Understanding the Spiritual Journey

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Part 5 of 6: Navigating from the Complete Soul

When we think of a journey, we generally think of moving from one point in space to another, a process that takes time. If I want to travel from Grand Junction to Denver (name your own starting and finishing points), for example, my starting point is Grand Junction and I will follow I-70 for approximately 4 hours to reach my destination.

The spiritual journey is quite different. If we state that our destination is spiritual enlightenment then we may assume, based on where we think we are in our current understanding, the time it will take us to arrive is years, maybe multiple lifetimes. Placing the spiritual journey on such a timeline, however, assures us that we will never reach our goal of enlightenment.

How can I say such a thing when so many of us feel as if we are not even close to the level of spiritual enlightenment we suppose is possible? Easy. Using our illustration, the enlightenment we seek is not found in Denver. It is found right where we are, in Grand Junction.

The single element we seek that constitutes enlightenment is the experience of our soul. Where is your soul? In Denver? Is your soul at the end of a very long trek into the hazy horizon of a perceived future? Where on earth can you go where you are not? Wherever you go, your soul is with you every step of the way. As Meister Eckhart pointed out, “That which you are looking for is that which is doing the looking.”

What barriers stand between our soul and our present awareness? There are no natural barriers. There are perceptual barriers only. Our spiritual journey is not about moving to some other place, even in spiritual knowledge. It’s about the willingness to release perceived barriers that prevent us from experiencing the fullness of the soul that is available to us at this very moment.

Now I’m not suggesting that you are going to experience the full blast of spiritual illumination based on a simple message like this one. I am suggesting that you begin to reconsider the nature of your spiritual journey in a way that opens you to the possibility of an authentic revelation right now. God is omnipresent and your point of contact will never be any closer than it is right now.

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The Spiritual Link of Heart and Head

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Part 4 of 6: Navigating from the Complete Soul

Traditionally, the heart is associated with our feeling nature, while the head is associated with our thinking side. In spiritually related terms, we’ll think of these as our intuitive and intellectual faculties. Intuition is associated with matters of the soul while the intellect tends to focus on our daily affairs.

Jesus suggested to the Pharisee, Nicodemus, that “unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (Jn 3:3). The well-educated Nicodemus did not understand what Jesus was talking about and he wondered how a man literally could enter a second time his mother’s womb and be born again. Jesus responded with, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (3:6). That which is born of the flesh is a reference to the purely intellectual approach to life, our taking material appearances only as the basis of our reality. That which is born of the spirit refers to the understanding that comes through our intuitive perceptions of the underlying spiritual reality.

On our own spiritual journey, it is very important for us to take time for quiet meditation. The object here is to silence the busy activities of the intellect and open our heart intuitively to the presence of God. At first we simply enjoy the peace of stepping off the busy churning of thoughts that race randomly through our mind. Eventually we become aware that there is a deeper presence asserting itself into our attention. Here we find assurance, a steadfast love that calms and strengthens us in ways that better equip us to deal with the various situations in our life. We begin to understand what it is to be born of spirit.

I don’t think Jesus would have taught his followers something they could not do. He was inviting Nicodemus to make the shift from a strict intellect to becoming more intuitively sensitive. This shift is not made through further study but through a conscious endeavor to let go and become receptive to that inner fountain of spirit that rises within each one of us. Take time to be still and turn to your indwelling spirit. You will find this a very calming act.

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In the World, Not of It

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Part 3 of 6: Navigating from the Complete Soul

Father, I desire that they also, whom thou hast given me, may be with me where I am, to behold my glory which thou hast given me in thy love for me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24).

When Jesus refers to the world, he is referring to the general, senses-based perception of reality to which most of us subscribe. We deem as real that which we see with the eye and hear with the ear. If it is true, as we saw last week, that we are spiritual beings having a human experience, does this mean that we are to treat as unreal all that comes to us through the senses?

Science presents its own version of the dilemma by stating that matter is 99.999% empty space. Does this mean when I crack my shin on the coffee table that it cannot possibly hurt, that gasp-inducing pain is simply an illusion?

The above passage does not deny our human experience. It reminds us of the spiritual foundation upon which our human expression rests. Jesus’ reference, “to be with me where I am,” is a way of saying that those who understand his message – whom thou hast given me – are awakening to the truth of their spiritual nature. This shift in self-perception is a vital key to developing a successful relationship to our external world.

Imagine that you have taken on your human body because you felt you had something important to give. Have you forgotten what this something is? Then look at the world you are in. What of yourself can you bring to this world right now? What of your genuine nature can you share in this day, in this moment?

To be in the world but not of it is not a denial of our body and our material surroundings and needs. It is to acknowledge the glory God is expressing through our soul, that we may bring it into this world that is ours alone to share.

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The Voice of the Soul

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Part 2 of 6: Navigating from the Complete Soul

“Every one who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14).

A very helpful insight that gives us an important perspective of ourselves is one shared by Jesuit priest and scientist, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin:

We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”

It is easy to think of ourselves primarily as human beings having or seeking to have a spiritual experience. We tend to be objective thinkers who define ourselves from the outside-in rather than from the inside-out. We forget that the writer of Hebrews included us when he wrote, “…what is seen is made out of things which do not appear” (11:3).

The “voice” of the soul is not really a voice at all. It is an interior push toward a human experience of greater freedom that our soul already knows. When we think of ourselves only as a human being having a spiritual experience, we drink from the well of the senses which never fully satisfies. When we draw our identity from the soul, it becomes for us a spring of water welling up to eternal life, an eternal soul having a human experience.

You and I have never been without the intuitive guidance of our soul. Perhaps we have failed to understand the source of our discontent and unrest, but this inner urging is constantly trying to remind us of our spiritual nature.

When we see ourselves as human beings seeking a spiritual experience, we live in two worlds. When we begin to understand that we are spiritual beings expressing through the human experience, we live in one.








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The Flame of the Soul

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Part 1 of 6: Understanding the Complete Soul

“Is a lamp brought in to be put under a bushel, or under a bed, and not on a stand? For there is nothing hid, except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret, except to come to light. If any man has ears to hear, let him hear” (Mark 4:21-23).

The imagery presented in this simple illustration provides an excellent way to understand your spiritual essence, your soul. Blocking the light and warmth of the lamp does not diminish the lamp’s heat or light. Hiding it only obscures the lamp’s radiance. To bring the benefits of the lamp into the room, nothing about the lamp and its light need to be improved. The change that needs to be made involves only the removal of that which obstructs the lamp’s heat and light.

If we think of our soul as the lamp, the room as our life and the bushel and bed as our senses-based self-image, we have an excellent starting place for understanding the spiritual work that is ours to do.

The light and warmth of our soul shines in its full glory at this very moment. We feel its influence as the desire for greater freedom. We long to see in this “room” we call our life, the light and beauty that presently radiates from our soul. We look for it in every corner, in every accomplishment, in every relationship and in every possession we acquire. Yet we do not find it. We assume that the soul is not yet bright enough or warm enough, that our spiritual job is to stoke the flame that will eventually light our life.

The flame of the soul burns at its full strength now. It is the obstruction of the self-image that needs to be addressed. In your time of quiet and throughout your day, hold this simple image of your soul shining in its full glory, its light and warmth penetrating all unintentional obstructions brought on by a false sense of self and spiritual misunderstanding. Jesus said, “Let your light shine.” Remove from beneath the bushel that which is already radiating its complete beauty.

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The Sacred Step

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Part 6 of 6
Step 4: I do calmly, without excitement, whatever the circumstance seems to require. This action leads to the further unfolding of other circumstances in the same direction. By addressing each one as it appears, I move step by step toward the accomplishment of my desire.

The story is told of Socrates being asked by a traveler how to get to Mount Olympus. Socrates reportedly said, “Just make sure every step you take is in that direction.”
While the traveler may have considered Socrates a wise guy rather than a wise man, Socrates’ answer is more practical than we might first suspect. Troward picks up on this idea of seizing the simplest opportunities to bring ourselves closer to our own Mt. Olympus, whatever that may be. Likewise, Jesus pointed out that even with the smallest amount of faith we can move mountains. This is a metaphor intended to open our minds to greater possibilities, even if our mountain-moving is one shovel full at a time.

Let’s remember that the life we have is the result of our specific thought tendencies, our actions and our overall self-perception. Already we have done calmly, without excitement, whatever circumstances required to bring ourselves to this point. We continue to do the same things to move to our Mt. Olympus, but we do it consciously. Rather than giving into the temptation of intriguing detours and dead ends, we make sure every step we take is in the direction we want to go. And we do so with the calm assurance that, step by step, we are moving toward the accomplishment of our desire.

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The Smallest Beginning

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Part 5 of 6

Step 4: I wait until some circumstance pointing in the desired direction begins to show itself. It may be small but it is the type and not the magnitude of the circumstance that is important. This is the beginning of significant changes.   

We are reminded here of Jesus’ parable of the mustard seed.

“The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches” (Matthew 13:31-32).

Black mustard is the likely species referred to here. The seed is indeed small and the shrub grows to a height of about 9 feet. The plant, of course, is not the point of the parable. It is the transformation from small beginnings to a substantial plant that deserves our attention.

As you hold your vision, you will see small circumstantial indications that new activity is beginning in the direction of your desire. These may seem so insignificant that you hardly notice. While you won’t want to become hyper-aware of every little thing that develops, you want to be aware enough that you give thanks for the smallest of sprouts that come up. Don’t look for the 9-foot plant but learn to recognize each sprout that occurs. As Troward points out, it is not the magnitude of the circumstance that is important but the direction it is pointing.

Bear in mind that we’re not just talking about circumstances. We’re also talking about inspired ideas that come to us. We may get the urge to clean a room or a desk drawer which can spark other things to happen. The smallest beginning is, after all, a beginning.


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