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Dr. of Spiritual Development
Written by Dr. David Crouch
Welcome to a sample of lesson one of the Dr. of Spiritual Development program. Each week you will receive a discourse that talks about the study of developing your spiritual awareness. You will be receiving an email for this course approximately once a week. If for any reason you don’t receive one, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org so she can re-send your material. This course is available from this Spiritual Development Course link.
Dr. of Spiritual Development
Universal Life Church Seminary
Lesson 1 -- Life with Clarity and Purpose
Life with Clarity and Purpose: Running Your Race with the Benefit of Content, Focus, and Direction in Your Thoughts.
Why do we bother with spiritual endeavors? Why put any effort into self-exploration or personal improvement? In my eyes, it’s because – at some level – we suspect or know that we are more than our physical bodies, and we desire to actualize more of that “it” into our lives. To live our lives from a place of Intent, Mindfulness, and Purpose.
To achieve this, some clarity as to what we are moving towards would help. To that end, there are a bunch of great books out there about where we ought to aim our efforts, and why. We might also benefit from looking at obstructions or hindrances that slow us down in that effort, and how to go about minimizing the effects of these hindrances; there are a lot of great books out there on overcoming your past, and moving beyond the limitations that confine us from moving forward in our quest. Or, about just being OK with where we are, and allowing the Quest to fulfill itself effortlessly.
In each case, it might also benefit us to understand more about how our mental software approaches these objectives; how our thinking either aids or slows seeing ahead, moving past what’s behind, or simply allowing ourselves to be happy with our Isness as it unfolds. And THAT is the purpose of the present article. Because whichever target we’re working on, the constant in the spiritual Quest is us. Our minds. Our perceptions, attitudes, preferences, and so on. As invisible to us as water is to a fish, this constant companion on the Quest can serve our purpose, or inhibit it. So…how do we turn our attentional resources to a useful direction? How do we get our mind to help us, and not hinder us?
Primarily, by understanding a bit about how it works, and using this understanding to create positive change.
Mind: Where Soul meets Body.
Mind has some traits to it. In cognitive psychology, the process of thinking seems to occupy space. This is referred to as the “visuo-spatial workbench”…the space around us those ideas occupy. Sometimes, these ideas seem inside of us, and may include sensations or sounds. Other times, aspects of ideas may seem to dance around us like animated imagery floating in the space outside our bodies. Some parts of these ideas are more mutable than others, amenable to change. Still other parts of our personal Mind seem more fixed…perhaps malleable through the effects of time, perhaps not. Some characteristics and tendencies of thought seem so idiosyncratic and permanent, that they seem to form a permanent part of our internal landscape, off of which the more malleable thoughts and ideas bounce.
One author referred to this internal thinking space as the “cognisphere”…the environment in which ideation happens. Like our Earth and the atmosphere around it, change – as a result of the interplay of energies and forces within the atmosphere – is a constant. It is always happening, though slower in some instances than others. The tectonic plates move more slowly than the seasons, which move more slowly than the lives of some creatures. Each in its own time; some components being more prone to change than others, depending on time and perspective.
And, just as there are underlying properties that guide or limit or govern the movement of activity in these closed environments, so are there properties of mind that influence the play of internal energies while we Quest for Spirit and Meaning. From a modern Shamanic perspective, Spirit interfaces with the neurology of our bodies through the medium of mind. Learning the properties of movement within Mind allows us to better process change, so we can facilitate a better transmission of Spirit, through Mind, into Life.
The Nature of the Cognisphere: An Introduction .
Living your Purpose requires clarity. It also requires the ability to focus your intent. While the unction of intent may not seem so much like a thought due to the ability to intend without words, thoughts are more than words. They must be understood as such to be effectively marshaled to assist with living on Purpose.
Thought has the qualities of Content, Focus, and Direction. Content refers simply to those thoughts that currently occupy the visuo-spatial workbench. Being complex, thinking critters, we are capable of having more than one idea on the workbench at a time. In fact, we may have dozens, some plainly in awareness, some just off to the side, and some on the periphery almost outside of awareness. Which of those thoughts we are attending to at any given moment is the “Focus” property. We are apt to focus more on some bunch of ideas than the other, peripheral ones. Each thought will have a tendency to spark another thought…something academic psychologists refer to as the Spread of Activation. Thinking about a red fire hydrant may cause the next thought to be about water, or some firefighter you may know. That, in turn, might be followed by thoughts about larger bodies of water and upcoming lake or ocean vacations, or a social situation involving someone connected through the firefighter you know. This is what is meant when we say thoughts have the property of Direction.
So…ultimately…what do we care? Because thoughts are things. And as things, once set in motion, they set other things in motion to create effects. Thoughts are causal; they affect every cell in our body through rushes of neural peptides that effect the endocrine system of our body, changing chemical messengers that change the activated DNA of our cells. Thoughts change perception, causing us to not see items or ideas in our universe that help us in our Quest, or to see items & ideas that may inhibit us (you ever hear about the Sages who say that information is always there for those with eyes to see, or ears to hear?).
Thoughts are things, and they create: Staying with an idea will cause the fabric of the universe to open opportunities for you that might not otherwise have been available or noticeable, had we not entertained the requisite ideas to unlock certain doors to perception & manifestation. Because by paying attention to thoughts that serve our purpose in fulfilling our quest, we can move forward or unfold much more effectively than by not attending to the properties within.
Mindful intention creates. Mindful intention uses thoughts. Thoughts operate in an internal climate, affected by the properties of Content, Focus, and Direction. We are creating all the time, whether we know it or not. Mainly, because we are processing thought all the time…whether we know it, or not. By doing the work to develop the skills associated with managing the content, focus, and direction of our creative thinking, we can choose to attend with clarity on unfolding to our purpose, and making it more salient in our lives.
There are already many methods out there for increasing this attentiveness. Affirmations aid us in yanking to the forefront of Mind content we believe we have determined to help us. The focus is on the desired outcome of the affirmations. Through the Spread of Activation, direction of subsequent thoughts should hopefully be more productive, considering we marshaled Focus during the exercise. While one of many excellent tools, there are some vital components to constancy that are missing in affirmations and active visualization. In articles/installments to come, we will be looking at some exercises and methods to:
Clearly identify what you want, so you can go after it with clarity; access internal resources, and inquire of the part of you which already knows.
Marshal the Content, Focus, and Direction of your thoughts so you can unfold to your identified purpose.
Maintain the attentional and internal resources needed to stay the course, and fulfill your own personal Higher Purpose.
Until then, just take some time once in awhile to notice what’s going on inside your mind, and also notice what the effect of noting is…that as your focus shift from external tasky things to the rich internal life, the content, focus, and direction of your thoughts change as they run like rain over the fixed landscape of your cognisphere. And the cognisphere, like the slowly eroding stone under the influences of time, remains forever changed.
Remember: The Energy of Change is the only Constant.
You are encouraged to post your lessons on the forum or send them to email@example.com and she will post them for you. The goal is to begin some meaningful dialogue with other ministers and to learn from the different exchanges.
See you next week!
Copyright 2008 by Dr. David Crouch. All rights reserved. No part of this lesson may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.