It’s been about 20 years since I began consciously creating my spiritual practice. I think I believed in the beginning that it would be the path to bliss for me and in many ways it has been ~ although there have also been a few detours down some shady back alleys.
I was raised in a Christian faith ~ specifically Lutheran. We attended church every Sunday ~ my dad usually slept through it. I went to Sunday school and Confirmation classes ~ even taught Sunday school as a young adult ~ and attended church regularly until my early 30’s.
I always remember praying and believing in God and Jesus. We received a small copy of the New Testament in school, I think, and I was determined to read that sucker from beginning to end ~ a little at a time each night before bed. I can’t recall if I actually finished it.
We religiously (pun intended) watched Jesus of Nazareth (it’s 6 hours long I might add) every Easter.
With all of this exposure and participation in religious activities, you would think I would be glowing from the inside out. But, I wasn’t. I was keenly aware that something was missing and had a sneaking suspicion that I should be feeling more joyful and supported in my life.
Following Your Curiosity
Even in my awareness that I must somehow be missing the point, I remained curious and could always sense a deep faith in something greater than my humanity. Earlier in my life, I believed that this something was separate from me. If I had to paint a picture of God ~ which would be a feat in itself ~ it would look like an old man with a long white beard sitting on a cloud and watching it all unfold.
I am so thankful that I followed my curiosity when it called out to me during a particularly challenging time in my life. The spark was ignited when I read a book called The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield; and grew into a flame when I followed that up with In The Meantime by Iyanla Vanzant. Books have often been a source of inspiration that have led to life changing experiences for me. It was a book I read in my adolescence that sent me down the path of Service.
My religious views and constructs began to expand during this time. I started to perceive what I had read in the Bible in very different ways. A lot of the material I was reading at that time kept referring to this book A Course in Miracles and eventually, I knew I had to get my hands on it. It blew my mind.
It is said that A Course in Miracles was dictated to the author through Jesus Christ. It is a huge book ~ very much resembling a traditional bible or other holy book both physically in appearance and in writing style. There were similarities and yet there were major differences that shed light on so many things I had grappled with ~ namely that emptiness I often felt even though I was doing my best to be “good.”
One of the very basic tenets in A Course in Miracles is that there are only two emotions ~ love and fear. Everything is either an expression of love or a call for it. Many emotions flow from love like joy, excitement, compassion, and acceptance. Fear on the other hand can also show up as anxiety, anger, depression, and jealousy, for example.
It goes on to suggest that love is an expression of Spirit while fear-based emotions are expressions of the Ego. And all the while, the reader is reminded of their freedom to choose from one moment to the next. In fact, it is in that holy instant when we shift our perspective and see something differently, that we experience a miracle.
It was through this initial expansion that God as an old man with a long white beard got off the cloud and moved more deeply into my heart and I began to feel that maybe, I was not separate from this something bigger but rather intricately connected to it ~ an expression of Spirit in human form.
Following Your Heart and Speaking Your Truth
A few years down the road, I decided to further my formal education and completed a degree in Religious Studies and Psychology. I didn’t really know specifically what I was planning to do with it at the time. I see now how this educational journey became part of my own spiritual understanding and growth and worked together with everything else to form my current perspectives of myself, my connection to others, the world we live in and what we are here for. Ultimately, it has culminated as a guidepost to inform my practice of Service in the world ~ something I believe I am here to do.
During these past 20 years, my spiritual practice has evolved into an eclectic mix of ideas, feelings, beliefs, and activities that guide me in my day-to-day life. I did not have to abandon everything I grew to understand through my early religious education and practices; however, much of my interpretation shifted as a result of digging deeper. The next time I watched Jesus of Nazareth after reading A Course in Miracles, it was like watching the movie for the first time.
Along the way, I have struggled with “right” and “wrong” as I integrated new information and transformed my thoughts and beliefs. Those were some of the dark alleys I mentioned earlier.
As I have researched and created The Conscious Service Approach, I have found myself in a similar place of frustration many times. Maybe, you can relate to this experience. You know when you start to learn something new and you really want to share it with others because you think it is all that and a bag of chips? You’re all excited and then you realize that your newfound knowledge is really only half-baked and you are met with a great deal of resistance from others. With any luck, at this point, you take a step back and let yourself continue to be with your budding awareness for a bit longer before you present it to the masses.
Or…if you’re anything like me, you go head first on a mission to convince others of how great your new ideas are and how much they can benefit from this new point of view.
Oh the land of convincing others and being in the position (self-appointed, of course) of having to show others the light. It’s heavy, frustrating, burdensome and also completely unnecessary.
Well, you know, some lessons are hard to learn the first time around ~ or the second and third time. When I find myself in that old familiar place, I have always been aware of one thing when the dust settles ~ and that is that I have either altered my perspective to see something I hadn’t before or have deepened my commitment to the path I have embarked upon.
You know, to have ideals and passions and the desire to share with others what you think might be helpful is noble ~ ramming it down their throats ~ not so much.
I am someone who has the tendency to get very attached to my ideas and perspectives. If I believe that it is right for me in my heart then I am not easily swayed. I have recognized that when I lose sight of walking the path and find myself knee deep in a frustrating battle of perspectives with others, I know that I have allowed my Ego to lead and the goal is all about winning now.
We have to learn to love our ideas, our creations, and our beliefs in as far as they are in service to us and direct our own path. And then simply walk the path in front of us. Be prepared to share when invited and to step back when the door isn’t open. Learn to stand in the conviction of your beliefs without having to convince anyone else. That is personal power in action.
My spiritual practice has shown me these aspects of my nature that tend to hinder me as opposed to uplift me begging the question “how do I wish to feel and show up in the world now?”
I continue to believe in God and Jesus Christ. And I also believe in the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus. I believe in the power of the human spirit and I believe that we are here on this planet to learn through both the light and the dark. I believe that we can stay connected to all that is ~ seen and unseen ~ and still be firmly planted with both feet on the ground.
Let’s get started.
What do you believe? Do you have a spiritual practice and how would you describe it?