UNITY OF VANCOUVER
 3814 FRANKLIN ST. VANCOUVER, WASHINGTON 98660  360-696-0996

Steps on the Spiritual Path
Reverend Bernadette Voorhees
  June 17, 2021

 All Rights Reserved

 




MEDITATION


In all human history, this is your moment.  This is your lifetime to feel the activity of God.  Each of us is traveling a journey.  We are not traveling alone.  We are with God.  But to feel God, we must quiet our human mind down and this is what we are here to do now.  Go quietly now.  Leave aside all worry and have confidence.  Relax and trust.  Go quietly, sure of God, safely, and easily, you flow into a relaxation.  God is in complete control of every aspect of your life, your mind, and your body. God is with you now.  You listen to the still, small voice and it says to you, Peace be still and know that I am God.”  It says to you, “Don’t worry.  I am in charge. Everything is all right.  Go quietly now and I will direct your path, for I know the way.”

Listen to the silence and trust, knowing that you have an indwelling God, a constant companion in Christ. Christ knows the way that lies before you. Christ is familiar with every turn in the road of your life.  You are walking with God and God is working through you, know that you will reach your destination safely, quickly, easily, and joyously.  You are alert to the still, small voice.  The voice that tells you the way to go.  As you meet the many turns, as points of change in your life’s journey, you travel in peace knowing God has gone before you to prepare the way.  Today, whether you are just starting out on your spiritual journey, seeking to heal a relationship, or seeking the fulfillment of any need, know that you are granted by the activity of God in and around you, a pathway to joyous satisfaction.  Go quietly now.  Know that you are not alone.  Trust the indwelling Christ.  It will get you through to your destination in the best possible way.  You are divinely protected.
 We thank God for always being here with us, along the road of life that never ends. Amen.

STEPS ON THE SPIRITUAL PATH

I'll never forget the first time I stepped into a Unity Church.  It was February 14th, 1977. Before I stepped into Unity of the Roanoke Valley, I felt like I was the only one who believed what I believed. After church, I knew that there were many others who thought as I thought and believed as I believed. That was a fantastic, freeing feeling for me. I was so hungry for change that day. I wanted to get my life straightened out and of course I wanted to understand everything at once.  I wanted to make Unity my way of life.  I went to the bookstore and talked to the librarian.  I thought that she would know how to guide me. I said,
"Give me a book that will teach me about Unity.  I want to become what Unity is."  She said, "Well, here's one that's good and here's another one and here's a couple more." I left there with 19 books.  I hardly had money to put food on the table and I had just bought 19 books! Perhaps you've had a similar experience. You wanted to make a change in your life and felt discouraged because you didn't know where to start. You don't know how to take the feelings of Unity home and out into your everyday life.

So, in this lesson, I’m going to talk about nine of the steps Unity students have identified as being necessary steps to recognize and complete as the Spiritual Journey.

1. 
The spiritual journey, like all journeys, begins with a single step. And oddly, that which leads us to the highest and most fulfilling life often begins with discontent.  We know that life can be more than it seems to be; therefore we are motivated, but often in the beginning it isn’t to live a spiritual life.  Our initial motivation is often an attempt to dispel pain.  If the pain subsides, we may breathe a sigh of relief and forget the spiritual search, but in a short period of time the discontent returns and we begin to seek again. The spiritual search is innate to all men and women. Just as hunger and thirst are the body’s first prodding to care for itself, so discontent is the soul’s first desire to know itself, and so we become seekers.

 There are at least two kinds of discontent: 
Human discontent promises that we will feel better when changes take place in our outer world. Divine discontent causes us to want to change the way we think, act, and live.  Divine discontent calls for inner change. In the beginning we think we know how to find contentment.  Like a horse with a carrot dangling on the string before it, we are compelled to move forward. We think we know what will bring us peace and joy.

 From this point one of two things eventually happen.

  a.  One possibility is: we continue to see the carrot and hold the firm conviction that we know the answer to our problem. We simply don’t know how to achieve it.  So, we go from person to person, book to book, church to church, teacher to teacher, looking for the ‘How’ but never find it.

 b. The other possibility is that we finally get the carrot. We get the job, find our perfect soul mate – only to discover the discontent remains. At this point, the next step is to
admit that we do not know what will grant us contentment and become willing to start again in a new way.

2.
Hope is the second step. Divine discontent and dissatisfaction with our lives causes ‘hope to spring eternal.’ For some people, hope sustains them and allows them to endure the negative cycles of life.  But hope is not meant to be the center of our lives. It is not an end in itself; it is just another stepping-stone to the way life can be. Divine discontent is the first step taken in search of a spiritual life and Hope is the second step Hope can enable us to cope with limitation and problems, but it can also empower us to step forward into a life free of restriction and chronic challenges. EXAMPLE: There was once a counselor who listened as people shared their problems and concerns.  Often the counselor would be as confused as the client. He had to choose between entering despair with the person or pointing the way to a new life. The favorite phrase of this helper was, “There is always an answer.”  He said, “Hope springs from within us with amazing swiftness. It only takes one positive word of encouragement, or the prospect of constructive change and we are hopeful again.  The prospect of a better tomorrow calls forth positive thoughts and the willingness to experience life anew. Your highest contribution to the world today is to be willing to say, “There is an answer.” In Proverbs 29:18 we read, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.’ Perhaps it could be restated, “Where there is no vision, hope fades and then the people perish.”  This vision does not know the specifics of what lies ahead, but it knows there is an answer. This knowing is enough to cause ‘hope’s birth in us. Hope is an important part of the spiritual journey, but it is only part of the whole, one more step on the path. Hope resides within us and opens our souls to new possibilities, but it does not bring possibilities into being. Faith gets us there. Hope is a call for faith and faith is a call for action.

3.
Choice: There is a special kind of action that brings us one step closer to a faith filled life and that is choice. By choice we consent to limitation. By choice we decide to overcome the law of inertia and move forward in life. Science discovered this law, which states that an object at rest tends to remain at rest; an object in motion tends to remain in motion.  Step by step, the choices you make determine the direction and quality of your life experience. No one and nothing can determine your choices. We have been given the power to determine what we think, how we feel, what we do and how we respond or react to people and the world.  One of the primary reasons we struggle when faced with a difficult decision is that we are afraid we will make the wrong choice.  During times like these, it is important to remember that we can always choose again.  Life is a perpetual stream of choices.  In nearly every moment of everyday a choice is enacted. Much of life is a process of trial and error through which we move forward to a greater good. To use the gift of choice wisely, decisions must allow wisdom to escape from within you.  There are four steps to the wise use of our gift of choice.

  1. Choice begins with humility and acknowledging that apart from God, you do not know what to do.  Jesus said, “Of my own self I can do nothing.”
  2. Next declare that you are willing to act upon the light that shines from within.
  3. Rest quietly and let the light shine. Sometimes it is helpful to say, “Let the light shine.”
  4. Finally, when the choice is revealed, take immediate action A wise choice is always an expression of an inner wisdom.

Making wise choices requires that we
do certain things. It also means we cease doing other things. Choice encourages change Ask yourself the question: “Am I willing to change?” All of creation is in a constant state of change.  Everything is either growing or deteriorating. Change is something we cannot avoid.  We can choose not to grow, but then we experience the form of change called deterioration. The question is whether we will choose transformation or deterioration.  No one would consciously choose deterioration and limitation.  No one.  Yet the human tendency is to want to run from difficulties.  A traveler journeying to a promised land of plenty encountered a huge mountain on the path. The people who lived at the foot of the mountain informed him that no one had ever found a way around the mountain.  There was only one way to the other side—over the top. “Of course, thought the traveler, there is only one way beyond a difficulty and that is to rise above it.” The true treasure of the spiritual journey is the traveler’s discovery of his or her innate capacities. This is transformation.

The fear of change and the unknown is rooted in the realization that all change requires the death of the old and a letting go of what was once of value.  One of the steps we can take is to begin to face the unknown in a casual way.
 Drive home a new way. Go to a place you have never gone before.  Eat a kind of food you have never eaten before. Talk to a stranger. These simple steps can be the beginning of the revelation that this is a friendly universe.

4
. The 4th step is to choose to begin. There are two ways to begin. We can begin again and potentially repeat the same mistakes, or we can begin anew. Many people begin again, but the ones who have learned to live a spiritual life have learned to start over in a new way.  Can you identify any limiting cycles in your life? What disturbing happening is present today that has been present in the past? If you are aware of an unproductive cycle, there is a need to ‘begin anew’ rather than ‘begin again.’

Ancient wisdom declares,
“Be ye not conformed to this world but be ye transformed through the renewal of your mind”, and “For as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” (Prov. 23:7) and Gal. 6:7: “For whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.”  People who have practiced this way of life affirm: “Thoughts held in mind produce after their kind.”

5.
The fifth step and one of the key steps to a new life is understanding the constructive and non-constructive nature of thought. Story:  There once was a man who was attending his brother’s funeral. Before the service the man talked with the minister, who shared an interesting story with the man.  The minster said, “Your brother came to me several months ago in perfect health. He insisted on making his funeral arrangements because he said that he was going to die soon.  He said, “Men in my family always die around their 60th birthday and mine is just around the corner.” When your brother died shortly after his 60th birthday, I remembered what he had said to me.”  The brother replied, “Several men in our family have died around their 60th birthday, but not everyone; I am in my 70’s. By the way, there is something my brother did not know.  He was adopted!” The fifth step is let your thinking be constructive. Phil.4: 8: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Life is built up rather than torn down. Trying to live a spiritual life does not ensure that we will never have problems. There will always be challenges because we are growing and dynamic beings; however, because we strive to live a life centered in Spirit, we are becoming aware of principles that enable us to move through and beyond any problem.

6.
The Sixth step and the first step in moving beyond a challenge is to stand still.  When there is some difficulty, the normal human tendency is to rush to act. Moses, trapped between the Red Sea and the approaching Egyptian army, said to the people, “Stand still, and see the salvation of Jehovah, which he shall work for you today.” (Ex 14:13) The reason for this is simple:  We cannot face a problem on the level of the problem.  We cannot solve a problem from the same level of mind that created it. Story:  There was once an ant who was carrying a piece of straw.  When he came to a crevice in the earth, he scurried along its edge, looking for a way around.  However, the crack in the earth was longer than the ant was willing to walk. Suddenly, the ant took the straw he was carrying and placed it across the crevice and walked to the other side. The ant’s burden had become a bridge. Are you as smart as the ant? Any burden we carry can be a bridge to some greater good. The first transformation is of ourselves. The burden causes us to think in a new way, to uncover previously hidden inner resources and to become a new person.  This ‘newborn’ you will act differently and see problems differently.  The solutions which come forth, transcend anything the old us could envision.

7.
The seventh step is to stop labeling things good or bad. Shakespeare wrote, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”  To cease labeling things good or bad is a step we take toward freeing ourselves from total dependency on human knowledge and this takes us a step closer to understanding ourselves to be greater than any circumstance.

STORY: There is an interesting story that illustrates this. There was a man who gave his son a horse for his birthday.  This was labeled good. The son fell off the horse and broke his leg. This was labeled bad. A day later the King’s men were coming through town in search of young men to conscript into the army, for the King was going to war.  In the eyes of the boy’s mother, the broken leg was a very good thing to have happened. On and on it goes, until it is evident that a horse, or a broken leg is not good or bad. It simply is.

Although, this step is more challenging for us when something ‘seemingly bad’ happens in our life, it remains true. When we resist some circumstance, we are facing the problem on the level of the problem. There is no change in us and therefore the condition will remain.
 A change in consciousness is required before there can be outer change.  The world is transformed because the inner being is transformed.

8.
Jesus said, “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”  Have you ever temporarily lost some object and looked for it everywhere—only to find it close by?  This reoccurring human experience is like what happens on the spiritual journey.  If “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” then all we seek is right here.  We must awaken to its presence and that’s the eighth step we must take. ILLUSTRATION: Imagine that you are in a garden with a white dove.  You desire to hold this bird and move toward it. As you approach the dove, it hops away from you. When you move quickly it spreads its wings, flies, perches on a branch and watches you.  The bird is beyond your grasp, but when you close your eyes and rest quietly, the bird comes to you and sits upon your shoulder. When my children were little, I taught them to use this idea when they wanted a butterfly to land on their hand and walk with them.

Story: There is an ancient Hindu legend, which says that the gods wanted to hide humankind's divinity.  The Gods gathered and discussed where this "priceless jewel" might be hidden.  One God suggested the highest peak, but it was determined that someone would find it there.  Another God suggested the depths of the sea, but it was also concluded that this place would eventually be explored.  Finally, it was decided that our divinity would be placed where we would not think to search for it:  within us.  This, the legend says, was done.

When we search for anything, it is helpful to look in the right place. A spiritual life begins in earnest when the inner journey of seeking and finding begins. "Know thyself" is the philosopher's call, but it is also the Soul calling to itself. It is said that a sculptor sees within the stone a masterpiece, and through the process of letting go, the work of art is revealed.  Not even a fleck of stone is added to the figure that is created.  The Kingdom is with us, it is already within us and therefore nothing needs to be added to us.  The beauty is revealed by letting go, by subtraction, not addition. When we realize that we are always one with God, nothing is impossible for us. There is a sense of power, but it is not ours.  We are the riverbed through which the river flows. We do not direct the course of the river, nor do we know its next bend.  If the river of Spirit is to flow through us and do its mighty work, we must be willing to let God be God through us.

9.
Our spiritual work is to desire union with God through prayer and meditation and be awake and aware that God is everywhere as everything.  The ninth step is a tiny baby step, but it is all that God needs.  As Spirit expresses itself, our souls expand, and impossible tasks are done step by step. Example: One ancient culture of spiritually minded people taught their children that the Great Spirit was always within them.  As the little ones began to learn this idea, they were instructed to turn quickly and look over their right shoulder to see the great God watching over them.  No child ever saw the great Spirit the wise ones spoke of, but there was a growing awareness of the great God.

Many years ago, during a period of prayer and meditation, an
inner voice spoke to a young minister and said, "You are halfway there."  How delightful.  Self-congratulation was in order.  One more step and it would be downhill from there.  How "downhill" was soon discovered, for the voice continued, "and you always will be." Over time we realize the meaning of the phrase "halfway there."  The spiritual journey is an infinite one.  God cannot be known as we know our hometown or the house where we live. The mystery and wonder continue forever. You are always in the midst of life and right in the middle of a miracle for there is no end to God. Spiritual awakening or being born again is not a onetime experience. It is the continuing experience of life.

One day Sir Christopher Wren was walking through a construction site. The workers did not know that this man was the force behind the cathedral, which was being built.  Mr. Wren asked one man what he was doing. He replied,
"I am making a shilling a day."  Another worker was asked the same question.  "I am building a wall," he said. A third worker was asked the same question.  He stood proudly and said, "I am helping Sir Christopher Wren build the greatest cathedral in the world."  This man had a purpose that transcended making money and building walls. There is a great cathedral that is being built within your body and your mind every time you Practice the Presence of God through prayer and meditation. It is going to house the Presence of God expressing through you as you. It is going to supply the demand made by the physical level of your being from the Christ level of your being.  Never think that you are doing just what you are doing.  God is doing something greater through you. You are not just a human being. You are an eternal spiritual being, living in a spiritual universe governed by spiritual law.
You are not just a human being trying to become more spiritual. You are already as spiritual as you will ever be because you already have God in you and around you. BUT you must become awake and aware of that spiritual fact and let God be God in and through you. As soon as you
cut your finger, it begins to heal. There is no difference to God between a cut finger and any
other challenge our human body can experience. The difference between outcome is the level of consciousness we turn to for solutions.

Jim States, a mountaineer who stood atop Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world, tells the story of a high altitude climb in which he grew immensely tired.  He would take a deep breath, affirm his faith in God and take four steps.  This process persisted for hours.  Not only was the summit mounted, but Jim rose to new heights as he discovered a greater faith in God. Remember the phrase:
“I take one more step.”  This is the way mountains are climbed, bodies are healed and the consciousness in which the abundant life is lived for it is the way a spiritual life is lived.  By approaching everything you do in this way, you are acknowledging that Spirit is the source of your strength. This aids in the revelation of who and what you are.

Listen, listen, listen to my heart's song. Listen, listen, listen to my heart's song. I will never forget you; I will never forsake you. I will never forget you; I will never forsake you. These words are often sung at spiritual retreats.  Repeatedly these words are sung by the participants as an echo of what they deeply believe God is "saying" to them. This is an unforgettable experience. Today, Mystics and Physicists tell us that Spirit or Life Energy (God) is omnipresent--everywhere equally present.  Spirit cannot forsake you because it is what you are made of and what you live, move, and have your being within. You live in an ocean of Life Energy. You are like a wave in the ocean or a bubble in the sea.  We teach children the saying, "There is no spot where God is not."  When Spirit begins to reveal itself to you, usually one of the first truths you discover or "hear" is God declaring, "I will never leave you; I am with you always."  Later in the relationship, God reveals a greater truth, "I am closer than you think."  Day by day, insight-by-insight, step-by-step your relationship with God grows. That is what you are embarking upon when you join with us in these simple teachings and begin to take them on inside of yourself. If life’s problems are to be solved, we must put aside the need to find a solution and be willing to know God. As Gandhi said, “We must be the change we want to see in the world.” A fundamental truth is that there is only one Presence and one power in the universe.  We begin by seeking many things, however step by step we learn:

1. That nothing but a consciousness of Oneness with God and all life will satisfy us.

2. An awareness of Spirit will manifest itself in ways that meet every human need.  A need manifests when we are ready to step up to the next level of consciousness. It would not be in our life if we were not capable to take that next step. If a need or demand exists of any kind in your life that supply is also present. There is no spot where ‘life energy or God’ is not. Take these nine steps of the spiritual journey to manifest your highest self.

3. There is contentment and fulfillment in knowing God, not from God.
“God is enough. I am one with God. I am enough. I have everything I need with me, within me and around me to meet whatever challenges I face.”  Let these simple phrases become your friends.  Whenever you feel a sense of lack, label some experience as ‘bad’ and are tempted to begin to look outside of yourself for what you think you need, say, “God is enough. I am one with God. I am enough.” Ground yourself in truth and the “Truth will set you free and bring you home.”

LESSON SUMMARY AND THOUGHTS FOR DISCUSSION

1. The spiritual journey, like all journeys, begins with a single step. And oddly, that which leads us to the highest and most fulfilling life often begins with discontent.  There are at least two kinds of discontent:  Human discontent promises that we will feel better when changes take place in our outer world. Divine discontent causes us to want to change the way we think, act, and live.  Divine discontent calls for inner change. What kind of discontent is most experienced by you and how do you handle it? What have you learned about finding contentment?

2. Hope is the second step.  Hope can enable us to cope with limitation and problems, but it can also empower us to step forward into a life free of restriction and chronic challenges. Hope resides within us and opens our souls to new possibilities, but it does not bring possibilities into being. Faith gets us there. Hope is a call for faith and faith is a call for action. Share an experience in which ‘hope’ got you though.

3. Step three is a special kind of action that brings us one step closer to a faith filled life and that is choice. By choice we consent to limitation. By choice we decide to overcome the law of inertia and move forward in life. One of the
primary reasons we struggle when faced with a difficult decision is that we are afraid we will make the wrong choice During times like these, it is important to remember that we can always choose again. Making wise choices requires that we do certain things. It also means we cease doing other things. Choice encourages change Ask yourself the question: “Am I willing to change?” Explain your experience with this step. According to this lesson what is the true treasure of the spiritual path?

4. The 4th step is to choose to begin. We can begin again and potentially repeat the same mistakes, or we can begin anew. Many people begin again, but the ones who have learned to live a spiritual life have learned to start over in a new way.  Can you identify any limiting cycles in your life? What disturbing happening is present today that has been present in the past? If you are aware of an unproductive cycle, there is a need to ‘begin anew’ rather than ‘begin again.’

5.
One of the key steps to a new life is understanding the constructive and non-constructive nature of thought. The fifth step is let your thinking be constructive. Phil.4: 8: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Life is built up rather than torn down. Trying to live a spiritual life does not ensure that we will never have problems. There will always be challenges because we are growing and dynamic beings; however, because we strive to live a life centered in Spirit, we are becoming aware of principles that enable us to move through and beyond any problem.

6.
The Sixth step and the first step in moving beyond a challenge is to stand still. We cannot face a problem on the level of the problem.  We cannot solve a problem from the same level of mind that created it. The burden causes us to think in a new way, to uncover previously hidden inner resources and to become a new person.  This ‘newborn’ you will act differently and see problems differently.  Are you as smart as the ant?

7.
The seventh step is to stop labeling things good or bad. To cease labeling things good or bad is a step we take toward freeing ourselves from total dependency on human knowledge and this takes us a step closer to understanding ourselves to be greater than any circumstance. Although, this step is more challenging for us when something ‘seemingly bad’ happens in our life, it remains true. When we resist some circumstance, we are facing the problem on the level of the problem. There is no change in us and therefore the condition will remain.  A change in consciousness is required before there can be outer change.  The world is transformed because the inner being is transformed.

8. The eighth step is awakening to the presence of God as the Kingdom of Heaven within you. Have you ever temporarily lost some object and looked for it everywhere—only to find it close by?  This reoccurring human experience is like what happens on the spiritual journey.  “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” means that all we seek is right here, right now where you are.

A spiritual life begins in earnest when the inner journey of seeking and finding through prayer and meditation begins. "Know thyself" is the philosopher's call, but it is also the Soul calling to itself. Do you set aside time for regular prayer and meditation? If not, why not? Go back to the beginning of the list, which earlier step have you omitted or avoided taking. Remember to begin anew and not to begin again. Sometimes it is just that simple.

9.  
Our spiritual work is to desire union with God through prayer and meditation and be awake and aware that God is everywhere as everything.  The ninth step is a tiny baby step, but it is all that God needs.  As Spirit expresses itself, our souls expand, and impossible tasks are done step by step.



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