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

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.

Spirituality in the Trenches

we-see-things-as-we-are

Spiritual calm is easy when everything is going great. Finding peace is easy even if things are only going sort of well. Yet spirituality becomes critical in the rough patches, when life slips slowly or suddenly out of control. This’s when calm matters – and that’s when inner peace can be hard to find.

Our troubles are often illusory, but it can take spirituality to see through the illusion.

Think about difficulties you’ve experienced in the past. How many of those would have been greatly relieved if you kept your head? How many of them were not actually difficulties but rather misperceptions?

Overcorrection can cause serious car accidents. The state of Missouri recently identified overcorrection as the leading cause of traffic fatalities.

During much of my life, I responded to problems with emotional overcorrection. Call it overreaction or reactive behavior. It was a matter of not being able to insert the brain between a seemingly threatening event and my response to it.

Spirituality provides a cool pause in a highly charged world – a place of calm when life is on fire.

Spirituality can circumvent damaging emotional reactions and give you a chance to see – even if just for a moment – that the essence of life is peace and love, not threat and danger.

The Wisdom Within

Reading books and blogs on spirituality, listening to talks, watching YouTube videos, all of it brings calm and reminds me to pay attention to the soft hum in my chest and arms.

It doesn’t bring wisdom.

Stepping into spiritual writing and discussion draws me closer to a place within and gives me ways to express what’s inside.

If I’m not careful, I can go years without any awareness of the language within.

Some time ago, I attended a spiritual talk with a friend. Afterwards I asked what she had learned. “I didn’t learn anything,” she replied. “I didn’t expect to.”

“Then why did you go?”

“I need to be reminded.”

I need to be reminded as well. When I put myself into the stream of spiritual language, I am reminded of the presence and I awake yet again to the guidance inside.

For me, access to the wisdom within requires continual reminders, and I am grateful for each one.

Living in the Quiet

quiet

I used to want peace. Now I’m not sure what peace is.

The absence of stress? Taking away stress doesn’t necessarily leave us with peace.

So I’ll take quiet as the metric.

The absence of noise in my head doesn’t result in complete silence, but I don’t need complete silence to be quiet.

Birds, the breeze through the bushes, far-off horn honking, the tapping of a woodpecker a few trees away – that’s quiet enough.

Not fretting over the past, not uneasy about the future – just quiet.

My muscles relax and yet I’m not sleepy.

There are worse ways to live.

There are worse ways I’ve lived.

It’s not a long journey to be quiet. It’s right here, and I don’t worry whether it’s peace, whether I’m in the now, or whether I’m all right. It’s just quiet.

Who Is Here You Are Now

I know that title here looks like it has a typo in it. Yet the awkward wording is intentional. What does it mean? I’m not sure. But I know one thing: our language does not lend itself to easily speaking or writing about deep spirituality, or what is referred to as nonduality.

Nonduality essentially means oneness. If there is oneness, there is not a subject and an object.

Alan Watts was the first teacher I read who questioned whether you can discuss nonduality in written or spoken English. Toward the end of the “The Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are,” Watts concedes he can’t adequately describe nonduality because our object/subject language will not accommodate it. Many poets have tried to wrestle deeper meaning from English by defying conventional syntax.

The idea is to break syntax to open a hole in the language large enough for spirit to enter. Gertrude Stein said, “A rose is a rose is a rose.” Robert Duncan also said it with the line: “There’s nothing inside but the inside inside.” Or anything by John Ashbery, such as this: “The music brought us what it seemed we had long desired, but in a form so rarefied there was no emptiness of sensation.”

Perhaps you could defy our language this way:

You not you who you are not here where you are not now.

Or this question:

We not I who we are not here – are we you not now as we are you here?

Maybe it’s nonsense. Maybe it’s an opening to nonduality speech.

You can sound it out, and it makes as much sense as looking at a photo of yourself and saying, “This is not me” and being correct (thanks Zak).

To crack open the language is to crack open the thinking. And if thought is the barrier to true vision, then the language needs to be cracked open.