To Those Who Have
I remember, many years ago, reading for the first time Jesus’ seemingly appalling lesson — To those who have much, much will be given; to those who have little, even that will be taken away” [see note]. I was aghast.
How could this loving, brilliant man, a vessel of God, speaking for and as God, possibly say such a cruel and unfeeling statement! The translation must have been bad, or maybe he didn't even say it, maybe it was inserted later. This concept simply did not jibe with my understanding, albeit immature and fledgling, of what God was, what God encompassed, what love meant and what compassion implied. I shunted the statement aside, as many of us do when we do not understand, and chalked it down to esoterica. Someday I'll understand it, I thought, but for now, I will simply ignore it! How selective we are in what we choose to incorporate into our paradigms from the great minds. How protective we are of our sensibilities and fears.
Now, it is glaringly obvious to me what Jesus meant by that statement. How brilliant it is, for it holds within it, in those two simple ideas, all of metaphysics. It warns and explains to anyone listening how karma works, how cause-and-effect works, how the world of physics works, how the spiritual process unfolds, how human inter-relations work. If used as a key, it deciphers and explains why everything happens to us as it happens, and how we can extricate ourselves from any situation we find unpalatable. Or, to use a term coined by a great friend of mine, this biblical statement is another way of saying that the Universe is Plutonic: reality reflects what we are, literally and momentarily.
Thus, our state of consciousness at any moment in time, or our general state of mind, our attitude, our essence, will be reflected back to us in kind, literally and moment by moment. Not necessarily our thoughts, but our “state” or condition. The manner in which we consider ourselves, what we think we are and have and can be, all of that is reflected back, is being reflected back, to us all of the time. In a word, we have - we continue to have - exactly what we consider ourselves to have now.
It is not enough just to voice this principle, not enough simply to declare it. We must “HAVE” it. It must be owned, lived. It must BE us; we must BE it.
The converse, of course, is that if we doubt, if we consider ourselves poor in any respect or meaning of the word, we shall “HAVE” poorness. We will own that; we will live poorness, BE poorness.
While culturally or socially this strikes us as offensive, unfair, indeed cruel, and certainly not compassionate, if one looks around and observes the world and its mechanisms, there is no denying that this seems to be how it all works. If one gets into the nooks and crannies of a mind that is negative, cautious, fearful, tentative, one can actually SEE how this mechanism functions and feeds on itself, how it actually works. And initially it is terrifying. And sobering.
It would be foolish, I think, to underrate the seriousness of this statement by Jesus. He did not play with words or concepts. He spoke the Truth, without reserve. He instructed and warned. If, after discovering the truth of this statement in one's own life, one were to continue to plod along with business as usual, hoping for the best, praying that everything will work out in the long run, but making no significant changes in our attitude or belief structure, it would be difficult to justify stomping about in anger and frustration when life took a turn for the worse, or when our prayers did not seem to be answered, don't you think?
All the answers we need are right there before us, all the time. We have only to decide to incorporate them into our lives, to decide that a different tack might resolve our problems, and to recognize that the old ways simply don't work for us. But we, and only we, make that choice.
[This is part of a letter. Naturally, all personal references have been omitted.]
I am concerned that you are so lonely, and that you seem to be having trouble coping with your loneliness.
Please understand that loneliness is not unique to you. In fact, loneliness is the natural state of a human being that has been conditioned to feel separate from others and from his or her world. As that describes virtually all of us, it follows that we all suffer from loneliness to varying degrees at various times in our lives.
There is an aspect of life that is very sad, and will always be sad. Even in those moments of Presence and Connected-ness, there is felt a sense of sadness because of the underlying suffering that is always inherent in life as we know it. There is no way of getting around this sadness. Its foundation lies in our sense of separation from God, and thus, by extension, from others. We feel lonely, which makes us sad, because we believe we are separate from one another and from God. All of that comes with believing we are bodies. We are stuck with that by the mere fact that we HAVE, or seem to HAVE, bodies.
A wonderful book you might enjoy reading in which this sense of separation and loneliness is addressed is “Chasm of Fire” by Irina Tweedie. Indeed, as she progressed along the Sufi spiritual path, which was the discipline of her Teacher, her sense of loneliness and longing seemed to increase. That is, the more aware she became of her apparent separation from God, the more painful it became. In fact, she lived in an ashram and sat at the feet of her master, and still she felt this loneliness.
Please understand what this means. It means that loneliness is natural, and can in fact be used as a measure of our openness and progress. It is NOT to be avoided at all costs! I grant you it is painful; but progress and evolution are always painful. (It is this “negative” aspect of life generally, and of the spiritual path specifically, that many choose to ignore or repress. I am of the belief that that is why so few succeed at the spiritual search, and, for that matter, at life.) This also means that even within a group of like-minded individuals, the process of self-understanding and surrender to God is a lonely, single, and frequently painful process.
I hope that it will help you to know that you are not alone in feeling this loneliness, and, what’s more, that it is a perfectly normal feeling. The fact is, most ordinary relationships are simply a means of distraction from that sense of loneliness. At least you are allowing yourself to feel it and to acknowledge it. That is profound in its own right.
For most of us, so long as our relationship with another “works”, we are distracted enough not to notice the underlying sense of loneliness. But when the relationship stops “working,” and no longer provides comforting distraction, the loneliness returns, and we recoil from the pain. Even in the best of relationships, then, when one or the other withdraws, or has interests outside the relationship, and expends one's energy toward those interests, to some extent the other partner feels left out, and thus, again feels that loneliness. It is in part to this aspect of relationships that “A Course in Miracles”, which you mentioned, addresses itself. As I read it, it is essentially saying we cannot find our identity and happiness through ANOTHER. Perhaps we will find distraction, but not fulfillment or identity.
Once again, everybody experiences loneliness so long as they consider themselves to be separate, and therefore dependent upon another to fill that sense of separateness. In other words, until we recognize our inherent connection and sameness with God, AND until we anchor that connection, we will always have loneliness lurking around the corner. It is because of this fact that I consider the greatest possible undertaking in one's life, and ultimately the only undertaking worth doing, to be the search for God and to finding out how we fit in God's Plan. My specific, personal experience has been that going to the Source is the only certain and enduring way out of suffering and misery.
Other diversions may be fun and distracting, and there is a place and a time for all of them as well. But when life with all its thorns and complexity is seen fully, it is inevitable that we will wish to transcend it with all its pleasures and pains (they always come in pairs, you know!).
In the meantime, there are ways for one to deal with the sense of loneliness on a more physical and practical level, not the least of which is to learn to be a more “social” animal. I recognize this requires a certain amount of vulnerability. But nothing is ever gained without some kind of risk taking.
As for your longing to meet others on the path, my advice is that you not confuse the path with the human longing to connect with other human beings. For, even if you have a strong relationship with another seeker, the spiritual path is ultimately walked alone (with God, of course), and is therefore sometimes unavoidably lonely. So, the human longing we all feel, need not be fulfilled in what you consider today to be a spiritual manner. It can be fulfilled in any way, under any condition, so long is it is done in a totally self-giving manner.
The key to connecting successfully with another human being is not necessarily found in the classic one-on-one relationship between a woman and a man, but can be found simply by stroking the head of a dog, or responding to a little child's cry for help. What is essential here is the capacity on your part to give without expecting return. That is what love is, and some of us have to learn that from the very beginning. Usually, that is because we were never taught how to love, and thus have no way of knowing what is required.
I grant you, all of this is a long and difficult process. But then again, life is not here to be enjoyed so much as it is to be understood, mastered, and then, and only then, transcended. It is through that transcendence that we finally achieve true happiness. But often, in the giving of love, there will be pain and loneliness still. Yet in the giving, during the moment of giving, there is always deep peace and contentment. This is a process, you understand. Ongoing, and endless.
Please, do not be afraid to express vulnerability. I know how difficult it is to remain vulnerable. But without it, everything is lost. Because of vulnerability, there will always be pain and heartbreak, the two come together. But to shut down and withdraw is the most harmful action anyone can take–to their spirit, soul, and psyche. Indeed, the greatest spiritual masters weep frequently, and feel all the pain and heartbreak that you do, that we all do, only probably more so. The primary difference between the rest of us and them, then, is simply understanding what it means, why it happens, and surrendering to it, fully with faith. Then, even in the terrible sadness, there is bliss.
Again, please consider that life is not to be enjoyed, but to be mastered and understood. I know our culture teaches differently; but it does not understand what truly matters. With life mastery come moments of great joy, and moments of deep sadness. If you allow yourself to feel both the joy and the sadness equally, to experience each fully, and to recognize that both are something you simply need to walk through, and that both are a normal and natural part of living, then that very acceptance and understanding will help you to stop resisting the loneliness and sadness, and start surrendering to it. Then, you will feel less overwhelmed by it, and you will feel better about yourself and your life.
I hope this helps.
Spreading The Word
[This is part of a letter. Naturally, all personal references have been omitted.]
Your concern about how to communicate your spiritual understanding and aspiration to your partner – your “significant other” – is one which we all, in some way or another, rub up against during this process.
It is normal and healthy to wish to share with those close to us our own enthusiasms and discoveries as we progress along the path. However, this is a very sensitive and fragile matter, since the spiritual process is all about the transformation of ego into something greater than and superior to our small or limited selves, and thus, any other ego (such as your partner’s) is going to be threatened and disturbed by that possibility, and particularly by the recognition that you are undergoing a transformation and change.
Most of us are threatened by change of all kinds, until we understand that change represents opportunity and evolution, and that it is a natural process of growth in the human arena, be it physical, mental, emotional or spiritual. However, acceptance of change is something each of us has to learn, individually, by ourselves, at our own pace. It is not something that can be taught to another, nor can it be accomplished by one for another. It is, after all, the purpose of life for each of us.
There is a period of time in the spiritual process when the urge to convert or sway others into our own exciting and liberating discoveries is almost overpowering. But before giving in to this natural urge to “spread the word”, we need to exercise restraint and discretion so that we can fully consolidate and anchor our spiritual discoveries within ourselves.
If we try to convince those we love to see the world our way, particularly early on when our enthusiasm may lack compassion and maturity, we will almost inevitably create resistance and unpleasant repercussions, if only because the change we are expressing will confuse and bewilder, and thus frighten, others, particularly our partners, who will perceive the change as presenting a loss to them. Change of a spiritual nature is especially threatening because it involves something of the unknown, and we are always afraid of the unknown.
Of course, in some ways, spiritual change is a kind of loss. As we progress spiritually we become more open, more inclusive, and more expansive. We are shifting our attention, and thus our energy, to God, to a power that is perceived by our loved ones to be exclusive of them. That is, they are used to being the principal focus of all our attention, and in the spiritual process that inevitably will change. To a human ego, that change is scary, particularly if our new, expansive outlook is perceived, as it is by an isolated ego, as a loss of status, a loss of all the “specialness” that goes with a human relationship.
Thus, unless expressed gently, lovingly, with compassion, patience and reassurance, these changes are perceived with fear, and thus are more frequently than not rejected by others. Of course, what the ego doesn't know, and won’t know until it has transformed itself, is that nothing is lost, no one loses status, and only more love and benefit are derived from anyone and by anyone undergoing the spiritual search. But then, the ego is irrational and prone to delusion, isn't it?!
It is our experience too that some people find spiritual aspirants to be “weird,” but that is only because they do not understand the process, and therefore are confused or frightened by it. You will find, as you anchor your own spiritual experience within, that these kinds of observations by others do not “signify,” and that you are all right with being considered weird, and that they (whoever they may be) are all right considering you to be so! In other words, it is only uncomfortable in the beginning; in time you really won't notice it anymore, nor will you care. And eventually, there will be no “others,” weird or otherwise with whom or by whom to be compared!
Specifically, as to how to share your experiences. Speaking for myself, I have found that living by example is far more powerful a teaching device than any amount of words, urgings, wishings, or discussions. Indeed, as you progress in your own spiritual work, your partner will, by osmosis, begin to absorb what your consciousness naturally expresses through its own inner work. This may take time, of course, and in large part will depend upon the deliberation and success of your own spiritual work. And the smoothness with which your transformation, and your partner's osmosis, occur, depends very much upon your own ability to do it gracefully, gently, and generously in the middle of your worldly obligations.
This is not an easy task, I grant you. As one begins to immerse oneself in spiritual work, many worldly preoccupations and delights lose their attraction, and as others, who are not on the path, notice our increasing disinclination toward the old pleasures, they will be threatened. After all, from their perspective, the relationship we have with them is largely defined by these shared interests. As our interests grow and change, so does their sense of loss.
In the beginning, a considerable amount of finesse is necessary to juggle these two apparently competing loyalties. Remember, from the perspective of one’s partner, this is all about loyalty, and it will be perceived by him or her as simply that. After all, the ego’s only interest in loyalty is that it be loyalty to “ME” and nobody else. Thus, as you develop spiritually, if not done gracefully and lovingly, with sympathy for those who are “behind” in the path, your shifting of loyalties can be perceived, and will be perceived, to be a kind of betrayal. Those who perceive themselves being left “behind” will feel left out and ignored.
Thus, were I in your shoes, and indeed, I once was, I would go about my own spiritual work with total commitment and enthusiasm, and let it percolate, grow and increase within myself, while, AT THE SAME TIME, living my life as I have, and will continue to do, with my chosen partner, including him or her in those parts of my spiritual life that he or she ASKS to be included in, and, at the same time, including myself in my partner's own life-interests and enthusiasms with joy and love as I have in the past. (This of course assumes that one’s partner is not involved in activities that are counter-productive to spiritual development, or that go completely against ethical behaviors, and that one's shared experiences are normal, healthy, and while worldly, humanly satisfying.)
If my partner loves me as much as I love him or her, it is inevitable that the partner's priorities will change. Slowly, over time, they will naturally transform more and more to mirror my own, and it will be occur gracefully and without either me or my partner knowing it is happening, nor “losing face” because of the change. If the changes are toward more spiritual expression, it is inevitable that they will proceed in such a manner. That is part of the Grace of God. It thus becomes less of a “me or you” situation, and more of a communal expression of Love, which is actually spirit in action, and thus, spiritual change. THAT is Grace.
With this said, it is important to remember that, while doing spiritual work without one's partner sharing in the work can at times seem to be a lonely process, the fact is the spiritual process is a lonely process. It is a one-on-one interaction with one's God, and thus, it does not involve others, except peripherally, in the sense of fellowship, social interaction, studying together, and so on, that reinforce and support that one-on-one interaction. If you keep this in mind, you will not feel that it is so important that others travel the same path as you. It will allow you to allow them to tread their own path, at their own speed, without feeling a sense of loss, loneliness, or unhappiness at their differences in approach. Remember, the spiritual process is not a social process, although it will inevitably express itself in social ways, by community, but the social expression is secondary and supportive, not primary, nor essential. It IS, however, INEVITABLE that, as you progress spiritually, the community will develop. The social expressions of your own state of consciousness will manifest and express themselves externally, and you will, indeed, eventually find them shining back at you in the eyes and face, expression, thoughts, and deeds of others, including your partner.
In other words, what I am suggesting here is a basic principle of all spiritual endeavor. And that is that the quickest, easiest, and most effective method of transformation, both inner AND outer, of ourselves and coincidentally of others, is accomplished in each individual consciousness, by oneself, with and through God. So, if you keep your attention focused on God, the rest will follow. It is inevitable that it will follow; it is a spiritual law that it happens that way.
I hope this helps.
“Anthuriums” by Shirley Russell