What is a ‘spiritual path?’ When people speak or write about it, are we really talking about the same thing? When Unity speaks of “One God, Many Paths…” does that include suicide (actually homicide) bombers as well as peace advocates? Just as in prayer, where Unity advocates affirmative prayer, I would imagine we are talking about affirmative paths. Yet from what I read, suicide/ homicide bombers also claim divine inspiration.
When I tune into God, into the inner awareness of the Universal sometimes I get clear responses, sometimes not. But how much of that is something larger than my ordinary self as I perceive it to be or a projection of my ordinary mind? Most traditional religious communities follow what they see as God’s rules from thousands of years ago citing their current translation and understanding of ancient texts. It seems to me that most of them pick and choose which rules to rigidly follow, which to modify and still others to ignore. How much of that is God coming through the writings, and how much driven by the personal fears, confusions and desires of those who define the teachings?
In psychotherapy and psychoanalysis after Freud, there developed an ideal that one would and could be ‘objective’ in working with a ‘patient.’ Modern Analysis has dropped that term in favor of the concept of ‘subjective honesty.’ With the later phrase the analyst or therapist recognizes their own perspective can not fully be put aside. Through being conscious of one’s own needs, projections and even blind spots, it becomes possible to differentiate what feelings, thoughts or reactions comes from the ‘patient’ or ‘client’ versus what may be self generated.
Whether working with someone else to help them live more congruently with their needs, desires and values, or working with one’s self (and community) to become an instrument of the highest good (God’s will), it is important to recognize that our own personality issues and developmental limitations can affect what we perceive. This lends some caution for me as a Prayer Chaplain, when I pray with someone.
In praying with others I reflect on what they are asking for, and listen for what emerges from that place within where I feel connected to the Divine or universal. I presume that whatever this person is praying for or about, also will offer something for me. This makes it more important that I attend to not letting my own fears or defensiveness distort what I express with another.
The prayer requests that touch me can also be enriching. It deepens my conscious empathy for them. In all prayer I usually affirm that the outcome be in accord with the highest good for both the person praying and everyone else. After all, none of us mortals can fully know what that would be.
Being on a spiritual path for me is a process of learning from what life brings, wanted or not. The task is figuring out just what are the gifts these experiences offer us. While what we learn is a product of our values and spiritual or religious views, if we are open it will also affect and develop these views. I think of this as experiencing the ‘living god’ or belief system where change is understood as ongoing. The alternative, which has never worked for me, I call the dead god approach. It is the belief that the truth is written in stone, and that what is written cannot change. Therefore experience is not allowed to alter belief.
Do you see yourself on a spiritual path? How would you describe it?