Embracing the Bumps on the Spiritual Path

Published on: March 1, 2012

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When I first encountered Unity in the 1970s, the ideas of Oneness, self worth, and the supremacy of Love resonated with what I felt to be true about myself and the world. But what really created a shift in my awareness was Unity’s invitation to bring this beautiful concept into everyday reality. I could dare to claim my good, to make it apparent in terms of health, relationships, jobs, and all other aspects of life, right here and right now. It was a truly exciting time and impelled me on the journey to become a Unity minister.

However, those jubilant, almost naïve days, do not last. As we move forward on our spiritual journey, we find it is not as simple as merely claiming our good and then watching everything unfold magnificently from then on. Affirmations, positive thinking, and the application of spiritual principles are all wonderful tools, but they do not guarantee instant enlightenment.

What gets in the way? A good Unity answer would be our sense of separation, our inherent human tendency to live in a finite, conditioned world of them and us, heavily influenced by the subconscious storehouse of past experience.

Some move on from Unity at this point because they feel the principles are ineffective, superficial, and a kind of positive, wishful thinking. Far from being evidence of failure, however, the dissatisfaction and confusion characteristic of this stage of unfoldment is a clear sign that transformation is occurring. The old-time metaphysicians called it “chemicalization,” the stirring up of the unresolved so that new light can shine in. The subconscious, the shadow, the dark messy parts of ourselves, have so much to teach us. Rather than attempting to overrule them with simplistic positivity, we are called to invite them to the party. God is as present in the darkness as in light, in grief as in joy, so “lean into the sharp points,” as Buddhist nun Pema Chodron advises.

Two approaches have helped me in this regard. The first is to release the desire to know. Spirit does not need our advice or our anxiety. When I can let go in the silence, spaciousness opens within and around me that is healing and insightful.

The second approach is for me to be gentle with myself and trust the divine order of the universe. Cooperating rather than controlling, resting creatively rather than endlessly affirming, allows the deep knowing of body, mind, and Spirit to be present.

When I am a friend to all parts of myself, dark and light, scary and magnificent, I become relaxed, awake, and aware.

And yes, it is then that I claim my good.

Paul John Roach
Paul John Roach is minister at Unity Fort Worth, TX, board member of Unity World Headquarters and former UWM regional board member. He has traveled extensively, including stays in India and Nepal. A native of Wales, UK, he hosts a weekly radio show World Spirituality on the Unity.fm online network.

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