The Choice Dynamic

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“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net which was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind; when it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into vessels but threw away the bad” (Matthew 13:47-48).

Not long ago I gave a talk suggesting that we think of our consciousness as the sum of our values rather than the sum of our beliefs. If you think of the net in the above parable as the totality of your consciousness and the fish as representing your beliefs, you can see that the choice of which fish to keep and which to throw away is based on a set of values. If you’re running a restaurant, you’ll choose one kind of fish. If you are running a pet store, you’ll choose another.

The primary determiner of our choices is the self-image we hold. How we see ourselves provides a major influence over how we think, feel and act in the various situations life presents. If our tendency is to feel overwhelmed, then we may need to look at ways in which we are defeating our spiritual resources. Rather than hanging on to these bad fish beliefs and thoughts that swim into our consciousness, we make a conscious effort to throw them away, deny or release them. We turn our attention to God as our source and we affirm guidance, new power, and inspiration as the good fish we wish to keep.

Jesus reminds us that where our treasure is, there will our heart be also (Matthew 6:21). We may not think of a debilitating self-image as a treasure, but we need to understand that we are under no obligation to maintain it, to toss it into our vessel of keepers. Yet, for some reason we do. We place enough value on it to reapply it and its spontaneous train of thinking to situations that arise and emotionally overpower us.

If you are now in a situation where you feel helpless, begin to release the view of yourself as something less than this challenge. Affirm the power and wisdom of God is now working through you to guide and direct you to a successful resolution. Consciously place your values on your limitless spiritual identity and let go of everything that does not support it.

 

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From Emotion to Inspiration

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You search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me; yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life” (John 5:39-40).

I remember reading this passage when I was in my early teens and wondering how this message could be reconciled with the teaching I was given that scripture was the word of God. It appears that Jesus was pointing to an authority higher than the written word. On the surface, he seemed to be calling attention to himself, which certainly fits the traditional Christian narrative of Jesus as the only way to God. Since then, I have come to think of the “me” he was referring to as the system of thought that he taught. You read about God, but to experience God you must go into your inner chamber, shut the door and pray to the Father who is in secret.

Enlightening words can certainly stir emotion. I have often thought that the born-again experience many have is little more than an emotional high stimulated by a religious group setting. I certainly experienced this when I was baptized by full immersion. It wasn’t long afterward that the emotion sparked by that special moment began to fade.

In the book of Job, we find this important insight: “The spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life” (Job 33:4). Breath and the word inspiration are closely tied. Consider this entomology:

Inspiration: Middle English enspire, from Old French inspirer, from Latin inspirare ‘breathe or blow into,’ from in-‘into’ + spirare ‘breathe.’ The word was originally used of a divine or supernatural being, in the sense ‘impart a truth or idea to someone.’

The breath of the Almighty is the impartation, a direct experience of God.  It is not the filling of our heads with ideas. It’s the opening of our hearts to the living presence of God. In this light, we see that Jesus was saying it’s time to stop merely reading about God and open our hearts to that life-changing presence that has been standing at the door and knocking. It is time to rise above mere emotion and seek the living breath of true inspiration.

 

 

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When Things go Wrong

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I think most of us like to think that the day will come when things go our way more often than not. This is a reasonable expectation. We all know people who seem to make a habit of constantly jumping from the frying pan to the fire and back. If we know them well, we may also know their habit of self-destructive choices.

There are times when even the most positive people have trouble. A family member may get ill. A business investment takes a wrong turn. A water pipe freezes and bursts. It’s easy to wonder what we may have done to bring on such calamities. The chances are good that the answer is simply nothing.

But, someone will ask, what about the law of cause and effect? What about the law of attraction? Don’t we bring into our lives the kinds of conditions we tend to hold in our consciousness? Yes we do, which is exactly why when things go wrong we should not pile on with self-doubt and criticism.

You may recall the story of Jesus’ disciples pointing to a man who had been blind from birth. Who sinned, they asked, this man or his parents? In other words, here is a negative effect. What do you say is the negative cause? Jesus’ answer was surprising. He said it doesn’t matter what caused this condition. The condition is obviously here. The most important question is what are we to do about it? He said it was an opportunity to show the works of God. And in that moment, the young man regained his sight.

When things go wrong, as they will, let’s spend as little time as possible dwelling on the why and focus on the what. What new cause do we set in motion now? Yes, there may be changes needed in our course, possibly in our attitude. But let’s take care that we do not add problems through self-condemnation. Let go of the past and let the works of God begin!

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The Principle of Oneness

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When Jesus asked the disciples what people were saying of him, he was doing a lot more than polling them for self-serving answers. After giving their various responses, he posed the next question of absolute importance: Who do you say that I am?

This question was vital because, regardless of what others were saying, the real guiding principle in the disciple’s relationship to Jesus was their personal understanding of him. This understanding would have the most impact on their individual lives.

A principle is defined as a fundamental, primary, or general law or truth from which others are derived. It’s a starting point that influences many if not all aspects of our experience. What we assume to be true plays out in each choice we make and in virtually everything we say and do.

While The Complete Soul embodies a number of important principles, the most important is the one you discover by answering these three questions: How do I view God? How do I see myself? How do I see my relationship to God? Your answers comprise the fundamental truth from which your entire approach to life is derived. These questions do not tell you how to think. They are intended to uncover what you do think. Who do you say you are? Who do you say God is? How are you defining your relationship to God? Even if you do not articulate your answers, you are living them. You and I simply cannot operate outside the principles we believe to be true. Our life bears witness to the ideas we embrace.

I would encourage you to spend some time exploring these questions with the intention of getting to the heart of what you believe to be true. There is not a right or wrong answer to any of them, but your life is a consequence of the principles you embrace. Separate out what others are saying you should or should not believe from where you stand. Clarity with these ideas will bring clarity to the rest of your life.

 

 

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Time and the Eternal Now

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Part 6 of 6: Navigating from the Complete Soul

Throughout our spiritual literature, the now moment has been touted as the only time we have, and eternally so. We have been trained to think of eternity as an indefinite span of time stretching into the past and future. When we’re told that now is eternity and we can truly only live in the now, we like the sound of it but it is a challenge to make practical sense of this idea. We nearly all wear watches and keep some type of calendar. We constantly anticipate the future and mull over the past. Though we cannot enter the future or revisit the past from where we are right now, we can certainly think about them. And our thinking about them usually crowds out our ability to fully appreciate our present moment.

If you think of a wheel turning on an axle, the wheel of a lawn cart for example, you know the wheel can roll all over your yard while the axle remains still. If you think of your soul as the axle and your senses-based self-image and its outer life as the wheel you can get a sense of how two realities can be bundled into a single experience. Regardless of how fast or how long the wheel turns, the axle rests motionless. From the point of view of the axle/soul, there is only a single position. Time and space have no relevance. From the point of view of the wheel/self-image, meaning is found in time and space. There are things to do and places to go. If the wheel adopted the attitude of the axle, it would sit motionless and be of little service to the lawn cart. Having a body that expresses and interacts with this lawn of time and space, we obviously did not come here to do nothing.

Our challenge is that the bulk of our identity is attached to the wheel. The axle remains a vague concept. Without the axle, of course, the wheel and cart assembly breaks down. The problem is that the wheel can turn just fine completely unaware of the axle. We can live an interesting life under the jurisdiction of time and space, running lo here and lo there seeking the prize of absolute inner peace by arranging every aspect of our lawn just so. The time comes, however, when we realize that regardless of where in our lawn we roll, we feel the same absence of inner peace. We make more money but then it’s not quite enough money. We buy a bigger home only to discover a neighbor who is deaf to their basset hound’s incessant foghorn of a bark. We find the soulmate of our dreams and discover that not even they can lift us above our gnawing sense of incompleteness.

The axle that is our soul does not revolve in an evolutionary progression. It has no need to progress into anything more than it is already. The wheel will turn and the cart will move along its linear timeline, all while the axle remains still. When we understand this, we solve the mystery of the now moment and bring it into a more practical focus.

 

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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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