It’s no secret that the path to greater spiritual understanding - and a better life because of it - is not always an easy one.
As I get older and wiser (and admittedly I have been a very slow learner) I find that the less I struggle the more good just shows up, even without asking for it. Especially without asking for it.
The spiritual principles that allow us to live intentionally better, fuller lives are, in and of themselves, simple things, although they do require a high degree of personal commitment, discipline and practice that many of us are just not willing to employ. But, in the end, the reality is, the reward is so great, and the alternative so disturbing, the effort is easily worth it.
Children often grasp at the appearance of short-term gain over the solid rewards of long-term goals. So, a sure sign of spiritual maturity is our willingness to go with what we know to be true over what might seem to be better in the moment.
When life presents us with a challenge, one of the most difficult spiritual disciplines to put into practice is that of looking inward FIRST. The natural immature human tendency is to try to work on an outward effect in our lives, rather than an inward cause. We see the effect more quickly, so we want to go there to hammer out the solution.
But this is literally irresponsible. We are not taking responsibility for what only we ourselves are responsible for. It is a spiritual law that we are responsible for all that we experience, and this is a hard principle to swallow, let alone embrace.
Now it is critically important to understand that this responsibility for what we experience in our lives is not blame! It is not our fault that we are responsible for our own troubles and maladies. But we are not passive victims in our lives, where good things and bad things just happen to us, though good luck or sad misfortune, and there is nothing we can do about it. In spiritual truth, we are empowered, not victimized, and we have a great deal more to do with our life experience than we may want to believe.
But if we are not aware that the solutions to our troubles are intertwined with their causes right inside our own minds, or if we don’t believe that to be the case, then we truly make ourselves victims.
Mark Twain said, “The man who does not read has no advantage over a man who cannot read.”
There is no difference between dying of thirst because we don’t have any water than to die of thirst because we don’t know it’s two feet under our very own feet.
We have know about spiritual laws (principles) and to understand how to access them in order to benefit from them.
After studying the inner workings of the human mind for many years, Carl Jung, the influential founder of analytical psychology said:
"Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate."
That means that all spiritual knowledge – and therefore the solution to every apparent problem - is always already right where we are, because God is all-knowing (omniscient), and God is within us. The “kingdom of heaven” is within us. But it is as easily the kingdom of heaven as it is the dungeon of hell. We create both. This is the wisdom of the ages. So, the best place to seek a solution will also be the place where it arose. Quantum physics teaches that cause and effect are intertwined; two faces of the same coin.
So, what’s the practical application of this knowledge and wisdom that create own experiences of life?
A good spiritual motto to help create the habit of going inward is, “pray first.” Before we react or respond to any disturbance in our lives, let’s first go to the Consciousness inside us and declare the spiritual truth of the matter, which is that the perfect resolution to any trouble is always already here.
In the classic 1939 movie, The Wizard of Oz, this is the Big Lesson Dorothy learns. Here’s how she puts it:
"If I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't look any further than my own backyard. Because if it isn't there, I never really lost it to begin with!"
Our “heart’s desire” is to know our own spiritual selves. When we are confronted with discomfort, disturbance or unpleasantness, we think we’ve lost something and if we could just “find” it the solution we would restore our peace. But what if what we’re seeking can never be “lost” because it’s always within us – in our “own backyard”?
To quote my favorite Greek sage, Anonymous, “Wherever you go, there you are.”
This is especially true when somebody really upsets us. Rather than blaming an outside effect, as though we are some sort of powerless victims, if we take just a moment and allow the gateway to peace to be opened, we are empowered to realize that what bothers us “out there” must actually live inside us.
Now, we are all human. If we get caught in the emotional turmoil or confusion of a particularly troubling moment, of if we’re just not paying attention, we need to let ourselves off the hook (reject the habits of blame and shame) and forgive ourselves. Gently. We can always do better next time.
There is no failure, only an acceptance of our “Heart’s Desire” to know the truth, to know God. And we can claim it anytime, anywhere, no matter what the apparent disturbance, for it is truly never anywhere other than in our own backyard.