Friday, January 30, 2009

Keep It Simple, Sherlock!

L. Dwight Turner

Some of us have a tendency to over-complicate even the most simple truths in life and I plead guilty in the first-degree when it comes to taking an issue that is fairly basic and turning it into an exercise in speculative philosophy. By God’s grace, I have become somewhat less inclined to do this as I have grown older, but I full well recognize the tendency to over-analyze a situation is still there. If Paul were here, he would more than likely say that this is one of my “strongholds” and he would be correct.

One of the silver linings that emerged out of my confrontation with this problematic aspect of my character, however, has proved quite useful. In a number of ways, this point of light in an otherwise dark encounter with my own defects of character is the opposite of my tendency to turn placing postage stamp in the correct location an exercise in higher calculus. In fact, it involves making things less complicated.

Allow me to give you an example.

Whenever we take even a minimal view of the scope of issues involved in living a spiritually meaningful life in today’s world, it can surely be overwhelming. The fact is the world in which we live and move and have our being is far more complex and multi-faceted than the one where Buddha, Krishna, or Jesus operated. Granted, as limited humans we are dealing with most of the fundamental problems that the contemporaries of these great spiritual figures dealt with many years ago, but those problems surface in many ways and in numerous contexts that were unheard of in ancient times. To make matters more complicated, we have to find ways in which we can filter our faith experiences, especially as related to our growth or lack thereof, so that they make at least a modicum of sense. In other words, we need to find ways in which we can make our spiritual journey more comprehensible, particularly to ourselves.

This process is the opposite of my tendency to over-complicate things. Here we are talking about simplifying complex things, rather than complicating basically sensible things. Of course, it can be argued that any path of spiritual formation is a simple at its core, but I, for one, don’t buy that argument. As they say down here in the South, “…that dog won’t hunt.” The reality is, the spiritual path can be very confusing at times, particularly when it comes to personal ethics, making proper decisions, and engaging in spiritual disciplines. Making the situation more complicated is the cacophony of conflicting opinions on just about any issue on might raise. The need for something a bit simpler is critical, especially for the new believer.

At Sacred Mind Alliance we have explored numerous ways of mapping out the process of spiritual growth in a contemporary context and most have been genuinely effective. What I want to share here, however, is a map I developed for my own use. It has been modified somewhat over the years, but I still go back to these basic themes whenever I find I need more clarity and less confusion in my daily walk of faith. What I am about to share is in no way comprehensive, but it does work as a pragmatic outline of the faith, boiled down to four workable divisions. This particular way of looking at the faith has been effective for me, and it may be for you. Please keep in mind, however, I am not suggesting what follows is the best way, the only way, or that it will work for everyone. At the end of the day, I think each of us has to find our own way of making complex issues simple and more easily addressed.

The method I used for breaking the path of what I came to call “Faith Formation” into manageable units involved four divisions. In my personal journal I called these divisions “The Four Mirrors of Faith Formation” and came to see that this title fit perfectly for what I was doing. I used the word “mirrors” for several important reasons. First of all, this approach was not like a ladder, where you take one step after another. When put into actual practice, each division proved to be intimately connected with the other three. It was as if, like four mirrors on each side of an object, each mirror reflected not only the object, but the reflections in the other mirrors as well.

In order to deepen this analogy, I placed a small sculpture of Guan Yin, a Buddhist Bodhisattva of Compassion on a table and placed four identical mirrors on each side. Amazingly, as I looked in each mirror I did not see one dove, but many as each primary reflection contained the other reflections. I had the awareness that these four mirrors were like a spiritual hologram, with each part containing within it the perfect totality of every other part.

The Four Mirrors of Faith Formation, which I continue to use as my own personal model for applying the faith to my own life, are:

The Mirror of Connection

The Mirror of Comprehension

The Mirror of Cultivation

The Mirror of Contribution

As stated earlier, I could have come up with more divisions, many more. Further, with my propensity for alliteration, I most likely could have started all of them with the letter “C.” However, my goal was to keep this process as simple as possible and still have a workable, comprehensive matrix through which I could process my faith.

The Mirror of Connection is just that, connection with the Divine. In this mirror, I seek to deepen my connection with God through several practices. First, it involves prayer, the practice of meditation, spiritual reading, and contact with the natural world. This last practice has revealed itself to be one of the most powerful ways I have found to deepen the level of my contact with and experience of God’s presence.

The Mirror of Comprehension is concerned with the garnering of practical wisdom, particularly in regards to spiritual laws and principles in general and the pragmatic application of these laws to daily living. The primary aim in this mirror is gaining knowledge of the interface between the spiritual world and this physical world. Also central is deepening not only our understanding, but also our practical experience of the interconnectivity of all life and the birth of a transformational compassion in the heart.

In working with the Mirror of Cultivation my primary objective is to put myself into a spiritual posture of openness and receptivity to the work of Sacred Spirit. This particular mirror is aimed at the cultivation of what I have come to call “Sacred Character,” which in turn is built on the foundation of “Noble Integrity.” In addition, the formation of character and integrity is further made possible by the clarification and development of a comprehensive worldview and an internalized system of values based on that worldview.

As I work with these mirrors, I understand on an experiential level that my primary purpose in life becomes making a positive, spiritual contribution to the world in which I live. In brief, the Mirror of Contribution is concerned with the use of my talents, spiritual gifts, and whatever else God has placed at my disposal in order to make the world a better place. This does not necessarily mean some great, Noble Peace Prize winning contribution, although for a select few, this may be true. For most of us, the Mirror of Contribution is concerned with doing whatever we can to bring a high level of functioning to whatever setting we may be placed. This process could involve family, work, the environment, or any number of things.

Earlier, I mentioned that the spiritual journey can be explained in many ways and certainly in ways that are deeper and more complex than the four-mirrored approach I have just described. What I have attempted to do in this brief article is to present a model and matrix that has worked well for me. I am a person who thrives on exploring highly complex, difficult to comprehend models so things and, for this very reason, I have learned that it is precisely those things that I need to avoid. In an overworked but accurate slogan, I need to keep it simple.

© L. D. Turner 2009/ All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Walking In Our True Identitiy: Issues and Obstacles

Sometimes, when I sit down and reflect on the many gifts we, as Christians, have been given by the Creator I am literally overwhelmed. As the Old Testament scripture tells us, we can expect “showers of blessing.” When I really think about it, few of these magnificent outflows of God’s grace are as precious as our new identity “in Christ.”

Paul tells us clearly that the new has come and that the old has been swept away. The slate has been wiped clean, the old person was crucified with Christ right there on the cross and in a very real sense, sins’ power over us is gone. I think few of us believers fully comprehend the power of Paul’s teaching here.

The problem is so few of us, especially this Christ-follower, seem to walk in our new identity as if sins’ domination over us has been defeated. I often wonder why this is. Why do so few of us reach out with open hands to accept this undeserved gift from heaven? I think the answer(s) to this problem is complex. In the paragraphs below, I want to discuss just a few possibilities and, in subsequent posts, perhaps a few more.

In its most fundamental sense, the process of fully appropriating your new identity in Christ is the greatest gift you can give to the world. Operating under you old identity, you were spiritually dead, cut off from the source of your true life. You were under the control of your lower nature, what Paul referred to as “the flesh.” Furthermore, you were held under the sway of both the world and the enemy. Living under the burdensome limitations of your old self, there was no way you could possibly approach the dynamic creativity and productivity of your God-given potential.

Now, however, by taking possession of who and what you are “in Christ,” you can discover your divine potential, find your spiritual calling, develop you personal vision, and grow into the best version of yourself. In Christ, you are reborn – you are spiritually alive and capable of making your own unique contribution to the world. When you become the best version of yourself, when you walk in your glory, you are in reality a gift of God to a hurting world.

It kind of takes your breath away, doesn’t it?

As Christians, we cannot underestimate the value of what God has done for us in this regard. Also, we cannot underestimate the value to God’s kingdom of having a cadre of committed believers that full well understand and accept exactly who and what they now are. We must realize, however, that there will be obstacles thrown in the path of our full appropriation of this new God-given and God-honoring identity.

In terms of the enemy and the world, these two forces often act in concert to minimize our awareness of what we have been granted in Christ. After all, the popular views of our culture are often in opposition to what God would have us do, whether it is in terms of our actual behavior or, at an even more subtle level, how we think and how we view the world. Let’s take a brief look at how these two forces, Satan and the world, might be a formidable obstacle when it comes to understanding our true blessings “in Christ.”

In today’s spiritual marketplace, the church is often assailed by the enemy in ways both manifest and subtle. One of Satan’s main strategies is to put forth teachings that contain a grain of scriptural truth and, at least on the surface, sound good, especially from a worldly perspective. For example, many contemporary Bible teachers focus on material wealth and prosperity. Don’t get me wrong – there is nothing wrong with wealth and having possessions, so long as we are not controlled by them. However, these teachers often go to scripture to support their contentions and, in so doing, often miss the point of the particular verse or portion of scripture they cite. Most of the current prosperity gospel advocates justify their teaching by quoting Jesus in John 10:10:

I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.

According to the prosperity teachers, Jesus was speaking of material abundance when he uttered these words. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Given the situation they were in, I doubt the early Christians were overly concerned with gaining material wealth. In the early days of the church, the prime focus was on solidifying the local church, spreading the gospel, and staying alive.

When Christ spoke of abundance in John 10:10, he was speaking of the fullness of life. Here Jesus is talking about the fact that through his mission, believers will now have the capacity to have the fullness of life that was lost due to the fall. In essence, He was referring to a restored humanity, now in proper relationship with God and ready to bear fruit.

The theological minutia surrounding the discussions of justification and sanctification can be both confusing and distracting. Although gaining an understanding of these concepts is important, for our present conversation going into depth about such matters would be an unnecessary distraction. For now, let’s just suffice to say that understanding and accepting who we are in Christ is central to the process of spiritual formation. Further, it is important that we see that our adoption into God’s family is an act of grace. Neil Anderson tells us:

Only as we see ourselves as sons and daughters of God can we really grow in holiness (see Romans 8:15). Only as we are free from the task of trying to gain a relationship with God by our own righteousness or cleanness will we be free to appropriate His righteousness and holiness for our growth.

Without Christ, his work on the cross and in rising from the tomb, we could not even begin to progress in terms of spiritual formation. In order to grow in spirit, we have to be connected to God. Just as a fish cannot thrive unless it is in water, we cannot thrive outside of our natural environment, which is proper connection with God. Christ’s mission accomplished this reconnection with our Maker and made all spiritual formation possible. Without the regeneration provided by the mission of Christ, we would remain in a state of separation from God. Listen to Neil Anderson as he so accurately elaborates this theme:

Spiritual growth in the Christian life requires a relationship with God, who is the fountain of spiritual life. Only through this relationship can we bear new seed or tap into the root of life. As in nature, unless there is some seed or root of life within an organism, no growth can take place. So unless there is a root of life within the believer – that is, some core of spiritual life – growth is impossible. There is nothing to grow.

The thrust of what is being said in this article is centered on the fact that we need to seize our proper identity in Christ, but in doing so, we must also understand the work of Christ on the cross and through his resurrection and ascension. Underlying this vital comprehension is that fact that we cannot be who and what we were intended to be without being in proper, intimate relationship with God. In order for that to be possible, our relationship must be restored. That’s where the Blood of Christ comes into play. Through his death, in some mysterious way Christ paid the debt for our sin and made reunion with the Father possible.

Beyond that, through his dying to self and rising in new life, we, too, may also die to our old way of being and rise in newness of life. But the story doesn’t end there. Christ, through his ascension into heaven, made possible the coming of the Holy Spirit. As Christ himself said, “Unless I leave, the Spirit won’t come.” As stated, Christ’s departure and his seat at the right hand of the Father make possible the Spirit’s presence in our lives. Now, just as the Father walked in the garden with the first couple, the Spirit walks along side of us. Even more important, he has also taken up residence within us.

It is not enough to die and rise again. We must also live in a new manner and it is the Spirit that makes this new way of thinking, feeling, behaving and relating possible. Grasp that, and you are well on your way of appropriating your new identity in Christ.

It is vital that we recognize that we cannot live as Christ wants us to live without the presence and the assistance of the Holy Spirit. As mentioned before, the Holy Spirit, for reasons completely understood only by God, could not come to indwell the saints until Christ had returned to his home in heaven. Once that happened, it became possible for the Holy Spirit to invade and occupy this world in a new and vivifying way. As we briefly touch on these twin themes of the Ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit, let’s keep in mind that both of these themes are often relegated to the back burner of pulpit preparation. For whatever reasons, the Ascension and the Holy Spirit are two issues preachers tend to ignore.

© L.D. Turner 2008/All Rights Reserved

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Prayer by Ernest Holmes

Ernest Holmes, the founder of Religious Science and one of my favorite New Thought writers, says the the following prayer is beneficial when you are feeling confused. He suggests that you sit down and say:

The peace of God is at the center of my being.
I am conscious of this peace.
I enter into this peace.
I am surrounded by this peace.
This peace moves out from me in all directions.
It calms the troubled waters of my experience.
It heals everything it contacts.
There is nothing but peace.
I rejoice in this peace.
I permit this peace to enter my soul,
to fill me with calm, to inspire me with confidence.
I know that this peace goes before me and
makes perfect , plain, and straight my way.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Dedicated Desire and Affirmative Prayer

L. Dwight Turner


Let’s begin by looking at desire, because all good things, whether or not they are brought to fruition, begin in the realm of desire. It is desire that gives rise to our dreams in life and it is desire that provides the fuel for performing the positive activities that will allow us to bring those dreams into reality. In this sense, desire provides positive motivation. When we truly desire something with our whole heart we set in motion the powers of the mind to achieve that which we desire. If we have as a goal to deepen our walk of faith and manifest some degree of success in living the genuine Christian life then we must recognize that this positive goal began as a desire. Further, the power of a strong desire, when properly applied, helps insure our success. Christian Larson tells us:

…it is readily understood why the wish, if strong, positive, determined and continuous, will tend to produce the thing wished for…It is not occasional desire, or half-hearted desire that gets the thing desired. It is persistent desire; persistent desire not only desires continually, but with all the power of life and mind and soul. The force of a half-alive desire, when acting upon a certain faculty (the subconscious mind) cannot cause that faculty to become fully alive….it is true that the desires of most people are neither continuous nor very deep. They are shallow, occasional, wishes without enough power to stir to action a single atom.

Let’s look more closely at what Larson is trying to tell us when we apply these principles to the process of spiritual formation. If you want to develop spiritually you must first possess the desire to do so. Lack of desire is why so many Christians fail. They just don't have any desire to improve. Larson goes on to say that our desire must be strong, positive, determined, and continuous. He further states that it is persistent desire that brings about results. When applied to our spiritual formation it means specifically that we must have:

Strong Desire:

From the outset of our desire to improve must be strong and unwavering.

Positive Desire:

We must always keep in the forefront of our minds the concept of positive thinking and positive faith in ourselves and especially in God. We should always remind ourselves that part of our purpose in life is to grow and develop, in short, to become all that we can be.

Our desire must be paired with a willful determination to make every effort to see it through to completion.


Continuous desire means ongoing desire. If we are to be successful our desire cannot be here today and gone tomorrow. Although there may be days when we feel like our energy is low and our desire is at low ebb, we must maintain the power to resurrect our dream and keep it ever before us. This is the surest way to success and fulfillment.

In addition to these four vital characteristics of positive desire, Larson goes on
to tell us that an "occasional, half-hearted desire" will avail us nothing. It is easy to see, based on Larson words, why so many apathetic, ambivalent, and lethargic Christians fall short of their goals. Their desire is occasional and half-hearted. Ambivalent and lethargic Christians have the dream but not the drive. Apathetic Christians don't even have the dream.

What is the opposite of occasional, half-hearted desire? A desire that is continuous and full-hearted. It means that we give our all, all the time, to deepen your walk of faith and, more importantly, deepen you relationship with Christ. Application of this type of desire with diligence will insure our success.


The second aspect of our subject to consider is the concept of dedication. Dedication is fundamental to any successful endeavor in life, including spiritual development. Dedication is defined as the act of "devoting oneself wholly and earnestly to a specific goal or purpose". If we are to improve our application of Christian principles of living we must dedicate ourselves to that specific aim.

Dedication is an act of the mind. We begin with a strong desire to improve our relationship with the Lord. We follow this by firmly dedicating ourselves to making this goal a reality in our lives. We can best do this by the use of affirmations. Affirmations are powerful, positive statements that we make to ourselves over and over again, thereby deeply impressing them into our subconscious mind. According to the discoveries of Cognitive and Transpersonal Psychology, it is those things that we deeply plant in our subconscious minds that actualize into physical reality in our lives. So, if our goal is to become closer to God, we begin by dedicating ourselves to the process. We do this not only in the conscious mind, but also in the subconscious.

Look at the process like this. Suppose a farmer wants to grow corn. He begins by preparing the field, then he carefully plants the seeds in the fertile ground, then waters and cares for the field so that, at harvest time, his yield of corn will be bountiful. Your conscious desire to deepen your Christian walk is the farmer. The affirmations are the seeds, and the subconscious mind is the field. Based on your desire, you use your conscious mind (the farmer), to plant the seeds (affirmations) into the fertile field (subconscious mind). You then water and nurture the field through constant repetition of your affirmations. Try the following: Each morning before you get out of bed, relax your breathing and repeat silently to yourself the following statement:

Every day, in every way,
I am getting closer and closer
To Christ

During the day, at lunch- time for example, repeat this statement over and over to yourself. Each time that you repeat the statement you are not only planting more seeds, but you are also watering and nurturing the field of your subconscious mind. This is the way to insure success. It may sound simplistic and perhaps it is. That's the beauty of positive thinking. It is simple! But in spite of its simplicity, it is a proven method of personal and spiritual transformation that has worked miracles in countless lives. Try it and see.

The keys to making successful affirmations are: repetition, faith, and expectancy. We need to repeat the affirmation many times and have faith in the process, a living expectancy that if we continue, we will surely succeed. The key again is repetition. Do it over and over again. In this way, your subconscious mind will be saturated with positive thoughts of dedication.

Keep It Simple!

This procedure that has also come to be known as affirmative prayer is a fairly straight forward process but, as with many things, we humans have a marked tendency to complicate it. I know this from past experience because I have been as guilty of exhibiting this “genius for complexity” as anyone – probably more than most. It was with some degree of difficulty that I eventually learned that with most things it is best to keep it simple. With this truth in mind, let’s see if we can simplify the basics of affirmative prayer by stating the following:

When we use our affirmative thinking, put into the containers which we call words, and animate it speaking with living faith, we are able to manifest that which we desire, providing of course, that it is in alignment with God’s will.

There is really no need to mystify the process any more than that. Granted, the underlying laws and cosmic principles associated with affirmative prayer can seem a bit mysterious, but in actuality, even the laws are not all that complicated.
It is essential that we understand that this process begins with our thinking and moves forward from there. Everything that we see began somewhere as someone’s thought. Creation in all its glory began as God’s thought and came into being at God’s command, using His words. He literally called things into existence from the world of the unseen, into the world of the seen. On a smaller scale, this is how we manifest reality as well. Our thoughts begin the process and or faith-filled words empower and animate the process that results in the creation of the thing desire.

Two important factors are also involved in the process of bringing our desired outcome down out of the spirit world and into concrete manifestation. These are emotion and intention. Centuries of working with these principles has revealed that the more deeply you feel about your desired goal, the more readily it manifests in physical reality. I have found that this is precisely where imagination comes into play. When we clearly visualize what it is we desire we arouse our feeling nature, which is a natural part of our soul. We facilitate this by focusing not only on repetition of our positive prayer, but we also form a clear, concise image of the desired outcome and bring our attention to bear on that outcome. We allow the feelings that arise to become magnified and these feelings, along with our thought, image, and faith-filled words form a powerful magnetic force that will pull our desired outcome out of the spirit world, where it already exists, down into physical reality.

Intention is perhaps the most important component of affirmative prayer. Your intention is what gathers and focuses your cognitive energy in a specific direction. It is for this precise reason that your intention must be constructed carefully and spoken clearly. This is not some sort of cosmic, New Age mumbo jumbo, but instead, is a fundamental principle of positive cognition. Your words of intention accomplish several vital functions in the process of affirmative prayer. First, speaking your intention gives direction to your energy and gives firm direction to your prayer. Second, your intention lets your subconscious mind know exactly what it wants to bring down from the spirit realm and why. And finally, your spoken words contain the power necessary to animate the unfolding of the process of affirmative prayer. As stated before, your words, especially when joined to a vital foundation of faith, serve as a magnet to attract the very thing you desire.

So keep these two aspects of affirmative prayer before you at all times. Positive emotion amplifies the power of your prayer and positive intention supplies even more punch to the process. Without these two vital aspects of prayer, you may find your prayers unfocused, impotent, and ineffective.

Here at Sacred Mind Ministries we conduct a training program entitled, “Conscious Cognition,” which is basically the capacity to be acutely aware of what we are thinking on a consistent basis. It has as its goal the honing of our ability to recognize negative thoughts the moment they arise and take those thoughts captive. Rather than climbing aboard our negative “train of thought,” we never allow it to leave the station. Instead, through the development of our capacity for conscious cognition, we replace these negative thoughts with positive ones. At first this process will seem quite cumbersome and highly unnatural. This is to be expected because we have been thinking in unproductive ways for many years. It takes time to delete this negative process from our memory banks and reprogram our minds to think along positive avenues. Persistence and patience are the keys. Keep at it and you will eventually find that you are responding to life in a healthier, more optimistic manner.

Another key principle when using affirmative prayer can be expressed this way: use frequent repetition in present tense. Your patterns of negative thinking and behaving were not formed overnight. Instead, these unhealthy thoughts were repeated over and over again until they were firmly planted in your subconscious mind. Once that happened, these damaging thought patterns seemed to have developed a life of their own. This same principle of repetition, however, can also be utilized to your benefit. First, understand that positive thoughts are more powerful than negative thoughts. Formal research and well as the experience of countless pilgrims who have used these methods of cognitive reprogramming have confirmed the fact that one positive thought can counteract many negative ones, provided the positive thought is constructed in the present tense and is repeated many times.

The principles we have discussed here are basic but essential to the process of creating and using affirmative prayers. As stated at the outset, these principles are not overly complicated, unless of course we choose to make them so. My suggestion is that you study the relevant literature available on affirmative prayer, positive thinking, positive imaging, and the Law of Attraction. By doing so you can deepen your understanding of what is going on when you utilize affirmative prayer as a part of your spiritual path. However, don’t let your studies lead you into any unnecessary confusion or complexity. Above all:

Keep it simple!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Blessings of Mindfulness

L. Dwight Turner

Mindfulness is not a strong suit in western culture. A fast-paced, hectic lifestyle joined at the hip to myriad responsibilities creates an environment where the pursuit of mindfulness is at best a pipe dream for most people. Our minds are scattered between work, family, finances, and a plethora of other pressures contending for our attention. It is little wonder that most of us feel stressed, overwhelmed, and on the cusp of burnout most of the time.

The irony here is that mindfulness may very well constitute the solution to this ulcer-inducing way of life that most of us call “normal.” The fact is, once we really learn to be mindful and fully attentive to what we are doing, we become more efficient and able to accomplish more while expending less energy. Further, my personal experience has taught me that when I am truly conscious of my actions, my feelings, and my thoughts – I am less likely to feel overwhelmed and stressed. I find that I can remain at least marginally centered in spite of conflicting pressures and voices jockeying for my attention.

Mindfulness is at its core a spiritual issue. Although all faith systems stress mindfulness to some extent, nowhere is it a more central theme than in Buddhism. Mindful living is one of the central components of the Noble Eightfold Path described by Gautama Buddha as the path out of human discontent. I have found that when I make a consecrated commitment to work on mastering my monkey mind through consistent meditation practice and make efforts to become more mindful, life becomes generally better. Nothing really changes externally – the same pressures, responsibilities, deadlines, and stress – they are all still there. But something gradually begins to change internally as a personal anchor of centeredness begins to take shape. Although I am not perfect at it and certainly I am a long way from the calm demeanor of a Mahatma Gandhi, I am less likely to appear as a trance channel for Yosemite Sam.

Personally, I find it hard to wrap words around the full array of positive qualities that emerge from the practice of meditation and becoming more mindful. Perhaps that is one of the reason I appreciate the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn, a pioneer in the use of mindfulness and meditation practice in health applications. Kabat-Zinn, in his book Coming to Our Senses, gives one of the best descriptions I have encountered:

More than anything else, I have come to see meditation as an act of love, an inward gesture of benevolence and kindness toward ourselves and toward others, a gesture of the heart that recognizes our perfection even in our obvious imperfection, with all our shortcomings, our wounds, our attachments, our vexations, and our persistent habits of unawareness. It is a very brave gesture: to take one’s seat for a time and drop in on the present moment without adornment. In stopping, looking, and listening, in giving ourselves over to all our senses, including mind, in any moment, we are in that moment embodying what we hold most sacred in life. In making the gesture, which might include assuming a specific posture for formal meditation, but could also involve simply becoming more mindful or more forgiving of ourselves, immediately re-minds us and re-bodies us. In a sense, you could say it refreshes us, makes this moment fresh, timeless, free up, wide open. In such moments, we transcend who we think we are. We go beyond our stories and all our incessant thinking, however deep and important it sometimes is, and reside in seeing what is here to be seen and the direct, non-conceptual knowing of what is here to be known, which we don’t have to seek because it is already and always here…..In words, it may sound like an idealization. Experienced, it is merely what it is, life expressing itself, sentience quivering within infinity, with things just as they are.

From Kabat-Zinn’s description, it is obvious that coming to live in the present moment, to be mindfully attentive to what is happening in front of our eyes, is a spiritual experience of high significance. On rare occasions, we may be granted by grace a glimpse of this unadorned reality of “just what is” beyond our ideas about what is. These moments are personal epiphanies, always remembered and transformational in nature.

As special as these moments are, they rarely come frequently unless a persons prepares the soil for their coming. That is where meditation comes in. Teachers from all faith traditions stress the importance of spending time in meditation and/or contemplation. For some reason not completely apparent, the more time we spend in proximity of the “Sacred Silence,” the more likely we are to experience these divine moments of pristine clarity. Meditation, whatever form it may take, appears to prepare the soil of our being for the coming of these special times when we actually see what is before us. Meditation and mindfulness are the twin practices that increase our capacity to be receptive to these divine gifts of the Spirit.

In my own experience, those forms of meditation that lend themselves to the quieting of the mind have proved the most beneficial when it comes to opening up to the kind of special encounters described above. My preference has been the utilization of techniques involving focusing my attention on my breathing as an anchor to which my often skittering mind is tethered and brought under at least a modicum of control. For others, mediations involving visualization, chanting, or mantra may be more conducive to the experience we are discussing. Whatever the technique, the important component is regularity of practice. The more we meditate, the more mindful we will become. This is a simple equation, but it has been consistently verified.

I am of the firm conviction that the more mindful people become, the more they will be able to master themselves and by doing so, behave in ways that are less problematic and more harmonious. Meditation is the pathway to mindfulness and mindfulness is indeed, a great blessing to one and all.

© L.D. Turner 2009/ All Rights Reserved

Friday, January 16, 2009

Living From Sacred Mind: It's A Daily Choice

L. Dwight Turner

Each day we have a vital choice before us. It is a choice that is both critical and simple, but above all, it is a divine choice. Each morning before our feet hit the floor, we must ask ourselves: Today, will I live from my Lower Mind or my Sacred Mind?

How we answer this question will have significant consequences and will largely determine the character and quality of our day. Further, our answer to this daily question will have direct impact on whether or not we live in accordance with and in pursuit of our Sacred Calling.

When we talk about our “Sacred Calling” we are talking about our purpose and/or mission in life. From the beginning of your journey, it is vital that you come to understand several key points. First, each person has a universal calling and what we here at LifeBrook term “particular calling.” Your universal calling has to do with God’s universal mission and purpose. There are certain things that each of us are to do and more importantly to be. Our particular calling is just that – particular to us as individuals. It is a personal mission that only you can fulfill and is normally based on your natural talents and proclivities.

An important aspect of your universal calling is “walk in your divinity,” which is another way of saying you need to live each day from your Sacred Mind. Unfortunately, most people are incapable of this without help from the divine order and a significant amount of mindful awareness about what they are doing from one moment to the next. This, in turn, requires work.

Each of us has as a part of our inner world, a Sacred Mind and a Lower Mind. The Sacred Mind is what is often called your “higher self.” It is that part of you that is created in the image of God and reflects God’s character, wisdom, and love. When we act from Sacred Mind, we act with reverence, honor, integrity, and grace. The Lower Mind, on the other hand, is that which is often called the “ego,” and it is a useful part of ourselves that most of us have turned into an enemy. We do this by giving the Lower Mind more authority over our lives than it should have. The results are disastrous on personal, collective, social, and global levels. Confronting and dealing with the Lower Mind is an essential component of the spiritual journey and should always be viewed as an ongoing process rather than a one-time event.

Get one fact planted firmly in your mind right at the beginning of your dealings with the ego: the Lower Mind (ego) is a complete illusion; a fabrication that you created in order to help you deal with the world and, at the same time, develop an identity for yourself. In this sense, the ego has an important service to perform. It helps you understand how the world works and it helps you navigate the world’s sometimes turbulent and treacherous waters. Further, the Lower Mind helps you discern who you are and who you are not. So, in relation to these two important factors, the ego is a great tool to have.

The downside to the ego is the fact that it has a heartbeat of separation, not unity. The ego views all things from a me/them perspective. More often than we would like to admit, this turns into a me versus them mentality. Cooperation, a necessary component of unity, is jettisoned in favor of competition. This leads to many obvious problems based in conflict between one person’s needs and another person’s needs. The ego runs on the premise that there is a limited amount of “stuff” around and this “stuff” is of vast importance. The purpose of life is seen as accumulation of “stuff,” often at the expense of other people getting enough “stuff” to live comfortably. The Lower Mind, however, is not too concerned about this state of affairs. After all, the ego, like all successful egos, understands several fundamental laws:

Always look out for Number One first

It is the fittest who survive and the strongest who thrive

I deserve to have my share of the pie (and maybe even more)

It’s my way or the highway

If I end up stepping on someone’s toes, they shouldn’t have put them under my feet

The Lower Mind’s focus on self results in a chronic sense of estrangement. When you are dominated by the ego, a part of you is always wary of others and your true, deep friends are few and far between. More telling, when you are under the sway of the Lower Mind, God usually takes a back seat or worse, is taken completely out of the picture. It is no stretch of fancy when wise people say the ego stands for “ease God out.”

When God is taken out of the picture the person puts ego in the driver’s seat and, although successful for a time, things usually come unraveled. The reason for this is simple. God is our true source of power and enduring success. When separated from our power source, the lights go out. Not only do we become confused and lost, we realize we are alone and don’t have any real answers. What’s worse, we even ask the wrong questions.

Lower Mind’s most consistent question is: What’s in it for me?

What kind of world does all this create? Guns n’ Roses summed it up pretty well with “Welcome to the Jungle.”

Conversely, when we live from Sacred Mind we see things from a much different perspective. Sacred Mind is focused on the whole more than the parts and attempts to create unity rather than division, cooperation rather than competition, encouragement rather than criticism, peace rather than conflict, joy rather than stress, and order rather than chaos.

Remaining connected to God requires living from Sacred Mind and this is not as hard as you might think. Regular spiritual disciplines, especially prayer, meditation, and study of sacred writings help immensely. The important thing is not the method used, but the resulting sense of connection to that universal Spirit that is at the base of all things. You must keep before you your true identity, which is a divine being created in the image of God, designed by God, and loved by God.

Your Sacred Mind is your Inner Light, that part of you that is most like God. No, you are not God and that is vital to understand. However, God did place in you a spark of Spirit that contains everything you need in order to carry out his universal mission and your personal calling. When you connect with and live from Sacred Mind, you have many of the answers that you need in order to become the optimal version of yourself. You don’t have all the answers because only God is all-wise. However, at least now you can ask the right questions.

Sacred Mind’s most consistent question is: How can I help?

© L. Dwight Turner 2009/All Rights Reserved

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Seven Mirrors of Sacred Living

L. Dwight Turner

Recently Sacred Mind Ministries has been conducting several two-day workshops using the curriculum entitled, “The Seven Mirrors of Sacred Living.” Below is a brief description of each mirror and what is covered in the work associated with each one. It is important to understand that we used the term “mirror” for a reason. Put simply, each component reflects the other components, thus forming a kind of “reflective hologram.”

Participants in the program are educated first about the fact that each mirror is defined accurately only when it is seen in connection with the other six. In this sense, no mirror stands alone. Instead, each mirror is engaged in a interactive choreography with the others. Further, the training and subsequent application of the mirrors to one’s daily life is less like a sequential ladder and more like a spiraling dance in which the mirrors sort of circle back on each other.

The Seven Mirrors of Sacred Living, briefly explained, are as follows:

Sacred Consecration

Consecration is a sacred act in which we formally proclaim our intention to do whatever it takes to tread the path of becoming all that we were designed to be. It involves a firm and consistent commitment to excellence.

Sacred Connection

Connecting with our Divine Source is foundational if we are to become the optimal version of ourselves. From the outset we must understand that:

We cannot do this alone

The Divine Source is there and wants to help

Our task is to establish and deepen our connection to the Divine Source

Fostering this vital and positive connection involves prayer, meditation, contemplation, and contact with others.

Sacred Comprehension

The universe operates according to basic laws that hold all things together and move them toward the Creator’s ultimate purpose for his creation. There are not only physical laws, but mental and spiritual laws that are equally inalterable. If we expect to move forward on the spiritual path, a practical, workable understanding of these laws and principles is indispensable. This also involves a basic comprehension of who and what we are, especially our psycho-energetic anatomy.

Sacred Cognition

Taking the principles we learned in the previous mirror, we now apply these fundamental laws and principles to our thought life. Recognizing that our thought in large part creates our reality, we begin to work diligently to take control of our thinking, however much a challenge this may be. We understand basically that positive thoughts create positive results and negative thoughts also create their own brand of negative reality.

It is here, in the mirror of Sacred Cognition, that we begin to apply the technology that will help us to get control of our thought life and its associated issues. This technology includes, but is not limited to:

Positive thinking
Positive imaging
Positive speaking
Positive action (act as if)
Positive Expectancy

We must ever keep before us the ideal of Sacred Character. Our world today needs more people of sound character and this entire program of endeavor is designed to cultivate what we at Sacred Mind Ministries call “Sacred Character.” It is the character exhibited by Christ and is marked by a foundation of integrity, love, and compassion.

Sacred Calling

The Creator planted a divine purpose within each of us prior to our birth on this planet and it is vital that we discover that purpose and bring it to fruition in our lives. Discovering and manifesting our Sacred Purpose is our “calling” in life and we cannot hope to become the optimal version of who we are without walking in our divine purpose. We also must understand that our individual purpose (our personal mission) is a component in the Creator’s universal mission.

Sacred Companions

We do not walk this journey alone. Instead, we need to form spiritual bonds with those who share a similar sense of mission and purpose. The development and establishment of healthy, vital, and committed spiritual communities is a fundamental component of the universal purpose for this age in which we live. These communities share common values, goals, and ideals and have a unified vision that fosters group cohesiveness and enhances community effectiveness. These groups may consist of as few as two members or can number in the thousands. It should also be mentioned that each member’s individual calling is enhanced and achieved within the milieu of the community’s overall vision.

Sacred Contribution

Through walking in our manifest Sacred Character we are better able to realize our Sacred Calling. In doing so we also are able to give flesh to grace. Just as Jesus did his Father’s work while on earth, we, too, are to embody God’s grace by making a positive contribution to the world in which we live. We do this in many ways, all of which flow out of our compassion and a sacred heart of service to others. By realizing our personal mission, we become the optimal version of ourselves and by doing so, we work toward being optimal benefit to others. Put simply, we incarnate God’s love and God’s light in this world.

© L.D. Turner 2009/All Rights Reserved

The Blessings of Expectancy

L. Dwight Turner

Over the past few days, we have explored two “Attitudes of Blessing,” enthusiasm and effort. Today we need to discuss yet another principle that builds a bridge between our enthusiasm and efforts and our desire goal: the principle of expectancy.
It is not enough to hope for the best. You must learn to give all that you can give and then, with an affirmative attitude, expect the best. All genuine spiritual traditions teach that we have within each of us a Higher Mind, a part of ourselves that has unlimited potential and is eternally optimistic. Higher Mind is but another way of describing what we at LifeBrook call our Sacred Self. When you are operating from your Higher Mind or your Sacred Self, know deep in your heart you cannot fail. As you learn to go deep within yourself and tap into the boundless resources that reside there, firmly know that your success is guaranteed. Be specific in your expectations, but be open that things may not be exactly as you planned - they may be better.

You will encounter these ideas in many schools of positive living. Although the words may vary, the principles remain constant:

Believe in yourself and your abilities.
Have positive and consistent confidence in yourself.
Demand the best from yourself.
Expect the best for yourself.

The central point is that positive expectancy is intimately connected with positive thinking. If you expect to improve, if you have positive faith and a positive desire, coupled with a firm plan and an enthusiastic attitude, then you will make every effort to improve. As we have seen, if you put for the effort you will improve. So it is right and reasonable to expect improvement. Do not entertain, even for a moment, the thought of defeat or failure.

Please understand that positive expectancy flows from two primary sources: faith in God and confidence in your abilities. God, our Divine Source, is not only a God of benevolence, but also a God of provision. Have faith in and operate on the belief that God has already equipped you with every blessing in the spiritual realm. The New Testament affirms this reality and, if you persist in your pursuit of spiritual excellence, so you’re your experience. So have faith in who and what God is and what has been provided for you. Also, continually strive to deepen the level of confidence you have in yourself. God does not want his children walking around thinking they are sinful worms that deserve nothing more than a bleak existence. Historically, some segments of the church have promoted this dismal assessment of the human condition. Some churches still do. Viewing humanity in this manner is not only erroneous, it ignores who and what we are when we are “in Christ.”

Keep your mind focused on the affirmative reality that you will improve. Make every effort to improve, and then expect the best result. If you do this you will foster success in all that you do. Again, I refer you to the wise words of Christian Larson:

“Do your best under every circumstance, and believe that every circumstance will give its best to you. Live for the realization of more life and for more efficient use of everything that proceeds from life. Desire eternally what you want; and act always as if every expectation were coming true.”

By expecting the best result you will become more efficient and more productive. You will have the constant realization that every effort you put forth will bring you that much closer to your goal. You will not waste your valuable "mind-power" on thoughts of defeat and failure, but instead, will focus your mental energy on that which you want to achieve. As a result, your sense of fulfillment in life will continue to increase. Larson continues:

“Think only of what you desire, and expect only what you desire….Make it a point to have definite results in mind at all times. Permit no thinking to be aimless. Every aimless thought is time and energy wasted, while every thought that is inspired with a definite aim will help to realize that aim. The whole power of your mind will work with you in realizing what you have in view.”

What profound truths are contained in Larson's words! "Every aimless thought is time and energy wasted". So give your thoughts aim and purpose. Think positive thoughts connected with your life goals and life mission. By doing so you are using the power of your mind to assist you in accomplishing great things. When you do this, you can expect nothing other than the best results.

(c) L.D. Turner 2008/All Rights Reserved