Monday, March 09, 2009

Kurt Barstow - Spiritual guidance, part II

Another interesting article from Kurt Bastow at the LA Examiner.

Spiritual guidance, part II

February 9, 11:11 PM


Whatever else it is, spiritual guidance is not like following the law or taking the morality of others upon yourself. And it is not one size fits all. What seems to characterize it most is that it is personal, intimate, understanding, and comes from the perspective of knowing you as well if not better than yourself. Spiritual guidance presumes an extremely close relationship of some sort. How could it be otherwise that an invisible higher intelligence could help direct human beings, who have free will, in the course of their lives? We aren't likely, after all, to alter our lives dramatically or to do the difficult thing or to surrender for just any old person. Chapter 3 (In "God" We Trust?) and Chapter 4 (Intimacy... Seeing with the Eyes of the Heart) of Joan Borysenko and Gordon Dveirin's Your Soul's Compass: What is Spiritual Guidance? (Hay House, 2007) take up the subjects of personal relationship and intimacy.

It is reasonable, the authors point out, to ask just what is doing the guiding, although the multiplicity of viewpoints about the answer to that question among those spiritual masters interviewed for the book did not prevent some general rules of guidance from being formulated. "Whether you view God or consciousness as personal or impersonal--and our Sages... were divergent on this point--spiritual guidance itself (the relationship you have to that consciousness) is intensely personal. There's nothing abstract or general about it. There's an immediacy, a directness, a felt sense of contact in this level of communication that leaves little doubt that you are the intended receiver and that something important, fresh, and new is being revealed. Whether information comes through a dream, a synchronicity, a series of leadings, the process of inquiry, meditation, prayer, or feedback from observing the results of your behavior, the guidance helps orient you to greater degrees of awareness, compassion, and skillful action." The three rules that came out of the condensation of everyone's personal experience with guidance were as follows:

Matt Russell, Light from the Heart Nebula

1. "Trust in spiritual guidance is the foundation for following it. If you don't believe in some form of higher intelligence, whether it's personally aware of you or not, you won't be interested in being guided."

2. "Guidance is a deeply personal relationship with the God (or wisdom principles) of your own understanding. It functions for people of any and all belief systems, as long as they maintain an open, curious attitude toward whatever may be revealed."

3. "Guidance invites you to look beyond the surface of your immediate circumstances, and your attachment to a particular outcome, to see how wisdom--or Spirit--is moving in your life right now to help you develop greater insight, compassion, and effectiveness in the world."

If you think this is beginning to sound like every individual is hugely important in the scheme of things and that the common denominator of guidance has to do with forging the best possible relationships with each other and with the world, you would be right on the money. It is only with trust in this higher power that we can begin to disband the ego and feel our way toward the interconnectedness of all things. Sister Rose Mary Dougherty says, "I think the guidance is always available to us. It's always just there, nut my [ego] gets so far separated from my [true or higher] Self that I'm not in touch with it... so often I get caught in my own little, narrow constructs that I just don't see beyond them. Not only do I get caught in them, I get really pushy with my own agenda around them. But there's something [about guidance]... it's like the lotus opening to the Light, where I can see beyond this narrowness. That's when the interconnectedness is most real for me." She goes on, "To hear that direction, we have to stop at both major and minor places. We learn when to pause, connect, and question, even in small ways." It is not exactly an activity for the faint of heart, for it involves, as Reverend Cynthia Bourgeault says, "The deep willingness to sit in this moment and find the complete fullness of it and realize that whatever is in your path is okay," that, "lets you surrender to the moment and allow guidance to emerge." Quaker educator Patricia Loring adds, "Trusting in the unknown--in something beyond what you can see, hear, and reason your way through--makes it possible to follow the subtle leadings that appear." We also have to learn to trust uncertainty and stress. Buddhist monk Ajahn Sona points out, "If you feel lost, you are. If you have to ask if you're in harmony, you're not. You don't feel well. There's a feedback loop there."

Moses before the Ark of the Covenant

It all comes down to listening at the deepest level, of being in harmony with that which is eternal. Father Thomas Keating says, "Our awakened human heart is the receiver that picks up the signal of the Divine Heart. We, in turn, transmit that love. The more love we generate--in the form of intimacy with life, gratitude, and compassionate action--the more open our hearts become, and the more direction we receive... The scientist receives inspiration for her experiment. The father sees a notice on the bulletin board of the health food store about a new school that's just right for his child. The author has a conversation with a stranger that sparks an idea about the plot for a novel. Following the thread of love--excitement, passion, gratitude, a desire to know more about life--we find the treasure." And this deep listening can come out of seemingly negative circumstances or events. Rose Mary Dougherty discusses "the prayer of God for us, unfolding within our hearts as guidance," and points out, "Being fired from a job, for example, might open up a discussion of where a persons true gifts and talents reside. An addiction could be love's way of creating an opportunity for dismantling the false self so that true nature can shine through." It is a matter of trying to understand how Spirit moves through things.

The two qualities, it would seem, that most open us to guidance are love and humility. The authors explain, "To see through the eyes of the heart means to look beneath surface appearances. The mind--whose function is to catalog, compare, judge, and codify experience--excels at the kind of knowing based on sensory input and memory. But there's another way of knowing so intimate and fresh that only poets dare express it in words. It's so indescribably vivid and immediate that there's virtually no separation between the knower and the known. We become, or recognize that we already are, at one with a web of loving intelligence that's as close as our own hands and feet... yet as vast as the universe itself." Furthermore, they point out, "The wisdom of the heart isn't a solo act. It requires both a lover and a beloved. The union of those two gives rise to a Third, the child of intimacy--an emergent property that is totally new and vital." Sufi teacher Taj Inayat discusses the founder of the Sufi Order International, Hazrat Inayat Khan, saying that one's relationship to God needs to be more central than any other relationship. She says, "And there's a danger in that, because we can't help thinking of God as separate. In one sense God is separate--from our ego sense--but not ultimately, not truly, separate. It's a navigation to make that shift where we're relating to the center, to God, and then to see all beings and all relationships as expressions of that primary relationship..."

Finally, with love must come humility. As the founder of the Diamond Group, Hameed Ali, says, "The most important thing is humility. We don't really know what the right way to go is. We don't know the deeper truth. To allow ourselves to be in that helpless place without losing heart is what opens us up to guidance." And Rabbi Rami Schapiro warns, "Don't look for the sacred in external forms or what you think you know. Revelation--the voice of guidance--can't be reduced to dogma, confined to houses of worship, or known by the rational mind alone. Guidance arises instead from an attitude of humble, curious attention--when you empty yourself of what you think you know and enter the same heartful state of receptivity that Moses must have had as he approached the Ark of the Covenant."

(to be cont'd)

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