Tag Archives: Spiritual but not Religious

Spiraling Through the Parables 1: The Seed Growing Secretly

This article is the first in a 4-part series called Spiraling Through the Parables. In this series, we will look at the Evolution of Consciousness as we study the Parables of our great teacher and way-shower Jesus of Nazareth.

What is a Parable?

A parable is a simple story used to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson. Jesus was not a Lawgiver. His teaching did not focus on telling people how to behave. He did not give people set answers. Nor did he tell people what to think. Rather, through his stories, Jesus presented people questions, and then he coached them as they wrestled with these questions.

Many of Jesus’ parables use the phrase The Kingdom of God is like… We know what it is like to live as a human being, focused on human concerns. What would it be like to live as a Spiritual Being, focused on spiritual concerns, in the midst of our humanness?

The Seed Growing Secretly

Today, we are exploring the Parable of The Seed Growing Secretly.

Jesus would say, “The Kingdom of God is like this:

Suppose someone sows seed on the ground, and goes to bed and gets up day after day, and the seed sprouts and matures, although the sower is unaware of it. The earth produces fruit on its own, first a shoot, then a head, then mature grain on the head. But when the grain ripens, all of a sudden that farmer sends for the sickle, because it’s harvest time.”  Mark 4:26-29, Thomas 21:8-10

What does it mean?  It depends. It depends on you! Where are you on your human journey? What struggles and challenges are you facing? Where are you on your spiritual journey?

This brings us to our study of the Evolution of Consciousness. As we evolve and grow, our understanding of Jesus’ parables changes. It’s not that we move closer to the ‘right’ answer! Rather, whatever stage of growth we are in, we find the answer that speaks to us right where we are. We find the meaning that helps us deal with our present-moment challenges.

Spiral Dynamics

To guide us in our study of the evolution of consciousness, we will be using a model called Spiral Dynamics. The premise of Spiral Dynamics is that human nature is not fixed. Rather, our minds have the capacity to construct new conceptual worlds. Essentially, Spiral Dynamics (SD) describes how humans are able, when things get bad enough, to adapt to a situation by creating greater complexities of thinking to handle new problems. As events occur that significantly alter our life conditions, we respond by evolving more complex problem solving skills and growing in consciousness.

SD grew out of work with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and is related to the idea of Multiple Intelligences. SD defines 8 broad ‘intelligences’ (memes) which have emerged through the course of human history. For humans today, all 8 of those intelligences lie within our minds as latent possibilities. If we experience the life conditions for which an intelligence is best suited, it will begin to emerge.

By intentionally taking on the point of view in each of these 8 memes, we can find new and rich meanings in the parables.

Instinctive/Survivalist human (Beige)

This level emerged some 100,000 years ago. People were primarily hunters and gatherers living in nomadic clans. Our primary concern was simply staying alive. Today we see this meme in babies — it is our level of consciousness at birth. In adults, we see this in people with dementia and people in the midst of deep trauma — people in survival mode. There is little or no sense of self or God.

For people at this level, the parable invites us to trust that the earth supports our survival needs. It calls us to pay attention to our environment and make use of what it provides.

Magical, Animistic human emerged (Purple)

About 50,000 years ago, there was a great shift in consciousness. It was triggered in many ways by two important factors. The emergence of the Ice Age led to increased competition for resources. At the same time, a mutation in the human brain gave us the first real ability to assign cause and effect. People were primarily artisans and shamans living in tribes. Today, we see this meme in toddlers as they question everything (Why? Why? Why?), but don’t yet have symbolic thinking. We also see traces of this meme in the sacred practices of indigenous tribes around the world. The world is a magical place. At this level, emerging right-brain tendencies with a heightened sense of intuition allows us to “hear” the voices of Spirit. We have a mystical sense of cause and effect, and develop emotional attachments to places and things — a sense of the Sacred.

For people centered in this meme, the parable calls us to focus on the mysterious nature of how the earth brings forth fruit. The grain is sacred. The earth that yields the grain is sacred. We create rituals to encourage and celebrate this process and our part in it.

Continue reading Spiraling Through the Parables 1: The Seed Growing Secretly

Touch The Sky (Brave)

I will ride, I will fly
Chase the wind and touch the sky
The idea of ‘touching the sky’ has long captured human imagination. Since recorded history began, people have speculated on what makes up the sky. In the book of Genesis, the creation story of the ancient Israelites, the author imagined the sky as a great dome, separating the waters above (rain, snow) from the waters below (rivers, seas).
Metaphysically, the waters symbolize unexpressed capacities of the mind. They may be conscious or unconscious desires, calling to us to manifest. They are our dreams, as yet unformed.
The sky (dome, firmament) symbolizes our power of Faith. Faith moves and works in both the conscious and subconscious mind (the waters above and the waters below).
Faith is our power to move the unseen into manifestation. When we seek to ‘touch the sky’, we are putting our faith into action. If our dream is unconscious, we are inviting it into our conscious awareness. If it is conscious, we are inviting it to come forth.

Almost There (The Princess and the Frog)

This whole town can slow you down
People takin’ the easy way
But I know exactly where I am going
Gettin closer ‘n closer every day
Almost There was composed by Randy Newman for the Disney movie, The Princess and the Frog. This is a song about vision and persistence. On our spiritual journey, we often begin with great enthusiasm and a clear picture of where we think we are going. And then real life gets in the way. We encounter distractions and setbacks that slow us down and cause us to divert from our original path. Sometimes we abandon our vision altogether.
What we too often fail to realize is that these distractions and setbacks are not interruptions of our journey, but actually one of the most important parts of the journey. These are the moments when we have the opportunity to dive deep into our own transformation.
One of my common distractions is that I have so many calls on my time that I just never seem to “get around” to working on my vision. When viewed from the perspective of spiritual transformation, I can use this as an opportunity to look at the stories I am carrying. Do I believe I have to “do it all”? Do I believe others are not capable? Do I prefer to do something easy and familiar rather than tackling something new?  All great questions for triggering self-awareness and transformation.
One of the most important lessons we can learn on our spiritual journey is that the destination is not nearly as important as the journey itself.

How Far I’ll Go (Moana)

I’ve been staring at the edge of the water
Long as I can remember, never really knowing why
I wish I could be the perfect daughter
But I come back to the water, no matter how hard I try
Every turn I take, every trail I track

Every path I make, every road leads back

The song How Far I’ll Go was composed by Lin-Manuel Miranda for the Disney movie Moana. As we find in so many songs, this one reveals deep spiritual wisdom if we have ears to hear.

This particular song addresses one of the most profound human experiences – the experience of being “called”. A calling is a strong inner impulse toward something greater than our ordinary day-to-day life. It is a mystical experience, whether we feel called to a particular career, to a mission, or to a spiritual path.

If you have ever longed to discover your life purpose, you are feeling the call. If you have ever sought deeper meaning in your life, you are feeling the call. If you have a dream, whether grand or simple, you are being called.

Our calling asks us to live our life on purpose, with intention, with passion, and with wholehearted dedication. When we answer the call, we ourselves are transformed into something more.

How is Spirit Calling You?

Advice from an Alligator

In our ongoing series on Wisdom from Nature, today we are taking a deeper look at the alligator. Alligators are perhaps one of the closest experiences modern humans can have with dinosaurs. Not only do alligators have size, strength and razor sharp teeth, they also have thick skin which protects them from would-be predators. Alligators are quite literally armor-plated. Every ridge on an alligator’s back represents a bony plate contained within that area of skin. These bony plates make the skin very hard to penetrate.

This trait reminds me of the book The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.  Agreement #2 says, “Don’t take anything personally.” In other words, develop a thick skin of your own.

Don Miguel writes, “Whatever happens around you, don’t take it personally…If I see you on the street and I say, ‘Hey, you are so stupid,’ … it’s not about you; it’s about me.” Nothing other people do is because of you, even if they tell you it is. What they do is because of themselves. They are reacting to something from their own story.

All people are immersed in their own story. As much as we try, we can’t really know each other’s story. We only know our own. When we take personally what someone has said, we make the assumption that they know our story. In fact, you might say we are trying to impose our story on them.

The truth is, If we take something someone else has said personally, we do so not because of them, but because of ourselves. If I take something personally, then it’s probably because, deep down, I agree with them. I might think to myself, “How does he know? Is he clairvoyant? Or, can everybody see?”

So, what someone else says or does, comes from their story. My reaction, comes from my story. There is a huge amount of freedom that comes to us when we take nothing personally. We no longer need to place our trust in what others do or say. We simply trust the divine wisdom within us and let it be our guide.

Advice from a Pig

Pigs have a bit of a mixed reputation in human history. Some say pigs are dirty or unclean. Others find them delicious. Some find them frightening and dangerous. Others see them as cute and cuddly. Some see them as livestock. Others see them as pets. We find pigs in books and movies — Wilbur (from the book Charlotte’s Web), Miss Piggy (from the Muppets), Babe (from the movie Babe) and Pig Pen (from the Peanuts comic strip), to name just a few.
Of all the characteristics we attribute to pigs, perhaps the most prevalent in my own experience refers to how they eat. Pigs eat anything. They eat in great quantities. And they don’t mind making a mess. As a kid, I learned early that to say, “You eat like a pig!” was a serious insult.
As an adult, I have learned to question my unexamined beliefs. As a spiritual practice, I have learned to re-examine facts, but even more, to question the judgments and stories I have carried.
I ran into an affirmation today that made me reconsider the old insult, “You eat like a pig”. The affirmation says, “I feast daily on the joy of living in God’s world.” What a vibrant image. Perhaps when a pig eats, she is feasting on joy. She is eating with enthusiastic abandon, taking in the bounty of God.
The book of Proverbs tells us “He that is of cheerful heart has a continual feast.” (Prov 15:15) The routine events of everyday living offer a feast of joy to the cheerful heart. A conversation with a friend, the beauty of God’s world around us, an opportunity to serve or help another — all these are food for joy when we cultivate a cheerful heart. Maybe that pig has cultivated a cheerful heart.
Eat like a Pig! Feast on joy with a cheerful heart.

Advice from a Bat

The baby bat 
Screamed out in fright, 
Turn on the dark, 
I’m afraid of the light. 
…a poem by Shel Silverstein
In Unity, we enjoy looking for spiritual wisdom in unusual places. This week, as part of our recurring Wisdom in Nature series, we are seeking advice from the Bat.
A bat is a creature that dwells comfortably in the dark. I, too, can dwell comfortably in the dark, when I remember that there is nowhere that God is not. Even in the midst of experiences that I find painful or challenging, I am never separate from God.
In the light of God, even darkness becomes a tool I can use for my spiritual growth. There is no human experience that I must hide from the light of God. Every experience can be part of my journey toward wholeness, if I will let it be so. When I practice self-awareness and self-acceptance, I remember that light and dark are two halves of a transcendent whole. Resting in this awareness, I am at peace.

What is Unity?

Abiding in the consciousness of unity, I am identified with God and at one with all good.

In considering the question, “What is Unity?”, the deepest answer lies in our understanding and practice of the relationship between ourselves and God. The first thing a student of Unity learns is that God is absolute good, everywhere present, and that our essence is of God and therefore, we are inherently good.

Our foundational spiritual practice is to establish conscious unity with God. We seek to hold an awareness of our oneness with God, first in our times of silent contemplation, and as we mature, to carry that awareness in our everyday activities. Eventually, we learn to carry the awareness of oneness even in life’s most challenging circumstances.

When we live in the consciousness of unity, we cannot be separate from God. We find that we are in touch with blessings that formerly passed by unnoticed. Our conscious unity with God reveals the energy of abundant blessings flowing all around us. We find strength, creativity, peace and wisdom that we had not dreamed possible before we began this practice.

Let this day be dedicated to unity, to finding your unity with God, to identifying yourself with divine blessings.

The Burning Bowl Ceremony

At year’s end, the burning bowl ceremony is a powerful ritual — a symbolic release — to let go of anything that no longer serves us.

The burning bowl ceremony is a fire ceremony in which we allow the wisdom of Spirit within to guide us toward what we need to release. We then write a word or a phrase summarizing what we have been guided to release on a slip of flash-paper. As we burn the paper, we symbolically set ourselves free.

We take this opportunity to release old wounds, negative or unhealthy thought patterns, unfulfilled expectations, mistakes, or situations that may be holding us back from living our best life.

The benefits of release include an increase of good in our lives. We release all unproductive thoughts and attitudes from our minds so that we can partake of the ever-renewing life and vitality God has prepared for us.

We release all concepts of lack or limitation and increase our use of divine ideas. God-within supplies us with ideas that lead us in living creative, satisfying lives.

We release all habits that hold us in unproductive, unhealthy life-styles. God’s power working in us and through us is more than enough to keep us living in positive, life-affirming ways. We open ourselves and our lives to the goodness of God.

The Gift of Myrrh

At Christmas time we celebrate the joy of birth — the birth of Jesus and the birth of the Christ consciousness within us. And yet, in this time of newness, we also find a reminder of the impermanence of life.

The third wise man presented the gift of Myrrh to the baby Jesus. Myrrh was a slightly pungent oil derived from a gum resin. It was used to anoint a body during the embalming process. As such, it is symbolic of death.

Metaphysically, the gift of Myrrh represents the eternal nature of the Spirit. It reminds us of our own dual nature. We are both fully human and fully divine. On the human level, all things are transient, here for a moment or a season and then gone. And on the level of Spirit, all things are eternal and we are eternally alive in God.

The gift of Myrrh invites us to open ourselves to the process of release and renewal. It invites us to honor our conflicting feelings – grief at letting go of the familiar, anxiety at facing the unknown, excitement as we consider the new opportunities opening up, and peace as we remember that we are all eternally One in Spirit.

Let us to come together in love, peace and connection as we support each other through this time of change, remaining centered in Spirit and holding each other in the light.