By Suzanne E. Harrill            

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Last month we discussed the spiritual journey, what it is, and the difference between one on the journey and one who is not. We looked at an analogy of a circle and a spiral to illustrate these two positions.


Let us continue our discussion of the spiritual journey, beginning with a discussion about spiritual teachers and then looking at some things you might encounter as you climb the mountain of enlightenment. I will share some of my early experiences.


 Not all teachers have your best interest at heart. Unfortunately, some teachers are not motivated by unconditional love and service—you need to know this. I have come in contact with some, and it did not hurt me in the long run, the experiences eventually made me wiser. It did confuse me and took me off track a few times, though. A good teacher in this world eventually leads us to the teacher within. The true test of a spiritual teacher is one who helps us unfold and awaken and then encourages us to develop our own inner guidance to connect with our own soul or spiritual Self.


This also includes those teachers not in physical form, those living in more subtle dimensions. Some of you who meditate or can easily see into other dimensions may have already experienced inner teachers and guides. If you are beginning the journey of inner exploration, you might feel the need to ask for protection. Say an affirmation or prayer asking only for a teacher of the light. You can visualize protection with a golden, white light, God, Jesus, Buddha, other religious figure, or the Christ Consciousness surrounding and protecting you. Go slowly when you want to adopt a new teacher or teaching, whether it is an inner or outer teacher.


Remember to exercise your free-will choice and intellect when stepping out into new frontiers of consciousness. Evaluate the teaching or information that is given first, before acting. A rule of thumb that has helped me is to notice how I feel in their presence. Do I receive insights and expand my awareness, experience more love, more detachment from unhealthy patterns, people and events, experience more inner peace, inner healing, and inner connectedness to the source of my being? Or do I feel a dependency, or a restriction in some part of my body, such as my heart area, or sense the teaching is judgmental and controlling? To further assist my inner wisdom, I observe the other students or followers of this spiritual teacher, whether a guru, psychotherapist, minister, priest, rabbi, etc. I notice whether or not I feel in rapport with them. By observing yourself, you make wiser choices when choosing or following a teacher.


What will you experience?


Let us get back to our discussion of what a person on the spiritual path will experience. As you begin to awaken, it is common to feel driven to understand yourself and in doing so you usually end up feeling different and separate from others. As you talk about your new ideas and experiences, it may make your family and friends uncomfortable. They may pull away emotionally from you, offering no support, or say and do things to get you back where you “belong,” so they feel safe. You need lots of support at this point to continue the search. Slowly you gain confidence in practicing Truth ¾ about life, relationships, yourself, God ¾  and begin seeing reality differently. You begin to understand that the experiences you attract are simply a result of your own consciousness and belief system.


Since much of your consciousness is unconscious to you, many things happen unexpectedly. Your job is to become more and more aware as you make choices for your life. Over time you stop seeing yourself as a victim of your childhood, your job, your relationships, or any other circumstances. A new sense of responsibility develops with a determination to get to the bottom of what is happening each time there is a challenging situation. “What do I have to do with this? And, what can I learn from this situation?” are two questions I ask myself whenever an unwanted reality shows up for me. I understand that every person and event in my life is the result of a “match” within my consciousness, both good- and bad-feeling experiences. It could not and would not show up unless I had something in common with this person or event and have something to learn, give, receive, or heal from the association. Sometimes we beat ourselves up emotionally when negative-feeling events happen, thinking we should be beyond this once we are on the spiritual journey. We cannot get past ourselves, however. Many times we are learning how we do not want to be or we are correcting fear patterns, seeing unconscious parts of ourselves, and seeing our value and belief system in operation, to name a few. All experiences are for the healing and upliftment of our consciousness.


Understanding from a larger context makes it easier to practice forgiveness, especially of ourselves, and makes it easier to own the choices we made in less aware times. For example, most people in an intimate relationship choose partners who bring up unresolved issues with parents, their childhood, and past relationships. Through the awakening process, one learns to stop feeling victimized by the partner and to take responsibility when unfinished business from the past surfaces in the dance with the partner. It takes a lot of awareness to learn not to be “triggered” by a behavior or pattern that reminds us consciously or unconsciously about the past. To live in the present moment and to respond to the current situation at hand without emotional baggage is one of the goals of an aware person.


                                             Life is Evolving


Life is evolving and everyone is growing in awareness. People operating at the bottom of the mountain (remember our circle analogy from last issue) do so at a much slower pace; however, they are still growing. Why do I say this? One way of observing this is to notice what was on TV twenty or thirty years ago verses today and notice the difference. Presently sitcoms educate many about current issues. An example is the phrase “dysfunctional family.” Many people are exposed to a concept like this through humor in the sitcoms even though they many never read a self-help book or go to therapy. Most people now use this term in their vocabulary. When I began teaching my first self-esteem class in 1981, the term “affirmation” was not familiar. The group spent a lot of time discussing and debating how saying something positive to yourself could actually be helpful. Today this term is in common usage.


It can be a little scary starting the journey when family members and old friends do not understand your need to explore and gather new information. As you change your thinking and behavioral patterns, it can bring up hidden insecurities in people close to you. If they pull away from you emotionally or try to make you feel wrong or guilty it is really to make themselves feel comfortable. You bring up too much that they wish would stay hidden in their unconscious minds. It is very threatening to have you upset the apple cart with new ideas and patterns of behavior, to question their “rules” or beliefs about life that they feel have been true for generations. This early part of the journey takes courage and requires you to be a pioneer to explore new places in consciousness that family and peers have not explored. You have to give yourself permission and encouragement at times to move forward. It is helpful to find a support system too.


                                      Personal examples


I will now share some of my early process to illustrate how the spiritual journey began for me. The time was the mid-1970’s when I responded to an invitation from my child psychology teacher, in graduate school, to attend a biofeedback group. This group met on Sunday mornings at a Unitarian Church. The group and the church both sparked my curiosity. The people in the biofeedback group talked about so many topics to which I had never been exposed. I could not even ask a question. I was in shock that there was so much to explore in worlds hidden from me. Even though I could not say much, I was attracted to the discussions and kept attending.


Next, I took a risk and attended the church where our meetings were held. This was so different from my childhood teachings in a traditional church. It opened my mind to new interpretations of life and truth. These two experiences introduced me to the difference between spiritual ideas and religious ones.


 I had many more synchronistic experiences that expanded my awareness besides the invitation to explore biofeedback. Synchronicity used here means an event that seems at first to be a random coincidence, but turns out to change the individual forever in profound ways. It is not a coincidence, but exactly what one needs to progress on their journey.


Another one was at the age of 30 when I began working part-time for an enlightened woman. She “happened” to have an esoteric library for which I had been looking for the past three years. While participating at the Unitarian Church, I heard a lecture based on the Alice Bailey books. I wrote down this name and carried it in my wallet for about three years, always looking in bookstores for her books. I could never find them, however, as esoteric books were not easy to find for a novice in those days. Guess who had the Alice Bailey books? I borrowed her copy of Ponder on This. I could not stop reading and felt such amazement. Answers to questions, many that I had not asked yet, were here. 


For many years, I studied intensely, reading many self-help, spiritual, and metaphysical books. I explored many things outside of my frame of reference, such as taking voice lessons to help me find my voice and learn confidence. I received deep bodywork called, Rolfing. I went on weekend spiritual retreats and workshops. You name it, and I wanted to explore it. Some of the experiences were right for me and others were not. They all helped teach me how to discriminate between what was useful for my journey and what was not. All this was done with intense passion, yet privately. In my outer life, I continued to raise my family with my husband in suburbia. Eventually, I realized that I was a seeker on the spiritual path to enlightenment.


                                      Take a moment to pause


Stop reading and close your eyes to review your own life for a moment. Take a couple of deep breaths. Can you see, looking back, how the spiritual journey was calling you? What were some of the synchronistic events that may have looked inconsequential at the time, however, led you in new directions? If it feels right, write your story down or share it with a close friend later. If you want to go deeper, go within and ask for guidance about the next step for you or the solution to one of your problems. What does your wise self or inner teacher say or show you? What do you sense, see, feel, or hear? It may simply be to tell yourself that you are now open to experiences outside of your frame of reference that will bring you what you need. For some of you, it may be time to take action, to put into practicing your new level of truth. You may be ready to take risks, such as speaking assertively to loved ones, crying tears to release held back pain and hurt, or journal writing your thoughts,feelings, and reactions to your life on a regular basis. Some of you may be ready for deeper study. It may be time to find a spiritual teacher or to take workshops and metaphysical classes. For others, it will be time to begin therapy, for understanding yourself is an important step on this journey in order to make peace with your past and begin connecting with your spiritual Self.


There are so many ways that you might practice your new ideas in order to make them your own. There are cycles in our lives with time to gather information, read, and ponder this new information.  Other cycles are so busy there is hardly a moment to pause and reflect. The second cycle gives us the opportunity to put into practice what was recently studied or contemplated.


Awareness is the first step in change. Take a small step in the direction you know you need to take. Remember to acknowledge yourself for the progress you have made so far and that you can see ways to heal your life. Do your best to let go of a time frame and judging yourself in this process, it is perfect to be exactly where you are today.


There are degrees of realization and understanding. As we reach a particular mountaintop on our spiritual journey, our understanding is expanded while at the summit. As we turn and look ahead on our path, we find there is yet another mountain to climb to greater awareness.


With enlightened thinking, each interaction with people and events has meaning and purpose. Challenging circumstances always have lessons to expand our awareness. Such things as meditation, contemplation, journal writing, and watching our dreams give us insights. Here we learn to use parts of our minds normally not trained or encouraged in our culture. Pure logic or left brain thinking does not take us to the next step. We must learn to access and live from an intuitive, holistic place within ourselves to enter the spiritual journey. Time alone to think, meditate, observe, and be in nature helps us to nourish this part of ourselves.


Now you have a better understanding of the spiritual journey and how it is more than being a religious person. It moves us beyond limited belief systems to Universal Truths. Hopefully, you have a clearer picture of how your journey is unfolding. For most, the spiritual journey to enlightenment is a process.  It involves awakening to deeper and deeper understandings of yourself, the mastery of your individual life, and the evolution of your consciousness to participate with awareness in the greater Life. The journey usually begins with a desire to know who you are and why you are here because you want a deeper understanding of the meaning of life, and in particular your life.






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