Try imagining yourself as choosing to incarnate on the earth in order to experience limitation. Here our fears are exceedingly real. Here our daily routines can produce frustration as well as exhilaration. This course is designed to equip our imaginations to expand the horizons of our thought patterns so that we can say with the great sages and gurus of the past and present, “Nothing is as it appears.”
Without the development of a framework that helps make sense of our experiences, the universe can easily be viewed as purposeless and void of meaning. It is easy to understand why the various communities held together by a thoughtful system of beliefs can make the decisions that they do.
For example, Christian extremists can claim that they have the way to salvation. Muslim extremists can exclaim, “Death to the infidels” and be willing to die for Allah in order to achieve their eternal reward. Secularists can assume that there is no divine order and proceed to wed themselves to an economic model that drives them toward material success.
But the religionists and secularists all fail at their tasks. The desire of people to strive for rewards is the same whether viewed as “pleasing God,” arriving at Heaven or entering the million dollar round table in whatever industry in which they excel. We are not here to win anything. We are here to learn humility, kindness, empathy, sensitivity, compassion and creativity while putting into perspective what our physical senses tell us have value. We are here to develop skills that will be useful here as well as in a reality where material forms do not exist.
Absolutely nothing in this world of forms has value in the timeless continuum to which we eventually return. The illusionary context and content of the material world tell us quite the opposite. This was the purpose of our world’s design. Without an appropriate, powerful classroom and the disguise of limitation, substantive instruction would be impossible to achieve.
Understanding this and creatively responding to our countless teachable moments is the ultimate game that lies before us. We will each travel our individual path alone. We are responsible for our choices, our attitudes, our acquired skills and our evolution. No one, including God, can give us any more potential beyond what has been given to us at birth.
In Oriental religions of the East, the journey and the outcome were assured. All Buddha's, for example, were the same. Their goal was to achieve enlightenment and to teach the faithful their path. In the Occidental religions of the West, we are experiencing the rise of the individual, a person who may choose to opt out of belief systems previously offered by their religious heritage. This is a unique turn of events in modern history and very well may be the West’s greatest contribution to humanity. It will not become such without exacting a great price.
Individuals are beginning to abandon the rules; codes of conduct and the social conditioning that gave a sacred quality to the nuclear family, free education, dress codes, ethical behavior andthe proper adoration of God. Religionists are saying that many societies are going to hell in a hand basket, but quite the opposite may be true.
There is a consciousness emerging in individuals that knows what it prefers. This consciousness no longer needs to live within boundaries once established by society and religious institutions. During this period of transition from an established footprint of boundaries to boundaries established by the individual there will be chaos.
The challenge for society is to reinvent itself, so that it offers encouragement to individuals as they grow toward choices that produce the spiritual qualities that make life peaceful, kind and generous of spirit. The transition from groupthink and group-speak to adhering to an individual path will be filled with pitfalls as people “work out their own salvation with fear and trembling,” as was suggested by the Apostle Paul.
Such examples of this newly exercised freedom are everywhere. The growth of equality among the genders economically, politically and socially is allowing women to leave abusive relationships without fear. People are learning that they do not have to please others first, including God, before following their dreams. People are more emotionally free to leave the security of their primary communities and migrate to any place in the country or world. Labels like Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Jew, Muslim, United Methodist or Baptist have lost their defining magnetism. People wishing to locate a spiritual learning center will select one that meets their individual needs, making the center’s official label irrelevant.
The struggle for the individual is how to sing his or her solo free from the definitions once established and often imposed by external authorities. The struggle for identity will remain the challenge. Equally will be the challenge of equipping each individual’s spirit so that people do not fall prey to the seductive symbols of the material world that will also be rapidly reinventing them as each tries to market their wares.
During this period of transition from the community to the individual, society will experience much uncertainty. Religious groups will cling tightly to their truths and proclaim that the end of time is near. People will increasingly realize that the Scriptures are not God’s Word. Rather, many will conclude that the Scriptures are words that record and describe the dance between the divine and finite creatures that was experienced by writers thousands of years ago. People who cannot cope with the freedom that is slowly being thrust upon them with enormous acceleration, may self-medicate or use one of the many avenues to shut out the world from IPods' to suicide.
The one component within is that will sustain our confidence and balance is our innate consciousness, an aspect of every life form. The leaves of the plant know what they need. No one has to tell them where the sun is; they instinctively know. During the major tsunami in recent history, animals knew how to read the symbols of rapid change and escaped while their human counterpart remained transfixed with their digital cameras to record the large wave approaching. No lower forms of animals were lost while thousands of human beings had their lives erased in the devastation that followed in the wake of that wave.
The individual is equipped with everything he or she needs at birth. The challenge will be to cease looking at the external world for its cues for living and learn to access the unique qualities and potential talents that await discovery within. People can swim against the current if they wish, but eventually they will tire and perish if they do not awaken in time so they can choose differently.
Too much sexual pleasure, too many intimate partners, too little exercise, too much alcohol, too few dietary disciplines, too much stress and too little that enriches the mind and spirit have always been part of the recipe that erodes life and robs it of its worth and meaning. Even Socrates taught, “Nothing to excess.” We reap exactly what we sow. Those who blame others for who they are have seldom assumed responsibility for sowing different seeds i.e., changing how they think. Ultimately, there is no one to blame.
This course will not attempt to save you. It will not tell you what you must believe. As always, the words you read and the discussions you experience will offer a framework to interpret your experiences so that they enhance life, not erode it. We are all on a journey while we dwell in our solid forms. We each will have dragons to slay. But the dragons are not those of mythology who guarded the gold or the virgins; the dragons we must slay will reveal our purpose for being born.
Our dragons rear their heads with each uninformed judgment we make, each time we believe we need something in the material world in order to experience wholeness, each time we use our material means to escape into pleasures, each time we refuse to confront a seductive weakness, each time we conclude that we are not good enough or each time we seek our salvation by complying to external thought patterns established by others.
Life’s most powerful dragons attack us at our greatest point of vulnerability. There would be no sport, no learning and no evolution of spirit if they did not present themselves seductively as threats to our security or kindle our desire for more of the treasures found in the physical world.
Our pain, fear and periods of uncertainty come because we are in unfamiliar waters. We are confronting issues where we have undeveloped skills. A dragon in our midst tells us that our known skills are all that we have. If this were so, the crawling child would never learn to run. It is the struggle of the caterpillar that gives strength to the butterfly’s wings. The water bug, whose environment is the lake bottom, could not possibly know that in time it would grow two sets of wings that will carry it well beyond the confines of the lake that once represented its security.
We were created with all the assets necessary for us to transcend the world and its numerous, sensual and fascinating illusions. This information is like the Golden Fleece that Jason set sail to find. This is the Holy Grail. This is entering by the narrow gate that Jesus mentioned. Each one of us is similarly equipped in our spiritual DNA, our inheritance, for this journey. There is absolutely nothing of which we ever need to fear.
No specific belief system is necessary for the dandelion to grow up through six inches of asphalt. It struggles to grow toward the sun’s rays even though it has no sensual validation that some life-giving ball of radiance exists. This powerful life form only knows something is calling it to evolve. We are no different.
Some people hunger for best practices during their life’s adventure. Some learn throughtheir pain. Some follow spiritual disciplines that produce results that for them are timeless. Some give their hearts and souls to a belief system belonging to a collective of people who remain faithful to religious practices and beliefs. All of us, however, will eventually learn and evolve. We can only experience blind alleys for so long. After thousands of years of spiritual ignorance, mistakes, stupidity and repetitive, redundant behavior that produced no skills of spirit, each soul does awaken to the road less traveled.
For God, there is no timetable for souls experiencing the adventure of further evolution as some people have been taught. What is one lifetime for God whose millions of years are but a twinkling of the eye? Regardless of anyone’s belief system, we are infinite beings who are choosing to do, believe and think exactly as we wish or been instructed to do. If we were not contented or satisfied with where we are, we would choose again or take greater risks during our search for what fits the growth pattern we prefer.
There is a payoff, reward, consequence or result area that compels our spirits to march to thedrumbeat of a particular drummer. We are experiencing something we believe rewards us, e.g., Divine love, intense pleasure, a spiritual quest, physical beauty, fear of disappointing God, beating some system or outmaneuvering our competitors. Some people choose carefully to maintain their identity as a victim who thrives on the blame game, who seeks pity and cries out in dependency while siphoning love and attention from everyone who will give it. Our neediness will never be satisfied from or by an external source.
The goal of life is the transformation of our consciousness. To achieve this we must have a spiritual center or framework that helps us transcend the current level of our thought patterns. All people see themselves in relationship to some system, be it religious, economic, social or political. We spend our energy complying with the rules of that system.
Our task is to move beyond the known boundaries of those systems in order to ascend to even higher realms of consciousness and creativity. By choosing not to evolve, we are ensuring the illusion of security and the maintenance of where we are. This is a perfectly respectable choice that has been made by millions of people generation after generation. It is less risky to remain faithful to staying close to the shoreline where the known is visible. Always the few who venture into the deeper waters bring back gifts and tales that fascinate the imaginations of those who cling to what is known. Was Jesus one of these who risked abandoning the familiar?
During the next nine weeks we will learn ways to transform our consciousness. We will be exposed to ways of reframing what we perceive, if those ways do not enhance our evolution. We will learn ways of overcoming our fear. We will learn how to make better use of our imagination, channel our neediness and learn to use our infinite nature as the ultimate frame of reference to view life’s experiences. We will learn that we are ultimately responsible for all our thoughts, attitudes, feelings and perspectives. We decide which definitions to use when we communicate our identities.
What is interesting about living in our physical forms is that we can never lie to ourselves. Inside each of us hangs the scales of justice. Those scales are honest and accurate. Those scales will enhance the growth ofour wings or they will become our loom weights that hold us prisoners in the world of forms.
Enjoy the course.