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Spirituality and Self-help

SPIRITUAL LESSONS FOR TODAY’S CHALLENGES

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“You need to find Jesus.” My realtor told me this, sitting solemnly with me at my kitchen table. I’d sent a simple inquiry about a house while thinking of downsizing. I was trying on the fit of a smaller house, financially. Inquiring online means putting enough information into the site that the realtor can scout out whether this could be a potential sale, and so here he was at my house with me, discussing my situation.

It was hard to sum up my life story to him with grace: I am divorced, and I have custody of our three children. Trying to explain why this big house did not work out for me and my live-in boyfriend of six years does not sound unusual in today’s world, but it does not sound like the story of an exemplary mother. It sounds like a person who has difficulty with relationships and does not make the best choices.

However, I am not a stranger to Jesus or to other divine, spiritual beings. Have I behaved as a spiritual being would? I will say no. I have crumbled under pressure in my days instead of counting on my inner strength. Inner strength and wisdom can be reached when we tap into our spiritual guidance. I have come a long way in understanding about that guidance, but as the realtor picked up on, I am still just learning.

I have spent the last several years deeply entrenched in the lessons of many spiritual leaders. I have found great peace with many a “universal” spiritual leader, along with great Christian leaders. Here is a mild summary of a few of the lessons I have taken oh, so long to comprehend:

Universal Lessons:

1. “You are loved. Live loved.” (Lysa TerKeurst, in her book Uninvited)

Whether we want to follow Jesus, God, Buddha, Allah or whomever we define as the Divine, we will find our lives more connected and full when we make choices out of love and trust instead of fear and doubt (Gabrielle Bernstein, The Universe Has Your Back). It takes a conscious decision to turn towards love and trust. Each time you turn towards choices of the heart and instinct, instead of seeking love and approval from others, you strengthen. You become more “authentic” as Gary Zukav (Seat of the Soul) would say. I’ve spent my whole life avoiding pain from poorly made decisions and feeling unloved by numbing it. The problem does not go away when the hangover does. With awareness that we are already loved, we make choices that align us with the greater good.

2. Acceptance, paired with prayers for guidance to the next “right” step.

Sometimes I found myself begging for concrete answers. What next step do I take? Unfortunately, no answer has meant staying put for a while. I am having the hardest time accepting that. I continue to make tiny steps in hopes that something will lead me in the right direction, whether here or far away. Making the choice to accept my current situation means realizing that all the decisions I made led me “here.” As Eckhart Tolle, in the Power of Now says, I must accept the “now” and learn to trust that I am where I am meant to be at this moment.

3. Life is full of infinite possibilities and you are only as stuck as you make yourself.

The advice to accept the “now,” paired with Deepak Chopra’s (The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success) and David Simon’s (The Ten Commitments) messages, commit to understanding that you have infinite possibilities when you open your mind to them. Meditation assists you as you listen for guidance, allowing you to hear your inner voice. Taking small action steps show you mean business. For someone who wishes to be a writer full-time, he may write and read endlessly, looking for sources of inspiration. He also must show his work to someone, or it simply sits there in his hard drive.

4. It is not what we want, but what He/The Universe wants, when we choose steps. 

We are pulled in the direction of our “ego,” what many spiritual leaders describe as what is fixed in our mind based on society, or “the external” – wanting deeply to be accepted by others, or maybe wanting to be right for whatever reason. In my case, it manifests in trying to please everyone so that they will be happy, which allows a small part of my world to run more smoothly (read: control freak vs. letting things unfold as they will). These are not choices of the greater good but “of the world,” and are because we crave “external” power. True joy, “internal” power, I am learning, comes not from the world and its acceptance of you, but from love you already have within you (Barbara DeAngelis, Making the Choice for Love). Making decisions from your highest possible good, you learn to trust yourself. And in the process, you do not make decisions that create guilt and shame to try to please an utterly fickle audience (the world).

5. Leave judgment out of your decisions and be thankful. 

Do not judge others or yourself, and be thankful for your experiences. Even those that have not been good experiences hold lessons, some harsher than we can comprehend at first.  It seems impossible at those times, but eventually you realize, while this situation is bad, it could be worse. Cheryl Sandburg, the well-known Facebook entrepreneur, in her recent interview opened up about her husband’s cardiac arrest and death that left her a single parent of two. She realized, with help, that his event could have happened while he was driving the children. While his death is impossible to understand, could it be even worse? Yes. So hard, but yes.

In response to my realtor, what I really want to do is be a role model to my children, showing what it is like to live authentically. By choosing through love and trust vs. fear and doubt, taking the next correct action steps, then perhaps the abundance and stability I so desperately seek might follow.  Some of us may learn these lessons in church, or through family and friends. Some of us have harder heads and create circumstances that harden our hearts, making it tougher to hear messages meant to lead us down the right path in the first place. However you find yourself, the main point is that you try. Strive to be better today than you were yesterday.

 

 

Author: Julie Cox
Email:  coxju@ecu.edu 
Author Bio: Julie is a mother of three and a long-term health and wellness advocate. She has worked with ECU for almost 17 years and has learned a lot of life’s lessons the hard way. She continues to strive for understanding and joy and to share what lessons she learns with her family and anyone who can be helped by perhaps learning what NOT to do through her experiences.

 

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