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by David Truman









A strong spiritual support system

Consistent spiritual practice with clear guidance

Spiritually useful purpose

Right livelihood

A strong spiritual house can't be built on one single cornerstone. We need, at minimum, four pillars for a good spiritual life, with every piece firmly anchored in truth and righteousness. This article will describe the four essential pillars.

1. A strong spiritual support system

To live a spiritual life, we need support. Many people associate spirituality with retreat and prayerful solitude, but as a general pattern, the avoidance of human relationships is spiritually unhealthy. Social experience represents a crucial part of spiritual development, for the following reasons:

Loving is a PRACTICE and RESPONSIBILITY, not merely an EFFECT, of spiritual life. Heaven is no refuge for those who don't love on earth. The practice of love is not a mental exercise relative to a distant deity; loving must be practiced with real people. We advance spiritually as we exercise our capacity to consistently love and intimately serve fellow human beings.

Friendly feedback is divine course correction. Growth partners -- friends who support each other, and keep each other on track with good goals -- are indispensable to spiritual life. Life's greatest reflections and most valuable lessons come from PEOPLE.

Intimacy can be not only challenging but also profoundly reassuring. Have you ever suffered a problem for a long time, only to find relief when you finally talked to somebody about it? God uses our friends to convey His "stamp of approval."

The energy of relationship kindles life and boosts awareness. Spiritual realization results from advances from one energy level to another. That's why the energy of interaction can accelerate personal transformation. It is a mysterious fact that when it comes to energy, one and one makes four. Each individual is but one pole of a cosmic battery whose potential is released only through interpersonal connections -- between you and your mate, you and your friends, or you and your world.

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Support system suggestions. Here are three suggestions, starting small, for plugging into spiritual support in human relationships.

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An easy warm-up: Have a weekly date with a good friend. It's easy to create interactions of questionable value, but for real support, do this: find at least one person who resonates with your higher spiritual values -- and make a REGULAR date with that person.

Do not be ashamed to use discrimination in choosing the influences in your life. Sure, all human beings are equal in God -- but because people unfold at their own chosen speed, there are SUBSTANTIAL differences between individuals. Just as God's lion is much stronger than God's mouse, one person may possess twice the spiritual power or intelligence of another. We all need inspiration as well as an opportunity to care for those who need our help. So put a lion -- a friend on your own level of development or higher -- on your social calendar. Regularly.

Good exercise: Move in with roommates, or join a church or other positively oriented organization. People who spend a significant amount of time relating enjoy much higher levels of energy. An individual's powers are magnified by the resonance of group energy. This principle applies equally to organizations and to living together in CONSCIOUS roommate situations or INTENTIONAL families.

Go for the gold! Move into a spiritual community. In a spiritually-oriented community, human interactions are elevated by mutually accepted principles of love and forgiveness. Also, it has been promised, "Where two or more are gathered IN MY NAME, there I am also." Togetherness is strong, but a spirit of joint devotion really attracts cosmic forces to pitch in.

2. Consistent spiritual practice with clear guidance

Spiritual seekers are fond of saying, "There are many paths up the mountain." But even if each path is complete and adequate in and of itself, progress along any of them requires steady effort. The best process in the world can't do you much good unless you do it and stick to it. Enlightenment requires commitment and consistency.

Investigating options for spiritual advancement can help a person piece together a useful big picture of spiritual life. However, a big picture of spiritual life is not the same as a spiritual life lived. Going to twenty car dealerships and coming home with eighty brochures about eighty different cars does not make you a car owner. Collecting the creeds from twenty religions does not make you a religious person -- much less a COMMITTED religious person.

It is rightly said that you cannot cross the river in more than one boat, for if you try to, you fall into the river. Therefore, spiritual life cannot succeed until you stop shopping and "buy" one method, one teacher, one path up the mountain.

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The importance of a spiritual teacher. Westerners believe strongly in doing it themselves, and pride themselves in cutting out the spiritual middlemen. Some arguments for "going direct" may be valid, but people who resist human authorities also have problems with the highest Authority in the Universe! Sooner or later, if we want to get along with God, we will need to improve our relationship to authority.

Think of authorities as concentrated resources. We all can acknowledge that a person who knows a lot about something -- anything -- can be a useful resource for somebody who knows less, and wants to know more. This is not a value judgment of any kind, just an observation of fact. It saves time and energy to go to a person in whom wisdom is densely concentrated.

Suggestions for consistent practice and clear guidance. Real commitment is the key to success in virtually any growth adventure. Here are three suggestions for applying commitment to your spiritual practice and guidance, no matter what level you buy in on.

An easy warm-up: Pick one book and study it in depth. Spiritual self-help and spiritual self dabbling are different. When it comes to evolutionary progress, depth of experience beats breadth of exposure. You can get a lot more benefit from taking one self-help book and doing its entire process than from reading seventeen books without exploring any of them in depth.

Good exercise: Study with a group. Two heads are better than one -- and more heads are even better. It's truly dramatic how much smarter a group is than any of its members alone! Therefore, try to find an inspiring study group in the area of your spiritual interest -- and when you do, sign up, and stick to it.

Go for the gold! Find a real-life mentor. You probably have people in your life you can help because you have insights they don't have. Does that make you bad and wrong because to them, you are an authority? Of course not. And unless you think that you're at the very top of the evolutionary food chain, there's someone who can help you in a similar fashion. And maybe you need a mentor as much as your friends need YOU.

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3. Spiritually useful purpose

Just working with our problems isn't enough. We must move beyond the level on which those problems exist, which is selfish living as a whole. That's where having a larger purpose in life becomes essential to spiritual progress. We escape suffering only by refocusing our energy on the highest possible purpose: to serve humanity, and further the divine purpose on this planet.

To transcend self-orientation doesn't require giving freely ALL the time. We can't just buy groceries and not ask our roommates to contribute; we can't just do work and not ask our clients or bosses to pay us. There has to be balance in life. But there MUST be a place for selfless giving in EVERYONE'S life.

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Suggestions for spiritually useful purpose. Your relationship to God, who is everywhere, is expressed as your relationship to all mankind. Here are three everyday suggestions for relating to God through a spiritually useful purpose:

An easy warm-up: Lend a helping hand to a friend. You have plans to go to the beach, but your friend calls up to ask for help moving. You could say you already have other plans, but how good would that make her feel? How good would it make you feel? Everyone is obliged to transcend themselves in order to be happy. Help your friend happily, and go to the beach some other day.

Good exercise: Help the poor in spirit. You don't have to sell everything and join Mother Theresa's sisters in Calcutta to help the poor. You can love the poor wherever you are. In America, poverty is much more common on the spiritual and emotional level than on the material. When you show compassion to a spiritually impoverished coworker or relative, you are certainly ministering to the poor.

Go for the gold! Support spiritual causes you believe in. You can serve the enlightenment of the human race by supporting a good spiritual cause or teaching. Find a way to serve -- volunteer work, financial support, etc. -- that suits your temperament and resources. It doesn't matter WHAT you do as long as you do SOMETHING. Any person who works in any way to support a good spiritual cause extends the good work.

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4. Right livelihood

Work will always remain an essential part of spiritual life. What better way to serve our fellows and transcend our egos than by surrendering ourselves to creative effort?

People get confused about right livelihood. It's not so much WHAT you do as HOW you do it. One of the greatest joys in life is the joy of work consciously performed for a good purpose -- with the intention of blessing those who will benefit from it. Any work is consecrated if it is dedicated to a sacred purpose, such as the service of man or the love of God.

Wherever we find ourselves, our actions can be viewed from the true, eternal, spiritual perspective. Heavenly standards for appropriate living reflect the essential and eternal realities of God and Good. In that sense, the standards for right livelihood or for good job performance will never change, and there's NO part or position that's any further "off the path" than any other.

The evaluation of success is based on how well spiritual challenges are handled. A person can succeed admirably in spiritual terms, yet never get rich. But here's good news for all spiritual seekers: Some worldly standards are spiritual values as well -- for example, character-building virtues like flexibility, cooperativeness, calm in the face of adversity, good will towards others, diligence, and honesty. Any individual with these "qualifications" will make valuable contributions -- on the material as well as on the spiritual level -- to any task.

Suggestions for spiritualizing work. Here are suggestions for turning your job, whatever it is, into a spiritual venture.

An easy warm-up: Economic self-responsibility. The most basic, but most important spiritual challenge of work is to cheerfully and responsibly embrace your obligation to support yourself and others who may depend on you.

Good exercise: Spiritualize the routine moments. Whenever you feel that your circumstances and activities do not spiritually inspire you, you are probably ignoring the real spiritual challenge at hand. For example, a spiritual response to a boring job is TO TRANSCEND your negative reactions to circumstances and bring real life and energy to your work. By exercising your spiritual muscles in routine or mundane circumstances, you will improve yourself and your work environment at the same time.

Go for the gold! Rise to a difficult occasion. Spiritualize your livelihood by bringing your spiritual values to the more difficult moments of life. For example, you can apply the spiritual values of patience and goodwill to score a spiritual victory with a customer or a coworker who is being obnoxious. By committing yourself to rise above such difficulties you can make it a real stretch to go to work each day.

by David Truman

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