What Would My Higher Power Have Me Do?

girl in the sunrise

When I first decided to turn my life over to a higher power, I thought, heck, it’s still just me making decisions. I “turn to my higher power,” and then I make the decision. What’s new about that? Yet I decided to go through the motions to see what might happen.

Much of my spiritual life starts with going through the motions. Then in time, something else takes over.

Going through the motions meant I would ask my “higher power” for direction before making a decision of any consequence beyond what to watch on TV during breakfast. Instead, I would pause and ask for direction.

Over the next few weeks, something shifted.

One day I asked for guidance on a problem that had been bothering me for days. Instantly the right solution popped into my brain. That couldn’t have been my higher power. It was too quick. My higher power can’t possible move that fast.

Then I asked about a problem I had with a friendship. I faced a big decision. Should I continue with this long-term friend? No answer came. In the past, I would have shrugged and gone on with the dysfunction. Instead I kept asking. The answer came, but it took weeks: walk free from the friendship.

It wasn’t easy. The extrication was awkward and not quite spiritual. But it was the right decision.

I understand what people mean when they say “a problem has them hopelessly defeated.” I lived in that world for decades. It’s a world of suffering.

That sad condition lifted when I began turning to my higher power for answers.

Photo credit: Yahoo

 

 

 

 

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Connect by Connecting

Buddha on the road

I’ve spent my life writing. I work as a journalist, but I also write fiction and poetry. The creative work solves something inside . . . a need for discovery, a need to grow.

I’ve taken a wealth of writing classes, read scores of books on writing. I’ve taught writing for years. One thing I’ve seen that’s true – you never stop learning how to write. Another true thing – you reach a point when only writing teaches you how to write.

It’s the same with spirituality. I’ve studied spirituality, and I’ve taught spirituality. Here’s what I’ve learned: If you meet the Buddha on the road kill him. Or . . . if you meet the writing teacher on the road, ignore him. Killing him isn’t necessary.

Spirituality is connection . . . connections inside, connections outside, connections in every moment. In time, nothing teaches us how to connect except connecting.

We each have our own spiritual DNA. Everything is everything, but each thing has its own particular way. We learn this in writing. If you want to talk about struggle, you talk about one person’s struggle. In To Kill a Mockingbird, we learn about the Jim Crow South from one young girl, Scout. In The Diary of Ann Frank, we learn about the Holocaust from the specific experience of one 13-year-old girl.

We learn about spirituality from our own particular path.

Instruction helps. Books help. Meditation helps. They teach us about the world within, how the path is laid out in perfect detail, designed exquisitely for each one of us, designed for where we are and how we are. If we trust it, it will become as familiar as our own skin, in time, more familiar.

We learn our path by traveling our path. We learn how to live by trusting this path.

I spent years learning enough about writing to finally let the writing teach me. I spent decades learning how to let the path within guide me. I will spend the rest of my time learning to trust that path.

Image from fractalenlightenment.com

My Hill in the Michigan Woods

sand-run-hero

When I was about eight, I used to play in the woods with neighborhood kids. We played war mostly, using sticks as rifles. I found a perfect hill to hide behind. It was about one story high, with sand on the side where I would hide. On the side facing my enemy friends, the hill blended into the woods. I could take sniper aim at them, and nobody saw me.

But that’s the not point. Once I nestled into the hill that first time, I was surprised to find the hill knew me. Simple to say, hard to explain.

That day was normal. Saturday in late spring. Not yet summer, but late enough in spring to be confident of the warm.

Sitting on my hidden perch, I notice this was the exact right place to be. An uncommon feeling for an eight-year-old. During those young years I had this feeling occasionally when I was out in the woods – that the world welcomed me. I never had those feelings in my home. People in my home loved me as they were able, but the world wasn’t theirs to offer welcome. They were struggling, and I was just part of their struggle.

Because it welcomed me, the hill was mine. Other kids came up over the hill after me, and we played and fought, but the hill was just a hill to them. And they were just kids. It didn’t matter if they were on this hill or any other hill. For me, though, the hill was exquisitely unique.

The kids raced off into the woods, shooting each other with their stick guns, but I stayed behind on this hill that held me in comfort. To feel welcome in this world is to feel loved. Back then I wouldn’t have called it love, but that’s what it was.

As the days went by, I’d walk by the hill on my way to school. Sometimes I run up to the top. When I did, I’d feel that homey welcome. Sometimes just walking by it was enough to feel its easy warmth. But I had worldly things to do, so I didn’t tarry long. It was enough to know the hill was there and that I wasn’t alone in this peculiar world.

Photo source: Summit Metro Park

Spirit Moving Through Us

tree

There is a whole life happening within us that we don’t often see – spirit moving through our lives. We cannot control it and we rarely get glimpses into its long intention. Yet it carries more influence on our lives than anything we believe is happening before us.

We can experience life as difficult, thwarting us turn by turn. This is disturbing, since we believe we’re entitled to a pleasing life. We become frustrated and disappointed when life doesn’t cooperate.

If we could get a glimpse within and see that our painful experiences sometimes bring great good, we would be able to accept the pain. If we could see that some of our pleasurable activities cause harm, we would cease that behavior. Instead, we fight the pain and seek pleasure.

Painful activities are not intrinsically good. Nor are pleasurable experiences necessarily bad. It’s just that judging the value of our experience by whether it brings pain or pleasure is a faulty metric.

Spirit moves through us, even when we cannot decipher its intent.

We have the choice to surrender and move in unison with the spirit within. Understanding the nature of spirit is not necessary, but willingness is. We can reach guidance through prayer and meditation, followed by listening to the call to active service.

As we learn this, we are guided by peace, a peace that is neither pleasure nor pain. With practice, we can learn to rely on the guidance, even while that which guides us remains a mystery.

I Don’t Mind What Happens

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When you begin to see life without fear, frightening things become acceptable. Or so it may seem.

At the same time, we may feel called upon to act in response to a world that is out of balance, whether it’s someone in trouble or larger harmful developments.

This world matters even if we are convinced our experience in this world will dissolve into oneness.

It’s a spiritual fantasy to believe that nothing matters, that the world before us is not real. The world is not real is the same way as the eternal inside inside, yet it functions as real in our spiritual journey.

In the late 1970s, Krishnamurti famously asked an audience whether they wanted “to know his secret.” Audience members reportedly leaned forward in anticipation. Krishnamurti quietly said, “You see, I don’t mind what happens.”

It’s one of my favorite quotes.

Another quote I love comes from Angela Davis, and it seems to say the exact opposite:

“I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.”

This twist on the Serenity Prayer is a commitment to act in the world.

These two ideas live inside me comfortably, though it took a few years to understand they are not in conflict.

We offer ourselves to the presence within. We ask for guidance, and we ask to be useful. “Relieve me of the bondage of self that I may better do Thy will.” And we surrender the outcome.

We will be okay. The world will be okay. Whatever happens. And we give ourselves over to the guidance to do what we can do.

I Don’t Understand Spirit

clouds

I heard a great line: “I understand God about as much as my dog understands my credit card.”

That’s right. Yet it doesn’t matter how well we understand God or spirit or the presence within. Understanding is not possible. It’s also not necessary.

What matters is how we experience the presence of spirit – whatever spirit is. That experience is real and it can have an astonishing impact on our lives.

How we experience spirit is individual. It’s like learning your body. You step here, but not there. You lift here, and you release there. You lean toward this, and you lean away from that.

Some spiritual practices nourish. Some leave you hungrier still. And it changes over time.

Some spiritual practices always help, year in and year out. In this effort, we are not really learning anything about spirit. We’re learning about ourselves and how we connect to spirit.

That’s all that matters. In time, we become more efficient in the process. We learn how to drop a fruitless effort quickly. We learn how to recognize what works. We gain a taste for what effectively brings us to awareness.

After walking in the desert endlessly, we come to streams and forests and gentle pastures. The effort teaches us an understanding of how we connect. With practice, it comes easily. At first, however, that notion seems ludicrous.

The Peace That Broken People Know

pottery

Your wound is like the purposeful flaw in Native American pottery – it’s there to let spirit in. We all need to heal through life. It’s in the healing we connect with spirit. Spirit reaches us through the wound.

I used to believe that addiction was a form of wounding, that we hurt ourselves and others through addiction. That’s true. But it’s also true that the wound was there before the addiction. The addiction was our way of trying to cope with our wounds. At first, it works. Then of course it doesn’t. Things get worse and soon we’re struggling with greater wounds. When we get sober, we find we still need to heal the original wound.

What is that original wound? Does it come simply from being alive on Earth? We don’t know. Over time, we come to be aware that something within us is broken. The cure is our connection with spirit. Many of us discover this simple truth after trying everything else to ease the pain.

Many of us come to feel gratitude for the discomfort that so vividly prompted our attention to healing. This is good. Our spiritual journey begins as we try to heal the wound.