and guidance will flow through you in a form you will readily recognize.

D. What is the higher truth, wanting a miracle to happen or taking the responsibility for making one happen?

Observation: Wanting a miracle is quite often another way of admitting that we are personalizing a desired outcome.  Wanting a miracle may also be an assumption that God is in the business of granting special privileges to the select few who ask.  True miracles we take for granted.  The way an egg and sperm join to produce a highly complex biological life form is a miracle.  The way our body heals is a miracle.  Miracles have become so common in our experience that we seldom consider these events as being miraculous.  Waiting for a miracle is asking God to reorder our lives through some spectacular event when that is a decision we need to make.  To create miracles (the second half of this question) is a quality of our natural inheritance.  When we study, do our inner work, use our talents to create, we are acting in accordance with the will of God, just as an orange seed grows a tree that bears oranges.  When we use our abilities to create, we can build sandcastles or sow seeds of truth in whatever form we desire.  It will not matter.  The miracle is what happens to us when we continually allow our energy to flow away from us as we manifest all its creative abilities.  True miracles happen constantly and are as common as the sunrise.   A time will come when we will no longer be surprised by their occurrence.  One smile, one moment of concentrated attention toward another person just might change their life.  This is a miracle performed by us when we were least aware of our significance during that moment.  This is an example of how God creates through us.

E. If we are to forgive 70 times 7 as Jesus taught, how are we to respond to those who are destroying our societies, our families, our businesses and could conceivably disrupt the entire fabric of our world community?

Observation: A quick review of history will illustrate that destroyers have never contributed to the evolution of consciousness, the invisible stuff of evolution.  They created nothing of substance. They descended like locusts and left death and destruction in their path.  Did they stop the progress and creativity of the human spirit?  No matter how powerful they were, from the Mongols to the Huns, those who did not extend their creative energies to serve others, ultimately failed.  The goal of terrorists, like al Qaeda, binds them to the earth and its forms.  They focus their energy on trying to stop the surging tide of the human spirit by building a fragile sea wall constructed of ideas created through their own self-interests.  Self always produces misery.  Spirit creates peace.  Terrorists all suffer from the same problem: Spiritual Deficit Syndrome.  No one can possibly succeed in defeating the will of God.  Destroying other forms creates nothing.  In fact, their destructive exploits stimulate just the opposite.  Following the destruction of a hurricane, for example, jobs are created, demand for goods and services increases as industry expands.  Every World War has demonstrated that human creators instinctively know how to build again, making the world better than it was.  Until the mindset of terrorism fades from our recent history, nations must protect their citizens as they would from wild beasts that stalk their prey, strike and run into the shadows.  Terrorists will succeed in killing the innocent but they cannot stop the collective will of the world community we are fast becoming.  Their witness embodies a quality of spirit that is neither attractive nor advantageous.  Who will they be when there are no longer any forms to destroy?  Many deceased suicide bombers already know the answer to this question.

F. What did you mean that one of our goals is to become invisible?

Observation: Jesus taught this goal when he described what happens to leaven when it becomes part of the ingredients for making bread.  After it becomes invisible, its presence is recognized when the dough rises.  We were created in the image of God, i.e., we have God’s energy pattern at our disposal.  We cannot see God, nor can we see the spirit as it moves around and through us.  We can only see results as we do when dough rises.  One of the paradoxes of life is this: We must combine spiritual development with the release of Self.  The tension is between two different energy patterns: (1) we create our own reality.  (2) We must release the Self and remain open to God’s power flowing through us.  It is very difficult to grow a healthy, strong identity that is not also held captive by a strong Self.  This is why Jesus taught, “Small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matt. 7:14)  Becoming invisible is exceedingly difficult because of our perceived need for validation, acceptance and recognition.  We need to know that we matter because of our often-disguised fear that we do not.  To be as God, would mean that our energy is concentrated only on giving and creating.  For example, we sow a seed in such a fashion that a group of people assumes that they dreamed of the idea themselves.  We love in such a fashion that each recipient has no idea that it was our friendship, touch and smile that helped each form a stronger identity.  These are steps toward increasing our invisibility.

G. Can we influence the will of God with our prayers?

Observation: No. With that said, we need to realize that the will of God is identical for each person.  We are the ones who create the pattern through which God’s will is accomplished in our lives.  One of the vehicles is our vocational pursuit.  We know our wants but God knows our authentic needs.  For example, sometimes we must give up our need to be loved by our mate so that our life is no longer preoccupied by such neediness.  Sometimes a very close brush with death allows us to reconsider our priorities and change the direction of our lives.  God’s will is that we awaken, face life’s challenges with radiating loving energy patterns, discover, develop and use the tools we were given for creating, release our attachments to and reverence of physical forms and learn to accomplish all our tasks with spirits skilled in humility, kindness and peace.  Again, God’s will is virtually the same for everyone and God’s will is an energy pattern that cannot be denied or stopped.  Creative prayers are ones that seek for course corrections, share gratitude, seek creative detachment, transparency and seek inspiration for radiating our energy from its source within us.  Yet, it is perfectly fine to ask God for assistance in guidance and strength to accomplish our purposes.  When we learn to invite God into every moment of our lives we will be amazed by how the entire universe will move with us.

H. Is it okay to pray for someone who is sick?

Observation: Of course!   Yet suppose that sick person is experiencing an examination, e.g., “Can you trust me (God) with your health and well being or will you choose to remain fearful and clingy?” We simply do not know what opportunities for evolution are being presented to people who are experiencing fragile moments. Sometimes we cannot get to the light without first entering darkness.  BUT, it is always well to be praying for one another.  Remember, the will of God is the same for everyone.  This prevents us from constantly debating why some people get well while others do not.  Such frustration only occurs when we pray for a specific outcome even though we have no idea what a particular soul’s purpose is for incarnating into human form.  We only assume that getting well or having an epiphany are the only viable options.  Such outcomes are based on our values not God’s. “. . . even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” (Psalm 139:12)

I. Suppose we are powerless to move beyond the consequences of our life’s history?

Observation: Some of us need to reconsider why we silently scream about our past or our childhood experiences, none of which took place exactly as we remembered them.  As with all experiences, our memories of them are always the result of our interpretation of events coupled with our created responses.  We must teach ourselves why it is important to stop processing our pain by our constantly rehearsing it.  Emotional and Spiritual pain is present because of skills we did not choose to learn.  If we cannot let go of our pain, we must stop concentrating on everything that appears to cause it.  We must reverse our flow of energy and let go.  Pain is the result of years of teaching our mind how we wanted it to process life.  We have not come to our current state of mind without Self’s dominant role in producing thought patterns, which prevent our moving beyond them.  Our years of compensating for anger, resentment and cynical attitudes, without actually surrendering such smoldering thoughts, were acts of creation.  While it may appear impossible to change our thought forms, this is a myth that only reinforces our delay.   We were hardwired at birth so we can change our minds instantly.  If all our attempts fail, we must begin to celebrate our handicapping conditions with joy, i.e., carrying our burden as our specialized ministry.  This act allows us to accept ourselves as we are.  The Apostle Paul carried his “thorn in the flesh” while still engaging in ministry.

J. Suppose I am afraid to let go of my faith in order to accept many of the new interpretations (they are new to me) that you present in our class?

Observation: A very revealing word in this question is “afraid.”  Fear is what causes us to cling to behaviors, beliefs and habits the truth of which has been reinforced since our childhood.  Spirituality 201 never tried to teach people what to believe.  The purpose of the course was to present material in such a way that it caused students to think and respond.  No student needs to agree.  There was no attempt to present another gospel.  Life constantly presents us with issues that require our response.  Our task is to develop skills of spirit in order to meet those challenges.  The more skills we develop, the more life-issues become increasingly challenging.  It is like going to the gym to build a stronger body.  For example, the first time we are rejected socially can be very difficult to negotiate unless someone teaches us how to use the incident as an opportunity to learn why it is important never to personalize someone’s opinion of us.  A thoughtful response would be, “This is their loss not mine.  They might have liked me had they spent more time with me.”  By choosing a less thoughtful response, one that attacks our identity, we slowly begin building a thought system that could create clinical depression during our adult years.  The point is that Jesus taught highly specific skills that will enhance the quality of our spiritual journey. 

All of us will believe what we wish.  We need to ask: “What skills have our beliefs given us thus far in life?”   Remember, beliefs never make experts.  What creates an expert is accurate information coupled with practice, practice and more practice.  As our mind, emotions and spirit become more aligned with God’s invisible energy patterns, clarity of our purpose will manifest.  We are well on our way toward invisibility.

K. You made only passing references to sexuality. What are the spiritual implications to sexual expression?

Observation: This is perhaps the most challenging question because sexual expression is among the least understood of human behaviors.  Sexual expression is a universe filled with conflicting paradoxes and paradigms, e.g., ego-centered dark fantasies that enhance pleasure, orgasms, guilt, compulsive voyeurism via pornography, rape, conception, medicinal, manual and mechanical stimulation, infidelity, chastity, seeking and using people as objects for gratification, anxiety reduction, hormonal urges, sexually transmitted diseases, teasing, flirtation, skimpy dress codes for intimacy, the anatomical size of organs and glands, etc.  This is one of the arenas in the human spirit that knows few boundaries because sexuality occurs in the mind.  Few people teach the skills of intimacy and the power inherent in this thought-pattern.  The spiritual aspects of sexual expression can be found within the tension between Self-gratification and one’s ability to radiate loving energy.  One paradox found in society’s moral principles is that we must develop the skills associated with physical intimacy without having any practice.  The first occasion for intimacy between two virgins can be quite a drama where reality and mythology clash leaving the participants with mixed impressions.  Sexual expression is a learned art form.  Another paradox is that people can possess great skill in sexual expression and have no love for their partner.  Helping someone else achieve Self-gratification often reinforces our own Self-gratification.  Affection or love does not need to be present.  They know they are highly skilled and they may not mind sharing their treasure with any partner who is willing.  However, a thousand pleasure-filled moments of intimacy with countless partners equals what?  Clearly the arena of sexual expression is filled with an allure that can become addictive and it can encourage a spirit to engage in delay.  Like any other experience that produces pleasure and escape, one needs to stand guardian over his or her thoughts while maintaining well defined boundaries.  Any two people can join their bodies for pleasure, but not everyone knows how to engage in loving communication.

L. Why is it that the most marvelous insights concerning the spiritual path are missed by the masses?  They don’t get it and understanding what’s going on would make all the difference to their world and to the world of the others with whom they associate.

Observation: There are so many answers to this question that appear plausible.  As in other areas of life, the rich tend to become richer while the poor become even poorer.  For example, spiritual matters have always been the property of religion, a subject that may not interest them.  Or their self-definitions reinforced over years of rehearsal, have all been associated with earthly matters, e.g., female, upper middle class, Democrat, Jewish, middle child, upper management, Texan, a 30-something, etc.  People listen to presentations on spirituality with great interest, but few are motivated to dig deeper unless it serves their self-definitions.  People who have spent a considerable time denying their deficits are not inclined to address them because of someone’s words.  They would rather develop defenses to protect themselves than face what is uncertain.  Frequently, it takes a fall, a disgrace or a major embarrassment for people to realize that a large portion of their lives has remained dormant.  Economic power also plays a role in helping people engage in delay.  Others avoid circumstances where they cannot be in control.  Finally, spiritual matters must be pursued only when the student is ready.  A Course in Spirituality may attract the interested students, but the material might not be engaging enough to inspire a complete change of the way a student processes life.   Understanding spirituality is not for those unwilling to take risks, or for those fearful of change or for those who are unwilling to surrender their control over the flow of their energy.  Those who cannot stretch beyond their known boundaries will remain where they are.  They are not ready and this is fine.  Only a small number of people sense that more is here than meets our senses.  These are the ones who scale the mountain and preach of visions they see, of powers they possess and of the peace they have found.  Many who hear their worlds only wish and dream.  Those who take that first step of a thousand miles will one day know.  The rest who cannot risk will have to trust what others have found as they cling to second-handed truth while trying to navigate in a world where change is constantly accelerating.