What’s keeping you? Normally this question would be answered with something like… “I took the wrong road…”, “I had to deal with something…”, “I’ll need to get more money…”, “I have to think about it…”. You are what’s keeping you.
I want to talk about the deeper ‘what’s keeping you’ question. What’s keeping you when the answer to your inner prayer – your spiritual need – is one step away, and you see it but you pause before taking the step? Maybe you think I’m going to encourage you to jump in there and take the leap of faith, but no. I’m inquiring about the space between you and the fulfillment. What is in that space?
Recalling a dream that I had several years ago: in the dream I looked through a window and saw a scene of rolling hills and natural beauty… but it was far more than a scene that I saw. My body took in the feeling of it and a moan escaped my lips. The place was my home… where I had left the greater part of me. In that moment I experienced the intensity of spiritual need: being in this 3D world, and not being where my heart ached to be. In the dream I tried to walk through the window and into it. Then the message came through that it was a simulation I was seeing, and not a real place.
What can I conclude? There was in front of me the vast ‘feeling’ difference between far away from home, and home. That was the gift of the dream… awareness of the separation from ourselves that we experience just by being born into the world – a body that restricts us and a life that conditions and programs us until we are lost in obligation, guilt and fear. We are still ourselves… just not home. And here’s the interesting part… our separation from that which is within us is an illusion. An even more interesting part… the sages tell us that we agreed to experience this: illusion, friction, evolution… we chose it!
So what’s in the space between the awareness of the spiritual need, and the fulfillment of it? A journey of remembering and return. It’s not a quick journey, I can assure you. Conditioning and programming, obligation, guilt and fear… these are biggies!
I’ve talked quite a bit about conditioning and programming in previous articles. When you become aware of your conditioned, trained and adaptive behavior and your programmed thoughts and opinions, it’s like a fish becoming aware that it’s swimming in water. This is our environment… a pattern laid upon us as children. Maybe we struggled with it back then until, slowly but surely, we were persuaded to give up on that liberated, love myself, expansive, ‘I can do anything’ feeling. For remembering and return to take place, there must be an awakening to the situation.
The situation: within us there is now a schism. Spiritual need pulls at us from the heart and conditioning and programming of the mind keeps us in place.
There can be any number of things that a person can be called toward by spiritual need: a different, more ‘you’ type of work; more liberating, supportive personal relationships; a change in your belief system; a down-sized life in a more natural setting; engaging in spiritual training and practice that takes you toward yourself; a big move to another country. It could be a small life change, or a radical one… in any case it’s your need to return that is calling you.
Some of us long ago recognized the calling of the spirit and the urge toward a certain direction. Stuart Wilde coined the phrase ‘fringe dwellers’ to describe us. But even a fringe dweller can pause within that space of doubt and listen to obligation, guilt, and fear voices. Those voices are what’s keeping you. So let’s just firm up the ground you stand on so that you can make your decision.
Ask yourself: the change that my spiritual need calls upon me to make… is it harmful to myself or others? I don’t mean challenging to your emotions or harmful to their opinions… I mean actually harmful. If the answer is no, then stand upon your ground.
What about obligations? Well, let’s look at it this way. Obligations = placed upon you by others. Responsibility = placed upon you by yourself. You are responsible, but chances are you’re not really obligated except by guilt and the need to be approved of by others. Repeat after me: it is not unkind for me to be myself. It is not destructive of myself and others. I need not explain it. My loved ones can handle it… or not. They are responsible for themselves.
Sounds cold, but it actually can be respectful and warm. Respect them, allow them to be, and love them enough to know that deep within, they can handle it. Dealing with you may have a place in their evolution… who knows.
Let’s enjoy a little quote on healing guilt, from Stuart – it’s a boost: “Don’t forget, the way people perceive you is clouded by their own program and by what is often an extreme lack of perception. They see you in whatever terms benefit and confirm their opinion. How you actually are is mostly a secret. It lies deep within your spiritual self and often is not seen by others. Cling to that reality, and never mind what people think.”
In the ‘civilized’ world, in particular, the most firmly programmed emotion within us is fear. It’s actually so programmed that we can hardly call it an emotion… it’s more like a bona fide prison. Many of us have removed the inner walls of that prison simply by turning off the TV and filtering incoming messages. It’s necessary and beneficial to know the truth, but it has to be as close to actual truth as possible, minus the fear, plus the trust in ourselves… that we can actually create a way through this onslaught.
Trust: can we create a way through this onslaught? I’m not immune to self-doubt voices. Three of them actually came in this morning in the time it took to get from my bed to the coffee pot. The good thing is that I saw them rising, back again like gerbils on the wheel of thought, and I sent them a message. “We’re going in this direction now guys… the energy is headed here… so cool out with the repetition.”
A few days ago I enjoyed an article by a fellow traveler, Zen. He wrote about following his spiritual need. He left the U.S., and moved his family to what we like to call a 3rd world country. Maybe the 3rd world is not so 3rd world after all. I picked up on what he wrote about fear. “Most striking is the lack of fear. Children play freely in the streets and walk to their destinations without all the staged paranoia of the west. Even the dogs are happier, roaming freely and going about their business of playing with each other and their owners. The contrast to hyper controlled and regimented America is stunning and takes some easing into, but is oh so welcoming.”
I’m sure he had to overcome it all in making the move, and who knows… there may be more steps to come for him. But in the end, that’s what fringe dwellers do… listen to spirit, experience the need, create the intention and take the steps. The journey of remembering and returning to self takes as many forms as there are individuals taking the journey.
We call it transformation and renewal, and we’re in this thing together. Some of us are pretty connected in spirit and we whisper these encouragements to each other. It’s really such a beautiful thing… and there’s love in it, and truth in it, and redemption, and grace. The journey really is from the head to the heart… it’s a remembering home, and then coming home, step by step.