All Scripture is to bring us to Jesus who ushers us into the presence of God whereby, we are transformed.
If rule keeping could have gotten us there, we wouldn’t have needed Jesus. As it is, with Jesus, God puts a new heart and a new spirit within us.
I like to look at it like this: we have the seed of the Tree of Life being planted in the garden of our heart. Jesus is the tree of life. The Holy Spirit nourishes the seed in our garden, to sprout and grow and bear fruit within us. This whole process is spiritual and beyond our soul’s ability to comprehend, or to enter into because we blew it, eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, duality. It’s in our genetics. We need God’s transformation. So God is making it right here within us, if we can discern, die to our soul’s leadership, and enter in.
Here are a few Scriptures to help jog your deep thinking:
Again, because we don’t differentiate between our soul and our spirit, we are generally so busy in the labyrinth of our soul, we’re too busy to begin to even think of God. We serve God with our soul and we waste away and we don’t even know why.
It behooves us to learn to discern between our spirit and our soul, so that with our new heart, and our new spirit, we can restore our own spirit to its rightful place in our lives. Instead of being a soul-empowered person, we become a life-giving spirit, bearing Jesus.
Our analytical mind keeps us safely earthbound within the counsels of our soul, while our intuitive heart calls us out into the realms of our spirit to soar.
Yes, we need both, but our spirit must lead the way, if we are to ever begin living a spiritual life.
Our spirit is our vehicle to entering into eternity and into the presence of God. From there it is through our spirit that the eternal life of God manifests, and works out into our lives.
This is ‘the Why’ behind Jesus’ words, “Abide in me Apart from Jesus, our works are temporary, earthly, and need constant maintenance. But now we are citizens of heaven, spiritually empowered, we bring the life and even bear the presence of God. We bring heaven on earth. And as God is love, it is through God’s love that we live indeed.
As discernment is learned, here is some rough observations from my own spiritual practice.
Please Note: As the Psalmist tells us: the words of the Lord are refined seven times, so our words need to be refined again and again, hence ie ‘rough observations.’ ie we see and understand in part.
There are many ways we can learn to lean into, or to shift into our spirit. I know of 85 Christian spiritual practices and I’m sure there’s a lot more. I would, however, like us to focus on what I believe is the most natural and easiest way: our breath.
Spirit is our breath, our life, our life-force, our energy, essence, being, or our presence. We are all Human Beings. There are a lot of ways to describe our spirit, but the Scripture, both Hebrew and Greek, and most cultures agree on the meaning. For example, it’s qi in Chinese culture.
Through Breath Meditation, we can actually move our consciousness from our body into our spirit, avoiding the endless chatter of our mind altogether. This takes some time to develop, as our old self-tends to rise up and take dominance. But dying to our old self, ie our fallen self, is critical to living to our new self, our whole self in God. It’s why the Apostle Paul said, I die daily. It’s the first step in any good spiritual practice. It’s what confession is about. It’s getting ourselves out of the way. In Eastern practices, they call it, emptying ourselves of ourselves. But however we frame it, ‘the old man must die’, to use King James terminology.
Note: This breath practice is to activate our spirit, not necessarily to bring us into God’s presence, though that can happen it’s not the focus for now.
Tapping into Wholeness
As our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, we’ve become a sacred place in this world. Instead of going to a Holy Place, we’ve become a Holy Place. Selah: Live as the temple of God you are. This is apart from gathering together. ie the Body of Christ. Here we’re looking at the spiritual reality, ‘we’ve moved from going to a sacred place, to becoming one’, you are entering into your inner room, (your spirit) and closing the door (on your soul).
Now, the heart of who you really are is your breath, your spirit. And here we are, in our spirit, with God’s ‘gift’ transforming us, the Holy Spirit. Awakening our spirit is critical to living a spiritual life. Awake O Sleeper! Arise from the dead Paul encourages us.
The Divine Exchange
- Our breath is a vehicle of our spirit. Our breath becomes a holy exchange of receiving and releasing, of embracing and letting go, as we breathe in and out. Our focus is on experiencing the eternal in our embracing and letting go. Without dying to our old self and surrendering to God, our small mind, will keep us busy for days. That’s why it’s been called ‘the monkey mind’.
- So relax, sit in an upright comfortable position, in a quiet, undisturbed place. Close your eyes and focus solely on your breath, your spirit. Focus on how it feels expanding and releasing your essence. You are releasing yourself. Falling into God. ‘Higher up and further in’ as CS Lewis put it. It’s not something to achieve. It’s something to be experienced. Feel your way in. Let your intuitive heart guide you in. You are entering the source, the headwaters, the seat of your being. The place where you dwell. Just breathe, focus and let it all fall apart into a greater grace.
- Our spirit-centered breathing becomes our vehicle into the eternal and into the presence of God.
- In our heart-centered breathing, we become the presence where we can feel the eternal flowing through our lives, thus begins the integration of the love and character of God into our lives, and yes, it’s all through Jesus.
- Set aside twenty minutes in the morning and in the evening allowing God to speak as you open your heart in simply breathing. It’s not rocket science. But it takes being intentional.
As To Spiritual States and Stages
Wrapping it up, here are a few more insights to help you deepen your understanding of what goes on in spiritual practice.
There are different spiritual states and stages and they are as varied and as unique as we are. God meets us exactly where we are in our spiritual journey. You don’t have to work it up. We’re not talking about ‘soul states’, but spiritual ones. Most of us are familiar with only a few of them.
- Like when the pastor’s preaching gets in the Zone.
- Or when the worship begins moving us into a rocking loving embrace.
- Or when God floods our spirit during the Eucharist.
This reminds me of the Brownsville Revival. For me, when I walked in, it was like walking in a cloud, vast, thick, and transcendent. People didn’t want to leave and would sit into the wee hours of the morning, smiling in grateful wonder and peace. It’s like soaking in the presence of God. God was doing some deep healing in those moments.
But these are ‘spiritual states’ we move into and out of. They eventually fade away into distant memories. ‘States’ aren’t permanent, though their transformation can be.
Now please get this: When a ‘spiritual state’ becomes integrated into our lives, it becomes ‘a stage’, a platform from which we live and dwell in. And isn’t that what God intended for us from the beginning, to dwell with him in abundant life forever?
The reason I started Contemplative Monk is that I’ve had a recurring dream since I was seven.
I’m walking up this babbling stream, deep in a mountain forest, searching for something. I step over the rocks, as the early morning sunlight shafts through the mists and the hemlock trees. I excitedly breathe in the fresh mountain air, taking in the beautiful flowering rhododendrons, and feel the cold waters and sands beneath my feet. It’s one of those moments you can feel everything falling into place. I search and search. climbing up the mountain stream. Then I see it. There buried in mud along the banks, gems of all shapes and sizes, buried in the mud and silt. I dig them up out of the mud, washing them off one by one, holding them up to the light. Then the dream ends.
I discover stuff that’s been lost and buried in our traditions. Things that should never have been forgotten. Most of them are in full sight, but we don’t really see or know what they’re for.
I hope you’ll come and walk along with us on this pilgrim journey home.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you and abide in you forever.
~ Bob Holmes
Here’s the scoop: I went into clinical depression for a lot of reasons. It felt like a black hole in the center of my soul, sucking all my life and light down into the void.
To keep it at bay, I developed all kinds of dysfunctional strategies that needed constant tending and always failed. You might be familiar with this. I hope not.
As I was saying, my Psychiatrist, who had maxed me out on various meditations, told me I was clinically depressed. He said I need medication for the rest of my life. He told me, “Relax, take your meds, and get on with your life. It’s not gonna change.”
Depression can hit anybody. You might know Jesus as your Lord and Savior. You might be filled with the Holy Spirit, speak in Tongues, operate in the Gifts and Callings, and still be in a deep dark suicidal depression.
Hear me on this one: I’m not telling you to drop your Doctor, your meds, or Counseling. I’m not trying to treat you. That’s between you and your Doctor. I’m just telling my story here.
Locked Away In The Belly of Depression
So here I was, suffering deeply, in the belly of depression, where I was at the end of my rope, when God spoke to me and told me to go back into meditation.
I, however, was trained by the best. I rebuked the Devil, stood on the right Scripture, fasted and prayed, went through inner healing, years of counseling, revivals, outpourings, and did everything I could think of, and fought with God over this for five long years, as I ran out of every other option. I finally gave in.
What I learned was this: My depression was because I tried to solve my problems with my soul and failed. Let me say it another way:
When we ask our soul to do what only our spirit can do, it will fail us every single time.
Our soul was never designed to do what our spirit does.
You Need to Know
Meditation is a ‘spiritual’ practice (not a soul practice). It’s practicing our spirit. It’s breathing and releasing, receiving and letting go. It is entering our ground of Being, as opposed to doing. We are human Beings after all.
So Here’s what happened when I got started: Nothing. Absolutely nothing. No change. No relief. It didn’t work. But I intuitively knew that eventually, it would work. I had 40 years of resistance to overcome. I could remember my days of enlightenment before I became inflexibly religious.
When the Change Started
So I set all ‘my beliefs’ aside, started anew, and meditated. I threw everything I had into it, finally doing what God had told me to do.
Then one day as I was doing a Tibetian Compassion Meditation, I applied mercy to myself. The one: “May I be well. May I be happy. May I be free from suffering.”
Anyway, at first, it was just a tiny spark, but it was the first spark of pure joy I had felt in 25 or 30 years.
Now I knew from my studies, that it would take 10 years (akin to the 10,000 Hour Rule), to restructure my brain, before Joy would become my default setting. It takes time to grow character.
A Jewish Lullaby
The turning point happened something like this. I was doing a Zen spiritual practice called Great Doubt. Now I had always thought that everything depended on my Belief. I was to learn better.
The practice goes something like this: You go into a meditative state, like mindfulness, and deconstruct everything. You doubt everything, without and within. You doubt yourself. You doubt your beliefs and everything you’ve been taught. You doubt your doubts. Then, stripped of everything, you step off into the unknown, sort of like into the Cloud of Unknowing. The visual is a Zen monk stepping off a hundred foot cliff into the air.
So I entered into a meditative state and began the process, deconstructing through doubt. As all my efforts had failed me, the stripping away went pretty quickly. The last one, that released everything else, was the hardest. It was my belief in God, or that there ever was a god. That broke the dam and released everything else. I had nothing left. I, and I use the term ‘I’ loosely, stepped out into the vast cloud of eternity.
As I dwelled there, the clouds began swirling beneath and around me. Emptied of all there ever was, only the eternal present surrounding me.
It was then I saw it, like two laughing eyes coming at me through the fog.
The clouds sweeping apart as the presence of all eternity approached. It was Jesus , with a laughing smile, welcoming an old friend. He embraced me in an all-encompassing bear hug of total acceptance and love. I was soaking in the presence of God.
Startled, awestruck and bewildered, I didn’t know what to think. I was dripping with peace as the tears rolled off my face. Was it real? For me, it doesn’t matter. It’s eternal. Jesus keeps me no matter what, period.
So now I get St Francis and so many of the other Christian mystics. I get their relationship with Jesus. It all makes sense to me now. It’s not the usual ‘outside looking in’ approach theological studies make. It’s dwelling with Jesus looking out.
Meditation Is My Medication
Now my depression didn’t take flight never to return. I take my daily ‘tonic’ of meditation. Meditation is my medication. But the stranglehold that depression had on me, now has been broken.
My meditation now is centered in whatever Jesus quickens, and my journey into contemplation is my encounter with Him.
The title? One day when I shared this story with a friend, he said, “That sounds like a Jewish Lullaby.”
Two things I’ve learned:
- God is faithful, even if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for He can’t deny himself.
- When I ask my soul to do what only my spirit can do, it throws me into depression. I’m still learning to distinguish between the two and to allow my spirit to breathe and lead.
Now may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us and abide with us forever.
“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” ~ Viktor E. Frankl
Until we develop the habit of Being, we lose our ability to choose. We are at the mercy of our experience and environment. We’re victims of life.
That ‘space’ is what makes us Human Beings. In that space is our Being, our essence, our spirit, ‘who we really are’ dwells there. It’s because we are created in the image and likeness of God that we have the ability to choose.
It’s a space to learn to listen to the Voice of God, where we can choose to live out of our wholeness instead of our brokenness. It’s where we learn to create a life of wholeness with our Creator. It’s where eternal discernment is developed. It’s where we have the ability to choose love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control as our response.
It’s in that space that we learn that we are Children of God, Beloved of our Father. It’s in that space of Being that we learn to mutually dwell with God. It’s in that space where the springs of eternal life and abundance flow.