Your Best Life Now

Your Best Life Now

Your Natural Habitat…the Chamber of Stillness

posted by smcswain

Chamber of StillnessI was reminded today that the ocean is a natural habitat for a fish. Just as air is to a bird and the earth is to a tree.

“But what about you and me?” I wondered. “Is there a natural habitat for us? And, if there is, what is it?”

I made that thought the source of my morning meditation. Half way through morning prayers, I found myself right in the the middle of our natural habitat.

Coincidentally, my prayers are no longer comprised of a lot of chatter. They used to be, as they still are for most praying people. Prayer was my infrequent recitation of needs, wants, wishes, and, on occasion, even demands. I’d use “In Jesus Name” the way a misguided parent demands obedience from a disobedient child. “I said ‘Eat your green beans’ or else!” “In Jesus’ name, I command…” Well, you’ve heard the rhetoric before.


If you do not know what I’m talking about, however, it’s probably because you haven’t watched much TBN or CBN produced “Christian” television. That sounds like I do, but I don’t, except when I want to look in on what madness is being perpetrated by “Christians” and to “Christians.” I put the word Christian in quotes because you could easily argue that those “Christian” networks or anything but. It is there you will observe the frequent use and, more accurately, the misuse of Jesus’ name as a means of placing demands on God and often disguised as putting Satan in his place. “In Jesus’ name, I command you evil spirit, come out!”

Medieval madness lingers in the modern world no matter how intelligent we think humans have become.


For me, prayer is becoming more and more what I think Jesus intended prayer to be – the stepping into the “closet” as he called it (Matt. 6:6-14).

“And, when you prayer, go into your closet” (Matt.6:6)

Why a closet?

Closet is a metaphor for what you might think of as your inner chamber…your inner world which may be a microcosm of space beyond, equally as endless, equally as empty.

The inner closet is a chamber of stillness…a world of silence…a room filled with immortal contentment, what the writer of Hebrews called “the Sabbath rest” (Hebrews 4).

It is your natural habitat, too.

That’s what occurred to me from inside this place…this morning. Joyous beyond description. Few words spoken there. Words were not needed.  Why would they be? When you and the Eternal Stillness share a oneness that is inseparable, the Presence is there with you. The Presence IS you. In oneness with the Eternal…with yourself. Who would you be speaking to, if you spoke? To ask something of this Other would be tantamount to asking something of yourself. It’s a oneness thing, my friend. When it happens to you, you’ll understand.


Once you experience this oneness just once, you’ll return to this place once more. And, once again. And, then again and again.

It becomes as important to you as sleep is to the body by night…as breakfast is to the body by day.

This place will take precedence over all other places and priorities.

How could it not?

Inside this chamber of stillness…this place of Oneness…you become whole. You become you. More you than you’ve ever been before.

Why is this? Because it is your natural habitat. A place of complete trust…where faith is more than what you believe and what we believe and who’s right and who’s wrong and all that madness that religion becomes far too often. When you enter into this inner world of complete stillness…the Emptiness that is God…the Nothingness that is Everything…all fear…all separation…all distinctions disappear. What you’re wearing is no longer important. What others think of you, even less.  There is no worrying over the stuff that occupies your mind almost all the time. Here, there the feeling of lack leaves. There is only abundance alone, provisions from the hand of that One who cares of the birds of the air, the flowers of the field (Matt. 6). Here, it’s an endless wheat field blowing carefree in the wind. Presence envelopes you. Contentment abounds, too. All grasping, clinging, holding on for fear of losing something you could never hold anyway…well, my friend, that disappears, too. This is that place of perfect “peace that passes all understanding,” as Saint Paul put it (Phil 4:7).


Do not try to understand this mysterious chamber. There is nothing to understand. But everything to enjoy.

“If this inner world is our natural habitat” you ask, “then why is it so darn hard to meditate?”

Everything worthwhile betrays the “instant everything” culture of the west. You cannot microwave your way into a meditative life, my friend. The contemplative life takes a lifetime of con…tem…pla…tion.  It’s just that simple. Just that hard, too.

I’m not saying God is hard to find. Not at all. It’s just that the stuff inside you and me creates an illusion of separation that takes nearly a lifetime to sweep from the chamber floor.

If you want the benefits of your natural habitat, here are four things that might help.


1. Go to the chamber of stillness daily.

2. Better to go there twice daily, once in the morning and once in the evening. Benedictine monks call this twice journey, “morning prayers” and “evening prayers.”

3. Twenty minutes each time you visit.  “But I am too busy,” you object, “to spend twenty minutes in prayer and meditation!”

In that case, spend one hour in the morning; one hour in the evening. The busier you are…the noisier your mind, the longer it’ll take you. This universe of stillness…of peace…of contentment is only for the serious-minded.

4. In order to get inside the chamber, practice quieting your mind.


Ah, that will be the most difficult part for most of you.

All your life you’ve been taught to think…to reason…to solve problems…to map equations…to judge. Which explains why in our culture we know how to think. Hardly anyone, however, knows how to stop thinking. What Eckhart Tolle describes as “the incessant stream of thinking.”

To halt the stream takes practice. It will be hard at first. It may remain difficult for many for months, too. But, if you stay with it…slowly, but certainly, your mind will give way to the infinity of stillness. One day on your journey inward, you’ll find yourself standing at the door to the chamber. Instead of the door being closed, however, it will be wide open. Perhaps even removed from the hinges. Once open, the door to the chamber never closes again.


At first, you’ll step slowly into the chamber and, if your experience is like my first visit, it will likely last but a few seconds, and the noise will come blasting through the hallways of your mind like a toddler running into the room calling for the attention of a busy parent.

Once you’ve been there, however, even for a few fleeting seconds…just once, my friend, that’s all it takes…

Once you’ve tasted vintage wine, cheaper stuff all tastes the same;

Once you’ve been to the coast of Spain, all other beaches are just too plain.

Once you’ve stepped inside the Chamber…

You have entered into bliss…

And, nothing is ever the same.


You Are By Nature Spiritual…

posted by smcswain



My Mind! My Worries! My Madness! Who Will Deliver Me?

posted by smcswain

Troubled_mindWorry is the conversation in your head that fear has with itself.


Maybe that’s why…

I tell myself not to worry, but I worry still.

I tell myself I do not worry; but then, that I should worry more.

I tell myself to stop talking to myself, too; but the talk in my head goes on.

Who am I talking to? I am talking to me.

So, how nuts is that?

Who just asked that question. Was it I, myself, or me?

Don’t be so smug, reader?


It’s no different with you.

And, neither of us is nuts.

Not yet.

Or, are we?

Maybe we are.

Could talking to ourselves just be an earlier stage of crazy?

Of course not, I say. Or, was that what you said?

Who said it?

I’m in my head still.

See what I mean?

I talk to myself incessantly.

What if…

Oh, stop it!

But I can’t.

Or, can I?

Can you?

Is this what Saint Paul meant when he lamented, “Oh wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me?” (Rom. 7:24-25).

I need some deliverance today.

But how?

The Buddha was once asked, “What do you and your disciples gain from stillness and meditation?”


“Nothing,” he responded.

“Then why do you do it?” asked the frustrated inquirer.

“We gain little,” explained the Buddha, “but we lose much…anxiety, worry, anger, fear of old age, even the fear of death.”

It is your spiritual practices, my friend, like meditation that enables you to lose what you don’t need – the madness of a mind that won’t stop worrying…fearing…refusing to let go and say, with Saint Paul, “Thanks be to God who gives us the victory in Jesus Christ” (Rom. 7:25).

Practice going within.

See what you lose.


The Plan or the Path…

posted by smcswain

spiritual pathFor much of my life, I have lived with a plan…

I planned when I would wake up…

I planned what I would do each and every day…

I planned how I planned to implement my plan…

I planned, too, how my implemented plan would unfold.

This is what distinguishes humans from all other animals, isn’t it? The capacity to imagine what isn’t?

So, while showering and shaving, I would plan the conversation I was planning to have that day with one of the many persons I planned to see…


I would imagine him saying this…

…and me saying that…

…him doing this…

…and me doing that.

At fifty-eight, you’d think I would know by now that none of my conversations, as well as all my plans, ever materialized the way I had planned them…imagined them.

Life is changing little by little for me, however. The older I become, the less interested I am in plans. I’m finding instead that it’s really more about the path…that life is really more about the journey, not the destination.

Of course, I still make plans. I am just not thinking about them as much anymore.

The problem in much of my religious upbringing has been the preoccupation I was taught to give to a future that isn’t instead of the present that is.


I was taught that I needed to get saved, for example, so as to avoid hell and acquire heaven.  Salvation was all about planning to avoid a scary tomorrow with its flames of fire in the company of red-colored fellows with horns and pitch forks. My religious fathers even called this plan “The Plan of Salvation.” They printed the plan in little booklets and told us we should plan on sharing the plan with those who needed a better plan than the one that awaited them.

I see now the madness in all such planning…imagining…worrying…fearing…

Such a life leads nowhere my friend, except to an exhaustion of mind. To an arrogance of spirit, which is much of religion still today, a gross spirit that presumes your plan is the only plan…your path is the only path…all other paths are no plans at all.


The longer I walk the spiritual path, the less I want, or need, a life plan. Or, any other plan.

Why would you need plans if life is really about the path?

I have discovered there really is an Unseen Guide. That I CAN trust the path to unfold just as it is supposed to unfold. That I do not have to occupy my life or preoccupy myself with lots of unnecessary planning.  That I need not attempt to control what cannot be controlled…or, plan what cannot be planned.

Sure, I know how hard it is in today’s world to survive without making plans. So, plan if you must. But give your attention to the path, too.

Start today.

Start Now.

When the Buddha was asked “What do you and your disciples do?” he responded: “We sit…we walk…we eat.”


The questioner pressed, “So, how is that so different from what the rest of us do?”

“The difference,” he answered, “is this: When we sit, we know we’re sitting; when we walk, we know w’re walking; when we eat, we know we’re eating.”

The path.

Your awareness.

My friend, this is the secret to happiness. It’s what Jesus meant when he asked, “What does it profit you to gain the whole world but lose your soul?” Or, “to make plans but miss the pathway to them?”

Give up the need for plans…for destinations.

Discover the joy in the pathway itself.


There is no destination; there is only your journey to it.



posted by smcswain

CathedralA Hebrew word which, in its root form, means “to stop,” “to cease.” A strong word and every time I say it, I get this mental image of a huge, red sign with the word STOP on it.

Not a bad reminder.

So what needs to STOP in your life?

Your work? The founder of Chick-Fil-A got this much right, even if they have gotten many other things wrong. You won’t find their stores open on Sunday. I’m not arguing here for a throwback to the days of the old “blue” laws, as they were known. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, rest assured that’s not where we need to return. But returning to “rest”…well, that’s a “horse-of-a-different-color.” The day is not what’s important. It’s what the day was meant to provide you – a day of rest from work.


What needs to STOP for you?

Your worship? When I was a minister, Sunday was the hardest day of my week. What I did not realize at the time, it was equally as hard…maybe harder…for the worshipers I expected to be there. And, if they were not, I would remind them they were failing in their Christian duty. Instead of Sunday being a day of rest, it was, and still is in most churches, a carnival of madness.The actors are clowns looking to perform on a stage that draws higher ratings than the show across town. In those days, Most people came to church tired and worn out, and I suspect they still do, not only from a insane work week, but from trying to fulfill their religious duties on Sunday. They seemed sleepy and so I tried all the harder to keep them awake. It did not occur to me that they actually needed sleep more than they needed a sermon.


If I were to go back into the pastoral ministry…which of course I will not…but I think I would just leave the church house open 24/7…kind of like the Catholics used to do and a few still do…and people could drop in and out any time they wished or felt the need or the urge and, when they entered…

Instead of all the busy-ness…instead of all the crowds pushing and shoving and seeking the best seat in the house in full view of the performers on stage…

Instead of all the loud music and incessant mind-occupying, emotionally-arousing noise that goes on almost without stopping…

I think it might be nice to just walk in…smell the aroma of candles burning and residues of incense and lots and lots and lots of nothing…just pure silence…quietness…Presence…now that to me would be…



Why Am I Here? The Purpose of Your Life…

posted by smcswain
why am I here?“Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace till the last syllable of recorded time. And all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. Out, out brief candle! Life is but a shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”– Shakespeare’s MacBeth

Is that true?

Is life…your life…my life a mere shadow? Just the strutting and fretting upon the stage of some cosmic comedy club? Is it a tale told by a bad comic? Full of noise and nonsense but nothing else? Nothing of value?


What is the point of human existence?

The purpose of your life and mine?

Those are very big questions. But, unfortunately, most people never quite seem to figure it out. It’s not that they fail to try. To the contrary, most people spend the greater part of their lives being told, and so believing, that they must figure out what it is God put them on this earth to do. And, this becomes their greatest aim.

Their greatest disappointment, too.

I was told this time and again myself.

As a consequence, I spent the greater part of my young adult life thinking I had figured it out. I was supposed to be a “preacher.” After all, I had gotten the “call,” as it was called. Consequently, during my teen years, I tried to be a preacher. I was pretty good at it, too. However, like all teenagers, I also wanted to be liked. Not too many of my peers were very interested in cruising on Friday night, drinking underage, and looking for girls with a guy who was also trying, and succeeding, to be a popular evangelist on Sunday.


I always felt like a hypocrite which, of course, I was.

But what was I to do?

I had received the “call.” Unfortunately, it came when I was but a young teen. At a time when the goal of my life was anything but the fulfillment of some grand purpose. Therefore, I lived a rather conflicted life. I wanted girls and I wanted God but, on Friday nights, I wanted more of the former.

Then, I graduated college, and, as every aspiring young preacher, I went off to seminary. For eight years, I immersed myself in the study of Hebrew and Greek and church history and Christian theology and preaching and pastoring and church administration and, as much as I loved…and still love…the study of all these varied disciplines within Christianity, I was conflicted still. The only real difference between my inner aspirations as a young minister and my desires as a teenager is that I exchanged the pursuit of cute girls for career goals.


I wanted to be the best preacher.

I wanted to be a better preacher than other preachers.

I wanted to pastor the fastest growing church (visible proof I was evangelizing and saving the world).

I wanted to earn a doctorate and so impress the theological world.

I wanted to write “bestsellers” and so impress the literary world.

Isn’t it strange when authors will promote themselves, as I have done, too, as “bestselling” authors. If you have to tell others you are, isn’t it more likely you aren’t?

When I put these ambitions of mine on paper, they all sound so insidious…as if I were some kind of manipulative maniac out to serve only my own needs.

Well, there would be some truth to that assessment. Much of my behavior was self-serving and perhaps bordered on a little insane. But I was anything but insincere. To the contrary, I was infinitely sincere.


Just misguided. As is virtually everyone else raised as I was to believe “You are your name, your career, your accomplishments, your body, your mind, and, in this instance, your calling.”

Isn’t this the kind of self-delusion in which most everyone lives?

Not until we awaken out of such delusion – which is, my friend, what salvation really means or enlightenment or whatever you want to call it – it is that moment…no, that instant when you suddenly realize “I am not here to DO anything. I’m not sent here to fulfill some glorious purpose.”

This awareness began to dawn on me when I left the ministry at age thirty-nine, just months after my father’s untimely death about which I have written extensively in The Enoch Factor.


I suddenly found myself in this huge crisis: “If I am no longer my ‘calling’ then who am I?”

It took several years but, slowly, I began to realize…

I am not some “calling.” I’m not a minister either. That isn’t why I showed up. I’m not my name or any of my accomplishments, impressive though they were. Just ask me. I am not my titles, trophies, triumphs, any more than I am any of my tragedies.

I am not the story I tell myself, or tell others, about myself. I am really not even this story I’m telling you.

That IS the delusion.

You and I do not show up on earth because some of us are to be preachers and so save the world, while others are to be doctors to cure the world and still others mechanics to keep the preachers and doctors on the road to do what they’re “called” to do.


Yes, of course, all of these are needed. But none of them could ever possibly be who you really are. Or, why you’re here.

This, and other stuff, the Buddha called “impermanent,” and Jesus described as the temporary and transient “treasures we seek and so cling to on earth” (Matt. 6). But, and this IS their point, what may seem permanent, lasting, even real IS the human illusion and so the cause of immense personal and communal suffering.

Jesus put it like this: “Lay not up treasures on earth where moth and dust doth corrupt and thieves break in and steal” (Matt. 6:19). This was his way of saying what the Buddha described with the word “detachment”…and, what a host of other spiritual teachers have been saying to every generation caught up in the madness of living which is…and always is…the madness of missing the point of human existence. The Buddha told his followers to “detach” from all things that seem permanent…or real…in favor of what Jesus described as “the treasures in heaven.”


What are the treasures of heaven?

It isn’t the “tithe” you give to the church.

It isn’t the “souls” you’ve rescued from hell by leading them to recite the “Sinner’s Prayer.”

The treasure of heaven is the gift…the awareness that nothing material is real or lasting. That what’s seen, acquired, saved in a deposit box or 401-k plan, or what is carried around in your head as the story of your life…even your “calling”…that all of this is transitory…temporary…really unreal. They represent the myriad of attachments of the “false self” – that part of you that finds its purpose, its reason for existence…its significance in all the wrong places…the illusions…the attachments…or, as Jesus put it “the treasures on earth” that will be destroyed.


To put it as simply as I know how…

My friend, you did not show up to be a pastor or a lawyer, journalist, or missionary, or a mechanic or server at Waffle House.

You are here instead to awaken out of all illusions. The illusions cause the suffering.

The illusion of separateness that puts you in competition with everyone else;

The illusion of godlessness that leaves you eternally doomed until rescued from original sin;

The illusion of “rightness” that makes you feel smug and secure in what you believe and to look down on those who hold, according to your enlightened view, inferior beliefs;

The illusion of your own importance that justifies your material opulence while others barely exist.


There are a myriad of illusions.

You think detaching from any of these is easy?

Well, you could only ever think that because you are attached still. Which is why following a spiritual path isn’t for the faint of heart.

It is a lifelong journey toward the point of human existence.

Which is to learn the art of letting go…

Of everything.

Even heaven. Why would you need it when letting go IS IT?

When you get this, my friend, you’ll understand why they ask, “What are the two most important days of your life? The day you were born and the day you figure out why.”

Until then, you and Macbeth have little more reason than to sing the same refrain…

“Life is a tale told by an idot, full of sound and fury…”

But not much else.


How Do I Love Myself?

posted by smcswain

loveJesus said, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself” (Mark 12:31).

That’s just another way of saying, “You cannot give away what you do not possess.” Or, “You cannot give to another what you have not given to yourself already.”

If I cannot love my neighbor until I love myself, what then is the secret to self-love?

1.  Meditate daily on this thought: Love, self-love, is not something I acquire…Love is who I am.  Who you are.  Love is not something you become, the consequence of a life of perfection. Love IS who you are now.


For years, I would pray and pray and pray still more for the fullness of God’s Spirit…for the fruit of God’s Spirit manifested in and through my life.  When Saint Paul said, for example, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace…” (Gal. 5:22-23) and so forth, I would long for some assurance inside, some evidence outside, that I was finally getting there…finally arriving at the place of the fulness of the Spirit.

Most of the time, however, my basket of fruit came up woefully short.

Then, on day, I woke up. I realized I need not ask for that which I am. I became aware that I would NEVER become what I am already. Meditate instead on this truth: “I AM love…I AM joy…I AM peace…” NOW!


See what happens.

2. Give up trying. Practice letting go. Stop striving. When you finally get this, my friend, that trying to become your imaginary “best self”…that effort and struggle and striving to achieve your imaginary perfect and spiritual self, are all just subtle ways that the ego in you, instead of drawing you closer to the God who is in you…who IS you, the EGO instead is actually “Edging God Out,” as someone has put it. When you finally get this, you will forever let go. You will begin to live. By creating in you the feeling that you haven’t quite made it with God, however, the ego succeeds in making you feel you’ve got one foot in the door of the Kingdom, but still an outsider, too.


It’s endless insanity…to try to be the “good” Christian you believe you’re supposed to be.

Remind yourself instead, “I could NEVER become what I am already.”

Let go of all effort and you will naturally…with no striving whatsoever…begin discovering a greater love for yourself and, as a consequence, an infinite capacity to love others.

To forgive them, too.

When I hear wounded people say, “I could never forgive him for what he’s done to me” I respond, “Of course, you cannot. Not until you have forgiven yourself, first.”

The capacity another possesses to hurt you is the same capacity within you by which you often hurt yourself.


Again, you cannot give what you do not possess.

It is not, however, that you do not have enough love to give another…or, to give to yourself. It is not even that you need a greater capacity to forgive another who has wronged you.

What you and I need, my friend, is an AWARENESS and this comes magically…as an act of Divine grace…this awareness may be coming to you, even as you read this…GRACE…and that awareness is that you ARE the very capacities you feel are missing. You don’t need the fruit of the Spirit. You ARE the fruit.

If you pray and ask for anything, pray for awareness.

But then, why would you do that? You’ve just been given it.  Right here. Right now. You ARE the awareness.

Practice reminding yourself…

“I am AWARE. I am Love.  I am peace and joy.  I am forgiveness.”


Because you ARE my friend.



The Sacred Journey…Four Stages of Development

posted by smcswain

Sacred JourneyOnce you embark on the spiritual path and begin to practice it regularly, there will come a time – it may be a few months or perhaps even a few years – but there will come a time when you realize nothing is as it once was and there is no going back.

No going back?

Why would you? Once the realization begins to dawn that nothing will ever be quite the same, at one-and-the-same time, you know everything to be infinitely better than it ever was.

You know yourself to be the wonderful creation you are; you know everyone else to be the wonderful creation they are.


When you know this, you could never ever imagine harming another; and, in this sense, you sense the futility of all wars on a large scale, even disagreements and arguments on a smaller scale.

You see beauty in everyone and in everything. A kind of sacredness within all things is observed by you. You are more at peace…more inwardly content…even joyful in ways only those experiencing something similar could ever understand.

Why would you ever go back? The thought is unimaginable.

The spiritual path follows various stages of development. It helps to know what they are so as to recognize them when they unfold. There are four stages of development along the spiritual path…

1. Know what…no, WHO, the desire is…


This is the greatest “proof,” if proof is ever really needed, for divine intelligence, or what I’m inclined to refer to as “God.”  But that’s only a title…a name…and, as such, means nothing. It is that toward which it points that is the reality beyond all names, distinctions, and descriptions.

Why would you seek God if that desire were not given to you by God already? In the Bible, “grace” is that which God is to you and me without any qualifying on our part.

Where does thirst come from? Or, the feeling of hunger? These are natural needs and functions within the human body. You only feel them and so respond.

It is the same with grace. With God.

I believe the desire for God is written into your very DNA. In fact, I’ll go one step further. I even believe the “desire” for God IS God. Which, if this is true, renders all human seeking after God rather silly. Why would you seek for that which you are? That’s the proverbial fish in the sea in search of the ocean.


Follow the feeling. Give your attention to the desire. But give up the belief there is anything you must do in order to know God. This is where religion has failed many.  Even in Christianity or, more accurately, the thirty thousand-plus versions of Christianity that have developed throughout the centuries, there has been, and continues to be, a gross failure.  Go into almost any church, for example, express your “desire” to know God and see if there are not a catalogue of things you must do, expectations you must meet.

“God helps those who help themselves.” If you’ll pray, God will hear you.” “Be obedient and God will…”

God will do what, if I do what?

Shall I say more? Give me a break. It’s blasphemy. It’s unbiblical. And, it is anything but grace.


Depending on the denomination, I assure you there is in most churches a step by step process you must follow in order to know God.

It’s not so, however, my friend. Desire is enough. Desire IS…

Follow the desire. See what happens.

2. Find a spiritual mentor…

This is what I do, actually even for a living. I mentor people on the spiritual path. Oh, sure, I coach people who come to me seeking balance in life, or help sorting through a monumental decision they have to make, or to think through strategies for becoming more successful in their lives and in their living.

What many of these do not know, however, is that there really is a spiritual solution to almost every problem. I did not say a religion to solve their challenges. But a spiritual solution. There is a difference.  The balanced life, for example, is not a compartmentalized life. Which IS the way most people live.  It is instead a life where mind, body and spirit – the three entities that make up who you are – are in sync or harmony with each other.  When they are not, your life feels out of balance. Your capacity to make decisions becomes clouded and more difficult.


So we seek a mentor. And, we should.

Everyone needs a mentor. Even the mentor needs a mentor.

When you get serious about your sacred journey, this is one of the first felt needs you will have – the feeling of resourcelessness when it comes to the journey. The need for a mentor. Without it, you’ll feel like a seeker in a forest with no flashlight.

For the last two weeks, for example, I’ve been trying to fulfill my civic duty and serve as a juror. I’m fifty-seven years old and, until recently, have never been summoned to appear. I came to this service grumbling the first day for its interruption of my routine. As it has turned out, however, I was not here long before I became intrigued by how our justice system works. I discovered, too, that most of my time here has been free…just sitting…and waiting to be called. Consequently, it has turned out to be quite productive. In fact, I was asked by a fellow juror, “Well, what do you think?”


“I’ve gotten so much work done while waiting,” I responded, “I’m thinking about moving my office to the jury pool.”

About forty of us were called today from the pool of jurors to be interviewed by both the prosecuting attorneys and the defense attorneys in an effort to select a twelve-person jury. In the course of their questioning, the judge, attorneys and the other jurors learned I was once a minister.  In fact, in response to one of the prosecuting attorney’s questions, I responded, “I’m a recovering Baptist preacher.”

The room erupted into laughter. I really wasn’t trying to be funny as I almost always answer the question of what I do in that way. I’m not sure if that’s what disqualified me from serving, but I was not selected to serve as one of the twelve jurors.


During our lunch break, however, and before any of us knew who would be called, I walked down the street to a pizza stand and ordered a slice of pepperoni pizza. I sat down when a man approached me and said, “May I join you?”

“Sure,” I said, not recognizing him as one of those from the pool of potential jurors. I really had planned to do a little work and, frankly, didn’t want him there. But, as the same moment I had that feeling, I also had the thought, “Be present…be engaged…be kind.”

I quickly discovered he sought me out on purpose. He had heard me make the comment about being a “recovering Baptist minister” and wanted to know more.


Because he was looking for a mentor. He didn’t know to call it that. But, deep within, he felt drawn to talk to someone about the desire he’d been feeling to take up the spiritual path. Since he wasn’t interested in “organized religion,” as he called it, perhaps a “recovering minister,” or so he thought, “would have some unbiased advice to give him.”


We spent the hour talking together and getting to know each other. It really was wonderful. I enjoyed the pizza far more than I would have, too.

I offered him few suggestions along with the promise of a complimentary copy of my book on spirituality:  The Enoch Factor: The Sacred Art of Knowing God. “This book has guided thousands of readers,” I told him. “It’ll guide you, too.”

He talked and laughed and shared some more and later returned to the jury pool.

Everyone needs a mentor.

Why would you make this all-important journey alone, especially when it isn’t necessary?  Many have traveled this path before you. Their wisdom will guide you. Write me, if you need some good recommended reading, some good lights to illumine your path.


3. Question everything you’ve been taught to believe…

Just before we returned to the jury pool, my new friend asked, “What’s the most important thing for me to remember as I  take up this sacred journey?”

“And, furthermore,” he continued before I could answer, “I have two children…what should I do to help them on their journey?”

“In both instances,” I replied, “question all that you’ve heard and most of what you think.”


“Most of what you and I think is wrong. Further, until you question your faith,  you have no faith. At best, you hold someone else’s beliefs and, when you do, you almost always will confuse those beliefs for authentic faith. But it’s not the same.”


Faith not forged in the crucible of your own questions isn’t faith at all…it’s just a collection of beliefs you carry around, like school kids carry backpacks. Those beliefs will become about as burdensome, too.


Because they’re not your own. You must examine all the things you’ve been taught to believe…and, remember, the greatest gift you could give to your children is permission to question the belief system you’re following.”

Your responsibility as a parent isn’t to walk a spiritual path for your children but to walk your own path, allowing them to observe you…to question you…but, ultimately, they must walk their own path. Just dragging your kids to church every Sunday in hopes that, by osmosis, they’ll pick up what their “supposed” to believe is nonsense. There is nothing they’re “supposed” to believe. Instead, they’re supposed to be given permission to believe as their heart dictates.


You concern yourself with your own journey. Let them observe the transformation they see taking place in you. They’ll learn by observation…contemplation…questions…and the like which path to undertake.

4. Cultivate the art of meditating

You can call it prayer if you’re a Christian. I choose not to because the word prayer, although popularly used by my fellow Christians, is too laden with words. And, most praying is empty of words.

How do I know this?

Consider the prayer life of Jesus. He was frequently withdrawing from the crowd in order to pray. Meditate more likely. I doubt he said many things. In fact, the most enriching experience of prayer is when you reach that place where words are not necessary…that place where your mind is empty of noise-making, which is just the stringing together of words, ideas, concepts, memories and anticipations.


This is not easy. In fact, because we’ve been taught in this western culture that value is found in busyness and that “an idle mind is the devil’s playground,” we think it smart…even wise…to fill our minds, as well as our lives, with a lot of busyness.

It’s silly. It’s not right. And, it is just the opposite of what virtually every spiritual tradition teaches. An idle mind is not the devil’s playground. The devil’s real playground, which soon turns into a battleground, is the busy mind.

So, you have much practice to do…much discipline you’ll likely have to bring to this field in order to master the art of meditation. If you will stay with it, however, the day will come, just as in everything related to the sacred journey, when you will experience the sheer bliss associated with the freedom from thought…the quieting of the mind…the interruption, even if only briefly, in the incessant stream of thinking that is your mind and mine.


When you have begun experiencing even slightly the joy of meditation, you will begin to see real changes in how you live.

For example…

You will be less bothered by those things that used to irritate you endlessly.

You’ll feel much more at peace…inwardly…much more content, too.

You’ll recognize the presence of stress more quickly and  take mental steps to slow down the body and the mind.

You’ll be kinder to others, and to yourself, more in tune with those you love, and they, too, will see the positive changes in you.

You’ll be more aware of your surroundings, more present with what is – more connected to now, not the past or future.

You’ll be happier, too. Infinitely happier, more content, and aware of a sacred…even Divine presence in everything.


You won’t be perfect, however. Just more forgiving…of yourself.  And, when you’ve forgiven yourself, you are able to forgive others.  Of everything.

Are you beginning to see the value in the sacred journey?

Of course you do. You would not have read this much of the article if the sacred journey had not started in you already?

You, my friend, have chosen…

Your Best Life Now!

Dr. Steve McSwain is an author, speaker, thought leader and spiritual teacher. His books and blogs inspire spiritual seekers around the world. He is a devoted follower of Christ but an interfaith activist as well. He is frequently heard to say, in the words of Mother Teresa, “I love all religions; but I’m IN LOVE with my own.” Read more from Dr. McSwain on his blog Your Best Life Ever.




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