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Archive for the ‘spiritual growth’ Category

What was C. G. Jung really saying when he reflected in his autobiography, “In the end the only events in my life worth telling are those when the imperishable world irrupted into this transitory one.” He actually compared our lives to the life of a plant that lives on its invisible, hidden rhizome. The visible part appears above ground and lasts only a single summer. His point is he “never lost a sense of something that lives and endures beneath the eternal flux. What we see is the blossom, which passes. The rhizome remains.”

Following this intriguing analogy, what is most important in our lives, as well as longest lasting, are our inner experiences, the dreams, visions, goals, and values that carry us onward toward our becoming who we are inside us, that “splinter of the infinite deity,” as Jung puts it. Everything else withers in comparison.

Our lives are “so fleeting, so insignificant, that it is literally a miracle that anything can exist and develop at all,” Jung also says. So what do we do with what we have, before it all passes so quickly away? How do we address the mysteries of our lives, of life itself, and how do we fit into this wondrous grand mystery? Is the story we would tell of our lives that of the blossom or the rhizome? (Or, is it at least some of both?)

The story of human development, and the life story we would tell about our life as a whole, is incomplete without the recognition of the soul and what its existence signifies – not only spiritual development but eternal life as well. Mystics and poets the world over have long described how consciousness continues on, in the eternal human soul, after death. And now some scientists are saying the same thing.

A 38th way to review your life story – If our life on Earth is but a fleeting moment, if our soul is the medium for spiritual growth, and if Earth is a platform for the ascent of the soul, what is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your day in this soul school? What inner experiences mean the most to you? Which moments when “the imperishable world irrupted into this transitory one” are the most meaningful to you? How have you learned to “isolate the eternal from the contingent,” as the mystics do, to shift your focus in this life toward eternity, toward the one, and away from the temporal, and the many? Tell this story of your deeper remembrance, and share it here for others to enjoy, as well.

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Through our various spiritual traditions, we have a variety of practices designed to guide us to, and keep us focused on, an awareness of the pervasiveness of the sacred: yoga, the Eightfold Path, the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, the Five Pillars, and many other rituals and ceremonies. They all involve regular, even daily, ways to draw our attention to the sacred.

At the heart of most spiritual practice, what is left when we move beyond form, constricting language, and what may be for some the stiffness of the prescriptions, as Wayne Muller has said, is simply remembering. Remember who you are. Remember what you love. Remember what is sacred. Remember what is true. Remember that you will die, and that this day is a gift. Remember how you wish to live, and that you will return to where you came from.

Remembering these things on a regular basis will keep our focus on the sacred, on the spiritual aspect of life. This is where we will find our greatest comfort, the healing of our ills, and the love that we will most cherish. One of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves is finding the practice, simple or otherwise, that will help us remember who we are, what we do know, and what we do not yet remember that we know. It can be meditation, prayer, writing, singing, walking, even the mundane routines of life. Having such a means to keep our focus, a simple act that helps center us into a remembrance of what we already know is sacred and beautiful, is essential to our spiritual growth. Simple acts of remembrance greatly enrich our spiritual life.

A 34th way to review your life story – What draws you to whatever is personally sacred to you? What one practice has most helped you remember who you are? What keeps you on a path that leads you to your spiritual essence? Where do you find your greatest comfort, your deepest love? What keeps you focused on what matters most to you? Reflect on these questions, and put your responses into a flowing narrative that tells the story of how simple acts of remembrance enrich your spiritual life. Share that story here for others to learn from.

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On this Father’s Day, how do we remember our fathers, whether they are still with us or not? What is it that lasts the longest about who they are? What is it that we will never forget about them, as long as we live? Is it the power, or authority they commanded? Is it their accomplishments? Is it the material legacy they leave behind? Or is it something else that stays with us forever about who they are?

“Everyone,” says Abdu’l-Baha, “wishes to be remembered.” This is the essence of our nature as human beings. We have a built in tendency and desire to not only review the life we have lived, to make sense of it and see it for what it truly is, but to want others to know this and remember it, too.

We owe it to our fathers to remember them how they would truly wish to be remembered. And, we owe it to ourselves to be remembered how we truly wish to be remembered. Power, accomplishments, even material legacies, will pass, fade, and be forgotten. If we “hear with attentive ear the call of the spiritual world,” if we “seek first” its “perfections,” this will be what is not forgotten about us. This is how we will have “everlasting remembrance.” The eternal qualities and virtues that we cultivate and bring in to being through our daily actions make us who we are as spiritual beings; these are what will last the longest in the memories of those who really do know us.

A 33rd way to review your life storyHow do you truly wish to be remembered? If earthly accomplishments will hardly be remembered, what is it most from having heard the call of the spiritual world that will contribute to your everlasting remembrance? What spiritual virtues and qualities that you have nurtured throughout your life make you most who you really are? Reflect on these spiritual qualities that you would like others to remember about you, select just one, and tell a story illustrating how you have lived this virtue in your life. If you would like to share that story here for others to learn from, that would be wonderful.

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Mystic knowing is essentially a matter of remembering what we once knew. Our birth into this world is not merely a matter of “a sleep and a forgetting,” as Wordsworth and other mystic poets have hinted at. This is but the earliest part of a lifelong, even eternal, process. The rest of the story is, most importantly, a process of remembering who we really are. This is how and why remembering is a spiritual practice. Wordsworth gives us a glimpse of the rest of that process, too:

Our Souls have sight of that immortal sea

Which brought us hither, can in a moment travel thither…

This process begins as a journey of descent, from the eternal worlds, characterized by knowing and forgetting, yet continues in this world after birth as a journey of ascent, characterized by eventually awakening to the reality around us, coming into full consciousness, and then gradually remembering what was once known from the sacred realm. Some sense that there might be something more to life, seek and often find what they are looking for, and then spend the rest of their lives striving to live in the ultimate balance of that remembrance. Others may spend their lives wholly in the temporal realm, forever in that state of forgetfulness, never knowing, or caring, that there was ever anything else to know.

All of the divinely revealed religions help us recognize our origin as well as our destiny. Similar to the other sacred traditions, at the heart of the Baha’i Faith is the belief that our purpose in this life is to prepare for the life beyond, that the soul is on a journey from and back to God. As the Baha’i writings put it, the soul “is the repository of the ancient, Divine mysteries of God.” The nature, path and progress, or the journey, of the soul, as it has been understood historically and universally, through these spiritual perspectives, is of the essence to living our lives today.

A 32nd way to review your life story – If the soul is our eternal identity, the only thing we take with us through this life and into the next, perhaps the one thing that makes us truly unique, then remembering where we came from, who – and what – we really are, and where we are going, could even be seen as the purpose of life. Who are you, really, in the eternal sense? In addition to all the usual identifiers we draw on to answer this essential question of life, what would you add to this long list of identities that truly makes you who you are, eternally? What divine qualities or virtues have you discovered that have been deposited into your soul? How has remembering what you once knew before your descent to this world helped you in your return journey, in preparing for the life beyond? Please feel free to share the essential parts of this story with us here.

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Mystic knowing in Islam has its source in the Qur’an. Similar to the Jewish and Christian traditions, the Qur’an speaks of our being created by God, being given a home in heaven, and emphasizes our reunion with God. The phrase, “Unto Him shall ye return,” is oft repeated in the Qur’an (10:4; 19:11; 29:57-58; 31:14). The legend of the Night Journey of the Prophet to Jerusalem, and his ascent from there through the seven heavens to God, is symbolic of this return, and has a veiled reference in the Qur’an (17:1). It has long been the purpose of the Sufis, in representing the mystical core of Islam, to experience and explain this journey back to God. The central Sufi doctrine of tawhid refers to union with God, as well as the oneness of God, and has to do with shedding attachments to the world.

Regardless of our own tradition or belief, connecting to our own divine nature, to our mystic core, is what will best help us to remember who we, where we came from, and where we are going. We all have our own Night Journey on this earthly plane, and it is not necessarily smooth sailing. Our existence here is made up of all kinds of challenges and struggles, each one key to uncovering the mystery of who and what we are. The important question is do we see the reason, purpose, or value, and yes, even the wisdom, in what vexes us.

A 31st way to review your life story – What is your Night Journey, and where has this taken you in your journey back to God? In recognition of Thomas Moore speaking in Maine this week, what struggles, losses, failures, and imperfections have lead you closer to the mystery of your soul? How have you learned to appreciate everything that you have been given that makes you the complex, mysterious being you are? What wisdom have you found in your most difficult moments? How have you given up – detached from – certain things you thought you needed? How have you learned to embrace both the highs and the lows, both the fullness and emptiness of your life? How have you cultivated an attitude of acceptance of all that your life is and isn’t?

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As noted last week, the world’s religions agree that the soul comes from the spiritual realm, spends a lifetime adjusting to the physical realm here, and then returns to the spiritual realm. Paul speaks to this duality in our eternal existence and what we can do about it in Corinthians (II, 4:1, 18): “Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands… So we fix our eyes not on what is seen but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Many Christian mystics throughout the centuries have sought union with that ‘eternal house in heaven’ while still living this life, each one standing upon the shoulders of those who went before. The 20th century English monk, Bede Griffiths, recalled the timeless mystic vision when he wrote, “There is a window in my consciousness where I can look out on eternity… then I discover my true Self, then I begin to see the world as it really is… Here all is one, united in a simple vision of being.”

A 30th way to review your life story – As an essential tool in the practice of remembrance, this mystic knowing (being aware of a sacred realm and our link to it) brings us into contact with what is eternal, and therefore with who we are at our essence. What happens when we fix our eyes not on what is seen but what is unseen? What has happened in your life to shift your focus from the temporary to the eternal? Have you ever looked out onto eternity? What did you see there? Did you remember who you really are? Did you see the world as it really is? Reflect on these times of mystic knowing in your life, and if you would be so moved, share with us here what ‘simple vision of being’ this gave you.

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The Arabic term Irfan explains mystic knowing as “knowledge of a divine nature dealing with a realm ‘beyond’ the earthly,” or the “sacred” and “holy” realm. Its sister term, Gnosis, from the Greek, signifies “immediate knowledge of spiritual truth.”

The world’s religions agree that the soul comes from and returns to God. The foundation of the Jewish tradition regarding the soul, and mystic knowing, is seen in Ecclesiastes (12:7), “The dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.” The longstanding mystical tradition of the kabbalah has evolved over the centuries to include practices such as prayer with the intention of uniting with the divine, which could even evoke the image of God breathing the breathe of life (the Holy Spirit) into man, or the state of union we are born with.

Such practices are to facilitate what a story from many traditions tells us about how we learn, as an unborn soul, what our nature and destiny is, but are then born forgetting where we came from and why we are here, and that we therefore spend the rest of our lives trying to remember what we forgot, as Wordsworth hinted at in his poem from last week.

After arriving in this physical world, and being immersed in taking care of our new and on-going physical needs, we can only really remember who we are when we are truly conscious. Only a fully conscious effort enables us to remember our essential spiritual nature, which begins the process of moving us from the world of matter toward the world of the spirit, which then brings us back in touch with our spiritual destiny.

A 29th way to review your life story – This mystic knowing, or being aware of a sacred and holy realm and our direct link to it, is an essential tool in the practice of remembrance. Knowledge of spiritual truth is also essential to remembering who we are. Can you identify any times in your life when this awareness of a realm beyond the earthly gave you any insights into your life meaning or purpose? Can you remember ever transcending your physical needs and, in this state of deep, unified consciousness, gaining a new understanding of your spiritual nature? Reflect on these times of transcendence, or union with the holy, and share with us here the essence of this story of mystic knowing about your life.

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