Spirituality 301

     The study of Spirituality is like walking through a subjective mine field in a combat zone.  People of great faith warn the faithful not to heed the teachings of
strangers who dare to walk in the land of their religious heritage.  For centuries, religious teachers have clung to insights, laws and ways of perceiving the world that have been handed to them as
sacred.  Many who have been given these sacred traditions receive them with great respect, admiration and reverence.  A curious aspect of this practice is that for thousands of years few have dared to question the authority of such second handed insights because of the Divine origins ascribed to them.

     Yet are the ancient texts and scriptures truly of Divine origin?  If they are, who made this declaration and for what purpose?  Was it early Church councils who established such a tradition as a means of exerting greater control over Christians beliefs?       Was it the Bible itself or was the claim of Divine inspiration established when the ancient texts were hand-copied by monks during the Dark Ages?  The writings of the ancients have served and continue to serve humanity well.  They have offered guidance and insights that have provided the foundation for governments.   They have inspired great oratory, musical scores and established boundaries for people who appear to wander their world, a world that offers humanity everything including pitfalls and blind alleys.  There are many voices calling people to follow the ways of the material world.  Those who seek happiness by fulfilling their physical needs and dreams often live long enough to learn that their spiritual coffers may still be empty.  The sacred texts definitely shed light to more enlightened pathways for creative living.

     The study of Spirituality does not seek to discount or circumvent the teachings of the ancients.  We study Spirituality because we seek to understand the invisible aspects of life that govern our decision making and which can easily disguise themselves as angels of opportunity that promise earthly power, wealth and fame.  We want to know why we continue to be seduced by the tyranny of unrecognized needs and why fear appears to become an overwhelming motivation to sabotage our growth during many of life’s more challenging moments.

     Many people experience life not as it appears, but as they define it through their learned values.  They cannot understand how their early, naïve and innocent responses gradually established strong behavioral patterns that, if left uninterrupted, will inevitably fashion the way they perceive others and their world.  For example, those who perceive their experiences as waves of activity designed to victimize them or to erode their self-worth have created definitions that will determine the quality of their destiny.  In addition, those who see each experience as an opportunity for spiritual growth and evolution have created a frame of reference that will perform the same role.  Why the difference?

     Understanding life as a spiritual experience has the ability to empower people in powerful ways that are not available to those who only define life through their five senses.  While some people gather real estate, stocks, bonds and mutual funds to insure their economic futures, others are investing their energy in the development of qualities and attributes that originate from a world no one can observe or fully define.  Many wealthy, beautiful people live empty, meaningless lives that are void of purpose.  Their pain is compounded because they do not know why this is so.  They have everything.

     What is missing, however, is an enormous unseen world that continues to inspire feelings of emptiness.  This invisible world contains our true identity.  It must bleed through into our physical experience for life to be the learning adventure it can become.  As with all citizens of the earth, some choose to evolve and others choose to engage in delay.  What may surprise those who hold as sacred their religious teachings is that there is nothing sacred about the process of our spiritual evolution.  It is as normal as any other growth pattern.  We do not assign the terms “holy” or “sacred” to the processes of learning to walk or communicate.  Why should spiritual evolution be assigned such an ethereal value? Learning to be kind, for example, is a skill that serves us just as does learning to be wise caretakers of our material possessions.

     For example, it serves us well to be good stewards of our financial assets, but we have never looked upon those who live beyond their means or who do not invest for their retirement years as sinners who deserve punishment.  There will be consequences but no one has ever assigned a sacred or an eternal meaning to such an outcome.  Let us compare spiritual growth to an activity with which everyone can easily identify – refining the skills associated with mowing the lawn.  We can learn this skill by study and/or by the process of discovery.  The process for growth is very objective and singles out no one for success or failure.  We experience delay only when we meet a disturbing barrier and do not seek alternatives that would inspire a greater skill level. 

     A family moves into their first home.  The man of the household has assumed cutting the lawn as one of his tasks.  He has never cut a blade of grass in his life, for his experience since childhood has been with apartment living where the responsibility for lawn care belonged to someone else.

     He purchases his first lawnmower and it came with a bible of instructions, but he consults it only in the beginning.   As he begins to mow, he hits small tree stumps that are hidden in the tall grass.  The mower blade also strikes the raised bolt on the lid of the water meter that was hidden in the ground.  He learns by discovery that he can become more efficient and can better protect his equipment if he sets his blade higher and remembers where such obstacles in the lawn are located.

     As the years pass, neighbors advise him about lawn care, suggesting various products that weed and feed as well as remove grubs.  He learns that his lawn will look better if he buys a lawn trimmer to edge around trees and the borders of his gardens.

     Because he did not regularly study his bible, he finds that his lawn mower is increasingly difficult to start.  Eventually it was impossible to start.  He goes to a veteran of lawn care who explains that his spark plug needs to be replaced each year or so, and that he should regularly check the oil level in the mower’s engine.  His failure to be aware of these laws has consequences.  He has to buy a new mower because of ignorance  about the purpose of the dipstick and oil levels.

     The point is that every step of the way he learns.  After ten years, he appears an expert on lawn care.  He has evolved by the trial and error method of discovery as well as heeding the advice of those who know the time tested skills of lawn care.  No one accused him of not fulfilling the Will of God or that he would be damned because he destroyed the engine of his mower, a mower that would have served him well had he only learned the rules for simple maintenance.

     We could use countless examples from our material lives to illustrate the same process involved with our spiritual evolution.  We do not awaken one day and find ourselves generous, forgiving and peaceful, simply because this was God’s plan for us or that these virtues were described in the sacred texts.  We learn these things through trial and error.  We can also learn such attributes as benchmarks because of Jesus’ teachings.  Knowing and practicing the timeless wisdom others have given us will serve to maintain our mental and emotional health.  It simply works better than other alternatives such as having material abundance, attractive physical features or academic credentials. 

     For example, angry people are like the lawn mower that lost its ability to function efficiently when the original spark plug was not changed.  Prolonged resentment will begin to fuse our immune systems by causing substances normally found in our bodies to be produced at levels that become toxic.

     Equally, abilities such as compassion, empathy, sincerity, and authenticity give people a sense of fulfillment and peace that others may never find who have no understanding of the origins of such attributes.  Some people may enter the work force with academic credentials, work experience and salary requirements and become confused when others prefer not to work with them.  Such people have not yet linked their academic accomplishments and work experience with skills of spirit.

     There are any number of life issues that may retard our pursuit of greater levels of spiritual awareness.  For example, when spiritual evolution is associated with various religious practices, the study of Spirituality can be abandoned or ignored by people who have chosen to have nothing to do with religion.  This art of refining our attitudes, perceptions and intuition can become so entwined with the mythologies and the “must have” beliefs prescribed by religionists that this powerful potential for enhancing the quality of life may remain hidden and ignored because of its association with religion.

     By allowing spirituality to be its own discipline, its study can be looked upon as objectively as the decision to go to the gym to build our stamina and the muscular structure of our bodies.  It remains a critical task to feed this invisible part of us.  However, just as many people allow their bodies to go to seed early in life, so people allow their ignorance to starve the aspects of life we define as spiritual.

     According to the Divine blueprints the ancients described, each person was created to reflect the qualities of our creator.  We have been created with a free will, which means that we can decide to pursue any decision we desire without fear of condemnation from some external deity if we fail to put oil in our engine.  Life is very objective as are its consequences.  When consequences are viewed as symbolic symptoms, each person can make correctives or receive guidance during every phase of his or her journey.  When certain responses, decisions or attitudes are not working, we know about it immediately if we have learned how to read the symptoms correctly.  For those who do not know how to do this, they assume that their lives are only reflecting what comes naturally to all of us.

     For example, many people invest their energy in the development of masks and pretenses, i.e., they have one persona while on stage in their social context and exhibit another when they are in the privacy of their aloneness.   The individuals in the later category are frequently the ones who are humiliated when the FBI arrests them for purchasing child pornography over the Internet.  These are people who manipulate the data on their résumés to reflect academic credentials or work experience they do not have.  These are people who have secret habits and appetites that only become stronger and bolder the more they energize them with their thoughts and fantasies.

     As with the illustration of the homeowner, God allows us to learn by trial and error or by deciding to practice what others before us have discovered.  We learn, for example that not all our chosen responses build our immune system and our sense of community.  The process of spiritual evolution is readily applicable to all human beings, even those who wish to remove the process from the realm of what others consider sacred. All of us have had our origin from God whether or not we have such a belief.  Such a belief is not essential for us to acquire the skills of spirit which are our inheritance.

     What is absolutely essential, however, is that we awaken to an understanding that our material experience is but the matrix for us to refine what and who we are.  If we assume that our experience is defined only by what our bodily senses tell us, we remain imprisoned by a world that literally does not exist once we leave our solid forms.  All our sins, our ignorance and our lack of accurate information remain here when we transition.

     This is the way life is for everyone whether we are an atheist, a born again Christian or we subscribe to one of the many available belief systems.  For thousands of years, millions of people have experienced life being directed by the invisible world that Spirituality studies.  It is time humanity understands this world.  Increasingly this understanding is being experienced more objectively and productively by industry in its management seminars.   Spirituality is no longer the property of religious communities.

     Non-religious people are discovering the vast power and potential that becomes theirs when they create by using the discovered resources within themselves.  They learn, for example, that reasonable profits in their business pursuits are far superior to the forces of greed.  They learn that bringing consistency to their authenticity, kindness and respect toward everyone in the work environment produces an affirmation that increases loyalty and enthusiasm among other employees.  They learn that loving their spouse without expectations often produces the result they desire and need.  They learn that polishing their own stone by radiate loving, creative values is the best parenting strategy.

     What happens to those who, for whatever reason, remain blind to matters of spirit?  Consequences are an integral part of creation.  They either convince us to change our life strategies or we label ourselves as victims within our circumstances.  One way or another we will learn that we are the authors of our autobiographies.  We are the captains of our ships, i.e., the creator of all our thoughts and responses.  We either set goals/objective and learn how to perceive life creatively or we remain confused by what comes up for us during our sojourn on the earth. With this said, we must remember that our destinies often come at us with accelerated pace while we are deciding to do something else.

     We learn that pain and hurt are warning signs, that our bodies are an visible print out of how we are processing life experiences and that we are predisposed to the genetic codes that have arrived within us, codes that were passed to us from countless eons.  Every human being has been and is subject to the matrix of experiences that the world offers.  The universe of our experience is enormous and has always remained accommodating to everyone who ventures forth here.

     Many ancient writers caught glimpses of the non-material, invisible world that governs us and have suggested that “correct” behavior as being obedient to God.  These were ingenious insights but they were primitive.  Spirituality teaches that rather than obedience which implies a discipline, we evolve by choosing freely to live in harmony with our design, e.g., “Row, Row, Row your boat, gently down the stream.”

     Religion, on the other hand, makes claims of having discovered the path and by using fear, the Divine authority ascribed to the manuscripts of ancient writers and the promise of a blissful eternity has convinced millions to take the high road.  Again, this has proven ingenious.

     Christians who claim that those “who live in Christ are saved” have given voice to an identical experience of those who have mastered the art of extending their energy along the one way street loving represents.  This behavior is the same energy pattern even though it is called by a different name.  People identified within the former category have rooted their lives firmly in a system of beliefs while the latter group has become grounded in skills they have authentically mastered. Jesus belonged to the latter group.

     Obviously he was not one, who lived in Christ and was saved, neither was Buddha.  Jesus was giving witness to life’s creative energy patterns that will enhance our abilities.  For example, there is nothing sacred about forgiveness and the ability of instantly letting go of hurts.  Such a skill is very practical and life enhancing.  In fact, when this skill is mastered, forgiveness becomes unnecessary once a person learns not to be offended by another person’s immaturity or lack of skill in a particular area.

     In conclusion, the steps toward the study of Spirituality do not require the abandonment of what we have been taught in our respective religious communities and traditions.  Quite the contrary.  Were it not for the ancients, our confusion and sense of chaos would be more profound than it is.  The call of Spirituality invites us to add to their valuable contributions, to create a universal understanding of our spiritual potential that lies within everyone, regardless of their religious orientation, and to curb our need to abandon kindness, respect and love toward others because of our need to “be right.”

     There are times when the most thoughtful and faithful among us act as though our beliefs and orthodoxy are the law and that God does not have the final word.  As the Apostle Paul once wrote, “Now we see only dimly.”  He knew more insights were coming to future generations.  The mind of God cannot be imprisoned in sacred texts regardless of their being labeled as “divinely inspired.”  Perhaps they were, but the Creator’s handiwork continues to be revealed for all who authentically seek.

     For countless generations the sacred texts have been with us.  For all the timeless wisdom found in their pages, we have not mastered the very basic skill requested by Jesus – to love our neighbor who may be a Jew, Muslin, Roman Catholic or Hindu.  Have all the variations of Christian theology brought us any closer to experiencing a world community?  What can we do to enhance the coming of that day?  Perhaps the answer is to begin studying and teaching the principles found in Spirituality.  After all, this is what Jesus taught his listeners -- the influential, life changing dynamics available to everyone as each continues to discover and explore the invisible world of His Kingdom where the potential skills and power associated with loving energy exist.