How Life Works

The short answer is that how our lives unfold depends on our outlook, motivations, intentions, and how we treat others. The effect of these factors on the quality and prevailing course of a person’s life is governed by two interrelated natural or spiritual laws.

The Law of Cause and Effect

This law embodies the biblical saying “You reap what you sow.” It is also related to the popular concept of karma which says that we create our own futures (in this life or the next) by our actions and how we treat others. If we do not stop our wrongdoing and change how we live our lives for the better, then we can expect an ongoing chain of negative effects on us and those around us. However, cause and effect provides the opportunity to break free from past bad behaviors and attitudes, and change our future.

Even as our karma plays out, we can decide what direction our life will take. Will we choose a fulfilling and happy life of goodness, love, and compassion, or a life of bitterness, jealousy, selfishness, greed, and hate devoid of any redeeming factors? Will we surrender to the darkness we have brought upon ourselves, or will we refuse to give up and instead emerge from the muck and blaze a new path toward spiritual awareness?

The Law of Compensation and Retribution

The Law of Compensation and Retribution is inherent in, and a natural consequence of, the Law of Cause and Effect. You will be rewarded for striving to live a life of goodness, and for helping others any way you can. Unselfish acts of loving kindness can compensate for past wrongdoing and transgressions of spiritual laws. However, wrongdoing in the absence of compensatory acts will result in retribution that leads to a life of suffering, unhappiness, and regret.

Thus, through free will and cause and effect, each of us determines the course of our own lives. The outcome cannot be attributed to anyone or anything other than ourselves.

This is a critical principle of spiritual law that once understood makes it possible for us to find true happiness and fulfillment. It means that we have the power to change our lives for the better, and through our love and compassion the lives of others. It provides the opportunity to progress spiritually and fulfill our purpose in this life on Earth.

The laws of cause and effect and compensation and retribution, like the Law of Gravity, once set into motion by our creator require no ongoing oversight. The spiritual laws operate automatically and assure accountability and justice concerning all of our thoughts and actions. I hope that everyone can appreciate what a simple and perfect plan this is. We get exactly what we deserve in terms of punishment or reward. It is the ultimate learning tool.

Author’s Note
The natural or spiritual laws discussed here can be found in various books in the Silver Birch series (e.g., The Teachings of Silver Birch).

You might also like to see the following related articles:

A Path From Darkness

How is My Divine Self Revealed

The Divine Virtues

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The Accidental Ascetic

Zen Garden Source: japanwallpaper.blogspot.com

Zen Garden
Source: japanwallpaper.blogspot.com

Over the last several years I have become an accidental ascetic of sorts. It was not a conscious decision or goal; rather, it was a natural progression of an evolving spirituality and lifestyle.

I acknowledge that what I am about to describe is not for everyone and I am not suggesting that anyone should try to emulate my path. Each of us will be led down our respective spiritual paths naturally.

My children have on occasion half jokingly (or half seriously) pictured me as a Buddhist monk or similar, cloistered in my home practicing qigong and tai chi and burning incense. The fact is, I do keep largely to myself and practice the above Asian energy arts daily. I also meditate twice a day and pray on and off as I move through my day as things come to mind. But these things are only a part of my life, not its totality.

Becoming a vegetarian was a key step in my accidental progression toward asceticism. Denying myself of the many foods that I once enjoyed, especially animal flesh, was cleansing, not only for my body, but also for my spirit. I surprised myself with the determination and total commitment and conviction that I brought to the challenge. It showed me an inner strength of which I was not aware.

However, my vegetarianism did not arise for the sake of self-sacrifice or asceticism. Instead, it came from a strong belief that it is wrong to raise animals in large numbers for food. I could no longer support the barbaric treatment of farmed animals.

I have been vegetarian for almost three years now and I have never wavered from my pledge. One of the collateral outcomes of my vegetarianism was a very limited menu of only a few dishes that I prepare for myself—nevertheless, much better than the tasteless porridge some monks may eat.

Another incidental outcome is that I rarely eat in restaurants because gluten-free vegetarian meals are rare or nonexistent at most eating establishments. This also makes it difficult to travel which is something else I have had to curtail.

But my so-called asceticism goes further. For example, I care little about material things. I have no desire to further enrich myself with money, things, recognition, or position. Furthermore, I am not the least bit impressed by those who seek notice for what they have or appear to have. However, I do take notice of those in need and support a number of charities throughout the year.

Part of (or perhaps as a result of) my apparent asceticism is a gradual shift away from things of the material world to the things of spirit. That is, a shift to spiritual values and seeing the world through spirit eyes. For me, this is the value and benefit of moving toward a somewhat ascetic way of life.

Although far from the true ascetic, the degree of asceticism that characterizes my life now, helps me to put things in proper perspective and to see myself within and among the sea of humanity, not detached, beyond, or above it. I see our collective and individual suffering and wish to somehow ease it through healing, service, and prayer.

The purpose of life, both in body and spirit form, is to serve others with love and compassion. Doing so is what gives our lives meaning, and what demonstrates the divinity within each and every one of us.

You might like to see the following related articles:

With Spirit Eyes I See
The Spiritual Mind
Nature: A More Expansive Spirituality

The Law of Retribution and Compensation

From WallpaperUp.com

From WallpaperUp.com

If we do not comply with God’s laws and neglect or hurt others, then there will be a price to pay. Punishment may be in the form of pain and suffering, through karmic experience, and/or other forms of which we are unaware. There must be consequences for our thoughts and actions or we would not learn and grow spiritually.

While the foregoing is easily understood, what is not clear is the extent to which we may be able to compensate or offset our wrongdoing with good deeds or by setting things right once again. There may be transgressions that are just too serious to be offset in some way. Further, compensation may only reduce the punishment, rather than totally avoid it.

Nevertheless, it is good to know that the opportunity for compensation exists, and we should always strive to do so. Based on the Law of Cause and Effect, good deeds done with purity of intent will always have a positive effect whether or not they provide compensation for our transgressions.

I hope that all readers will take seriously all of the natural and spiritual laws discussed in this series of short articles. Do not allow their simplicity or familiarity lead you to think them trivial or prevent you from using them as a guide for how you live your life. They have and will continue to govern what your life will be like now and in the future.

Try very hard to love your neighbor as yourself. Be honest and kind, and have compassion for others. Help those in need whenever you can. The extent to which you are able to do so will determine the degree to which you will progress spiritually and whether you will find true happiness in this life.

Author’s Note

Another spiritual law, the Law of Service, was discussed in a previous article (see below).

You might like the following related articles:

What is Salvation?

The Law of Service

An Insidious Intruder

A Giant Hubble Mosaic of the Crab Nebula,  Credit: NASA, ESA, J. Hester and A. Loll  (Arizona State University)

A Giant Hubble Mosaic of the Crab Nebula, Credit: NASA, ESA, J. Hester and A. Loll (Arizona State University)

Trying to eliminate ego has been kind of like a teeter-totter for me; just when I think I have it squashed, it pops up again out of nowhere. Over time, I have managed to reduce it to a weak and sickly thing that has only brief rallies of influence before it is sent back to bed.

I have been working to rid myself of ego for many years. It’s a work in progress that I find quite liberating. It requires a lot of conscious effort and determination to extinguish ego, or more accurately to keep it at bay.

By ego I mean a need for recognition, excessive pride, and a feeling of superiority to others. I believe that the prevalence of ego in today’s society is a consequence of materialistic values that appear to be the guiding principle of the majority these days.

As a young man, prior to embarking on my career, I was very humble and all about self-sacrifice and helping others. However, I remember an incident later in life that happened at a time when I was enjoying great success in my career. It illustrates how ego can unwittingly overshadow one’s spirituality and disengage one from compassion for others.

I was walking down a city street with my son when he was 12 or 13 years old. We came upon a homeless man walking toward us. The man was dirty, in rags, weak and trembling. When we met, he did not speak but put his hand out for alms. I ignored him and shuffled my boy past.

My son stopped and grabbed my arm surprised at my lack of compassion. He insisted that I give him some money for the man, and he straight away gave it to him. I had no idea how much I had changed until that moment.

It is difficult for me to admit to having had such a failure of character. I attribute it to ego as it happened during a time, I realize in retrospect, when my ego had a strong hold on me. The innocence and generosity of a child had shown me the depravity of spirit that existed in me during that period of my life. It took a while, but thankfully, I managed to crawl out of the muck of ego, put on clean clothes, and reclaim my spirituality.

This taught me that ego is insidious; it gradually invades the psyche little by little so that one does not notice that it is happening. It can slowly become a more and more prominent part of one’s personality and behavior. By the time your ego is full grown, you are not even aware of what a selfish and self-serving lump you have become.

Ego and the materialistic way of life go hand-in-hand. An inflated image of oneself is intimately intertwined with the selfishness, greed, and lack of compassion we see today.
This is because ego is one of the motivators that drives us to try to seek recognition and prestige from the things we have, where we live, and the people with whom we associate.

I may be sticking my neck out here, but I do not think that recognition or prestige are basic human needs. I believe they are created needs from very effective marketing strategies that span decades. So many advertisements we see play to, or seek to create in us, a “need” for prestige or just being noticed whether it is for white teeth, a flashy car, a big house, or expensive clothes. We must find a way to resist and reclaim our humility and dignity.

How does ego conflict with becoming a more spiritual person? The egotist’s primary concern is their needs. Consequently, ego can prevent us from seeing what those around us need. The sense of superiority that comes with ego can cause us to dismiss or overlook the adversity, suffering, and deprivation that others endure. This is one of the main ways that ego compromises expression of our spirit and militates against our becoming a spiritual person.

We are not defined or valued as individuals or human beings by what we have, how we look, or who our friends are. We are defined by the degree of humility we exhibit, how we live our lives, and how we treat other people; these are indicators of the degree to which we have become spiritual persons.

Spirituality as a State of Being

I get the impression that much of the general public does not understand what it means to be spiritual, despite the fact that all things spiritual seem to be in vogue right now. This appears to be the case with a surprising number of people regardless of whether or not they are members of a particular religion.

Those who have drifted away from organized religion often say that they are “spiritual” when asked about their religious affiliation. This is a convenient way to defuse the question and avoid further discussion. However, should they be pressed to explain what they mean, they usually respond with something about being in touch with nature or something similar.

Spirituality does not reside in flowery talk of love, light, or communion with angels and spirit guides. In fact, spirituality is a very serious and deep subject that needs to be understood because it is an integral, critical part of our existence. Not everyone expresses their spirituality and, as a consequence, are unable to live a truly happy and fulfilled life.

I believe that spirituality is a state of being and a way of living. It is an expression of the spirit-self in everyday life. It is the certainty of the presence of our Creator in ourselves and all of creation. It is a recognition of our divine self as a part of our Creator. It is the realization that we are an integral part of God, not a disassociated remnant or emanation from Him. This knowledge brings with it great responsibility.

The fact that we can exist in physical and spirit form at the same time may seem a contradiction. What is not understood by many is that our true existence is one of spirit. The body is like a garment the spirit wears for a short time that will be shed when it is no longer needed. It is a means by which we materialize in the physical world to engage in learning and attend to our life lessons.

But in putting on the garment, many things are hidden from us. We may lose sight of the spirit beneath the clothing. We may lose touch with our divinity hidden behind the shroud of our physicality. Looking in from the outside, we strain to see the bits of light that penetrate the fabric. Oftentimes, all we can see is waves of subdued light and shadows of what is on the other side. Our spirituality lies there beconing us like a distant memory we struggle to recall.

Spirituality is a state of being, knowing, and living. It is expressed and characterized through our actions, not our words. It is an expansion of consciousness that sees beyond the body and the self. It is an awareness that all things are a part of God and deserving of our love and respect.

If we are an integral part of God, then we have the qualities and potential of God for infinite love. This means we are imbued with the qualities of love and compassion for all living things. These are at the core of our divine nature, and spirituality cannot exist without their expression.

Thus, to understand and express our spirituality, we must find a way to express our divine nature in our everyday lives through our actions and how we live our lives.