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 The Spiritual Journey: Psychospiritual Integration 

5. We refine our personalities. As we start to forget our past, we have more free attention to place on the status of our unfolding Self. We begin to invoke qualities of that Ideal that lives in our heads and hearts, that one we are longing to be. And as it begins to show itself within our subjective life, we start to take this identity on. As we do, our old "parts" begin to dissolve, and we are changed. First we'll notice that the same old things no longer bother us. Next we'll begin to notice that our outward appearance changes. People who haven't seen us for a while will stop us with statements like, "What's happening to you? You look so different." Then, before we know it, we'll be acting and living more as the newer, more integrated Self.

Lessons will appear in life everywhere we need refining. As we undergo the lessons consciously, we'll learn for ourselves which parts we wish to hold on to and which parts we need to release. No one else can decide that for us.

Along with this refinement process, our life's purpose and true talents become visible. At first, we might not believe it. Could we really be so special that we might have a talent or two? Something worthwhile to offer back to the Life that gives us so much?

Yes. Yes. We start to evidence the aspects of our nature that fit with our life's mission and true purpose. Yet we see that much stuff is still in our way. So we follow ideas and practices, programs or therapies that are self-actualizing. We begin to take our own healing and inner work seriously.

And these opportunities will present themselves as if by magic, too. Our commitment and spiritual intention provide the key. Now, you may take this last sentence lightly, but let me say it again, so you will truly hear: Your spiritual intentionality will from this point forward be determining your life! And all your choices! Either consciously or unconsciously. This is the way of a spiritual aspirant and the nature of this path. Once the commitment is sound, there is no turning back: Your personality will be purified, and your life will be transformed.

6. We resolve the mystery of death/rebirth. As our inner work begins to unfold and we start to heal, we gain insights into how we actually grow and evolve. We see that when we are on a path of direct experience, we do not grow by becoming better every day; we grow through cycles of symbolic death/rebirth events in the subjective life. And we learn there are predictable stages to how we move through time and into higher dimensions. At times, we'll be preconscious, involved in a "participation mystique"--meaning we aren't even aware that we are transforming; we feel peaceful and all is well. Nothing needs to be questioned.

Then we enter a stage where we may feel depressed or stuck. And we'll feel hopeless, maybe even despairing, and our dream begins to die. We think at first that something is wrong with us, that we've perhaps done it all wrong. A process is urging us forward, but we've dug in our heels and won't budge; we don't trust it anymore. We may sleep a lot, or act out in ways to distract ourselves. But we still get nowhere; we go down instead of up. Others seem to be getting ahead of us, and we feel we are losing our life. How did this happen, we ask? Things had seemed to be going fine, when suddenly the picture changed. Not only do we feel we are dying inside, our outer life may become a mirrored reflection of death; we may begin to lose what we love the mostÑour friends, livelihood, possessions, even a sense of ourselves.

This is the stage of the birth process we all hate the most: metaphorically, it is when the mother's body has started labor, but the fetus doesn't feel prepared, and certainly doesn't know what to do about it. The actual process of "pushing through" is still premature. In this stage, we are building force for what is to come next, and it is indeed an uncomfortable stage in any transformation process.

Then, the pangs of birth get so strong we get angry! The process is relentless and our rage accelerates. This rage is the greatest gift! It is this impetus, in fact, that pushes us on through the metaphoric birth canal and unblocks us. The energy we have at this stage of our process is superhuman; we are capable of bursting through all types of resistance. We are coming through into a new dimension of consciousness, breaking out of our cocoon. This part of the process is charged with the energies of transformation, and is often chaotic. There is no other way to get born; we must surrender to the process.

7. We learn to live within the tension of the opposites. Now that we are becoming more familiar with the terrain of Self-knowledge and transformation, we see that our personality's desires and outer situations are always going to shift around, and much of it is truly beyond our control. We live in a world that is imbalanced. Instability rules us in every area of our lives, and as our moods go up and down, our minds are not always clear and decisive. We sometimes churn every which way in the watery world of feelings.

Instead of getting bent out of shape about this unpredictable state of affairs, giving ourselves self-talk of hopelessness and despair, we can begin watching ourselves more precisely. Our observer self comes to the foreground as a major player in our transformation. We realize that we do indeed live amid the tension of the warring opposites. They are all around us and within us as well. So how do we work with this? The mystery unfolds: We see that when we're too low, instead of waiting for the other shoe drop, we can shift our focus to the positive side of the polarity and practice doing what will bring about our dream. Through disciplining our minds and focusing on projects that excite us, we don't give the negative side a chance to overwhelm us anymore.

When we feel too high or outrageously positive, we'll start to notice that we are falling into a state of inauthenticity. Our aggravations, doubts, and irritations are being repressed to the point that we can become depressed. Panic can even set in. So we let some of the negativity out in safe ways--perhaps even in private ways--that do no harm to another. We balance by taking a short inventory of what we feel and of what we may be denying. The key is to stay in the middle and hold the tension of both sides at once in balance!

We learn to sit in the middle of the seesaw, balancing out the extremes. From the center we can wield the power of the Self, who is above it all and doesn't need to fear for its life; the Self is eternal. Our task is to let the extremes come and go, while we refuse to buy into the forces of either side, never for a moment forgetting who we are.

8. We recognize our fellow travelers. Along this path of the heart we meet many soul brothers and sisters. There is an instant recognition when one comes along. Instead of isolating and protecting our egoistic stances (as we used to do), we begin to share our real feelings, discoveries, and new quest with others who are truly interested. We provide each other with context and validation for our new and expanding reallies.

These new friends don't have to be with us geographically all the time; they are with us even when we are miles apart. These are true relatives; we are connected through the heart. Even though we may never all meet each other face to face, our work is cumulative. We may begin to network, team up on projects that excite us, love and support one another, and help uphold the fragile new worldview that is appearing on the horizon of our minds. We see that we are a group soul, with a higher purpose than our mere personal lives. As we expand, our world expands. The greatest blessing of all: Now we know for certain that we are never alone.

9. We awaken to our life's work and soul's expression. This happens spontaneously through opportunities that open to us. Joseph Campbell said he'd noticed that when people "follow their bliss," doors open. This is true! We never have to think too much about how we are going to serve in this world. It's as though the world comes to us and asks us to become involved through the specific avenues for which we're already cut out. We've been preparing all our lives for our life's mission; we've just not realized this. Your life's work will always be in the areas where you are comfortable, talented, fascinated, and feel the most at home.

If you are saying, But I haven't found my way yet; my life's work is still unrevealed, then be patient; have faith and perseverance. You are still in training in some ways you may not recognize. Eventually you will be led through that golden door to your long-awaited dream. Often your greatest advances happen when you least expect them, generated from events that had seemed just ordinary or insignificant at the time.

10. We learn to relax and be ourselves. Even when you feel you are tenuously "hanging in the dangle" between old ways that are dead and new ways that haven't quite arrived, you can practice being yourself. This will guarantee that you won't get off the mark again by accepting some job or recreation that isn't truly for you. Impatience is a hurdle we all have to overcome. Self-doubt and impetuous decisions are two of the enemies we must challenge and tame as we undergo this inward journey. We can practice their complementary qualities, which will, of course, balance them. This will bring a state of bliss and relaxation. This is not a passive state, devoid of feeling. This is living within the intensity of the zero point between two potent forces, holding them at bay while we are both full and empty simultaneously. Fully relaxing is living from the heart. With nothing to hide, and nothing from which to run, we are authentic. There is no urgency to distract us.

11. We express our spiritual gifts and talents in the world of ordinary activities. Expression of our true life's work and sacred mission expresses our essence. Whatever forms this takes is perfectly okay with your Creator-God. Of this, I am quite certain.

Your life's work is simply that of "doing your Being"; it does not matter how or where.

12. We continually follow the mystery... We can never know where the Future will lead us. We only know we are willing, and we are not naive! We've seen how we sometimes have to die to entire ways of being, to our old identities. As we go along, we trust that this is God's creative expression. The beautiful thing about following a mystery is that you are always intrigued. Tell me, now, would you ever want it any other way? Not me!

If anyone tells you they know what exactly the future will bring, they are not telling you the truth. What we are about to experience has never been conceived by anyone on this planet. Nor anywhere else. Otherwise, the stories of all the religions of the world have been a lie, and I don't believe that for a minute! We must be what we want for the future. With faith, and patience, and a lot of perseverance we follow the mystery, until we reach Home. Then, we start out again.

13....until we develop continuity of consciousness. Continuity of consciousness is immortality's real name. We become conscious of our process, whether that is the process of birthing, living on a certain level of consciousness, or dying.

When I was twenty-nine years old, I was having a miscarriage (my second in a row) and was hospitalized while hemorrhaging dangerously. At one point, in my hospital room, I was aware that I was on the ceiling looking down at my body on the bed. I had lost so much blood, my life was leaving. While on the ceiling, I realized my consciousness had expanded beyond the confines of that poor little weak body lying there on the bed. I had compassion for Jacquie Sue, but I was coolly deciding whether or not to reenter that body. As a "clinical near-deather," I do not believe in an afterlife; I know the first stages of the afterlife. Our consciousness we experience as "me" never leaves us, no matter what is going on.

When we become conscious of all levels at once, we know we are immortal. We know experientially that there is no beginning and no end. For according to The Gospel of St. Thomas from the Dead Sea Scrolls

when we make the inner and the outer one, and the above as the below...then shall we enter the kingdom.
(Excerpted from Embodying Spirit: Coming Alive with Meaning and Purpose ISBN: 0062552783)
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