spiritual life entails a succession of difficulties," writes
Jack Canfield in A Path with Heart, because every ordinary life
also involves a succession of difficulties." Problems, frequently
self-made, can force us to examine the parts of ourselves that we have
Our issues become our own spiritual laboratory to learn and grow. To grow,
therefore, often means being challenged; growing is usually uncomfortable.
trying to juggle all the parts of my "ordinary" life, retrospectively
I can see different periods of my life have been devoted to specific areas
of growth. For instance, most recently I have neglected taking care of
When I retired from the military six years ago, I stopped jogging at lunch
time. Why? Because the Army paid me to keep in shape. Once retired, the
incentive dried up. Two years ago the lab results from my annual physical
became the new incentive – several parameters indicated potential concerns.
Saddled with a new motivation, I committed to take care of myself by backing
my alarm clock up an hour daily to focus on my physical well being and
exercise faithfully. After all, if I do not take care of myself, who will?
"Introduction to Transpersonal Studies" course at Atlantic
University has given me new meaning to my spiritual growth. The course
advocates meditation as path to spiritual growth. Meditation is something
I have always wanted to try on for size.
But, as in trying on clothes in the store’s dressing room, there was no
real obligation. In everything I have read meditation is the conduit to
development, to uniting with Spirit, to attuning self to the Infinite
- and I am hungry for that. At an ARE seminar recently, the speaker said
that if I make a sacred contract with the Universe, It will be there for
So again, with personal commitment to self, I backed my alarm clock up
again another 30 minutes to begin this daily practice. I now add meditation
to my spiritual health routine.
meditation is weird to me. As a total novice, I was initially concerned
with the "logistics" of mediation. Where (sit in the living
room? lie down? walk?), when (morning? noon? evening?), how (incense burning?
crystal bowl music?), and what (specific sequence? specific subject? specific
prayers?). I expected I would co-mingle with the Light, but that has not
happened either, or yet. Nor have I heard voices or seen images.
searching for a method that makes sense to me, author John Van Auken says
in his opening of Spiritual Breakthrough: Handbook to God-Consciousness
that the goal is to reach a level of consciousness that allows us to be
as aware of God as of ourselves." Since our body, mind and spirit
are interconnected, quieting the central nervous system allows us to stimulate
the autonomic system.
In other words, quieting our senses lets us alter our state. According
to Van Auken, the autonomic system is under control of the subconscious
mind and soul, and is in charge of and directly connected to the breath.
If we change our breath, we cause the soul and subconscious mind to become
alert to the changes.
This leads us from our outer selves to our inner selves and to an altered
state of consciousness. This explains to me why so many meditative sessions
stress breathing exercises. Yet not knowing what to do with my thinking
became my next meditative impediment.
aid with this thinking problem, I decided to spring board from an exercise
in Jack Kornfield’s A Path with Heart, where he suggests that I
assume that everyone is a Buddha and is enlightened, except for me. This
notion that everybody is a teacher…either what to be like, or what not
to be like I took on as a special project.
Taking this perspective puts me more in a listening mode for nuggets of
wisdom and application, and the subjects I extruded became fodder for
the next morning’s meditative session. What happened over the course of
three weeks from the people whose paths crossed mine is a fresh perspective
Follows is an abbreviated, distilled chronicle of what I observed [O]
from the Buddha du jour, the question [Q] the Buddha prompted me
to meditate on, and what I gleaned in meditation (Answer [A]).
Again, my goal in meditation was to raise my consciousness, "…to
become as aware of God as we are of ourselves." In other words, what
might I hear from God about the observation/question?
Buddha A raised the issue of knowing when to call it quits. Her director
committed her group to take on additional work without hiring supplementary
resources, and she is working in excess of 70 hours per week. She gave
it a month to dampen out, but the volume remains; she is contemplating
Q: When is it time to go, when is it time to call it quits?
A: Once I got past all the "material" arguments and could
focus on the spiritual principal, it became clear that is it time to move
on when you no longer feel you are serving God’s purpose in your current
Buddha B suggested a relationship between the video games one plays and
the potential change in one’s mental wiring as a result.
Buddha B postulates a general populace trend toward the more base and
aggressive side of human beings, a sort of regression as we involute back
to medieval behavior as today’s video games have a preponderance of violence.
Q: How much does this technology impact the way a person thinks?
A: It depends on where the person is developmentally, and how stable
they are. In meditation, I saw that it may be possible that after playing
one of these kinds of games a person could adopt a strong reverence for
life and choose to expend their energy in a different way.
Buddha C has undergone a stressful, messy divorce where he has been estranged
from his children for the last two years. The court requires him to obtain
a mental evaluation before he can get visitation rights, yet the mental
health office wants a large fee for the evaluative services. Buddha C
has an extremely limited income; he feels a grave injustice has been done
Q: Why is money so important?
A: It is not; money’s importance is an illusion. The real learning
here is patience – patience with the system and self, and finding alternatives
that accomplish the same goal.
Another part of the learning is being responsible for ones self, accepting
that evaluation is necessary on the physical plane to satisfy a material
requirement, but that he is always connected to his children spiritually.
Buddha D is a single parent whose child is often argumentative. Even everyday
chores are a rich source of discontentment that often put both members
of this family at odds.
This parent has had her son diagnosed with a variety of problems such
as ADHD, ADD, and OCD, and the child is medicated daily.
Q: Why would a child so strongly rebel against his/her parent?
A: The parent may choose to look at the circumstances differently,
e.g. the issues that arise in the family are meant as part of the parent’s
growth to a successively higher developmental level in spirituality.
However, keeping the child medicated for the convenience of the parent
may keep the child from evolving and moving on to more productive behavioral
patterns. Entrapped, and with a sense of disassociation, the child lashes
out because he knows no other way to cope with how he is feeling.
Buddha E is celebrating her eighth wedding anniversary. She takes great
delight in planning out a special evening for her beau. Whenever she speaks
of her partner she smiles in love.
Q: How does she keep the fires burning?
A: She has got her priorities in order. A year ago her husband was
diagnosed with cancer and she lives each day with him as though it is
The powerful "could-be-our-last-day-together" mindset shunts
impertinent issues! Buddha E has figured out how to live in the present.
Buddha F is increasingly concerned about her husband’s lack of involvement;
he has not worked in five years, smokes marijuana frequently, and has
the TV guide memorized. He refuses counseling. Disappointed that he does
not carry his own weight and with no light at the end of the tunnel, she
is contemplating leaving him.
When she looks into her heart she admits she is in love with her husband;
they have grown up together. But clearly something needs to change. If
he will not accept counseling, is there another way? Maybe some other
form of intervention? Could her/his family get involved and help?
Q: How much more time should she invest in the relationship?
A: Her first God-given responsibility is to take care of herself.
After an honest attempt at resolution, if her husband remains stuck and
refuses to grow, she may have to move on for her own spiritual and emotional
Buddha G mortgages homes. In building a relationship with one of his clients,
he discovered the client was wheel-chair bound (absent two legs) and blind.
Eighteen years earlier this person had been declared terminal with cancer
yet is still active in our world today! When Buddha G inquired about his
enduring optimism, the client remarked that "I just visit the hospital
whenever I start feeling down."
Q: How does one avoid slumping into depression?
A: One way of lessening ones troubles is to provide solace to others,
as obviously this client practices – this guy is a lesson in gratitude!
Buddha H is dating a fellow who used to be a stripper. Apparently he performed
for a group of her friends at a bachelorette party long before he met
her. This knowledge embarrasses Buddha H because her friends have carnal
knowledge of her partner.
Q: Why would someone be embarrassed by another’s behavior or vocational
A: When they have projected their ego onto that person, then that
person has become an extension of their ego. It is as though she "owned"
his decision to perform when she did not have the right to. Buddha H is
learning that she is who she is as a result of her behavior, not someone
Buddha I was aghast at a recent news article about a set of parents who
have had 14 children, and are pregnant with their 15th.
Q: "How can you possibly love so many children let alone remember
their names?" Buddha I asked.
A: It is impossible to measure the amount of love a heart can hold.
Buddha J commented on a reoccurring problem she faces with one of her
project teams. She has one member who is extremely abrasive and has become
derisive to the team’s cohesiveness. She is of Hindu origin and generally
non-confrontational; is intimidated by this team member.
Q: What could Buddha J do to calm her team member down?
A: There is no tonic more effective than a few kind words. (This was
a great meditation on non-conflict for me!)
Buddha K expresses guilt over getting angry about his paycheck being shortchanged.
He feels if he were more mature and spiritually balanced, he would not
have the anger.
Q: Is anger an undesirable trait?
A: Anger in and of itself is not a bad thing; it is what we do with
the energy (anger in this case) that matters. Jesus cleared the temple
of tax collectors in anger, so anger can be the impetus for correcting
a wrong or initiating a crusade. Buddha K has misplaced guilt.
Buddha L feels as a clerk she that while her work skills are far less
that those around her, she feels she is making a large contribution to
the group with her positive attitude. Clearly she does not denigrate herself.
Q: How large does the contribution have to be before it matters?
A: God does not care about the size or importance of our work, only
that it is done in love.
Buddha M usually begins a conversation with, "I’ll be happy if…"
or "I’ll be happy when…" Seldom does this Buddha seem satisfied
with his circumstances and is always thinking in the future, not in the
Q: Why is it that people seem to be in search of the elusive happy
A: Happiness is a by-product of the way in which we live. Most people
are, in reality, searching for peace, or contentment and that is attained
through fidelity to a worthy purpose.
Buddha N mentioned to me at my annual checkup that her number one anecdote
to every day living is to "think positive thoughts."
Q: As she is often the deliverer of unfavorable news, I asked her
how that could apply to someone diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer?
"Well, it isn’t stage 4!" she quickly retorted.
A: If I do not practice rejoicing, there will be no lasting peace
or happiness in my life - look for the good in a situation.
project has helped me build a little spiritual muscle in retrospection.
As I begin to train my mind, I sense it is becoming positive and disciplined,
and more awakened to the Universal Consciousness.
Most of what I heard and learned had to do with dealing with concern for
others and turning adversity to advantage, transforming problems into
something constructive or productive. Clearly, we have this precious life
in order to server other living beings.