Are You Doing Your Own Spiritual Work?

Here are two questions that I have for my readers and for my Sacred Space Lecture Series students:

1. Do you think that anyone can, for even one second, live your life for you?

2. Pretending that it was even possible, would you actually want them to do that?

 

In case there was ever any doubt, the answer to question number one is NO. As for question number two, my answer would be NO. God has given each of us our own bodies, families, goals, pathways and meaningfulness and so, no, no one else can … to use a coined phrase … do our ‘spiritual work’ for us.

 

The reason I have chosen to discuss this topic is because recently my therapist asked me, “Anne, what do you mean when you say you cannot do someone else’s spiritual work?” I do not remember the context of the discussion but I felt it was a question worthy of an answer. And to give some background about it — I had been saying that a lot about not being able to do another person’s spiritual work because I truly like to help people and I often desperately do all I can to help people who are obviously suffering or who are having difficulties of one sort of another … BUT … what I have learned is that while I can do a lot for people and in many different ways, one thing I CANNOT do is to try and do another person’s own spiritual work.

 

What does that that mean? I’m not sure I have an actual answer but I would like to explore it with my readers and students and put forth a few of my own ideas and concepts.  I feel I will only be able to touch the surface of this topic at the moment but allow me to go diving.  Let me, with you, try to penetrate the surface of what the term “spiritual work” means and how does one go about trying to do it.

 

The following assertions are mine and they are only a beginning. Read through them and carefully consider what is being conveyed:

  1. Only you can connect to (your) God. Thus, only you can approach and receive.
  2. You alone communicate to whoever God is to you.   No one else has that particular privilege.
  3. Only you can take the necessary steps to reach both your daily and your ultimate destination(s). It is your life and your pathway. It is up to you to at least try.
  4. While others can give a certain amount of guidance, you alone must find your way to meeting your personal and spiritual goals.
  5. You alone must do the “heavy lifting” towards self-improvement, along with finding acceptance in the eyes of God.
  6. No one else can do YOUR spiritual work. This is something you must do for yourself.
  7. Whatever your calling is in life, YOU must respond to it. Other people have their own paths to follow.

 

Spiritual work is work that God wants you to do. If you have your will in alignment with God’s will, then you will have harmony and the “work” will be less work and more play. Having said that, I would stress that many of our challenges do require effort. That is alright though because the intensity of it focuses our mind and aids us in reaching our required destinations.  Remember too, the quote in the Bible that says, “wherever you are, there am I.” So, you are never actually alone.  And God always sends helpers.

 

So, I will as always, leave you with some homework:

  1. What or who is the source of your spiritual beingness? Who lights the world for you?
  2. Who is your spiritual leader? Why do you follow this one? What has this one done that encourages you?
  3. Have you ever considered the idea of “setting an example” for others? If so, how do you hope to do this? For whom do YOU hope to be a light?
  4. Go to your Holy Book and examine a passage from it in light of today’s topic. Do you notice how “spiritual work” was done? Do you appreciate how that has helped you and do you realize that it is still helping you?
  5. Meditate and pray. Ask God to help you with your spiritual work. Pray for guidance.

 

Acknowledgement: Thanks to my editor, Vera Scott, for proofreading my draft of this blog.

 

 

 

Do You Have Your Moral Compass With You?

Dear Lord, I ask your for your guidance as I set out to write and type this blog. Please help me to use my words and thoughts carefully and to express them as you would desire. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

So, how do we know we are on the correct path?  How do we know if the decisions we are making would be pleasing to God?  How to we double-check our actions to ensure that we are not doing harm to others?  Where do we begin to acquire the knowledge to set forth our feet in this world?

Those questions came to me during this past week. I had many other questions as well.  So, the answers came quickly.  Go to the Bible and read Exodus, Chapter Twenty for that is where the Ten Commandments are contained.  The Bible, of course, is chock full of stories where we learn about how to have and develop within ourselves a moral compass.

Allow me, please, to put down in writing here in this blog, the Ten Commandments, Exodos 20: 1-17. I am quoting from The New Oxford Annotated Bible (NRSV), published in 2010 by Oxford University Press:

Chapter 20: Then God spoke all these words:

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.

You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.

Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work– you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days, the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.

Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

You shall not murder.

You shall not commit adultery.

You shall not steal.

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

 

I think the first task, beyond reading the Ten Commandments, is to contemplate upon their meaning. This is probably not as simple as it may seem. Like many things theory is Part One, and practice is Part Two.  There is probably no one who manages to get it all right all of the time.  Thus, the need for the Lord’s Prayer which was brought to us by Jesus.  However, I do believe that we all recognize how unbelievably straight-forward these rules are and how wonderfully they guide us along a correct path if we but PUT FORTH THE EFFORT INTO APPLYING THEM.

 

Let me paraphrase a couple of the longer commandments that are initially given, in case anyone thinks they are too wordy:

God is first, you are second. Never forget that.

Only God is to be worshiped, nothing else … and for modern day users, that means that GOD comes BEFORE your cellphone!

Do not swear, especially using the name of the Lord. Always be respectful — as always, God is listening.

You must take one day out of the week to rest. This is for your overall health and for the overall health of your community. Please respect this.

Treat your parents well. You have no idea what trials they have gone through. Help them through their final years.  Try to forgive them for any wrongs you think they did.

Never even think about killing someone.

Do not misuse your sexuality. And yes, you DO know what this means!

Do not take from other people without their permission, or, even with their permission. What belongs to them belongs to them.

Do not tell lies or gossip about your neighbors or friends.

Do not be jealous of what other people have as you have all that you need, given to you by God.

 

So, that is my attempt to get my own moral compass back into my view and I hope to check it frequently throughout every day for the rest of my life. If I have been of any assistance to anyone else, then I give all praise to God for that.

Dear God, Thank you for giving me a space to communicate with you. I ask that you watch over and guide any and all of my readers. Please keep us protected from all harm. I pray for the spiritual health of the world. Please help us all to stay morally centered and to use our moral compasses properly. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

 

Sacred Space, Spirituality, Prayer Opportunities, and the Gift of Humour

I am not sure of my first words on the themes of which I speak today. The concept of my blog series and the accompanying videos on YouTube is Sacred Space. However, I have discussed Sacred Space in a certain amount of depth and today I believe I may move beyond simply discussing that concept and forward onto other topics that branch outwards from it.

Today, my first assertion is that everyone, every single human being on this planet earth, has a religious and spiritual side. Some are filled to the brim with this and others are, I am sure, seeking a clearer path to it. All people can develop their spiritual and religious aspects and in fact, it is necessary to do so in order to further enrich our lives and in order for every individual to find deeper meaning for their purpose here. We must keep in mind that even those who claim no belief do, in fact, believe in something and therefore, whatever it is (if holy) must be nourished.

My second assertion today is that there are TWO special types of opportunities that come to us EVERY DAY and in almost EVERY MOMENT. The first special type of opportunity is for ACTION. We are, as a rule, used to this type of opportunity and usually understand it quite well. However, there is a second special type of opportunity that is often completely missed and that type is called a PRAYER OPPORTUNITY. I will refer the reader to today’s homework for better clarity on these two types of opportunities but I wish to emphasize that of the two special opportunities of which I speak, prayer opportunity is generally more powerful but unfortunately not always understood. Please listen to my video where I will attempt to explain this in more detail.

My third and final assertion for today is this: Humour is a gift from God BUT it is NOT to be misused! There is, in fact, humour in many of the stories from the Holy Book that I use, the Holy Bible. Unfortunately, I think I have often missed much of it … but not to worry. Many of the stories and lessons in the Bible are serious and most, I believe, are meant to be taken completely seriously. The point that we must remember about humour is that, in its healthiest form, it reveals joy. God wants us to be joyful but also responsible. Humour is meant to show happiness and relief from tension. It is NOT, however, meant to be used in such a way as to hurt others. So, the thing about this particular gift from God is that we must handle it quite carefully. Laughter is wonderful but it must be combined with our love for the divine.

Today’s Homework:

  1. Read a story or passage from the Holy Book that you use and consider it in light of whatever you have gleaned from watching today’s video and in reading today’s blog. Put your thoughts down about all of this in your journal.
  2. If you like to read from the Old Testament or the New Testament, I suggest reading Numbers 13: 1-25 and consider the ACTION OPPORTUNITIES that were presented in this reading and also Luke 8: 22-25 and consider the concept of PRAYER OPPORTUNITY in light of this story. Again, put your thoughts down in writing in your journal.
  3. Take a walk outside (or somewhere different from where you usually go) in order to ponder whether there are action opportunities or prayer opportunities that God is requiring of you today.
  4. Talk to a friend about something that is weighing on your heart or something that is on your mind and feels important. Be prepared to listen to this person in return.
  5. Pray for anyone, including yourself, for whom you may feel some concerns and likewise, for any situations that you are monitoring and in particular, if any of these are causing serious worries and that you feel you have no power or control over them. Remember, if you are not able to access an ACTION OPPORTUNITY in a situation that is causing angst, then you ALWAYS have access to a PRAYER OPPORTUNITY!

This is one of two accompanying videos to this blog.

Sacred Space and Motion

This blog will discuss sacred space as it pertains to motion. In previous blogs and videos, I talked about how to know when you have found a sacred space and how to take a few contemplative moments to enjoy being in that sacred space. I also discussed how to protect your own sacred space. Today, I will open a conversation about what to expect when we are called to move out of a particular sacred space and to move into another one.

So, perhaps it is just me that, as I find myself moving into my more senior years (or perhaps it’s not just me but also others), but in any case, learning that we cannot merely stay in one spot, regardless of how safe it feels, forever. And, in saying this, I would emphasize that it applies as truthful even more so in spiritual senses than in merely physical ones. However, let me begin with the physical and the material.

I am now in my late fifties and I am finding that many physical items that I have so lovingly collected over the years are quickly losing their value, no longer serving me or becoming completely useless. I am slowing down, bit by bit, day by day, even though I am not really all that ‘old’ and I cannot keep up with the enthusiasm and energy that I once had for so many of the passions that I have had through my earlier years … passions such as music. For example, I have many music books but often I can barely manage to play my piano for even an hour before I just cannot continue.

Likewise, I do not have the same energy for bicycling, exercising, reading, listening to music and many other examples. It is difficult, in fact, to fathom. This loss of energy can become very discouraging. I wonder why did I collect everything I have to only to find that I can now barely bring myself to take an interest in even half of them? What was the point? So, to sum it up, the experience of it all is bewildering and leaves me at loose ends. It even makes me feel rather disoriented. I, in fact, still have many dreams and ambitions that I wish to have realized before it is my time to leave this earth. How, I ask myself, can I make even a few of these happen?

Well, last weekend I experienced a bit of a revelation on this difficulty. I began to realize that IF THERE ARE PEOPLE, PLACES AND THINGS THAT I AM MOVING AWAY FROM, THEN IT MUST MEAN THAT I AM THEN SOMEHOW MOVING TOWARDS SOMETHING ELSE! Do I know exactly what that is? No, I do not. However, the realization of this has opened a pathway for me that I very much needed. And, it is this pathway that I wish to share with you in this blog.

I will attempt to explain with an analogy. Have you ever canoed, kayaked, skied, ran, walked or in any other way, enjoyed the ability to move? When you did this, what did you need to know in order to be able to accomplish it? What was required for success?I’ll tell you about it from my own experiences and from my own perspective.

When I was younger, I enjoyed many moments … and many sacred moments … in a canoe. It was one of my favorite modes of transportation and so, whether in a canoe or a kayak or skiing or otherwise, there is one thing that is imperative … and that is to have a sense of direction and presumably a DESTINATION in mind. This is required because otherwise, instead of flowing nicely down a river or skiing down a wonderfully powdered ski hill, one could easily end up in the weeds or smack into a tree. So, the point is … yes, we are moving AWAY from our push-off point but HOW do we ensure that we find … and stay upon … a good and manoeuvrable track? How and where do we find our navigating tools? Is it okay to just drift along sometimes? If so, then for how long?

These are not always easy answers, particularly perhaps in a spiritual sense, but that is precisely why people the world over will almost always turn to their holy books when faced with uncertainty. Our holy books give us a starting point for any question we may have in life but, and this is somewhat new to me for sure, they also provide a ROAD MAP! Going with the holy book that I use, the Holy Bible, there are hundreds of stories of (ancient) peoples who faced difficulties, challenges and uncertainties just as we do. They were born unto this earth, lived out their lives and passed on and as it is for us, they faced enormous uncertainties and they had to make decisions in order to move forward. So, the purpose of reading some of these stories is to learn about HOW the peoples in these stories, these ancient peoples, found their way and how they received a SENSE OF DIRECTION. Most of all, the stories illustrate about how the ancient peoples received MESSAGES FROM GOD.

So, if you, as I, find yourself moving away from the familiar into the unknown, remember this quotation “And wherever you are, there am I.” [Simon Gathercole, The Gospel of Thomas: Introduction and Commentary] This is a message that contains one of God’s promises to us and I provide the reference that I took it from in order that you may explore it more fully if you wish to do so.

So, consider meditating upon those words, or others (“Be still and know that I am God” is another quotation that I find meaningful), for a few moments … as I often do, and as I am fairly frequently reminded to do. Sit quietly somewhere in a sacred spot and listen for messages from God before proceeding with whatever your plans may be. Of course, do all the earthly things that are required to implement your plans, whether you wish to go on a vacation or to move to a new place to live or even to simply visit a friend. But remember, we can do nothing in our own power. We rely completely on our higher source, God, to provide us with the information that we need to know for direction in our lives. We really have no choice but to trust that this higher source, God, knows best what our needs are, what our desires are, and what the best path is to reach them, if accepted.

In conclusion, and the way that I see it for now, is that it is not only for myself that have to “have my ducks in a row” in order to move from one sacred space into another but also that I need to be in harmony with what God’s plan is for my life. I must try to check in with God before proceeding with any so-called plans and ideas that I may have. I also must wait and listen. I need to hear God’s messages for me and I need to watch for signs of God’s approval.

I have to say that so often in my life I have charged ahead, often completely haplessly, without taking time to consult with God, and then with chagrin, only to learn that I have bumped up against a concrete wall. If you have experienced that, then you will understand very well what I am saying. True, we cannot sit in one holy sacred spot forever; however, we must be connected with the holy in order to proceed forward at all.

Today’s Homework:

  1. Are you in a state of motion? How do you know? How would you describe it to another person? Are you feeling comfortable or uncomfortable about it?
  2. If you are restless, what is this telling you about yourself and your situation? Have you taken the time to meditate and to pray about it in order to better understand it?
  3. Which passage(s) in your holy book do you find to be both helpful and comforting to you when you encounter moments of uncertainty or when you face dilemmas? Write this passage down in your personal journal and contemplate upon the meaning or meanings contained within the words.
  4. Go for a walk in your favorite sacred walking place and spend time observing MOTION. For example, what do the birds do? Where do the birds go? How do you think the birds KNOW where to go? What do you think the birds are searching for as they flit back and forth? Ditto for other creatures and wonders that you observe in God’s universe. In sum, do you SEE that there is just SO MUCH to SEE?

Follow the link below to view the accompanying YouTube video:

Protecting Your Sacred Space(s)

This week, I wish to discuss how it is that we can protect our Sacred Space(s).  I do this because in my life’s experiences, I have frequently learned that there is nothing so disruptive as when one’s Sacred Space becomes saturated by impurities and also when intrusions into one’s Sacred Space occurs.  If you have found where your Sacred Spaces are, then the next step is to be aware of various ways of keeping it protected and safe.

The following are suggestions that come from my own life experiences.  I hope they will benefit you and I welcome any questions should you have any.  So, in no particular order, let us begin:

1. Recognize when you have achieved it!  

In other words, you have spent a very long time in your life searching for a place where you have silence and inner peace, and the freedom to live in harmony with the universe and with God.  However, many of us have been encouraged to, for example, “be ambitious” and often we do not see or recognize Sacred Space(s) merely because we do not understand that it involves stillness.  In order to have stillness, you must quieten other factors in your life and other voices in your head.

So, all of a sudden, you have tranquility.  This can be a very new experience and at first you may not understand it.  I first found this when I married into a family that was a “quiet” family.  I had grown up in a rough and tumble, very noisy home and I did not understand that there was anything else.  So, at first I thought the new family I had married into was very boring and that the people were rather dull.  It took quite some time for me to realize that I had something new in my life that was very valuable and precious.  That something new was called peace … peace and quiet.  It allowed me to settle down and eventually to turn inward to growing my own spiritual garden.

2. Stay still, stay quiet

Once you recognize that you are in Sacred Space, whether your own or someone else’s, respect this sacredness.  Stay still, stay quiet.  Allow your soul to luxuriate in the stillness just as your body would do if you were receiving a spa treatment.  Allow your muscles to relax, drop all your defenses and allow your brain and other parts of you to begin to heal.  Why do I say heal?  I say this because we all carry wounds that we are not even aware of and these wounds cannot heal without complete rest.  Again, allow your soul to receive the nurturing that it needs.

3. Do NOT deliberately attract attention! Keep the space as invisible as possible.

Let’s be frank.  Many of us (my hand goes up) crave attention and will often do bizarre things to attract it.  Alright.  I’m not saying that you are not allowed some attention.  However, when you are in a Sacred Space, you must show respect a) to yourself; b) to others; and, c) to the place or space that you are within.  Do NOT ruin the Sacred Space by calling it out to inappropriate people or spirits.  Maintain equilibrium and show discretion.

4. Contemplate, plan, reflect and let your thoughts sort out.

Exactly!  This is your golden opportunity to exit chaos and to contemplate, plan, reflect and to allow your thoughts to sort themselves out.  Too often we find ourselves going in a million directions all at once.  When that happens, we become overwhelmed and will find that, rather than finding a direction, we come to a complete standstill.  This is a signal that we must stop and reflect.  If you have found a Sacred Space, this allows you to relax and to find the mental rest that is much needed.  Stay in this place until you feel you are ready to again face the world.

5. Pertaining to YOUR Sacred Space, only allow your most trusted ones to enter … and even then, only briefly.

Again, it is YOUR Sacred Space.  You may allow others to enter within but ONLY if they have your complete trust and even then, keep the time within very short.  YOUR sacred space is for and about you.  After having others within, you should “clear” the space in some way or another.  If, for example, it is in your home, you could open windows and allow fresh air through, OR, if you enjoy essential oils, you could use your diffuser to bring back the scent that works for you, OR, you can do other spiritual rituals that achieve whatever you need in order to keep your Sacred Space sacred and special for you.

6. Plant flowers … literally or figuratively to nourish body, soul, mind and spirit.

Yes!  Plant flowers.  Flowers are bright and colorful, scented and have many beautiful shapes.  Whether you actually go and put some in the ground or whether, more likely, you plant them in your soul, allow these “flowers” to germinate and then take good care to ensure that they get lots of sunshine, water, fresh air and fertilizer so that they can grow and be a source of inspiration and healing for you.

 

So, that is my list for today.  Please visit my YouTube channel to watch the video that goes with this blog.

Exercises for Students:

  1. Do you recognize YOUR Sacred Space(s)?  How does it feel to know you are in one of them?  How do you know?
  2. WHO is allowed to enter into one of your Sacred Spaces with you?  When does this happen?  How does it come about?
  3. How do YOU protect yourself and YOUR Sacred Spaces? What more needs to be done to BETTER protect them?
  4. This week, nurture your soul.  How will you do that?

What Is Sacred Space?: An Introduction

This blog follows my initial YouTube video where I discussed the concepts of “Personal Space” and “Sacred Space” and made a stab at how the two concepts differ.  Today, I shall write up my notes that will go long with the second video in my series that discusses Sacred Space.

This series will be a course that you can follow along as you wish.  At present, I am not charging for this course but I may eventually put up something where supporters can assist me financially if they wish; however, that is for later. It is not for now.

So, the big question:  WHAT IS SACRED SPACE?  WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

I begin by looking up the words in a dictionary and thereby not assuming that I have firsthand knowledge of what each means. I am using the 1988 version of the New Lexicon Webster’s Encyclopedic Dictionary.

SACRED: 1. consecrated, holy; 2. set apart, especially for the service or worship of God or a deity; 3. hallowed by religious association; 4. having a religious, not a profane character.

SPACE: 1. that which contains and surrounds all material bodies; 2. the distance between two points, objects, etc.; 3. a time interval; 4. the region outside the earth’s atmosphere.

I shall also quote the following pertaining to the word ‘space’ — again, from the Webster’s Dictionary: Space is the idea which each person forms and develops, as the result of his sense perceptions, and that his own body consists of ‘parts’, and that these bear an orderly relationship to one another which he describes in terms of position in space and distance from one another. Experience associates with this idea the quality of being the same always, and the idea of time is also involved. The interrelationship of space and time as a condition of being is treated mathematically in the study of the space-time continuum. The idea ‘space’, like the idea ‘time’, is a relative concept, since it is based solely upon sensory experience.

 

So, now I shall attempt to explain what the concept of ‘sacred space’ is as I, myself, perceive it and I have come up with the following:

  1. Sacred Space is time spent in / with / in the presence of God. Just to clarify, I am a theist and I am a Christian. However, this does not limit our discussion because, as you will see, sacred space applies beyond any single religion or religious philosophy.
  2. Sacred Space is a “God” bubble that is around you, around another person, or around a place.
  3. Sacred Space is your body.  It is each person’s body and it is the body of ANY living creature. However, it is especially important pertaining to human bodies, at least for the purposes of discussions with me at this time.
  4. Sacred Space is the earth.
  5. Sacred Space is the universe.
  6. Sacred Space is a place, or any place, where prayers are being spoken, whether aloud or in silence and likewise, it is a place, or any place, where people are meditating.
  7. Sacred Space is our homes, our workplaces, our learning centers and our places of worship.

It is difficult to explain why Sacred Space is important, simply because in many ways, it is obvious. Look to any of the above definitions and you will naturally understand that in order to have harmony is our personal lives, in our communal lives and with nature and the universe, we must understand and respect Sacred Space. To do otherwise it to invite mayhem and at worst, violence. There is no need for mayhem and violence because all that is required is respect. Respect can be learned.  In fact, we learn it every day as we go through our lives.

So, I shall conclude today with the following comment:  ALL Sacred Spaces must be respected. Nothing is to be taken from them without permission. Most of all, when entering a sacred space, do so quietly and with reverence.

EXERCISES FOR STUDENTS:

  1. Answer for yourself the question: What is Sacred Space? Why is it important?
  2. Go outside and find 10 places or spots that reveal to you that they are Sacred Spaces. List them in your notebook along with a brief sentence as to why you feel theses places or spots are Sacred Spaces.
  3. Go inside yourself, meditate and think about what is sacred (or special) to you. Why is that?
  4. Optional: Go to whatever your Holy Book is and do some reading. What do you learn there about what the word ‘sacred’ means and what does it tell you about space and of course, what does it teach you about the idea of ‘Sacred Space’?

Feel free to leave comments below if you wish.