A positive path for spiritual living

What Good is Spiritual Practice, Anyway?

Thu, 03/12/2020 - 12:00am -- nstrauss
According to Unity co-founder Charles Fillmore, fear is a parasite, "evil" in the most dangerous and subtle way: it blinds us to the very Truth which helps us to release the stranglehold it takes on us.
 
Biologically, we are hard-wired to move into fear at the slightest indication of any kind of threat, real or imagined. We instantaneously move into that familiar Fight-Flight-Freeze reaction, which basically means that we shut down the physiological and psychological functions which do not directly support survival of that particular threat. We either strike back, freeze in our tracks, or get outta Dodge as quickly as possible.
 
While this is a really successful strategy for dealing with sabretooth tigers (after all, we're still here and they aren't!), it's a lousy way to deal with most of the stressors those of us around today actually encounter in our daily life here in 2020. Fight-Flight-Freeze constricts our ability to think rationally. It causes us to close our eyes and ears to reason. Critical thinking is one of the first things to go when our only agenda is to survive. We easily move into a sort of mob mentality which is very easily swayed by half-truths and blame. Those who understand how fear works know it is a great tool for manipulation of others because of that very quality Mr. Fillmore pointed out: it paralyzes us and blinds us to Truth. Freedom has its basis in Truth. The result of fear is bondage.
 
In what is probably our most foundational Unity text, author H. Emilie Cady asked, "Bondage or Freedom, Which?" This very question reminds us that bondage or freedom are not the results of luck or any random external circumstances (including the "will" of an unpredictable anthropomorphic deity). Bondage or freedom is a choice we make through our thoughts, words, and actions on a daily, ongoing basis. Do we habitually challenge ourselves to be curious about Truth, to question those who claim authority? Or do we sit passively in front of our screens, accepting whatever is put in front of us? After all, "If it's on the Internet it must be true", as my own favorite meme quotes Abraham Lincoln as saying.
 
By the way, when I suggest you remain curious and question those claiming authority, that includes these words written by me. Just because I serve in spiritual leadership doesn't mean you should passively accept what I say either! I hope you'll consider my words, take them into your own thoughts, consider them, and test them out in your own life. I teach these things because I have seen the results in my own life as well as in the lives of others, and I truly believe they're helpful. I've also encountered a lot of ideas which just don't make sense to me. Some of those ideas are very popular, and even though people I respect may recommend them highly, I just can't sign off on them. So I don't teach them, and if it seems important to discuss them, I share my reasons.
 
One of the primary benefits to regular spiritual practice is that it helps us to shift more effectively from fight-flight-freeze into questioning how we might effectively address whatever is frightening us. As long as we live in this world, there will be a need for vigilance. Mindfulness and awareness are actually very helpful in assessing and responding appropriately in moments of crisis. They allow us to think and discern what actions will be most helpful. If we can develop the ability to recognize when we are about to be blinded by fear, we can pause and remember that fear is not an actual, real thing! As a parasite, it has no life of its own, only the life that we - as its hosts - give to it. The best tools I've found to develop this ability are meditation, affirmative prayer, affirmations and statements of release. 
 
In the world of insects and such, the first thing a parasitic creature generally does is inject some type of numbing agent into its potential host, so that the host will not even know it is being attacked, allowing it to remain passively unaware of the parasite's presence. There's a similar process when we are "attacked" by fear. We get triggered, we react, and we allow fear to dictate our actions before we even consciously recognize that we've shifted into it. Spiritual practice helps us recognize what is happening, pause, consider our response, and break the cycle of fear. Once free of fear's grip, we can once again think productively. Spiritual practice teaches us to live with love and wisdom. As long as we remain grounded in love and wisdom, we will be better able to make good choices. Better choices will result in more optimal consequences.
 
Be curious. Ask questions. Question the answers you receive. Meditate. Study spiritual laws and principles. Learn what works for you. Think for yourself. Make the best choices you can. Wash your hands, take good care of yourself, and remember to breathe.

Blessings and Light to each and every one of you-- Rev. Nita