Many Lives, Many Journeys
by Marilyn C. Barrick, Ph.D.
A Spiritual Journey for Everyday People
Now let's take a look at the spiritual journey of people like you and me, everyday people who love God, do their best and hope that will be enough.
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I have clients who say, "I don't really know what to work on, but I have a feeling of uneasiness and I'm not sure what that's all about." When we get into an in-depth discussion, we often discover that it is not the outer person who feels uneasy; rather, it is some level of the soul or spirit.
I remember Jim, who felt constantly tortured by doubts and fears. Sometimes they would be so extreme that he couldn't clear his mind enough to function on the job. Yet he couldn't put his finger on any particular problem in his life.
Jim was married with two children. He and his wife both worked, and they had an amicable relationship. Finances were reasonably okay, and there hadn't been any major accidents, illnesses or deaths in the family. Nothing he could think of accounted for his fearful state, so I began to probe.
I knew Jim was dedicated to his spiritual path, and I asked him if there were any problems in that area. Jim thought for a few minutes and then shook his head as he responded, "I don't think so. My wife and I don't exactly see eye-to-eye about spiritual matters, but we don't fight about it or anything. I guess I wish Anne were a little less definite in her opinions, but she has a right to disagree with me--as she is always pointing out."
"Let's look at that, Jim," I responded. "What happens inside of you when the two of you disagree on spiritual matters?"
Jim said, somewhat hesitantly, "Well, I start out feeling all churned up, and by the time we're through, I feel kind of empty, and sad."
I encouraged him: "Tell me about feeling sad and empty and when you have felt that way in your life before."
He was silent for a few minutes, and then said, "What's coming to mind is a time when I was a kid and trying to figure out God. I remember I asked my dad if he knew God, and he laughed. So I didn't ask him again. And then he told my mom and they made a big joke out of it. As you can guess, they didn't go to church or anything, and I suppose they didn't know what to say. But it really upset me. Maybe it's my soul that's sad."
"Why don't you ask your soul about it?" I responded.
"Okay." Jim closed his eyes for a few minutes and then began to tear up. "My soul thinks everyone has given up on me, and she doesn't know what to do."
"Tell your soul that you love her and you will help her," I suggested.
Jim opened his eyes and asked me, quizzically, "How am I going to do that?"
"You are going to let her tell you what she needs. Okay?" I responded.
"Okay," he replied, and was silent for several minutes. I knew that Jim didn't like to dialogue out loud so I simply waited.
When he described his inner dialogue, it was with a tone of sadness. "She wants to know for sure that I'm not going to give up my spiritual work just because Anne doesn't agree with it. She told me she's scared I will because that's what I did when I was a kid. And, actually, she's right. After my parents made a joke out of God, I just turned my spiritual faucet off, so to speak. And I didn't do anything about it until I was out of college."
"When did you get back on a spiritual path?" I asked.
He sighed. "That was almost an accident in itself because I was too put off to go looking for it. But I met this girl who was studying Christian mysticism and wasn't shy talking about it. In fact, that turned out to be another bad experience because when I didn't take her seriously, she got all upset. I didn't mean to upset her, but I didn't know how to relate to what she was telling me. I should have kept my mouth shut. Anyway, she told me to get lost."
"You certainly have had a lot of tests around your spiritual path, haven't you?" I responded. "How did you get into the teachings you are following now?"
Jim brightened up. "That was actually the result of a lot of praying. After that girl dumped me, I realized that I had gotten pretty far away from who I was as a kid when I felt God's presence but didn't understand what to do about it. So I decided not to talk to anyone else but to start talking to God as if he were right in the room with me. At first it was kind of hard, but then I began to feel a kind of tingling all over, and I remembered that is how I would feel as a child. So I asked God, what is this tingling? And then I had a really neat experience.
"I had my eyes closed, and all of a sudden it was like I was in the middle of a beautiful field of light--that's the only way I can describe it. And I felt completely safe and like all of me was back together again. I didn't want it ever to stop. Of course, it did stop after a time, but I never forgot it. So then I started looking for someone who taught about the white light, and that's how I found the teachings of the ascended masters."
"That sounds like a marvelous experience," I commented.
With a smile and nod, he said, "Yes, it was. And remembering it brings back some of the good feeling."
"Okay," I said. "Now talk to your soul again, and ask her what she needs from you right now."
He did so and shared the experience with me. "She says, if we just stay in touch with the light, we'll be okay, and she won't be sad anymore."
"How do you feel right now?" I asked.
He pondered. "It's a mix of feelings. When I think of the light and my soul, I feel really good. But when I think about trying to get my wife to share it, I feel kind of discouraged because she isn't into mystical experiences. And it's kind of ironic because the girl who was so put off with me would have really appreciated what I'm experiencing these days."
"Do you love your wife?" I asked.
"Yes, I do. And she loves me. But we don't see eye-to-eye on religion," he responded.
"Does she have a spiritual path?" I asked.
He replied, "Yes, she's into studying the world's religions. But she doesn't have the inner experience with the light. And I think it kind of scares her when I talk about it."
"Do you have to experience God in the same way in order to appreciate each other's spirituality?" I asked.
Jim was thoughtful for a few minutes, and then said, "Maybe that's the problem we've been having. I want her to experience the light and she wants me to study the world's religions. Then we end up arguing with each other, and there we go again. Maybe if we just made an agreement that it's all about God anyway and let each other have our own path, we could get through this."
"That sounds like a good idea. Why don't you share what you just told me with Anne?" I replied. "Just talk about it and see what happens. And however she responds, I suggest you remain thoughtful and loving."
Jim did just that and also shared with Anne what had happened in his therapy session. They made an appointment with me to talk about what they both thought was a breakthrough. Jim realized that when he was honest and thoughtful in sharing his inner experience, Anne was receptive. She simply wanted him to honor her path, too. And when he told her about his childhood experience with his parents, they both realized that Jim was afraid she would make fun of him like his parents had.
On Anne's part, she was enthusiastic about exploring the world's religions. This was the first time in her life that she had been excited about spirituality, and she didn't want to be put down because she didn't "see the light" the way Jim did. In the end, they agreed to pray together, stay together and respect each other's spiritual journey.
This couple's experience is a lesson in how the soul can feel put down and the spirit dampened when we feel misunderstood, particularly when it involves our spiritual journey and someone close to us. Yet many times it can be worked out if we have the courage to address it honestly.
Jim and Anne learned that it was safe to open their hearts to each other and that childhood hurts can be healed by love and compassion. They also realized that by sharing their spiritual journey with grace and nonjudgment, they could meet the challenge of their differences. Each one's search for God, in his and her own way, became a common ground.
Many times we are hurt or disheartened out of some kind of misunderstanding with someone we love. A prescription I often give is, "Give each other the benefit of the doubt." Each of us has secret hurts that are difficult to talk about, yet keeping them secret weighs heavy on our soul and spirit. So I encourage people to give friends and loved ones an opportunity to understand where they are coming from.
The comforting bottom line is that no matter how friends or family respond, we can always share our hurts with God, who is the Great Healer of our heart, soul and spirit.
Also available from Summit University Press/The Summit Lighthouse.
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