Samuel asked the editors to choose a direction for the interview for this issue. His long-standing conditions for questions—”You ask anything you want; I’ll answer anything I want”—mean you never know where a discussion might end up, but we decided to start with a question about the difficulty of consistent spiritual practice.
Why, when we are trying consciously to use discipline, such as in our daily meditations and Inner Temple work, does that discipline break down? It seems that the world of form too easily takes precedence over what we need to do spiritually. It’s as if form is constantly clamoring to be heard. Could you talk a little about how we can become more disciplined and make spirit the primary incentive?
Why do you do this spiritual work? It’s because what you get from it on an interior level creates a bond far beyond the form. The only reason you ever do anything—anything—is because you approve of the result. Any action that you take is moving you out of one state into another, and you would not make that move if you did not have a reason to believe, either out of trust because it’s happened before or merely to take a gamble, that it’s got to be better for you. The key to remember is that “better for you” depends totally on what you believe about yourself.
For instance, perhaps in childhood the way your father expressed love to you was by not sparing the rod and not spoiling the child; every time you got beaten up the message was, “This is because I love you.” So now, as an adult, when you get yourself into a painful situation with somebody that you believe loves you, you see that pain as evidence of their love. You will take two steps forward into the fire because you think that’s better for you. The definition of what is better for you is based upon what you believe about yourself. If you’re walking through the fire and you’re perfectly happy walking through the fire, you’re not going to pull yourself out.
Therefore, ultimately the answer is your motivation—is your trust in spirit or in your function in the world? The world will have a larger voice than spirit if that’s where your trust is.
It’s so much easier to see change happen in the world of form and to know that your time and energy have had an effect, a reward . . .
“. . . and it’s not so easy to see your progress in the world of spirit.” I’ve got to disagree with you. When your focus is spirit, you will see those things spiritual, and you will see them in the world. You know, I give psychoanalysis as it’s been taught for the last hundred years a hard time because it says let’s look at everything bad that has ever happened to you and figure out why it happened, rather than let’s look at what good has been going on and see if we can repeat those patterns. [Like a psychoanalyst,] you’re trained to notice what doesn’t work.
You could easily name three ways that things in your life are working better than they were five years ago, even five months ago. When you make yourself stop and ask that question, you can see that you have made major leaps in your spiritual life. This stuff works if you do. If you don’t do anything towards your personal spiritual progress, then you’re never going to stop and look at what’s happening. But as long as you are consciously functioning, you are going to be finding yourself seeing the difference. And that’s a really good way to tell how your life has changed.
What sort of questions can we ask ourselves that would help us to see changes?
Remember my past exercises about having a watch that beeps at you once an hour, or wearing your watch on the other hand, or having a cord around your wrist so that every time you notice it it causes you to stop and say, “How am I feeling right now? How am I doing? What’s going on?” When you give yourself those hourly reminders to focus on consciousness and self-discovery (and I do hope that everybody is doing that, if not every hour, now and again during the day), you then can also ask yourself, “How is that different from six months ago?” Or you can just get a conversation going with yourself: “What are five ways in which I am seeing definite change in my life that I can attribute to spiritual growth? On a physical level, what am I seeing? What about on the mental/emotional level? What about on a creative level? A spiritual level?”
Remember, too, that your relationships are the primary signpost for how you’re doing on your path. Look at your relationships. How are they good? How is that different from before? Or is it different? Well, if it’s not you might want to look to see if there are things you can be doing more consciously to change behavior and make things better.
Another thing to look at is your willingness to brave the world. For example, do you allow yourself to be vulnerable in situations? Are you apologizing more? That doesn’t mean you’re doing more things wrong; it means you have a broader view of right. Think about it. Being willing to apologize does not mean that all of a sudden you’re seeing how much you are doing wrong; it’s that you are willing to accept more as right and you’re willing to stretch yourself into the scope of that right. The apologies become not so much “I’m sorry I did that wrong,” as “I’m so sorry for my part in this confusion.” You recognize that what’s important is not so much the actions but the emotional responses, and that’s okay. It’s okay but you’re sorry for the difficulty. That’s because you have a larger view, a bigger picture, and a greater understanding that things are all right, that there is very little wrong. You may find yourself not needing to defend. You may find yourself offending others less.
I cannot tell you how many people have said Peggy [Embry] got so kind near the end of her life, so tender so sweet. Well the closer you get to the big picture the more tender you do become, because you are a part of a larger understanding. That can be true for the living, too. You might even find yourself doing such things as taking on a new hobby or trying something new at work, because you know that failure at a thing is not failure for you, and you’re willing to skin your nose to see just how far you can go and just how much you can do. You’re willing to brave the world.
Next, are you willing to trust spirit? You know that manifesting love through form is your work here, yet there you are in a situation with somebody you do not particularly like who is punching on you. And so you put your teeth together and you open your lips a little, hoping it’s a smile and not a grimace, and you consciously begin sending love, because you trust that that’s the right thing to do. You’re willing to listen to that still small voice, hear those promptings and give them more of a try. Those are the kinds of things to look for and do.
Since we are talking about building trust in spirit, does participating in group energy help? A lot of people noticed, in the intensive four-day setting of the retreat, that the group really seemed to accelerate its energy. But when you are in a Tracks of Light group, for example, how much does that weekly experience of group energy affect an individual?
First, I cannot deny that I’m the sugar in the cake. You can just bind the ingredients together and you’ll have a cake, but it’s a lot more cake-like if there’s sugar. You’re creating the same energy, but when I’m there it’s amplified so much that you notice it. So in a retreat situation I’m a major part of that intense bonding experience, but not the only ingredient. The Bible says that Jesus said—please be aware that I’m very sure of exactly how I just said that—”Where two or more are gathered in my name, there I will be also.” And what that’s a lesson about is what happens to the energy of a group with like intent. Well, if two or more can call spirit, what do you think forty or fifty can do? The key of course is common intent, and that’s why one of the things that I have encouraged people to do over the years is, when you come together, even if it’s just friend to friend, make a point of remembering “We are here right now to consciously be living love while we’re together.” That starts a sacred circle, a sacred connection going. It shines your light more brightly.
The more that you do, the more opportunity you have to see positive results. When you’re telling the Universe, “Here’s what I’m going to do to learn to trust spirit. I’m going to go to Phoenix’s first Sunday meeting every first Sunday.” Well, that’s good but you’ve not allowed a whole lot of opportunities for spirit to outweigh the other hours in your month. Whereas if you say, “Every day I’m going to do this and this and this, and I’m going to meet with these people and keep this sort of consciousness going,” you’re adding a lot of strength to it.
Because you’ll be giving spirit a lot more opportunities?
Absolutely. It’s the old manifestation problem: “Samuel, I want to manifest this new job.” “Have you put in an application?” “No.” “Have you been networking?” “No.” “Are you trained for it?” “NO! But I’m letting the Universe know and I’m picturing myself in it.” And eventually doing that with enough intensity and enough repetition, the day before you die of old age you might have that opportunity come to you. But the more you are doing to have doors open, the more opportunity there is for the Universe, which is working through the free will of every other human being on this planet who has a connection with what you’re wanting, to be able to find a way to slide it in just for you.