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The Spirit of Healing
Some day, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides, and gravity, we will harness for God the energies of love.
And then, for the second time in the history of the world, humankind will have discovered fire. --Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Science is now beginning to confirm what spirituality, philosophy, sages, ancient teachings and psychedelics have been saying for millennia: The entire Universe is One and that what we think of as 'reality' is just an illusion. And the only real thing in the Universe is Consciousness. 'We are droplets in an infinite ocean of consciousness and when you place a droplet back in the ocean where does the ocean start and the droplet end? They don't. They are all One. Everything is One and was always One. I am you, you are me, I am everything and everything is me. We have just forgotten and been manipulated to forget.
The very nature of spirituality is that it reaches beyond common material substances and therefore can't be properly captured or fully expressed in words and form. Yet because the spiritual essence already exists inside of you, hearing the right words just may trigger your own awakening into higher perception.
The materialistic perspective: The materialistic approach relies primarily on empirical evidence provided by the five senses—what can literally be seen, heard, tasted, touched, or smelled. This approach depends on the outer appearances of things to decide how and what to think and feel about them. A materialistic person fixes whatever may be wrong or out of place in his or her world by moving things around and effecting outer changes. Religion is a human invention that centers on specific rituals and a set of stories that outline a basic moral code and belief system. Religions often, but not necessarily, have a hierarchy of initiates, with those further into the inner circle leading the rituals for the general populace.
The spiritual perspective: In contrast, the spiritual way is to see beyond mere outer appearances and the five senses to an intuitive perception of the causes behind outer conditions. Someone with a spiritual approach may change and uplift their world by first transforming and improving his or her own vision. Spirituality relates to the spirit or essential essence of humanity. People who say they are spiritual are working to grow and better this inner force. Religious people are generally spiritual people as well, but spiritual people do not necessarily have to be religious. They may work to attain a heightened spirituality through alternative methods.
Spirituality is a more general term that encompasses the general human impulse to reach out towards the greater whole of which we all are a part. The difference between religion and spirituality is simply that most religions offer a specific set of beliefs and structures to help people to attune to their innate spirituality. Like all human systems and structure, even the purest of intentions can become tainted and so throughout human history there have been countless instances in which the pure and holy intention of a religious teaching becomes twisted and used to justify negativity and harm towards others. Instead of turning the follower on to themselves—their own divinity—it turns them on to the church or practice. We also see countless examples in today's world of people who represent themselves as spiritual or religious leaders, whose actions are not expressions of God's love.
In today's world the difference between religion and spirituality offers new alternatives to those whose hearts are not called by traditional religious teachings. If you are seeking to understand the difference between religion and spirituality, look first within your own heart. If your spiritual or religious practice uplifts you, brings you comfort, peace, and helps you to love more and to be a better person, then you are receiving the true benefits of God's love and healing presence. If your spiritual or religious path encourages you to condemn or hurt others, or to see yourself as better than others, then spiritual truth has become distorted and you will at some point in your spiritual journey feel the limitations of this approach.
The definitive research has been done to prove that the mind influences the body. The most important area to address is how the mind can be used to influence the body most effectively. Beyond the body, emotions, and mind, there is another aspect of healing that needs to be addressed: the spiritual aspect. Health involves body, mind and spirit. While the mind alone can be used to influence the physical state, it is used most effectively when it is aware of spirit. Spirit is defined as the life-principle, especially in humans, and the feeling and motivating part of our lives. Working with spirit means enhancing our connection with this life-principle. It means asking questions about why we're here on this planet, and about our own unique purpose in life. Spirit gives us resources that can't be reached through traditional psychological approaches. It opens us to healing forces that go far beyond our current understanding of our own limits. We can learn to bring that power into our own lives. Just like a dis-ease in the body indicates a deeper dis-ease in the mind, a dis-ease in the mind indicates a deeper dis-ease in the spirit or inner-self. As we break down the mental dis-ease of the moment, allowing it to reveal what is really bothering us, we may find unresolved disease that has been with us for a lifetime.
Fears, guilt, hurts, grievances and self-rejection from past situations or with life in general are the source of the uneasiness or dis-ease we feel on a daily basis, whether we are aware of it or not. We may have unknowingly chosen to anesthetize ourselves from ourselves, keeping far away from deeper issues, but the effects rage on. For healing to be complete on the physical part, it needs to be completed on the spiritual. Questions like "What am I really so fearful of?" "What am I so guilty about?" "What am I so hurt about?" "What grievances am I still holding on to?" "Where did all this self-rejection come from?" should be asked.
No matter what is going on externally or even internally, a source of unlimited, unchangeable and unconditional power is always behind it all. In fact, we will never know true freedom until these core-issues are touched and resolved. But, behind it all, behind the so-called dis-ease, is the real power. Since we are filled with this power, then blocking the pain also blocks the power. We cannot get around it, behind it, or through it, this power is one with all our feelings. Denying one, we deny it all; feeling one we feel it all. The normal view is that we are physical beings given a spiritual dimension to evolve more physically. The natural view is that we are spiritual beings given a physical dimension to grow more spiritually.
True health only starts at the body, a dis-ease-free and radiantly healthy body is only the physical dimension of our health. Being truly healthy means that we are as spiritually well as we are physically well. The spiritual dimension of our being is the most valuable to our health and yet too often the least valued. We have chosen the path of machine over mind, the path of statistics over spirit. Somewhere along the line as a society, our senses became so dazzled by the phenomena of medical science, that we lost sight of the healing power of our own being. This focus on external things and the disdain for anything that sensed of the spiritual, especially regarding health, probably began with the separation of Church and State, which commenced in the 1500's.
To limit our health to what we can physically do to the body, and ignore what comes spiritually through the body, leaves us totally dependent on someone or something else to keep us well. In a way, we are right back to the days of church domination—The Church of Modern Medicine—only this time the leaders work from the laboratory, instead of a pulpit. Churches have dominated the minds of the people for centuries, but to eliminate all that spirituality has to offer, because of this problem, is cutting off our nose to spite our 'faith'! The cure for our suffering and the answers to our prayers, are in the higher dimensions of our being. This separation of the spiritual and the physical is in good part responsible for our dilemma in health today.
Jesus said "…it is not I but the Father within that doeth the work." The Father within, the Power within, God, the Spirit or any name that we choose to call this higher aspect of healing, matters little. Jesus also said, "Seek ye first the spiritual and all else will follow." What matters is that we know that this healing is constantly available to us anytime, and all the time, and not just waiting but wanting to flow through our being. Knowing that there is a healing spirit, that is greater than any problem in our body, can finally put our mind at ease.
Even if a dis-ease-free world were to be achieved, would we be happy, would we have found peace? We need to realize that health problems are not the cause of our unhappiness and lack of peace; it is our unhappiness and lack of peace that cause our health problems. The things in life don't bring us the happiness and peace, happiness and peace bring us things in life. True health is as much a security with the universe as it is a wellness with the body; it is spiritual at least as much as it is physical. Vitamins, nutrition, therapy, herbs, homeopathic remedies, massage, and cleansing are all valuable but they are not spiritual.
We need to nourish our spirit with at least as much enthusiasm as we nourish our body and concern ourselves with what is toxic to our spirit even more than with what is toxic to our body. Then and only then the truth of holistic health, as well as the higher purpose of our being, is served. There would be far less stress, problems and work in our life if we 'sought first the spiritual.' Seeking first the physical certainly hasn't worked to give us the peace, health, wealth and ease to which we are entitled.
There can be no true satisfaction on any level until we open up to all levels. Nature uses our body and its diseases to aid our inner growth. The body, as well as all areas of our external life, serves as a printout of our mental and spiritual state of being. Dis-ease, pain, difficulty, and discomfort in our body and in our life, signals us to a dis-ease on the inside where the suffering is really most profound. Physical ills, from a pain in the neck to a pain in the heart, are our cue to stop and find a way to return to mental and spiritual ease. Physical ills can be our greatest teachers and greatest healers. When we realize that there is a wholeness clause that is part of our human makeup, we will look at the body and all physical aspects of our life as the path, not the problem, the gauge not the goal. From this perspective, the richness to our life is limitless and compounded daily. If we keep our eyes on the road of life, watch our body and external life for signals of where to turn within, as well as healing the beliefs of the past, the ride can be smooth and dis-ease free.
Disease of all kinds is meant to stop us in our tracks and get us back on the road to inner and outer bliss. External dis-ease and pain automatically heal when we heal internally and evolve spiritually; in fact, this is the only way. There is no point in being settled physically and unsettled spiritually. From guilt of the past, emptiness in the present, and fear about the future, these spiritually unhealed feelings dull even the best of times. Happiness, peace and security are not the by-product of the products that we buy. The more immersed and obsessed that we are in the physical dimension of life, the less connected and open we can be to the spiritual dimension. "Ye cannot serve two masters." It is in the spiritual that the true peace is found, regardless of whether or not all the pieces of our life are together.
As soon as we raise our consciousness by filling it with more spiritual ideals, the fear, guilt and emptiness that keep us from truly enjoying life are no longer there. It is in the state of consciousness, the spiritual ideals from which we base our life, that our physical life is created. Being filled with joy—free from fear and worry—and tranquil in any circumstance of our life, this state of consciousness lifts all the circumstances of our life to a richer state. As long as we are continuously healing our inner nature, and ever-growing toward our higher nature, we experience life more abundantly. True holistic health is no longer something we do, it is something we are. More accurately, it is no longer for our body but for ourselves as a whole being. The effort put forth in this kind of healing is nothing compared to its rewards, the return is a hundredfold. Even using just some of these principles, our health and our world are dramatically enriched.
Happiness is inborn in the true Self. Your search for happiness is an unconscious search for your true Self. -- Ramana Maharshi
Often the prospect of inner work, of looking deeply into ourselves, scares us. We may be afraid of the demons we'll discover, or the changes we might have to make in our lives. Yet we can't create change if we're afraid of change. And the demons themselves are actually illusions, perpetuated by myth and belief, by our refusal to look. The experience of awakening is within reach of all of us. It begins to happen naturally as we learn to let go of our ego attachments, our concepts about "how" to live, and make the choice to be more present in our lives, more attuned to the subtle energy–the loving presence–that is behind creation. It helps if you can accept the view that the experience of spiritual well being is indeed your natural state, and that there is in fact nothing spiritually to "attain." Everything you seek is already inside you. You just need to reorient your thinking so that you can begin to trust, to accept the truth of this proposition. Once you stop striving for some ideal of spiritual perfection, there's an immense unburdening that begins to happen. The ego, in giving up its struggle for control, for some idealized state of lasting peace and security, finally grows quiet. Space opens up in the mind, and light–the illumination that has so long been sought–begins to pour in.
True joy is not linked to outside circumstances; it flows directly from within you, from the Self. The kingdom of God is within you. What you are looking for is what is looking. These are powerful words, empowering words. When you read deeply into them, you begin to understand for yourself why the experience of spiritual awakening has been spoken of as the "ultimate cure" for human suffering. Yet what does it mean to be awakened? How does it look and feel in everyday life? Once you've had this glimpse of Reality, that you and the universe are indeed One, it starts to free you in all kinds of ways. You begin to realize that you're more than your body, mind, and emotions, more than your personality, more than the role you play in life. You begin to intuit that you're bigger than any fear, problem, or conflict you may experience. You live more and more with the awareness that there's something authentic and beautiful within you, something timeless that is the ground both of your own Being and of creation itself. And that awareness guides you in your life. You live with greater clarity, certainty, and purpose. You realize, finally, why you are here, and what your work is. Regardless of how your awakening manifests in the world, the feeling that accompanies it is always the same: it's one of increasing freedom and joy; a happiness that stands on its own. It truly is a "peace that passes all understanding." In yoga it's called satchitananda, a Sanskrit term which means, "the bliss that comes from the knowledge of one's true Being."
If you look back at your life, you may recall times when you've had this feeling, this sense of infinite well being–or at least had flashes of it. They're like little enlightenments. They usually come when things quiet down a bit, when you find yourself more present, more aware, more sensitive in the moment. Anything done meditatively or contemplatively–that is, with heightened awareness–helps you get to this place where you're still inside. Thoughts and images drop away and something deeper, the truth of your inner Being, begins to emerge. Its a coming back Home to ourselves, to our true Selves. And what we discover is that my Self and your Self are not so different. At the heart of things, where it matters, we really are One.
This awareness gives a sense of centeredness, of clarity and inner peace. You feel more on purpose, more directed and have a greater trust in your own knowing. You feel ready to take the next step; meet the next challenge in your life. When you become still and listen to the sacred silence, you find all your resistance melting, the chronic tension and anxiety within you dissolves, and you experience physical and emotional healing. You experience yourself deeply, or see something in an entirely different way, so that it opens up a new range of possibilities for you. Others get more in touch with their pain, their conflict. Those looking for guidance often find out what they need to do next, how best to create the breakthrough that will free them from whatever may be holding them back. The end result for anyone on this path is that you, to some degree or other, have a sense that you are fundamentally okay as you are. You realize that the healing you seek is not so much about acquiring anything new, as it is learning to discover the depth and fullness that's already within you.
You are a beautiful human being. There may be things you need to change, or want to change, outwardly in your life–whether to do with you health, your relationships, your work, your finances, or something else–but inside, in your essence, you are enough, just as you are. It's important to realize this, and to remind yourself of it often. The more you trust it, the more it'll become a reality for you. It's a matter of learning to be quiet and still, and beginning to look within yourself–rather than outside–for the love and fulfillment you seek. By doing this you'll awaken to your own innate wholeness. You'll feel this wholeness as a current of joy, of well being, flowing through every cell in your body. Whenever you stop and turn to it, it'll be there–not as the product of anything you think or do, but precisely because it's the substance, the very essence, of your Being. Moreover, you'll realize that this energy is in everyone and in all things. It's the exquisite pulse–the divine spark–of creation itself.
The more you touch this energy, the more you'll find all your deeper questions about life being answered. Your inner doubts and fears will begin to fall away. What will be left will be an increasing sense of ease and well being in body, mind, and spirit. Times of tension and disturbance will continue to arise in your experience, especially during those moments when you are caught in the ego's grip, in the mental and emotional contraction that is the hallmark of self-will. But even the periods of contraction will be as ripples on the surface of the water. Underneath, in the depths of your Being, that clarity and stillness will be more and more there. Even if there's a problem that won't go away–a health condition that seems beyond help, or some other limiting circumstance–you won't worry about it so much. You'll understand that so long as you're alive, there'll always be problems, for such is the nature of human existence.
The more connected you are to the healing energy within you, the less of a "problem" such limitations become. You'll just deal with them in the most intelligent and appropriate way you can–and you'll be surprised at how perfectly everything will tend to turn out. You'll understand that you are not your body, and that who you really are doesn't die. Instead of being afraid of death, you'll develop a deep and growing trust in the natural unfolding of life. Dying will be seen as yet another step in this endless journey your soul is on. You'll learn to welcome uncertainty, to delight in the mystery, the wonder of existence. Just as it was when you were a child, each day will again begin to feel like a new adventure to you. With this trust will come self-acceptance, and out of self-acceptance will flow a natural acceptance of others. You'll stop wasting your energy in comparing yourself to others. You'll see the futility of judging them, of trying to "fix" or change them. You'll be happy instead with being yourself, with living your own truth. You'll realize that to express yourself in this way is the most valuable gift you can ever give anyone. Truly, it's the beginning of love–and only when there is love can real healing come about.
To find out all these things for yourself is the goal of the healing journey. It's an immensely rewarding journey and one you can only make on your own. The answers to your problems and conflicts lie within you. Others can point the way back to the light within you–can inspire you, share with you, support you through difficult times–but no one else can do your inner work for you. You awaken the healing energy within you through your determination to find it. It is, in the end, a choice you make. If you choose the path of consciousness and keep listening to your heart, keep bringing your attention back to the present; you'll come upon that energy. You'll discover that it's like a flame burning within you, a bright, steady flame that has always been there. At times you'll feel it as a clear, empty joy, and at others as a rich and full sense of being. It's the eternal "hum" of the universe, vibrating ceaselessly within and around you. The more you open to it, the more you'll feel it–healing you, renewing you, guiding you, sustaining you. This energy is the source of everything you've been looking for in your life. It really is the ultimate cure for whatever may be ailing you. It's the energy of your aliveness. It's the wellspring of your creativity. It's your passion; it's your joy. It's your ability to think, to dream, to laugh, to feel, and to cry. It's your spiritual essence. It's the love you've longed for all your life. It's who and what you most fundamentally are. The energy of spirit is real. It is always here. Be still, open your mind and heart, feel it. Allow its peace and beauty to shine through you in your meetings with others. This is the way to always have it yourself.
There is a sacred thread that runs through all life, from the largest, most lofty thought, word, or deed to the smallest, most humble daily chore, everything with which we surround ourselves in our daily lives carries the potential for being made sacred. It is all in our attitude–toward ourselves, our lives, and the components of everyday. To experience daily spirituality is the goal of the sacred life. Every area of life has the potential for revealing it's sacred dimension. Everything we touch or encounter is made of sacred stuff. Wherever we set foot can be sacred ground. The signals that confirm or point ot the presence of Spirit are all around us. We need only become aware of what is hiding just beneath the surface of everyday life to realize that it is imbued with meaning, that it represents the sacred dimension.
God and the universe are one and the same thing. We are all cells in the body of God, psyche and substance of the divine energy out of which the entire universe is constantly being created, with us as participants in the divine work. Some like to use the term "co-creators," which indicates that we have more control and make a greater contribution to the totality of life than has previously been supposed. This is called panentheism, a term meaning "everything in God, and God in everything," what is emphasized is immanence, or God within the world, as opposed to the idea of transcendence, which stresses the idea of a God above and separate from the world. A corollary of panenthesim is the belief that all of creation–from the tiniest microbe to the furthest galaxy–is interconnected. We live in an "intelligent universe" that is constantly in communicaiton with all of its parts. The universe is like a cosmic Inner-net into which we are all connected, just by being. We don't need computers or a modem; we don't use software or a mouse.
To live a sacred adventure every day, we need only learn to read the signs and pointers everywhere about us. If we do not teach ourselves to recognize them and read them, we become spiritual illiterates. We miss knowing about our interconnectedness. We cannot log-on to the worldwide web of Spirit. Just as the functional illiterate has to engage in all sorts of evasions and subterfuge to cover up the inability to read, we find ourselves constantly trying to cover up or compensate for the spiritual void we feel in our lives. We know instinctively that there is "something more," but look though we may, we can't find it. When we learn to read, we discover that the whole world is charged with sacred meaning. Our inner spirituality is reflected throughout ordinary, everyday experiences. Signs are everywhere. To read them we have only to discern patterns. Synchronicity is the term for the principle that connects seemingly unrelated events, actions, and objects. So much of life is seeking and hoping to find, but how often it seems we find what we do not seek consciously. Symbols in and of themselves have no meaning. They point beyond themselves to meaning and significance.
Symbols have always been essential for humans to relate to their gods and their environments. The earliest hunter cultures drew symbolic representations of the animals they killed for food, while plant-oriented cultures depicted the vegetation upon which they depended for sustenance and which they revered as symbolic of the ever-turning cycle of life. Throughout history, symbols have been a means by which humans could harness the mysterious powers of the unseen world. Symbols give meaning to the awesome mystery of the powers of the universe, before which we stand helpless. They allow us to project our intention and through intention we discover the meaning and significance.
Too often, we look but do not see–we are too busy, too preoccupied with our worries and our personal concerns to pay attention to the world around us with its multiplicity of wondrous forms, from the clouds passing overhead, to the animal passing by. All forms of life–human, and animal, plant and insect, the flowing waters of rivers and streams, clouds and trees–are but transient patterns of moving energy. This understanding can be traced to primordial times. It permeates native and indigenous cultures everywhere. That we live in a river of ever-changing energy is one of the most basic concepts underlying the practice of shamanism. This spiritual and intuitive knowledge is now being confirmed by quantum physics. Underneath the visible forms of matter there are natural, unseen forces that possess both intelligence and purpose, as leading-edge scientists and biologists now assert. This is precisely what the magicians of earlier times believed and what shamans have always known.
The physical senses–sight, touch, vison, smell, and taste–might be regarded as the gross senses, while the inner ways of comprehending reality are governed by our subtle senses of perception. There can be no doubt that primitive peoples, who were attuned to Spirit everywhere, were guided by such senses. They possessed powers that enabled them to locate favorable hunting grounds, and allowed telepathic communications. Magic was not only used for religous purposes, it was an early form of science. Everything, animate and inanimate alike, has consciousness at some level. The consciousness of animals may be somewhat similar to ours, but the consciousness of a tree or a rock is, though different, no less valid. The chances are that we can never really grasp this intellectually. We must feel our way into experiencing this reality, through our emotions and our intuition.
We all somewhere know that we are connected to the whole and participate in it, or else we would not be striving for an antidote to our sense of separation and loneliness. We have forgotten the original Oneness. In our mad race for technological superiority, we have lost track of the universe as a unity, and of our beautiful planet as a living, pulsating Being. We must reconnect with the knowledge of the interrelatedness of all life and all things on our planet, affirming that nothing exists in isolation. The whole universe is living Spirit and everyone and everything pulses with this creative energy. Everything is relative to everything else.
Spiritually Evolving Life Force
If we accept the term wholeness as a definition of spirituality, remembering that whole = holy, we see that Spirit and psychology are linked. It is in our view that spiritual is something separate and apart from ourselves that we fail to be spiritual. We are fragmented—not whole. In truth, our spirituality is an integral part of who we really are. We are made of spiritual stuff—how could we not be spiritual? For those still struggling to become aware of their spirituality, the task is to remove the inner blocks to the experience of the sacred self. One of the most prevalent blocks is the sense of sin, of perpetually being unworthy. So many people are guilt-ridden, crippled by a sense of being not worthy. Whether we consciously believe it or not, the sense of humans as being sinful by nature is deeply embedded in our Western culture, as is the idea of nature itself being without spirit, which is a predominant belief in the scientific model of scientific materialism. The concept of "original sin" has been handed down through the generations of Judeo-Christian peoples for two thousand years. It is a poisonous notion that came into being through the biblical story of Adam and Eve. Ever since that time, according to Judeo-Christian tradition, every human child has been afflicted with the original sin of the first parents. Further, Western religious tradition teaches that we are all sinners in need of redemption.
The most common reaction is guilt accompanied by a sense of being unworthy which engenders low self-esteem. Psychology and Spirit cannot be separated. We experience the sacred through our personal history. These early influences are strong and difficult to overcome because they are so deeply embedded in our psyches, often at an unconscious level. If our upbringing has caused us to experience the world as evil, sin-ridden, dangerous, and a playground for the Devil, we will find it difficult to embrace the world as glorious and full of wonder. We cannot access an inner positive view if we think we are innately "bad." Another factor in the sin equation is our physicality, our sensuous nature and our sexuality. Sex became tainted with the notion of sin. The very nature with which the Creator endowed us became a thing to be ashamed of, or overcome, or thrust aside, hidden, or negated entirely. Unfortunately, in our society there are many sins—societal sins which get transformed into personal guilt. We have lost the ability to differentiate real guilt, which is a natural feeling when one has transgressed one's true self or done harm to another's true self, from social guilt, which derives from breaking rules made by others and imposed on us from the time we are children.
Social sins come in many guises. When we make mistakes, we feel guilty. When we indulge ourselves in "forbidden" pleasures, we feel guilty. To compensate for these feelings of guilt, we impose new, often impossible, standards of perfection upon ourselves, which serve to guarantee guilt production in a never-ending vicious cycle. When we then don't—because we can't—live up to our own demands for perfect behavior, guilt comes crashing in and we feel worse than ever, more a failure, less a person. The need to be right all the time becomes a stressful taskmaster, pushing us into just the behavior we most deplore in ourselves and others. We become the policemen for our own social programming. From earliest childhood, we are programmed to accept a set of values already established by others. We are told what is right and what is wrong, what is acceptable and what is unacceptable; not only in terms of behavior, but even to how we appear to others, what we weigh, how we dress. And, tragically, we are also judged on what we think and feel. As children, we internalize these social standards because our survival depends on doing so. Too many of us, however, do not take the next necessary step of integrating these social rules into a personal system of values, discarding what we consider irrelevant or harmful. Thus, having accepted the social norms in youth, we continue to be dependent upon them, thinking they belong to us and unaware of their true origins.
Acceptance of someone else's set of values is a dangerous thing for it stifles self-development. He or she, who does not develop a SELF, never becomes a fulfilled person and is stunted on both the personal and societal level. Without a firm sense of SELF we cannot become either fully human nor be contributing members of our communities. Our personal world-view dictates how we encounter ourselves as spiritual beings, how we experience the world around us, and whether we are able to believe that the spiritual is integral to and not separate from daily life. If we hold a negative image of the world, we cannot experience it as meaningful, nor interpret the signs we encounter as being pointers to the spiritual real. And if we cannot open ourselves fully to the wonder and mystery of the world, we cannot express our spiritual selves through it. The ancient Chinese image of the world as self, is expressed in the Tao Te Ching by Lao-tzu, "See the world as your self. /Have faith in the way things are. /Love the world as your self, then you can care for all things." Unfortunately, the word self has long been used pejoratively. We are accused of being "self-centered," or "selfish," or of thinking only of ourselves. These negative connotations of the self have done much spiritual damage. SELF is an acronym for Spiritually Evolving Life Force, which emphasizes the fact that the SELF is imbued with Spirit. If we first recognize the divinity in ourselves, we cannot fail to acknowledge it in all others. It is but a short step from accepting that each of us is a SELF to the understanding that all of life is imbued with Spirit, as Native Americans believe.
It is time to change our concept of sin, with its attendant guilt, which serves mainly to hold us back from the life we long to live. Too many of us are dragging around a load of guilt, like a vagrant with a shopping cart of miscellaneous junk, collected at random, from others' refuse on the streets. We've got it—but we may not even know where it came from. Our efforts to rid ourselves of it may take us to therapy or church, but this rarely helps for the simple reason that it doesn't get to the root of the matter. Once we realize that guilt is junk—usually other people's junk—we are in a position to discard it forever. In the Hawaiian tradition of Huna, there is only one sin: the harming of one's self or the self of another. If you are sick and tired of carrying around a load of guilt and the hurt that accompanies it, get ready to change your attitude toward both yourself and your world by accepting that you are a SELF. Be aware, however, that the hurt and guilt are so familiar, one can feel quite bereft without them. Sometimes they are our closest companions and giving them up—let alone shoving them firmly out the door—can be a difficult undertaking. Give yourself time. Rome wasn't built in one day—it didn't fall in one day either. In fact, the famous "fall of Rome" took five hundred years! You didn't gather all that negativity overnight and you won't jettison it overnight. But, with steadfastness and practice, you can live guilt-free and hurt-free and experience the benevolent sacred every day of that kind of life. As mature adults with ability to reason, feel, and respond, we have only to open ourselves to the SELF within and it will guide us to our truth, enabling us to live guilt-free and productive lives.
Hurt and anger are counterparts. Rarely do you get one without the other. Hurt which is tucked away inside and not given expression turns into anger that is often turned against one's self. Often, we are afraid to express anger because we have been taught that it is "wrong" or "bad" to be angry. If a parent slaps a child and the child slaps back, another parental slap is sure to follow. Thus the child learns that anger is unacceptable, even when it results from being hurt. All too soon, this lesson is internalized. When we are hurt, we don't fight back because doing so is "not nice." Usually, the hitting parent claims to love us, with the outcome that we connect abuse with love and feel more guilt because we are supposed to love the abuser—or we blame ourselves for the abuse, thinking we deserve it because we are innately bad. The logical extension of this psychological assault is hostility, which in turn, leads to destructive behavior, as unexpressed hurt and anger build and build to explosive proportions. Add to this anti-depressant psyche drugs, which cause more hostility and aggression, suicidal and homicidal tendencies, and you have an even more explosive and self-destructive person.
The trick is to start expressing hurt and anger when they first occur and are at the smallest stage, at which time it is still possible to be pleasant, rather like issuing a reminder. "I don't like it when you do that. I feel hurt and it makes me angry," can be said gently but firmly, putting the other person on notice without causing a scandal. By calling attention to hurtful behavior at the time of its occurrence, you do the other person a favor. So often we are unaware that our behavior or our words hurt another person.
As an adult, it is your responsibility not to allow others to hurt you, just as it is your duty to refrain from harming others. When we refuse to allow ourselves to be hurt, we encourage others to refuse as well. Learning not to mask feelings is an essential part of healing the soul. When you let others know they have hurt you, expect them to take notice and not repeat the behavior. Repeated hurtful behavior, after a notice has been given, is a warning signal that should be taken with utmost seriousness. Many people get in trouble because they do not heed their own warning signals. Making excuses for another who hurts you not only assures you will continue to be hurt, it sanctions bad behavior that should not be tolerated. Doing this makes us the author of our own woes. You can eliminate conditions that permit you to become a target for another's anger, resentment, or hurt feelings. When these result in put-downs, halt them in their tracks immediately. At the same time, be sure you take responsibility for your own feelings of hurt, anger, guilt, and self-recrimination. No one can change your feelings but you. When you honor your SELF, you commit to changing your worldview so that you become aware of all hurtful deeds or words issuing from others or from yourself. And, it is of primary importance never to hurt yourself. Don't ever 'bad mouth" yourself. Be honest with yourself about your faults or things you want to change, but don't ever criticize yourself unfairly.
When we disobey our authority figures, whether real or imagined, guilt and shame result. Original sin is another way of saying that disobedience to authority carries heavy penalties. The antidote to this is to become your own authority, to act and feel only from the deep authenticity of the SELF. By so doing, you have the opportunity to eliminate any fear of authority and its power to punish and hurt, which is the state of the helpless child dependent on others for survival. This condition, experienced so early, remains embedded in our forgotten memories and forms a substructure of the unconscious that produces fear. Fear is a slow-moving poison that inhibits the expression of true feelings. When we hold back our natural impulses, we suffer on many different levels—emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual. If we accept the notion that doing what we want for ourselves is sinful because it contradicts the desires of others, we shut off an essential part of ourselves, stunting our personal growth and becoming prey to a multiplicity of ills. What happens then is that we suffer soul damage. This injury to the inviolate core of a person's being manifests as despair, immunological damage, cancer, and a host of other very serious disorders. Soul loss also manifests as a sense of something being missing, as though we have lost an intangible but important and very real part of ourselves. In seeking to find it, we often come to our spiritual journey.
Our soul work, then, is to repair ourselves, to heal into wholeness.It is to identify and remove whatever gets in the way of being truly who we are.It is the task of uncovering our authentic self from the encrustations that overlay it, concealing it from us. Our culture does not provide us with tools for reclaiming lost souls, but we can learn from other traditions and also invent our own devices for soul retrieval. One of the best of these is simply to accept who we are, warts and all. It may seem strange, but acceptance is a most powerful aid to soul retrieval. Many exhaust their energies by trying to "keep up a front," because they feel unacceptable as they are. Acceptance does not mean resignation, which means giving up and becoming powerless—acceptance carries with it the possibility of saying "no" to what damages the soul. We can change our value systems and create more whole—and therefore holy—ways of experiencing our lives. Acceptance means to first accept what is and then empower yourself to make the changes you seek.
Another powerful tool to use in soul work is that of forgiveness. The act of forgiving has immense power. When we carry within us—encoded into our flesh and bones—hate, anger, grudges, and other negative feelings about ourselves and others, we are doing serious damage to the SELF. To forgive does not mean to approve. Nor does it mean that we are to welcome a perpetrator back into our affections and regard. It only means that we must let go of the negative emotions within that are poisoning our systems. If we hate and resent—no matter how rightly and justified these feelings are—we do the most harm to ourselves. Hate acts like a corrosive on both spirit and body, a contaminant that flows through our cells like acid, burning everything it touches. The road to the SELF is paved with forgiving intentions.
Like all defensive constructions, the emotions of hate and anger begin to strangle you once they have served their survival purpose. Letting go is what forgiveness is all about—flushing that corrosive acid out of your system, for your own purposes, to help yourself. It's not about the other person. As you begin to practice forgiveness, consciously call to mind those who have caused you soul damage and some very interesting things will begin to happen. Inside, old tensions loosen and relax; self-destructive behaviors or ones you don't like are easier to control or forgo; you begin to see the entire world in a new and more positive way. You don't have to believe it to try it. Practicing forgiveness is risk-free. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. It is not only others who need to be forgiven. We must also forgive ourselves. Apologize to your SELF for any past harm you have done it, and ask it to forgive you. Explain to your SELF that you hurt it out of ignorance, and resolve to make amends. Affirm that your intention is to avoid any speech or action that hurts your SELF or the SELF of any other person. As you do this, you will become sensitized to the inner experiences of yourself and of others. When you become aware of hurt feelings, move immediately to alleviate any harm done. Apologize and forgive in the here and now—don't store anything away for later. Get rid of the feelings from the past and they will not color your actions and reactions in the present.
The life force is powerful. A tiny blade of grass, pushing up from a speck of a seed in the soil below, can crack open a cement sidewalk. Your body was made by the same force that created the universe. It has been making life forms, including the human body, for eons. This force lives within you and it contains millions of years of wisdom, which is at work within you all the time—repairing and building a billion cells an hour, eliminating waste, nourishing tissues, fighting off germs, calming nerves, protecting from infection, balancing your hormones, and, when necessary, healing contusions and wounds. Each of your cells is a scientific genius, not only repairing itself, but with the capacity to renew and regenerate itself; you are continually building a new body!
Your own personal elemental energy, has created many bodies over time, for that is its work, and it does innumerable things for you—breathes, digests food, eliminates waste, warns you of imminent danger, runs your internal chemical production, puts you to sleep, wakes you up, and more. Located in your solar plexus, is the keeper of your personal archive, which is what the body is—the record of your life. The body is a living record of life given, life taken, life hoped for, life healed. Within your tissues are stored all of your experiences and memories. Becoming aware of your body and its needs and moods is the means to connect with your inner truth. Your inner truth is revealed by your instincts. Unfortunately, most of us have lost touch with the physical basis from which we derive. We ignore basic needs, override our natural drives with intellect or "willpower," and allow ourselves to become emotionally stressed from a variety of causes—some minor, some major. Having lost respect for our basic instincts, which are always right, we fail to listen to our bodies.
Your body ultimately knows itself far better than any other person can. In its cells have been stored every experience that has ever happened to you since before you were born. It knows more about you than your own mother, more about you even than your mind. Our bodies will teach us more than we can imagine, if only we will listen. In our science-oriented, technology-driven society, we have lost our natural connection with the deep levels of wisdom within our bodies, lost the knowledge that our cells are basic intelligence organized into patterns both visible in the flesh and invisible in the inner reaches of our SELF. We must honor the body as sacred in order to grow into the spiritual beings we are. And to honor our bodies fully and respectfully, we must become aware of them and what they do on a daily basis. By following the path of awareness, we can reconnect to this inner knowing. Learn to heed the clues your body gives you and follow its directions no matter what the clock or anyone else tells you. Regaining communication with your body-self will enhance your sense of living a life that is sacred every day.
People speak of out-of-the-body experiences, but what we begin with in meditation is something more difficult: an in-the-body experience. To be attuned and fully present in our bodies we can turn the simple activities of our lives into sacred practice. For example, we spend a lot of time buying food…bringing it home and putting it in the cabinets; taking it out, chopping, seasoning, and cooking it; placing it on the table; eating it. …then cleaning up and putting all the things away. We do this two, three, four times a day. Yet we often do it on automatic pilot. It's as though we're sleep-walking. We do it, but we're not there. The quality of awakening, when brought to our connection to food, first requires that we pay attention, that we notice the entire act of eating. The human body is like a blank canvas upon which our imaginations create images. Too many of us suffer from bad body images.
Failing to appreciate that the body is the representative of the soul and thinking ourselves unacceptable as we are, we try to become something we are not to conform to some outside standard of fitness or beauty. And, when we do not because we cannot, we feel inferior; our self-esteem is damaged along with our soul. Though we may never resolve the debate about the precise time the soul enters the body, it is clear that the soul inhabits the body and when either soul or body is neglected or denigrated both suffer. Ideas about the body vary with the times. Standards of beauty, health, and appropriateness concerning the body have fluctuated over the centuries, and even today different cultures have different bodily standards and views of the body, its nature and its use. To watch a human body at rest or in movement is to glimpse the soul of the person. Our souls are articulated in our gestures, movements, shapes, physiognomy, skin color, eye shine. Disturbances to the soul are expressed in bodily functions gone awry. Skin eruptions, impaired movement, disease, malfunctioning organs—are all symptoms of soul distress.