Some Indicators of Genuine Spirituality

These days, there is a lot of talk in the media about lies, falsehoods, sham investigations, fake news and phony Christianity. It’s almost as if the nation is undergoing a national dialogue to determine what is true and not true—what is integral to being an American. Organized religion itself is being challenged because of hypocrisy or a failure in moral leadership. More and more people are seeing a lack of spirituality in Christianity, often referring to an adage that religion is about authority and spirituality is about integrity. Perhaps in organized religion people see a lot of emphasis put on following rules or scripture but a lot less on practices that lead to a life of integrity. Again, there seems to a cry for something genuine, something true; not just in the faith and teachings but also in the living out of those faiths and beliefs. There is a call for genuine spirituality that begs the question, “What is genuine spirituality?” Spirituality, like good food, certainly has its indicators. If spirituality is about integrity, let’s look at the word integrity.

The word integrity is etymologically related to the word integration and refers to the quality of wholeness. (See https://www.quora.com/Are-the-words-integral-and-integrity-related.) The key to understanding integrity and its role in spirituality is the idea of integration.

Indeed, one of the indicators of genuine spirituality is the ability to integrate the profound negatives of life such as suffering, evil and ignorance with the deepest positives of life such as joy, love and enlightenment. This ability comes from intimately knowing through personal experience the highs and lows of life. Hence, another old adage: “Religion is for those who believe in heaven and hell; spirituality is for those that have been there.”

Another indicator of genuine spirituality is the ability to tell one’s whole story; the good and the bad–and own it without glossing over the bad or bragging about the good. The telling of the story frees the storyteller from the grips of the negative of that story and challenges that person to put suffering into some sort of meaningful context. In other words, telling one’s story integrates the whole of his or her experience, making the storyteller whole.

In spirituality, this integration literally takes in the whole of the person: body, mind and spirit. A spiritual person is deeply tuned into the messages of his or her body, emotions and soul. Likewise, the spiritual person is empathetic and tuned into these kinds of messages from other people, nature and the spiritual world. If you want to be spiritual, be integrated, be integral and you will not lack integrity.

Advertisements

OK, So You’re Born Again; Now What?

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

In Western Christianity, especially in Protestantism, there has been an emphasis put on a “born again experience,” that defining and often exhilarating experience when one feels touched by the Spirit or has found Jesus.  In the experience one may feel deeply loved, and temporarily released from fear, guilt or shame.  It is often the topic of many testimonials at church gatherings.  Retelling the experience also rekindles dwindling religious fervor.  Therefore promoting this experience is often the goal for many preachers and evangelists:  do all one can so that the new believers will have this experience and the old believers all feel rejuvenated in their faith.

Perhaps this stress on a peak experience comes from St. Paul and his conversion, providing a religious model that has gotten a lot of miles and is celebrated whenever it happens; and rightly so.  This initial conversion experience is an important component of religious and spiritual development. 

The problem arises when the honeymoon of this Christian experience wanes in the rough and tumble of real life, and the believer then substitutes the increasingly barren, hard path for a variety of panaceas like the secure comfort in joylessly adhering to religious rules, fake enthusiastic religiosity or active participation in the enjoyable social activities of a church.

However, religious and spiritual maturity involves two aspects and the barren, hard path is one of them.  Just as a good marriage has its honeymoon experience and the long years often marked by fidelity and mutual support in times of dryness, sickness and financial difficulties, the truly spiritual religious life also has the same.  Genuine religious faith based on a deep spirituality has learned to thrive in the hard times.  However, how this awareness has been learned and what has been learned is often not talked about in mainstream Christian religions, yet this is the understanding that gives life to genuine religion. 

As John Welwood says in his book, Toward a Psychology of Awakening, we need the realization experience that starts us on our religious journey, yet we also need to actualize the experience in the very fabric of our being through daily practices and life disciplines like prayer, dreamwork, meditation and a willingness to look at psychological issues which cause us to stumble.  This is what makes the religious life real and alive.  Otherwise, we are just trying to live off of a high by bypassing the nitty-gritty of life.

Experiencing the Sacred in Dreams

Jacob’s Ladder: A Connection Between Heaven and Earth

One of the special gifts that come with dreams is an experience of the sacred.  We may have a dream of a holy person, a deity, a ray of golden light, or a physician that is healing us.  These sacred dreams often have a numinous quality about them; that is, through the images and feelings in the dream we somehow know this dream is coming from a divine source.  Once a person has a dream like this, they need no convincing that there is a greater power beyond them.  These dreams are humbling, yet they can evoke profound gratitude and sense of joy in the dreamer.

Sacred dreams can come at any time but they often tend to come when the dreamer needs them, such as at the start of a major life change, or in the midst of a difficult transition.  In these cases, there seems to be the purposes of inspiring and encouraging the dreamer make it through a difficult challenge, or to take on the challenge.

The Story of Jacob’s Ladder

When thinking of sacred dreams, the Bible story of Jacob’s ladder (Genesis 28: 1-19) comes to mind.  Jacob is in serious conflict with his brother whom he just cheated out of his birthright.  He has run off to the desert, no doubt wondering what will happen to him.  Instead of disaster, in a dream he sees a ladder on which angels descend from and ascend to heaven. The Lord appears to him and tells him that he will have many descendants and be given the land on which he rests.

The ladder is the connection between heaven and earth, just as the dream connects the dreamer to divine inspiration.  Our dreams can be a ladder connecting us to our spiritual guides and higher truth.  Have you seen a ladder in your dreams?  Where was it leading to?  It is definitely leading you to somewhere beyond where you are now.  Are you willing to go there?

Jacob was so in awe of his ladder dream he named the place where he had the dream Bethel, the House of God.  If we see our dreams as the place where divinity can come to visit us, we would take them much more seriously.

When Fear Rules the Day—and How Dreams of Animals Can Help

Look for your dream animals.

Animals in dreams are a source of insight.

One of the classic signs of fear showing up in our lives is the overriding attempt control it.  Our lives can literally get bent out of shape by fear as the flight or fight response kicks in—flight in our trying to run away from what we fear, fight in our desperate attempt to alleviate it, suppress it or shut it down completely.   The flight/fight response was a coping method that worked well for our ancestors in the jungle for whom the main objects of fear were usually readily identifiable animals larger or more deadly than themselves.

Nowadays, few of us have to contend with actual alligators and lions just to get food on the table—but that is not to say we don’t have things to fear.  The things we fear are now less tangible and as a result, often beyond our understanding and grasp, and therefore less easier to deal with, like a racial prejudice, unjust laws, people and cultures we are not familiar with, fake news that is difficult to verify, etc.  This makes it harder to determine if what we fear is really worth fearing!  The fear often cannot be tested immediately by just taking a quick look at the “beast” from a safe distance.

As a result, there are many fears that just hang in there or get bigger and more believable, and eventually rule our lives.  When others fear the same things, a community of fear builds up which reinforces one’s own fears and often it happens that the one who challenges those fears is victimized and shut up.  In this scenario, the individual and the community may never know they are dealing with fears based on an illusion, misinformation, etc.  What is worse, because very few people are willing to challenge their own fears or even address the need to have those fears, fear becomes a solid foundation for their lives, informing all of their decisions.

One of the benefits of dreamwork is that it shows you when fear has some validity and must be taken seriously, and when fears are nothing but a colony of ants—a huge nuisance that can be easily managed.  The way to tell is to look at the animals that appear in your dreams during a time of fear.  The bigger or more deadly the animal, the more genuinely threatening the fear.  And vice versa, the smaller, the less threatening.  It seems our dreams remember when animals provoked fear and use those symbols to instruct us today.

I am thinking of a recent dream I had at a time when I felt overwhelmed by a variety of fears.   It would have been really easy to fall into a desperate state of mind.  In the dream I walked into my closet and found many ants scurrying out of a drawer.  On waking, I reflected on what the ants meant and and how they reminded me of the many little fears I was experiencing, brought on by scam phone calls, a billing mistake by a company, hassles of straightening out paper work, etc., came to mind.  As soon as I saw the connection, I felt relief and knew my dreams were telling me to put my fears in perspective.  These fears were based on petty things and I should not take them so seriously.  I could handle them.

Emotional Care and Healing in Dreams

Dreams are very much about healing at all levels, spiritual, emotional and even physical, if we would only be aware of them and attend to their efforts.  If you are going through a rough transition that is taking a toll emotionally, dreams may come to let you know you are cared for and to let you know you are not yourself.  Here is an example:

Dream:  I am in a clinic and see my usual buoyant, optimistic, smiling self in a mirror.  Then I let myself feel my real feelings.  I am feeling unusually grim and pessimistic.A doctor comes up to me and uses a stethoscope to examine my heart.  I ask why he’s doing this.  He tells me I am not in my usual emotional state and he just wants to check me out.  I know he is right and intuitively feel in the dream he is mainly concerned about my emotional heart, not necessarily the physical one.  Then another doctor does the same, focusing more on the left side.

When I woke up I was touched that some dream physicians were taking care of me and my emotional situation.  It made me focus more on what I was feeling at the moment and not on the breezy, upbeat persona I was reflecting to the world.  I needed to look at the left side (the intuitive side) of my emotional heart.

Since I just finished teaching a class this past semester, I have time to rest and spend a little more time with myself and getting in touch with those feelings that are dragging me down. Maybe the dream doctors were tell me I needed to manifest their thoughtfulness and concern for myself.

Why do We Value the Daydreams and not the Night Dreams?

Daydreams often provide more inspiration than night dreams. Why?

Photo by Matthew Henry from Burst

Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself. Go forward and make your dreams come true.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

This quote by Emerson has perhaps encouraged many people to pursue their dreams.  In America, it is quite the fad to do so, the idea being that pursuing one’s dream is what will give your life purpose and direction.  Often, to most Americans, this approach means pursuing some idea or ideal job that is a product of fantasy or a daydream.  This daydream is often fed by other desirable things that may come along with the perfect job such as a great salary, benefits and real power.  One imagines the perfect job, gets trained to prepare for that job, and then goes about looking for such a job.

However, few people actually pursue a job, not to mention a career, they have literally dreamed about at night. Whenever I tell people I have had seven major careers based on night dreams I have dreamed about at night  raises people’s highbrows, as if to say, “Who would ever do such a thing?”  Or, “That makes for a lot of change in life!” or “That’s not practical!”

It also raises the question of what we mean by following a dream.   On one hand, we are encouraged to follow daydreams but not the nitty-gritty night dreams that often contain great power.  This example seems to reflect the great value put on daydreams in this country but not on the night dreams.  I leave it to my readers to provide the deeper answers why this is so.

Praying from the Point of Pain

Learn to pray from the depths of yourself.

Praying from a place of genuine need draws a response from God.

It is said that the universe bends to where a genuine need exists and where a heartfelt request is made. I certainly do believe that prayer coming from real need is heard, and when prayers are not answered, one reason could be that God or the universe (whatever makes you feel more comfortable) just doesn’t perceive it as a real need, only an ego need on the part of the person praying.

What is Genuine Need?

The question arises then as to what constitutes genuine need, and how is it different from needing something just to soothe a bruised ego? It seems to me that genuine need arises out of significant suffering, the kind of suffering many people tend to actually deny, endure or cover up for a variety of reasons. This could be something horrendous like suffering sexual abuse or it could be something relatively less horrific like putting up with a chronic health condition.

Dreams and Pain

Dreams are very good at indicating where the genuine points of pain are located at the deep psychic level.

How Points of Pain are Symbolized in Dreams

These points of pain may be symbolized in the form of injured animals, a sick, dying or dead person, or some jarring situation such as a car accident. When these uncomfortable scenes are seen in dreams we tend to think of them as representing something outside of ourselves. In some cases, that may be true. However, usually, they represent an aspect of ourselves that is wounded, sick, dying, dead or being put in jeopardy.

When I have dreams like these, I immediately make it a point to pray for this aspect of myself that is suffering in such a way—even though I may not recognize it immediately since it may stand for something I may not yet be cognizant of in my waking life. I feel this is praying from the deepest and most genuine part of myself, surely opening a pathway to God and the universe for healing.

When Women Tell The Truth: #MeToo

One of the benefits of dreamwork for women is that it helps women regain their power by allowing them to access the power within.

Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Note:  My friends, in looking through some past posts I ran across this one fromApril 27,  2012 which seems especially appropriate today. Six years ago we were talking about the War on Women.  Since then, we’ve made progress, especially with the #MeToo movement, but much remains to be done. After thousands of years of conditioning by male-dominated societies, we carry the roots of misogyny in the depths of our psyches. Some people, even very well-meaning ones, still can’t see it in themselves, let alone imagine a society in which women accept their sovereignty and their voices are heard and heeded without reprisal. But once a new light has entered a soul, no force on Earth can quell the fire of evolving consciousness. 

Some of my posts come from the heart, some from the head. This one comes from the gut. It’s difficult to write because I’m swamped with strong…

View original post 698 more words

Our Role in Healing

Yoga as a way we can choose to heal.

Our role in healing can include invoking our own healing energies through dreamwork and visual meditation as well a practicing healthy exercise like yoga.

Whenever we speak of healing, we usually experience it as something that comes to us as a gift given.  For some it may be a gift of nature, of the universe, or a gift of God.  It is seen as something we don’t entirely have complete control over.  Be that as it may, beyond the obvious rules of eating right and getting exercise, there are certain things we can do on a spiritual and psychological level that promote healing.

We do have a part to play in making it all happen and there are varying points of view.  At one extreme we have people who assume healing is beyond them, especially on matters that medicine can’t adequately treat and will take a fatalistic stance such as “Well, I will either get well or I will die of this disease.”

And at the other end of the spectrum we have those who take on too much responsibility, thinking that if they don’t do this and do that, they will not be healed—acting like it is entirely up to them and not the doctors, God or the healing energy from elsewhere such as the universe, another a healing person or their own healing energies!.

Acknowledging Our Blocks to Health & Following through on Good Intentions

I think there is a happy ground in the middle which takes into account that we do have responsibility for our health yet knowing there is only so much we can do.  First, we can, as a minimum, try to acknowledge when we abuse our bodies by eating junk food, over eating or not getting enough exercise.  And secondly, we can also make the intention to do what we can to improve our health such as seeing a doctor, eating right and exercising.  If we are religious, this includes praying for health or asking for prayers.  It seems like such an easy thing to say but the truth is that prayer works in many amazing ways.

Tapping into Our Own Healing Energy

Also, another important way to promote healing is by tapping into our own healing energies, especially by doing dreamwork and/or visual meditation.  After many years of working with dreams to create better health, I have learned there is something like an inner healer which is constantly at work to let us know when we are healthy and when we are need of healing, be it psychological, physical or spiritual.  This inner healer may appear in dreams as a physician, a care giver or a nurse.  Once we’ve seen this inner healer in a dream, we can ask for dreams that will include this inner healer to show us the way to healing.  This archetype can become a guide for us, acting on our behalf.  It can empower us to heal ourselves and others as we become a conduit for the energy it represents.

Through visual meditation, such as by imagining sick cells being removed and healthy ones taking their place, we can also promote energy healing at the cellular level.

Working so proactively for our health at the dream level reaches far beyond the physical to the energy level, affecting and caring for cells and the ways they communicate with each.  What a profound role we can play in our own healing!

Sacred Moments in Dreams

Dreams can bring sacred moments that help us through difficult times.

What are some of your sacred moments that have sustained you?

We all need sustaining visions that will get us through the worst times and give us clues to the good things that are to come.  Ironically, it is often when we begin to go through difficult times, the veil is lifted from our eyes and we are given the grace, a “sacred moment” that gives us the strength to undergo any ordeal we must face.  I remember a woman telling me that she was very nervous before a surgery to remove a cancer.  As she prayed in the hospital bed, waiting to be taken to the operating room, she had a vision of light that came into the room and surrounded her.  It gave her great comfort, so she was able to undergo the surgery with great peace.

One way we can experience profound sacred moments is in dreams.  Almost everyone I’ve met has had some dream that is profoundly spiritual and sacred to the person who has had the dream.  They may dream of flying effortlessly or they may dream of Jesus coming to visit them.  They may dream they are healed of some shame or regret they once had.

My experience has been that the very special dreams we have are meant to prepare us either for a special mission, an ordeal like a surgery or a difficult transformation.  For example, a dying person may dream of someone special, a loved one who has already died, coming for them and possibly leading them somewhere.  The dream has a sacred quality about it and tends to literally help the dying person die.  The dream then is a sacred moment which is preparing the person for transitioning from the worldly plane to the spiritual plane.

All of us have had “sacred moments” in our lives, either in dreams or in lived experiences.  Some people have had visions and some have experienced a deep connection with God, nature or another person.  What are some of your sacred moments?  How have these moments helped you feel that life is worthwhile, even in the midst of the most difficult times?  If you are in a low spot in your life you might consider asking for a dream that will present you with a “sacred moment” to get you through the hard times.