For this series on Practical Spirituality (you can read the first post in the series here), I wanted to share some specifics to provide a better sense of how nice-sounding spiritual principles and theories are really practical, and impactful, when actually applied to real life experiences.
I recently returned home from a 9-day stint in the hospital for a condition I was diagnosed with a couple of years back. Back then, I had to spend 13 days in the hospital, including a few in Critical Care, so the look of things was definitely improved this time versus the last. And throughout the experience, as a direct result of my practical application of the spiritual principles and practices that I discuss here on my blog and in my work with clients, I was able to recognize a really profound shift in my spiritual understanding that I otherwise might not have arrived at.
Without going into all the boring details, I was diagnosed with a so-called autoimmune condition a couple of years back. At the time, I was incredibly resistant to Western medicine and didn’t believe it provided a credible approach to healing; all the docs wanted to do was treat (i.e., mask) the symptoms. “There is no cure,” I was told. “You’ll have to take this medicine, which has these side effects, for the rest of your life. Just to manage the symptoms.” Yuck.
Given my strong belief system (a.k.a. B.S.) about Western medicine, I didn’t pursue any of the longer-term options the traditional docs recommended. And for almost two years I was doing really well, feeling fine, with no issues. And then, slowly, my body didn’t feel quite right. I noticed it, and didn’t really pay too close attention. Then one day – BAM! – symptoms started showing up. And then more symptoms.
I followed my inner guidance on whether I needed to adjust any of my supplements. And I worked with my spiritual practitioner to acknowledge and know that the spiritual fact of Health was omnipresent. Yet when he asked why I hadn’t considered seeing my doctor, my response was “Well, all they’re going to want to do is put me on prednisone, and I don’t like prednisone.”
That resistance should have been an immediate red flag that that was something I needed to look at. And my belief system about Western medicine was so deeply ingrained that I didn’t think twice about something that I would have called one of my clients on instantly.
Symptoms proceeded to appear worse, so I reached out to my doc a few days after Thanksgiving to discuss. He recommended that I head over to Emergency to get checked out, and thus began my stint in the hospital. After running the requisite tests, the ER docs said they thought I should be admitted. “OK,” I said, with surprisingly no resistance. I was simply doing what was clearly coming up to do. In the omnipresence of God, nothing is separate and apart from my Good – even when it looks like a hospitalization.
Before even heading to the hospital, I reached out to my spiritual practitioner to let him know what was going on and request his support as I navigated the process. To be clear, when I work with my spiritual practitioner (or when I do this work for my own clients), the work isn’t about fixing or changing anything. It’s about having clear awareness that Perfection is always present, even (or perhaps especially) when it doesn’t look that way.
In reaching out for support, I’m recognizing the omnipresence of Good, so there’s nothing to change. Still, there might be a block (say, a belief system) that’s preventing me from consciously acknowledging and living that Perfection. That, ultimately, is my work – to move through those blocking beliefs until I’m back to being clearly grounded in Reality. I do this by applying spiritual principles to whatever is coming up.
After the requisite tests and procedures, the docs came back with their recommended treatment plan. Of course, it included prednisone which, just a few weeks earlier, I had been actively resisting. By this time, however, I had done the inner work so that I was fully anchored in the knowing that there is nothing separate and apart from God/Good and that (divine) Love was always supplying my needs. In this recognition, prednisone was simply evidence of Love supplying. So fine, I’ll take prednisone because that’s what’s coming up to do.
The next medication they wanted to start me on was an immune-suppressant to which, a few weeks earlier, my likely reaction would have been something along the lines of “hell no!” And again, recognizing that only Good is and that Love is always supplying, my response again was “fine I’ll take that too.”
Of course, I had to (as my business school classmates and I describe) “be an MBA about it” and get the info on the drug, the side effects, etc. And then I set all of that aside to get clear on my next step. What became unambiguously clear was that neither the prednisone nor this other medicine were causative in my experience. They couldn’t “cure” me nor could they “harm” me. I recognized that there is no power in the medication separate and apart from God/Good. That is a really important point to understand, and something I had never really gotten more than intellectually in the past.
No matter what I did, whether I took the medications or not, Health was and is the Fact of my being. Perfection is omnipresent. I couldn’t get it wrong because Love is perpetually supplying. And in knowing all of this, it was clear that my next step included consenting to these drugs. For anyone who knows me, this would have been a HUGE deal as recently as a couple of months ago. And it was fascinating to observe my own non-reaction – I could almost call it nonchalance – to the process, the decision, and ultimately the administration of the drugs.
When the day finally came to start the new medication, I experienced a slight moment of panic. Those old beliefs about Western medicine came up so I could decide if I was really, truly done with them. Even in that moment of feeling slight panic, I was still anchored in Truth. I texted my spiritual practitioner for support shortly before the nurse started the I.V. The simple act of reaching out ended up being all I needed to move through that brief moment of panic. I didn’t even need a response. Because in reaching out, I knew that I wasn’t expecting him to change or fix anything. All I needed to know were the spiritual Facts. And in the simple act of reaching out to him, I knew them for myself.
Reaching out was the confirmation I needed, because I knew why I was reaching out. Again, I wasn’t reaching out for support to try to fix or change anything. Reaching out was part of my process to acknowledge Truth. I got clear on what I know. It wasn’t about what do I (Sumaiya the personality) want. It was about what do I (Sumaiya living her divinity consciously) know.
As I’ve mentioned in another post, when you think of yourself as “person” or “personality,” you limit your true nature. Both words derive from the Latin persona, meaning an actor’s mask or a character in a play. Because of that origin, I like to use the term “personality” when I’m referring to that aspect of self that believes it is separate and apart from God/Good in order to highlight that that is really just a character or mask with no basis in Reality, and, therefore, not my true Self.
With this insight, I have a whole new understanding of the biblical saying that God is no respecter of persons. Of course God/Good/Mind/Infinite Intelligence/Principle/Love does not respect the characters in the play of Life that we believe we are. Because that would be to deny our being made in God’s image and (spiritual) likeness.
As I was describing my process of consenting to the medications to one of my clients, she asked if all this meant that I needed to do everything that the doctors were recommending. In response, I provided the example of my conversation with one of the docs on the day I was discharged. The docs recommended that I receive a few vaccinations (for the flu and pneumonia, if I remember correctly) before leaving the hospital given the immune-suppressive medication they had started me on. My inner knowing was not aligned with that recommendation, so I passed and didn’t agree to that suggestion. This was clearly different from the moment when the gastroenterologist was discussing his recommended course of treatment with me a few days earlier that resulted in my agreeing to the two meds I mention above.
The “Sumaiya personality” was not overly enthused about the treatment, or the fact that the doc was telling me that I might need to be on it for up to a year. And despite that, I had a very clear inner knowing that “this is what’s showing up, and it’s Mine to do.” What was interesting for the “Sumaiya personality” as she observed all of this is that the steps that were showing up and that I was agreeing to weren’t designed to be an “in order to.” I wasn’t taking them in order to feel better, in order to heal, or in order to please the doctors by following their recommendations. I was simply taking the “human footsteps” that were coming up to do.
One of the more fascinating elements of my experience thus far has been a complete lack of the prednisone side-effects that I previously experienced. Two years earlier, it took several days in the hospital and multiple attempts to persuade me before I consented to starting the drug. I was more than a little resistant, to say the least! And once I did, I immediately experienced a reaction where I was completely emotional at little things. I would cry or get angry at the drop of a hat – definitely not my normal way of being.
This aspect of that experience had been my biggest source of resistance to the treatment plan I knew the docs would suggest, which was why I was so unwilling to consider going to the doctor when my spiritual practitioner originally suggested it. And this time around, it’s been fascinating to observe that as I’ve been anchored in a very strong knowing that no medicine is causative – for “good” or “bad” – in my experience, I’ve experienced none of the reactions I previously had been concerned about.
If I truly understand that God is All there is, and that there is nothing separate and apart from God, then I don’t need to resist whatever is coming up to do. And if I find that I am resisting in some way, then that’s something for me to look at. It’s a sure sign that I’m believing that something other than God/Good is present or possible. During my hospitalization, I was able to stay fairly steeped in knowing that there are never two things going on.
In the hospital I was really clear – in a way and at a level that was much deeper than anything I had previously experienced – that no matter the look or appearance, Good was the only happening. Further, the hospitalization and everything attendant to it was Good the best way I could see it in the moment. If it was literally all Good, then there was no need for me to resist anything that was showing up. As a result, the experience has ended up being a really fantastic opportunity for me to live what I talk about. I definitely recognize and appreciate the gift in that.
The real gift in this entire experience has been that it has allowed me to move beyond my concepts of good (i.e., what I believe Good looks like) to acknowledge Good in all ways (no matter what it looks like). If God/Good is all there is, then there’s nothing else going on. Therefore, there’s nothing for me to resist. In this experience, Good showed up in ways that did not match my previous concept of Good, which forced me to reevaluate my concepts of what Good looks like.
For example, it really forced me to look at all the dualistic notions I still had around Western medicine. I had done a lot of work around that when I was hospitalized a couple of years ago, and clearly had more work to do because some of those beliefs were still lurking – both acknowledged and unacknowledged – beneath the surface waiting for me to recognize the lie of belief. Instead of just saying “God is all there is” I actually lived it in a way I had never lived it before – from a deep-seated knowing that I had never experienced before to that same degree. My world had to look the way it was looking in order for me to have this realization. Without the experience, it likely would have stayed at the level of “intellectual knowing” without getting to true understanding.
A little over a week after returning home from the hospital, I had a profound realization. There was a part of me that’s believing myself to be “Sumaiya the personality,” who has an immune system and who lives in a world where her immune system protects her from things outside of herself. That’s versus Mind expressing (as Sumaiya) that opposes nothing because It is everything. This nugget came one morning while I was brushing my teeth as a flash of epiphany. I literally laughed out loud at the realization because it was so simple, yet profound at the same time. Instantly my body felt lighter.
My immune system is not causative in my experience unless I believe that it is. There is nothing Real for my immune system to react to unless I make it real by believing there is. With this new insight, I finally understood, at a very visceral level, that I am not my body. I apparently had to get clear on what I am not in order to see more clearly who I am. Body is not affected by anything other than Life, for they are one and the same. Body is simply the reflection of Life.
For a long time, I believed that at the root of the so-called autoimmune condition the doctors had diagnosed me with was an undiagnosed infection of some kind that “they” weren’t willing to consider. It was only after my epiphany that I had been believing myself to be a person with an immune system ready to attack things “outside of itself” that I’ve begun to understand and appreciate at a deeper level that I grew those doctors in my experience for the identity of my Good, and for no other reason.
I needed things to look the way they looked because I had separated myself from my true nature. I grew the experience in the only way I could to force me to recognize the lie I was believing. The doctors’ lack of willingness to consider a concept I believed was so obvious really forced me to surrender the concept (albeit with some metaphorical kicking and screaming along the way). Not surrender in the sense of giving up. Rather, being willing to see things differently by letting go of attachment to my old point of view. It was that willingness that opened the door for my epiphany. It was Love supplying my need in not letting me believe a lie about my true nature.
I was a germ-phobe. I had (unconsciously) accepted that my immune system was causative, as were any “critters” that my immune system was attacking. In ascribing causative power to anything I believed to be separate and apart from God, I created a law unto my experience. And I now see the irony (and, if I’m honest, a bit of humor as well) in the fact that the meds the docs have given me include an immune suppressant. I grew a great, big cosmic reminder that none of it – not any critters, not my immune system, not any medications, not the doctors, not even the vitamins and minerals I take to support my nutrition – is causative.
Life can never be out of harmony with Itself, for It is All. I’ve understood this intellectually for years. And with this recent experience of dis-ease, I now grok that in a deeper way than ever before. Margaret Laird, a 20th-century metaphysician, describes the unfoldment I experienced in her essay All is One, this way:
‘All is Mind’ – ‘All is One’ – whether you see it as the destruction of the human race or its preservation, what you are seeing is always Preservation, never destruction. If you believe the human race, the concept of Life, exists apart from Mind as a “material” something, you will see Preservation as destruction. But if you believe that the human race exists spiritually in and as Mind, you will see the vanishing of the concept as its Preservation. All the contradictions and conflicts you see when the I is identified personally vanish with the identification of the I as Mind.
One may believe that life is saved by blood plasma, or by a surgical operation, or by metaphysical treatment, but none of these is the case. This is the way you may see it but the fact appearing in the language of that discernment is that life is saved because it is Life, Good (God). Life itself is the reason for the various human steps that evolve for the preservation of life. Living Life as conscious identity, as impersonal thinking, as Man, you will intuitively take whatever human steps are of value for your preservation. But if you are not consciously living as Man, you are only living in belief and will intuitively take the steps that lead to the crucifixion of the belief.
Many of my long-standing beliefs were most definitely crucified in this experience!
I’m still not sure if or how my newfound understanding will translate within my physical body. And here’s the thing – I am honestly unattached. If it shows up as a “better body,” – great. If it shows up as the need to continue with the meds the docs started me on while I was in the hospital, great. As long as I’m doing whatever comes up via inspiration and insight to do without an agenda, without an “in order to,” then I’m consciously living my divinity for the identification of Good. I can’t get it wrong. If I start taking action because I think I need to in order for my body to heal, then the “in order to” gets in the way of Health. I’m back to thinking of myself as a personality that needs to be healed.
Just to be clear, none of this is intended to mean that I won’t “take care of” my body. I’ll just be more conscious of how I’m doing it and who I’m being as I think I need to take action – “Sumaiya the personality” or “Sumaiya consciously living her divinity, never separate from anything.” For example, it will be less about mindlessly taking a variety of vitamins, minerals and other supplements because of “what they’ll do for me.” And I will be paying more mindful attention to my “intuitive hits” about what steps to take because I’m deeply aware that that’s one of the ways that Love supplies my human needs.
Now those intuitive hits could come in the form of an inner knowing that, let’s say, Vitamin D would be beneficial for me to supplement. Or it could come in the form of my randomly coming across an article that talks about the benefits of Vitamin D (distinguished, say, from my actively searching for articles about vitamins that can help solve “X”). Or it could come in the form of a friend mentioning something in passing about Vitamin D that strikes me as important.
The key is that I’m not going to “be an MBA about it.” Meaning that I’m not going to analyze and figure out what I need to do in order to get some benefit that, but for my taking action to figure it all out, would otherwise be withheld from me. I still may go through that process because, well, old habits can be hard to break. And if I do, I’ll still set it all aside in favor of that intuitive knowing that I mentioned previously. It’s a subtle, and important, distinction.
All in all, this is a process I’ve been using for many years. And as a direct result of what Love supplied with this recent experience, I’ve become aware that I still had an awful lot of “in order to’s” baked in where they didn’t need to be. When I’m trying to fix, I’m believing there’s something other than Good present. So what I’m describing here is less about me outlining what I want. Rather, it’s about acknowledging and surrendering to the omnipresence of Good and doing whatever comes up to do.
Now as I write this, I’m very aware that I’m still at the level where I believe in the concept of nutrition – of eating healthfully to make sure that my body has the right mix of nutrients available to support everything it does. Maybe I’ll move away from that someday. Maybe not. And as long as I believe I’m being supported by the concept, I’ll continue to work with it until my inner wisdom directs me – via insight, inspiration, and/or experience – to something different. The key realization for me is that this, too, is just a concept. And in understanding that, I have created the opening for a shift.
My concepts of health – that it requires good nutrition, a strong immune system, etc., are giving way to Health. And Health is supplying whatever is required for Its unfoldment as my experience. I experienced first-hand what Margaret Laird describes:
“Truth cannot be imitated or followed, and its verbalizations are useless if they do not spring from experience.”
How are you applying spiritual principles in your day-to-day? And what concepts and beliefs are you ready to give up?
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