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When recently asked to write on the subject of spiritual evolution, my sense was to consider spiritual maturity instead – a very large topic for one small article!
So what can this mean when the Truth of us, the eternal loving Conscious Awareness that we actually are, needs no maturing and the ego/self-concept/personal self, being nothing but pure fiction, can’t mature? Impossible as those tasks would be, we can, however, recognize something that urges or inclines us, gives a willingness or curiosity to explore something without a name. We can be aware of a larger something that impels and beckons, reminding us there is more to life than we currently experience. That aspect of us we will call the decider, the chooser – the part that discerns options about how to relate to others and the world at large. Indeed, that function can mature.
What does spiritual maturity look like?
It is recognized by the choices to be more generous and compassionate, from “all about me” to selfless service, from complaint to gratitude, from closed to open minded, from cowardice to courage as we explore our inner landscape. The norm becomes inclusion rather than exclusion, and very importantly, questioning rather than protecting our motives underlying behavior and attitudes. To sum it up – to be love, rather than fear, driven with the goal, ultimately, to trade ego-driven agenda for moving toward recognition of Oneness, to have the experience that we are truly one with brilliant, loving Conscious Awareness.
That all sounds great so why does this move toward recognizing the truth about ourselves – that we are individualized, but not separated, expressions of Love – seem so difficult?
First, it seems outlandish and arrogant to think so highly of ourselves; we have scant history with appropriate self-care. In addition, this quest seems dangerous! For instance, a short while ago I was speaking with a client about a friend of his with a food addiction and asked if his friend would consider looking inward at some of his beliefs to get to the bottom of his needs to self-medicate. He responded that, “No, he would never do that!” Another example closer to home: Many years ago after our father had passed away and our mother was in a nursing home, my brother and I were sorting out their personal effects and we found some of my mother’s diaries. In one of them, she wrote of her basically happy married life up to that point, but noted that she had to “constantly guard against introspection.” How tragic! Here again is voiced the great fear of looking within.
So what causes almost everyone to succumb to a distressing or circumscribed life, avoiding that inward look, without which a substantive change or maturing is nearly possible?
The answer is the self-defeating conviction that, when honestly investigated, we would find a “terrible truth: we are flawed, unimportant, unworthy, or worse.” The great tragedy is that nothing could be further from the actual facts so how did we get so confused?
In our infancy and early years, we inevitably learned many false ideas about ourselves, but with an immature brain, had no capacity to know they were false so they were/are adopted as the truth. As we inevitably became hypnotized into assuming that the limiting, unflattering beliefs about ourselves are facts about our basic identity, life became – and usually remains about hiding and defending, excusing and deflecting – and all for nothing whatsoever since not a shred of this is true!
Therefore, even when so much could be gained by introspection, the unfortunate, but “safer” choice is often to remain in a self-made prison, from which no escape is possible until we begin to explore the beliefs installed as our early programming. Spiritual maturity comes from questioning these beliefs, releasing or upgrading them, and beginning to inquire into the possibility that we are, in fact, each a glorious expression of Love, unseparated from our Source. In modern parlance, to re-wire our brains. Obviously this is a process and not an event, but we can steadily be led in replacing these false ideas through choosing to direct our all-powerful attention on ever more accurate thoughts/assumptions about ourselves. The purpose of the lessons in A Course In Miracles is to do just that.
Steadily then, we become open to asking more probing and relevant questions. What if our world is not what we have always presumed it was and that we ourselves are profoundly different from our assumptions? What if the world is not solid, but more like a hallucination or mirage? What if it is not unrelated to us but an exact mirror of our thoughts? What if the body/personality is not the final word on our basic being, but also a mirage? These are crucially important topics to explore because the beliefs established about these issues provide the blueprint for how our lives will unfold in the outer world. All the situations, objects, and conditions in our lives are, indeed, all consistent with our thoughts and beliefs. Seeing your world and its conditions as diagnostics about your state of mind rather than objective facts is a giant leap forward.
Therefore, when life doesn’t work out the way we want, which it can’t possibly when experienced through old fear-driven presumptions, we can inquire into what any given situation can tell us, what we can learn, rather than railing at fate. Being willing to approach these questions more sanely is necessarily part of the healing process, but takes courage and determination because we are swimming upstream against learned norms. Dislodging early programmed prohibitions that keep us small and unadventurous is challenging, but the rewards are terrific!
On the other hand, if we do not inquire and assume responsibility for our life experience, we resort to closing down, judging, resisting, objecting to what is – hardly a recipe for a great life. Remember that what you put your attention on, multiplies; you have more of it because it’s in your mind. Therefore, all those elements of life you judge, resist, and find objectionable will simply become more prevalent and apparent in your own life. And nothing can stop that except your own change of mind.
Therefore, to go toward a happy and rewarding life, rather than away from it, here are a few essential tips:
Six necessary conditions for spiritual maturity:
- Focus on welfare of others, giving rather than getting: Although this seems unreasonable to the ego mind that always feel lack of some sort, the only way to “have” is to “give.” That is because we actually already have all experiences we desire built in to us and we become aware of them as we offer them to others. Giving and receiving happen simultaneously.
- When emotions arise as a result of life not being as we want it, whether anger, fear, grief, sadness, etc., allow them to flow through with no story attached. Our single largest problem is hiding, avoiding, objecting to our emotions. They are not stepchildren to be avoided, but natural adjuncts to thoughts and sensations – messengers to let us know where we need to change our minds. We have been deeply misguided on this subject so be determined always to appropriately feel your emotions – no story attached!
- Always follow guidance/intuition: There is a wisdom inherent in your omniscient loving self that operates beyond time and space – right here in the Now – that directs your daily life. It knows how to direct your very reason for existing, for experiencing the greatest possible life, so it’s essential to pay attention and follow it. Trust your own presence and the guidance it contains.
- Reframe life experience: See all disappointing circumstances as a chance to discover hidden unloving beliefs in order to discard them. Be grateful for all compromising situations as fast tracks for learning, expanding, growing, and claiming the much better life that awaits when you do.
- Face the fear and do it anyway: Take the risk to do or say what you were forbidden to do or say in your formative years. This is the fastest and most effective way to challenge and undo all the prohibitions built in through your earliest programming. They might have been necessary to keep you safe when you were two, but it’s hardly sensible to be directed by the conditioning of your two-year old brain as an adult. You will feel much bigger, stronger, and “more you” as you take these steps to clear out fear-based early programming.
- Relinquish guilt: Relationships (of all kinds) are the most effective means of uncovering guilt, and when this is properly understood, they grant access to tremendous healing. That is because what one finds upsetting in another is the precise mirror of what we are still holding against ourselves – without exception. Thus, relationships provide our most powerful learning opportunities.
Finally, real spiritual maturity culminates with the awakening to the brilliant, impossible-to-describe experience of our very essence – the unique, but unseparated, expression of eternal Conscious Awareness, the I AM of everything.
An experience so beyond description that we can only say every step to becoming consciously aware of our Omnipresence is worth the taking.
The final chapter of A Course In Miracles states: “Salvation can be seen as nothing more than the escape from concepts.”
As concepts, programming, false beliefs – the obstacles by any name – are gradually relinquished, the unspeakable Truth of our being is revealed!
Carol Howe, life-long student of universal principles, is an internationally recognized master teacher of A Course In Miracles and acclaimed author with over 40 years experience teaching, speaking, and counseling in the psycho-spiritual field.
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