Approach the world of spiritual practice with trust
and an open heart. Don’t be afraid of spiritual experiences. Strange sensations
of energy, a feeling of deep love, vulnerability, connectedness, a loss of ego
and control are all aspects of spiritual experience that test and try people’s
limits. Such profound and healing encounters can trigger fear and resistance.
People doubt what they don’t know, they resist what they don’t understand, and
they cling to what is familiar. It is a longing for safety that sacrifices
freedom and growth. Some even fear for their mental and physical health when
then begin to have pronounced spiritual experiences.
All these concerns are about practices and experiences
are not hollow. We have all seen examples of people who seem very committed to
a religion or spiritual practice and the outcome is only distraction, a new
source of control or, worse, a rational for the judgment of others. These,
however, would not be examples of effective applications of spiritual practices,
nor an effective expression of an integration of what spiritual experience teaches.
A healthy spiritual practice is both the mechanics and a certain mindset about the
practice. These elements, combined with guidance, grace, and dedication, are
the elements necessary to liberate the human spirit. Without an open mind and
heart, without a sincere desire to learn, grow and discover, any spiritual
practice can become a barrier to
of what scares people about spirituality is its common incongruence with the
absolute trust in science and the five ordinary senses. The spiritual world
largely remains beyond the scope of material science, however, that is not a
problem, that is simply it’s nature. In his magnificent book, “The Little Prince,” Antoine de Saint-Exupery writes, “It is only with the
heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
Campbell, the great historian of mythology and religion, affirms this by
pointing out that nearly every culture in the world holds foundational stories
of sacred heroes who’s only salvation comes from facing their deepest fears and
risking the life that is familiar in favor of a willingness to explore the
unknown. Often we must die to what we know in order to be reborn and revived.
It is this dimension of the spiritual journey that
remains the greatest barrier: fear. Anywhere fear lives, the Spirit retreats.
In groups, in families, or in ourselves. Where fear grows, love is diminished,
and the qualities of The Sacred are forgotten. People become paralyzed by the
fear of the unknown, the fear of being rejected, the fear of not being in
control, and the fear of the discomfort they will face as they surrender who
they have come to believe they are.
A healthy spiritual practice will cause you to become
aware of your limits and your opportunities to heal and grow. This ensures that
it will not always be easy, but that it will always be worthwhile. My own
journey has also come with many difficult cross-roads: loneliness, surprises,
the recognition of old wounds, hard choices, and the need to make many
sacrifices. It has also blessed me with the most rewarding gifts and an abundant
sense of personal power, happiness and freedom.
Excerpt from Return to the Sacred.