great loop of the divine

The spiritual process is a looping process of leaving and returning to the same place to experience it for the first time. Some have called it the hero’s journey but it is everybody’s journey that can last lifetimes.

Step 1. You recognize a deep disturbance. You have lost your soul in the effort to build a life. The world and our minds are noisy. Eventually, however, through that noise you hear a voice, you feel a longing. If you are broke or overweight or sick or alone or addicted or married to somebody you no longer love, it’s very easy to put the discontent at the feet of your “condition.” Most people jump from condition to condition trying to fix what’s “out there” when what’s really hurting them is “in here.” Perhaps you’re insightful enough to recognize this pain as divine discontent. Perhaps you’re fortunate enough to have all the physical trappings you could ever want so have nothing external to blame for your condition. Perhaps you’ve exhausted yourself with jumping through all the hoops and can’t bring yourself to leap into yet another.

Then, and only then, are you able recognize this disturbance for what it is. You are being called to wake up. You are being called to find and reclaim your soul. This ache is the alarm clock trying to shake you from your conditioning. Most humans are deeply asleep, lost in their story, trapped only in their conditioned mind and identified only as their labels. Man. Woman. Straight. Gay. Rich. Poor. Black. White. Educated. Blue Collar. Married. Single. Parent. Child-free. Christian. Jew. Muslim. Buddhist. Witch. Oh my! So many labels!

Stories, labels and definitions identify us and we fight or kill or die to defend this shadow self without ever realizing we are an eternal being of light and love that was never born and will never die.

Even though it seems like pain, it’s the greatest gift you can receive. You are being called to awaken to your truest self - your Sacred Self, your Spiritual Core.

Step 2. You search for the answers. Just like an ancient hero, you begin a quest to find the answer to your pain. You read the books and take the workshops. Gurus and life coaches give you practices to build personal experiences of your own Spiritual Core. Eventually one of them will “stick” and you’ll actually do it. The story goes by many names – tapes, ego, and conditioned mind. It’s not real. It’s the trance we were all given as children in order to live in a culture with other people. This story is really just a shadow of your real, core self. You realize that this story – while treasured and defended – insulates you from the life going on all around you. The running commentary on the quality of the beach sand distracts you from experiencing the softness between your toes.

The practices wake you up to the fact you’re judging, clinging, rejecting, minimizing – all of the dysfunctional things we all do to put some cushion between us and life. You recognize you’re telling a story of your life and not living it. This isn’t evil. This is just fear based on a self-image cultivated as a child of being small and inadequate for the world. Stories, unfortunately, become the stuff of your life and not the actual life you’re living - the proverbial finger instead of the moon. The most difficult thing is the story is sticky; it clings and chokes. We love our personal narrative but over time the practices wear them thin and take away their power over us.

If you stick with your chosen practice – even if you don’t do it as faithfully as the books tell you that you should - your sense of self shifts from your story to your inner witness.

Step 3. You learn to live as the Sacred Self. This is a tenuous process. For a while this process of uncovering the Sacred Self seems to be the whole point of the spiritual path. For a while, your practices – meditation, prayer, communion, contemplation, mindfulness, etc. – seem to be all there is. When you “fail” you may judge yourself. You find yourself flipping and flopping from conditioned self to essential self like a fish on the beach. Each flip or flop has an emotional ripple that teaches you – if you let it and don’t get too caught up in the failure to see the lessons it holds - you learn to recognize when you’re not living from your authentic self. You recognize in your gut what it feels like when you’re not present and this discomfort draws you back. You learn that your anxiety is really about not being present.

Over time as you grow spiritually, you learn to respond to yourself with love instead of anger. Patience and peace “just happen.” You no longer have to affirm them. As we grow, we spend more and more time aware of ourselves as the Sacred Self. We learn to release our stories and resist the need to create new ones. The task of forgiveness shifts out of the distant past to the immediate moment. The urge to hold all beings harmless and innocent grows. We learn that it feels different when we’re living from our Core. We begin to recognize the emptiness we were trying to fill was really disconnection from our own Essential Self. We realize that we were really looking for our own inner connection to Self and ultimately the Divine, which can only be experienced from within.

The act of giving up your temporal self for your essential Self can feel like a death. It is the heart of the sacrifice – the death of the ego to arise as the Sacred, what is often called the Christ Within. The second coming of Christ is within you. Within me. Within each and every one of us.

Step 4. You love yourself as Sacred. Once you find yourself living from your true, essential self you’ll be discover that everything you’ve been seeking “out there” is already within you. Once that you’ve released the stories and found your spiritual ground, you can wake up to the approval and the grace that you always had.

The creativity, which is your divine right, bubbles up. Once you’ve shed your doubt, you are no longer afraid of other people’s judgment. So you create. It can look like art and it can look like dinner. It can sound like workshops and it can sound like compassion.
Curiosity, which is your mind’s natural state, draws you to try new things. It counsels you to listen to people because you want to know what they’re thinking. When you don’t have to label or judge, you can even experience things you’ve experienced a thousand times before as new and fresh.

Gratitude, which is your heart’s true feeling, flows from you no matter what is going on in your life. You realize that gratitude is simply a stance towards life. Unconditional gratitude, in fact, is a powerful thing. It shapes your energy field more quickly and effectively than all of the mantras or prayers in the world.

You finally recognize the unconditional love is the most powerful, potent thing in the world. It is, in fact, the world. There is nothing else but love and if something doesn’t feel loving it’s just fear. And how do you deal with fear? You love it. What if the fear hates you? Love it even more. You may realize that love looks like walking away.

Step 5. You return to life fully engaged. You are now engaging life as your essential self, the eternal being of true power, love, grace, peace, joy, and compassion. When you bring your authentic self to the world, you act and react from inspiration and presence, not from fear and conditioning. You can listen to what’s really being said and not project your own story onto somebody else. You’re not stuck to any event or clinging to the teeny bits of joy you can suck out of a fleeting moment. You are no longer avoiding a momentary pain. You are dancing with life not kickboxing it. And sometimes you fall back into conditioning but now you know. You return to Self and love.

The End?

This is not an ending – it’s just a new beginning. The spiritual journey continues. It spirals. There are new things to express and experience. You’ll probably keep up your spiritual practices the way an addict goes to meetings to remain sober or an athlete continues to swim laps to keep the muscles toned. You know it’s easy to relapse. It’s easy to get sucked back into the illusions and dreams. But since you don’t want to live from a contracted shadow self, you do what it takes to keep the energy flowing and the stories from taking hold.

24 July 2015

With Blessings - Reverend Shari.