Spirit

26 02 2008

Most of the time I’m just an ordinary person. Just living the best life I can; working, DIYing around the house, ferrying the kids to and fro, sorting out the car, cleaning the bathroom, cooking an evening meal, dealing with the minutae of daily life.

And then there are times when I am somehow more … awake, more conscious of things around me, seeing things differently. These can be moments when I am surprised by something; a beautiful tree, the irridescent shine of a beetles wing, a bird singing. It is usually something out of the ordinary that stops my breath with awe or wonder or perhaps just makes me lift my head and notice it.

Or they can be moments which I consciously create. For example, if I simply breath slowly and deeply, soften my eyes, notice how I’m feeling and reflect on things I can easily drop into a state of waking meditation, a state of heightened awareness and creativity.

During these times I feel different; a warmth in my chest, a tingling up my spine, a lightness and ease. Often my eyes grow moist. I feel ‘big’. If I really let the feelings develop my chest feels fit to burst.

What is happening to me in these moments? I could just shrug it off and say that it’s merely that my mental state is affecting my physical state. But, although I believe that is largely true, I can’t help thinking that a part of ‘me’ that is neither physial nor mental is at play in this.

This is a question that many others have tackled since the beginning of human history. Is there a spiritual dimension to a human being? And if so, what is spirit? These are questions to which I have never really got a satisfactory answer.

Exploring the answers to these questions is what I intend to do with this blog.

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6 responses

26 02 2008
mormonsoprano

Phill, I have enjoyed reading your posts. I love the Artists Way, and journaling has changed my life. You are pondering lately the great questions of life “Who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going? What is the purpose of life?” I think that is wonderful! I will share a little bit of what I believe, and perhaps it will help in your quest: First, I believe that we lived before we came to this earth, and we will return home after this life. We are dual beings. We have been given a physical body from mortal parents, and we have a spiritual body given to us by God. This life is our test to see if we can choose what is good and right on our own. This is why we are not allowed to remember our life before, so we will have true Free Agency. However, God is our Father, and wants all of his children to pass the test and return home safely. This is why, as the scriptures teach, he will “not leave you comfort-less”. He won’t let us fail if we trust in His guidance. He sends his spirit to commune with ours, to lead us, to whisper directions. This is what you are feeling when you see the beauty of the earth, experience a creative surge, suddenly have a brighter comprehension of things (I call them my “Ah-Ha!” moments) or just feel an overwhelming joy for existence because we are spiritual beings first and foremost. Our physical body is like our personal automobile – our spirit is the driver. As we know, we have to maintain our auto (body) so that it will work well for us, and take us for the “long haul” of our mortal journey. However, when we neglect our spirit, things don’t go well! If the driver of the auto is intoxicated, asleep or impaired in some way, the auto is allowed to control things. That is a very dangerous situation! There will inevitably be a terrible accident. Thus, the driver’s (spirit’s) health and well-being becomes paramount! You have already discovered some of the ways we can feed, rest and exercise our spirit. They are the important quiet things we do daily: prayer, meditation, reading enlightening texts (I find the Holy Scriptures, especially the words of Jesus Christ to be especially fulfilling), listening to uplifting music is very powerful, daily journaling (I cant say enough good for this one – it really helps you get in tune to your inner self). The key is to seek out ways to fill our spirit up. Just as there is light and dark in everything, there are forces in the world that work hard at draining and harming our spirit. We have to guard against those things. Anything that drags us down emotionally, makes us feel discouraged or angry is the opposite of spiritual food. I have found that the more we work on seeking the “things of the spirit” in our daily lives the more answers, guidance, purpose and joy start flooding back. When we reach out to God (keep an open mind and heart) He can pour out light and knowledge to us. We just have to do the reaching first because we have that wonderful gift of free agency – “God can force no man to heaven”. Best of wishes on your spiritual journey – God will be with you.

26 02 2008
phullphill

Thanks for your comment mormonsoprano. I am somewhat taken aback that anyone has bothered to read my scibblings, let alone respond to them.

Your metaphor of the body being like a car driven by the spirit is interesting. And indeed there are times when I feel something ‘big’ and exciting and ‘awe’some in me, something that has power. But I am not convinced that it is ‘spirit’, or God or whatever. I will explore this in future posts.

Please don’t take this the wrong way – I ask only out of curiosity and a longing to understand – but leaving Jesus and the bible out of it for the moment, why do you believe in the existance of God?

I expect your answer will be that you have decided to believe in ‘him’, that you have ‘faith’. But my question is why did you make that decision? What experiences did you have, what ideas did you take on board, what changes did you make to your world view, that lead you to that decision?

Deepest regards.

28 02 2008
mormonsoprano

Phill, wow. I have been pondering over your sincere question for some time, as I think it is a very important one. And BIG. “Is there a God?” and “If there is, how do I know?” Since this is one of those things that cannot be “proven” through scientific means, it does come down to Faith. However, you have posed a very valid question. “What is faith?” Well, I can tell my own story. (I will try to tell a shortened version) I was born into a family that believed in God very strongly. My mother was especially close to God. She spoke about him every day. He was one of her best friends. She saw his hand in everything that happened. We were very poor. I remember vividly that one day when I was about 6 we did not have enough money to pay our rent and buy food. She prayed that night that God would send help, and that we needed it right away. The next morning there was an envelope full of cash in the doorway. Our rent was $200. There was exactly $200 in the envelope. We could hardly believe it. Many years later Mom learned that a good neighbor got a strong feeling that he should share some of his tax refund with our family. He tucked it anonymously in the door that night so that we would not feel embarrassed. To us, that was definitely God working. Only God knew that we were desperate and needed cash right then. Only God could know we needed exactly $200. Mom taught me to pray when I was very little. She told me that I should talk to Him from my heart, and not say memorized things. I needed to speak to him as I would to my best friend or my parent, and imagine that he was sitting right in the room with me, listening. She taught me that I should first remember to thank him for all the good things that I have, and THEN I could ask him for help with a particular problem! When I was really little I remember kneeling at my bed and I would talk about my toys and my friends and my turtle…I am sure that those prayers were pretty sweet (and humorous). But, as I got older, my prayers got more serious because my life started to bring some serious issues to deal with. My parents went through a rough divorce, an aunt I loved died of cancer, we moved a lot and I was often lonely. I definitely went through a period of time when I wanted to know for myself that God was really there, and if He was actually listening to me when I talked to Him. I wanted to believe in Him. I hoped He was there. And, I was “pretty sure” that he was. I think that is the most important first step I took. Wanting to know God. Having a desire to believe. I figured that if you want to get to know someone, and become really close to them, then you need to have a regular conversation with them! And so I kept talking to him every day. I heard a person give a lesson at church that if it is a ‘conversation’, then we can’t do all the talking – we have to take time to listen. So, I started waiting quietly for a few minutes after I said my prayer. Sometimes a thought would come into my head that was a great idea. And, sometimes I just had to wait a little. I started noticing during the day that things seemed to “speak” to me. It wasn’t a real voice, although there have been people who have heard a voice or seen dreams and visions – but for me, it was a quiet inner voice or impression. The answers came from all over. I might be listening to a song that I had heard many times and suddenly the lyrics would jump out at me like never before. A friend would give advice and say exactly what I needed to hear, or a scripture would make something really clear. Maybe the answer was just stopping to watch a beautiful sunset and it cheered up my soul. The world is just beautiful! That is something that speaks to me every day. I just know that all of this could not have been a spontaneous chemical reaction – there is tremendous order and detail and wonder in every little thing in nature. The miracle of creation is all around us. The conception and birth of a baby is a stunning miracle. When my mother eventually remarried, she and my new dad wanted to have a baby together so desperately. We all prayed and prayed, but she could not get pregnant. Eventually the answer came that we could try adoption. That was a very powerful spiritual experience for our family and for me personally. There were many miraculous circumstances that led us to finding my new baby sister. There is a song someone wrote recently about adoption that says: “From God’s arms, To my arms, To yours” That is how we felt. Our home was filled with so much happiness it could burst. It is difficult to describe it, but we knew that this event could not have “just happened” – God was a part of it, and He sent my sister to our family. There are many other experiences I have had that are even more personal that I can’t write about here. However, for me, through all of this daily conversation with God and then watching answers come to me afterwards, it has built the relationship closer and closer. I believe that he is my Father in Heaven. He loves me and knows me. My spirit self knows him and remembers being with him before this life. I think that is why I feel such a joyful and peaceful feeling inside when I pray. It’s like coming home. It is almost impossible to describe the things we feel through the spirit to another person, or how we “know” that God is there. Everyone’s experiences are so personal and tailor made for their life circumstances. However, one thing I do know is that if we talk to God and ask sincerely for help – he will answer – and you will know it. Sometimes, we have to pray many times before the answer comes. At times, maybe it is because he wants to know that we are sincere and willing to put effort into the process, and at other times maybe we aren’t quite ready for the answer yet. However, we should EXPECT the answer, and watch for it. He won’t disappoint us.

(and believe it or not, this was my “short version”!)

29 02 2008
phullphill

Wow, I’d hate to see your long version Holly. My question, to which you’ve responded so magnificently, was not so much ‘What is faith?’ but rather ‘What happened to you such that you decided to have faith that God exists’.

I define ‘faith’ as ‘holding a set of beliefs as true in the absence of any rational proof’. In your case, if you don’t mind me paraphrasing your last post a little (OK, a lot), you have experienced a number of events, throughout your life, that seem to you to be too ‘just right’ for you and your family at the time for them to be coincidences. In your words you ‘see Gods hand in everything’.

Because of your family background and upbringing you were I guess inclined to believe in God in the first place. And you ‘wanted to know God’. When you notice
– being gifted $200 when you that’s exactly what you need
– lyrics that suddenly jump out at you
– things and events that seem to speak to you
– other life experiences that seem tailor made for your circumstances
– the beauty of the natural world
– great ideas that pop into your head
– and many other things you can’t explain any other way
you conclude that God just must exist.

So, please correct me if I’m wrong in this, you have faith in God because you decided to. Since then your observations and beliefs of how the world works and your inner feelings (of joy and peace for example) reinforce your faith.

I believe
– life experiences that seem tailor made for my circumstances may just be coincidences
– the beauty of the natural world is the result of evolution
– great ideas that pop into my head come from my creativity

Please don’t misunderstand me. If believing in God works for you then I have no problem with that. What is true for you is true for you.

I, on the other hand, am not so sure God exists or that there is a spiritual dimension to human life.

3 03 2008
mormonsoprano

Phill,
Thank you for reading my epic post! You have summarized several points really well. In response to your comment that I have chosen to have faith, I agree. This is one of the great blessings of our mortality – the freedom to Choose! Being “not so sure” that God exists, and simply admitting it, is honest. I respect you for that. It displays that you are being true to yourself. You are aware of the knowledge and feelings that you possess up to this point. However, I hope that you are willing to remain open to additional knowledge, and the fact that with further information and personal experiences you can come to know God lives and that there is a spiritual dimension to life.

As we go through life we learn and see things from different vantage points. The truths which I hold close to my heart have come as a consequence of my life experiences, and they are combined with my own personal efforts to learn. I would never want to limit myself to thinking that I have all the truth and knowledge I need, and therefore not accept any more. How sad to live a life that does not include gaining more knowledge. This could have frightening consequences! Just imagine a surgeon deciding that he had enough information once he knew how to cut the body open – yet rejected the information on how to sew it back together again!

I would like to propose to you that Faith is not passive. Rather, Faith is based upon action and also becomes a consequence of action. Our spiritual abilities have the capacity to continually grow based upon the same principles governing our physical abilities.

To gain ultimate fitness physically we must invest by doing our own personal work. No one can do it for us. This is true of spiritual fitness as well. We must invest in the personal work of “exercising” our faith. Prayer is the very first step. Being willing to talk to our Father in Heaven, even if we are not 100% sure He is there, is essential. We may feel far away from our goal when we start this exercise program, however when we make the simple daily effort to pause in our busy day, and talk to God, we are demonstrating hope for a positive spiritual outcome, and exercising the use of faith. Prophets have taught over and over again how important it is that we communicate with our Father in Heaven through prayer. This is because it is what every one of them did. Prayer is a proven method for success. We each have a promise given from God our Heavenly Father, that if we live according to the spiritual laws, and make a personal investment to “come unto Him” we will then gain the reward of knowing Him. God said: “Draw near unto me, and I will draw near unto you.”

Phill, I’m going to invite you to try an experiment! It has been said that we should “Experiment upon the word…even if you only have a desire to believe”. We start with the desire. If what I have been talking about here is correct – namely that there are spiritual laws of cause and effect, then when you start to pray to God – talking to your Heavenly Father regularly – this should create an effect and bring a result. I invite you to find a quiet place where you can talk to God and not be inhibited. It may feel awkward if this is not a regular habit or is completely unfamiliar. Just like starting an exercise program after being long inactive, there is bound to be some discomfort or possibly points of frustration. Studies have shown that it takes 21 days to make something a habit and to start noticing significant results. So, how about it? Will you perform a 21 day experiment doing “regular daily prayers”? (Continuing longer than 21 days is certainly welcome) 🙂 Here are the simple “rules” to the experiment:

1.There are no limits to how many times you speak with God during the day, the more the better. However a minimum of at least once is necessary.

2.The prayer needs to come from the heart – addressing Him as we would a loving parent, such as, “Dear Father”, or “Heavenly Father”. Reading or reciting a memorized statement does not count as having a meaningful conversation. You would never call your parent or best friend up on the phone and then read a prepared statement each time! Why then should it be any different with our Father in Heaven? To build a relationship with someone, we have to be willing to open up and speak about the things that are impacting us personally and important to us. Things to include in our prayer can be thanking him for specific good things in our lives, asking him for help with specific needs, discussing our goals and hopes, and anything else we desire to talk over with Him. The longer we spend time with Him, and the more we share with Him the more our relationship will grow. I imagine also the more overjoyed He is. As a parent myself, there is no greater joy than when my child confides in me, and asks for advice.

3. Spend time spiritually ‘listening’ during the day and watching for answers and impressions. This is a very important part of prayer. If prayer is communication and conversation with God, then that means it should be two-way. Although our Father in Heaven can speak actual words to us, it is more likely that He will communicate in other unique and personal ways. Often, He communicates with a peaceful or warm feeling. You may have a good idea, which comes “out of the blue” into your mind, or an overriding impression that you should do something. You may see some particular beauty in nature that touches your heart in a personal way and motivates you. Our Father in Heaven also loves to work through others to help us. A friend or family member may say something to you that is exactly what you needed to hear, or perform a service that you needed. You should “expect the unexpected”.

Since we all need support, I happily volunteer to be one of your “exercise buddies”. I encourage you to continue your spiritual exercise, and I will share some of my impressions from my own daily exercise of prayer. If you miss a daily “workout”, you have not failed. Just get “back on your knees” again the next day and move forward.

I can promise that if you will do this experiment sincerely and diligently, you will have an experience with the spiritual world. You will most likely have many experiences. I cannot say what your specific experiences will be, as they will be personalized just for you; however I know that our Heavenly Father is very anxious to have a conversation with you. You are His child. He loves you. If you desire to feel His spirit and find Him, He will come to you – but you do not have to take my word for that. Put God to the test.

Sending my Best wishes always

3 03 2008
How do we know? « MORMON SOPRANO

[…] have recently been having an interesting conversation with a man named Phill regarding God and the Spirit, and how to gain spiritual knowledge. How do we know if there is a […]

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