Spirit Moving Through Us

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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.

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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

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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.

Watch The World Come Home

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When we get these feelings of spiritual connectedness, when it seems we are one with all that’s around us, even at one with our own lives, maybe we’re seeing a crack into the next world. Or the in-between world where spirit breathes for a moment before we enter a new earth with new skin.

Or maybe the world is spiritual in its essence and the connectedness is a brief view of what is actually true.

We wake up with needs, we wake up with pain, we wake up and choose to see the connectedness behind the pain and need. We wake up and see the need and pain of others and our own troubles subside. We attend to the needs and pain of others and the connectedness seeps in and the needs and pain drift away.

And what world is here before us?

Trees and houses and moons and clouds and dogs and wind and water. Is our pain among these?

Is our connectedness elsewhere or is it mixed into the world before us? Is our connectedness taste and skin and smells and the weight of air? Is our connectedness relief from this world, a reminder that our mammal life is just a moment along a curve of outrageous beauty?

For now, I am here among so many people, alive in the exquisite presence of love that doesn’t even know it’s love.

The Secret of the Voice in Your Head

 

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All day long, we go around with a monologue inside our head – the chatter of our thinking. Much of it includes thoughts such as: what do I have to do next, why is this or that person making things difficult, what am I going to have to eat or drink in the next? Will I be late? Am I good enough to do what’s expected from me? What happens if I lose my income? How am I going to stop this pain?

Often – if not almost always – it’s a mixture of fear and stress.

We sometimes mix the negative voice with fantasies of escape or revenge. These fantasies are not tangible nor rational enough to produce satisfying action.

The voice in your head sounds like your own, but it’s not. It tends to be a compiled rumble of childhood messages mixed with adult conflicts and disappointments. The fears and stress are enunciated in your own words and in your own voice.

On the bright side, we can replace the negative thoughts with positive affirmations or steps toward solutions. Even then, a negative voice will pop up out of nowhere. Chasing those negative thoughts is like hitting the plastic moles in What-A-Mole. So, how do you untangle this mess of unhappy inner quarrels?

Here’s a secret for the ages: you don’t have to believe in your own thoughts.

Your thoughts are just thoughts, words streaming through your head like the crawl at the bottom of a news channel. Let those thoughts be. They are not you. You don’t have to own them. They actually get quieter if you pay them no mind.

It’s a tiny thing to learn, but it’s helped me a great deal.

The Accidental Mystic

For many years, I followed the New Thought beliefs at Unity and Religious Science meetings. I attended Self Realization Fellowship. At all of them, I enjoyed the meditation and the message. I believed strongly in the teachings and became involved in these groups, including board activity and teaching the kids. I studied New Thought literature and read books by sympathetic thinkers such as Emmet Fox. When our minister was out of town, I often conducted services.

This involvement had a positive effect on my life. But it took a health crisis to really connect with spirit.

I woke up from a three-week coma a couple years back, and the person who woke was different from the person who entered the coma. When I woke up, something else was looking out through my eyes. Something larger than the little me.

As I recovered, learned how to walk again, and resumed my life, the sensation or presence didn’t go away.

In trying to understand what was happening, I read further than deeper. I now think that what I’ve experienced is what is often called oneness or non-duality. I’m the same person walking around, working, and interacting with family and friends. My personality is generally the same, but there is a presence that is with me all the time, something positive that seems to neutralize negative feelings. Anger and frustration are gone. And while humor is still part of my life, the cynical side of humor is absent.

Reading about spirituality is quite different now that I’m trying to understand what’s happening to me rather than trying to make something spiritual happen. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect the decades of spiritual study helped bring about this positive change. Don’t know. But the world – which once seemed inhospitable – now seems beautiful.

Holy Instant Is Meant to Last

Most people I know have experienced moments of spiritual experience or insight. My research sample of friends is too small to assert that everyone has experiences of being in the presence of spirit. But probably everyone has these experiences at different times in life. While some believe these are momentary flashes that come on their own, I’m convinced they can be encouraged and sustained.

I experienced spiritual moments when I was young. I didn’t think anything of them. They were simply moments of feeling that all was well. Usually I experienced this while I was in the woods or trudging through fields in search of snakes and toads. I was complete. The world was complete. And there was no difference between me and the world.

Later I experienced spiritual epiphanies during my late teens and early 20s during experiences with psychedelic drugs such as LSD, DMT, and psilocybin. The drugs delivered a much different holy instant. They produced spiritual sensations, but those experiences were laced with an edgy chemical feeling. When the drug wore off, so did the spirituality.

Shortly after that period, I met a girl who had a strong commitment to spirituality. We attended Self-Realization Fellowship classes at the Detroit Institute of Arts. She would have direct spiritual experiences with friends. She described this as “clicking.” She told she was waiting to click with me. I had no idea what she was talking about.

Then one evening as we pulled into the parking lot of my apartment, a feeling started coming over me. It was a strong physical feeling that was both light and comforting. There was nothing subtle about it. We were both looking straight ahead. Softly, she said, “This is it. This is clicking.” I had no fear, no anxiety, just a strong sense of love and presence.

I started to ask what it was. She said, “No, don’t disturb it.” The feeling lasted for about five or ten minutes. When it faded I finally asked her what it was. “That was clicking,” she said. When I pressed, she said, “I don’t know what it is. It’s clicking. I think it’s God.”

The clicking never happened again. She moved on to another boyfriend. I moved on to another girlfriend. I have felt the sensation again – though in a weaker strength – during meditation. As my spiritual commitment and activities increased in recent years, I’ve felt it again, many times, but not with the same intensity or the same mystery. These days, when I experience the presence of spirit, it’s not mysterious at all. I’ve become convinced it’s our natural state of being.

Holy instants sometimes last only seconds. They are precious moments when we finally see reality. They’re like a moment of sunshine on a cloudy day. When the sun pokes through, we know the sun is not being inconsistent. The sun is never diminished by the clouds that block it.

 

Likewise with spirit during a holy instant. Our experience of the presence may be brief, but that doesn’t mean spirit is any less complete. Spirit is never inconsistent, never brief. Celestial light is constant. It’s not distant. It’s present and complete at all times, in our heart, in our breath, in our very being. The holy instant is our true nature, our true identity. This waking life is the illusion. The holy instant is the truth, and it can be called forth to the center of our being, to the center of our experience of this world.