Spiritual 301


     Why study Spirituality and how is this body of information different from attempting to follow the teachings of Jesus?  The answer is not as complex as we might imagine.  We can rationally understand the need for mercy, forgiveness and kindness to play an increased role in all our lives if our world community is to become different from what it is today.

     Few of us, however, are strangers to the increased frustration of trying to master the skills required to live what Jesus taught.  Thus our lives become an echo of the thought that, “We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”  This teaching is the perfect justification for behaving as we have for centuries.  Unless we consciously seize the reins of our lives with an increased sense of responsibility and accountability, humanity is destined to repeat the identical mistakes of its past.

     Many of us have been taught that God created us with “Free Will.”  This concept is an accurate way of describing the decision making ability we humans possess.  However, how free are we?  There is enormous, invisible pressure on us to stay with the beliefs, customs and rituals imprinted on us from our external world.  Our families, tribes and religious communities began making value judgments for us immediately following our birth. Examples of this process are visible everywhere.

     The popular country song, “Redneck Woman” gives us an example of such imprinting or conditioning.  The lyrics rendered by the artist invite the women who agree with the definitions described in the song to yell, “Hell, Yeah!”   The song describes an archetypal energy pattern.  Such a label as “redneck” communicates a prepackaged profile of a specific group of people.  Think of what comes to mind when you hear words like, bullies, Geeks, Yuppies, born again Christians, gays and lesbians, or soccer moms, etc.

     People reared in every possible setting are taught or socially wired to invest their energy in their group’s definitions of what they value. Some groups imprint bigotry, gender bias, a theological belief system or various social class labels such as “blue and white collar workers, they live on the other side of the tracks or they were reared in the ghetto.  Our imprinting can be regional, economic and ethnic.  This list is certainly not limited.

     When seen in this light, how free are we to make our own decisions?  As we have described, most of our values have come to us by second-handed means.  We subconsciously trust those who taught us.  Our highly-conditioned awareness has bred a certainty within us.  When we migrant beyond the boundaries set by our primary environment, however, we learn that there are many valid ways of interpreting the meaning and purpose of life.  Being exposed to these ideas and beliefs may help us learn why we cherish what we have been taught or we may deepen our understanding of how accommodating the universe is to countless ways of experiencing creation.  Free will allows for this.

     Historically, Siddhartha Gutama experienced a profound change once he left the highly protected and secure environment created by his father who was the ruler.  Unbeknownst to his handlers, Siddhartha slipped through an opened gate to see that life among others was far different from what he had been trained to believe.  As a result of this awakening he became the Buddha, the enlightened one, who improved the quality of life for millions of people.

     For some of us our initial teachers so indelibly inscribed their truths within us that we have remain entrenched in their thinking.  It is easy to grow stronger and more committed to values that have come to us from our external world, i.e., from Mom and Dad, our cultural and religious traditions, etc.  At the risk of sounding repetitive, these handed down values were not freely chosen as we may assume, they were assimilated by us as truth because of their being deeply imbedded since birth.

     It takes an enormous amount of inner work and risk-taking to arrive at a point where our experience of free will is authentic.  Translated this means having the courage and confidence to break free from the conditioning quality of our individual cultural and religious heritage to think for ourselves.  The danger, of course, is that we can go too far in our rebellious thinking and “throw out the baby with the bath water.”

     What happens to people who break free from their imprinting?  Examples are numerous in our experience.  There may be serious struggles that confront a Roman Catholic who selects another value or belief system.  Moving away from his or her heritage and training often evokes feelings of guilt.

     There may be moments of profound sadness within families when a son or daughter selects a mate from a different ethnic background or a partner belonging to a different religious heritage.  While such decisions have become easier for more recent generations, they have not always been this way.

     During the last decade, the term paradigm shift was used by the business community to describe a major change in thinking or product line, e.g., the recording industry’s movement from vinyl records, 8 track tapes, CDs, to memory sticks found in products like the I-pod. Over 40 years ago values began to change with increased acceleration.  Entire industries lost a large percentage of their former market share or they vanished entirely overnight.

     Likewise the acceleration of change began to occur in nearly every level of society creating chaos within people who lived as though our nation’s values were timeless. Gradually the blue laws were lifted and business establishments were opened on Sundays. The Jewish Sabbath had always been ignored because national values favored the Christian heritage.

     Increasingly our society was faced with minorities making substantive inquiries to authorities why their rights were not being protected under the Constitution of the United States.  The Ten Commandments, God’s name on our nation’s currency and prayers at public functions were challenged as the values of our national tribe were changing.  The nation founded on Christian principles was evolving into a pluralistic melting pot where inclusiveness and a sense of community became more important than the values held by the majority.

     Freedom of choice became easier.  Rebellion against the imprinted customs and traditions began to outcrop socially in every quarter.  Teens found it easier to engage in sexual intimacy and promiscuity because of the methods of birth control.  Couples could divorce with increased frequency without much social fallout.  People began working for as many as nine companies before retirement thus ending the loyalty to one’s initial work environment that existed in a much earlier day.  People became increasingly mobile, offering them exposure to countless values and life styles beyond those found in their primary environments.  People had more choices accompanied with increased freedom.

     As people began experimenting with their new freedoms, personal problems became more prevalent.  The relativity of values started to takes its toll.  People began to experience unprecedented levels of stress.  Psychosomatic and Autoimmune diseases increased dramatically.  A typical example is Fibromyalgia, a condition that did not exist 20 years ago. The new reality of having hundreds of choices not available to former generations caused a rise in levels of stress and anger never experienced by those in the past.

     People began to develop confusion over their identities, identities that generations before were clearly defined by their imbedded values and beliefs.  When people lost where they were anchored, they became as leaves that blew in the direction of the prevailing wind. In one of his more recent books, Dr. Wayne Dyer revealed a truth in his title, There’s a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem.  Indeed, there is.  In the weeks that follow, we will discuss everything from our response to archetypal energy patterns to the impact on us of our evolving values, assumptions, expectations, change, uncertainty and the will of God.  Again, the purpose of this course is not to encourage people to adapt a new belief system.  This course may help some students to create new thought patterns that will serve to heal their lives of the tyranny of unrecognized beliefs by promoting the daily experience of inner peace.

     No one can graft into another person’s life a truth greater than what they currently know.  No one can “fix” another person.  Choosing what they discern as higher ground, beliefs that serve growth or skills that enhance the quality of life will always remain each individual’s choice. The results people create with their lives will remain a testimony to the value of what they have discovered.

     This course, like the others in this annual series, is designed to help each student debate within themselves the direction of their spiritual evolution.  Sometimes helping students to ask the right questions is all that is needed for them to take those first steps toward increased freedom.

     Each person’s life-experience is bundled with highly specific lessons to learn.  For example, if we are born with a silver spoon in our mouths and live a life of privilege, such a lifestyle comes with a personalized curriculum. If we are reared in a family with constant economic struggles, likewise we will have specialized and refining energy patterns in which to grow.  The place where everyone begins their journey is unique.  No one is more privileged than another once the larger picture is understood, a picture that is well beyond the boundaries communicated to us by our physical senses.

     We become empowered in life by each circumstance, regardless of its apparent lack of justice.  We deepen our understanding of others, regardless of whether or not we agree with their points of view.  We bring from the other side of the curtain a host of skills and abilities that initially appear hidden.  They have the potential to guide our growth patterns just as do the codes housed in genetic material found in our DNA.  As we draw on them, we emerge from our cocoons to become people of extreme value and remarkable potential.

     Gibran once reminded his readers that the splendid appearance of the temple’s steeple is of no more importance than the stones hidden from view in the structure’s foundation.  To discover what is essential, our lives do not need to achieve a great deal of visibility or be highly acclaimed because of successes.

     We must try to remember that substantive creativity comes from our creator.  Jesus wrote nothing and the writers that did had no assurance that their words would endure.  We are encouraged to sow our seeds with no thought of where the winds of Spirit might carry them.  We must content ourselves with the knowledge that we are beings capable of becoming extensions of God’s presence.

     Greeting every person, circumstance and environment with loving energy is what allowed Joseph to rise to become second in command of Egypt, that encouraged Moses to lead his people, the prophets to write and Jesus to leave his carpentry shop to embrace the unknown.

     We may choose to understand our contribution to humankind as being insignificant or of massive benefit.  However, it is better not to judge the nature of our  accomplishments because in truth we do not know where we fit into the infinite chain of events that will fashion tomorrow’s world.  Let God influence those who remain seated in the peanut galleries of the world’s audiences.

     Long before the invention of the printing press and the impact on our lives of mass media communication, the apostle Paul dictated his thoughts to a scribe as he wrote to a group of people living in Rome.  The rest is prologue.   How is it that his letter and many others were preserved?  This is an example of the creative presence to which each of us must give our lives in simple trust that we infinitely matter.

     What we can do is bring to our respective communities is a highly polished stone because we have achieved a freedom spirit greater than what we have received.  We have chosen not to remain simply another frozen icon representing past social or religious conditioning.  We have become a new creature who has refined the art of making loving energy visible.  God will do the rest.