Leaning unto a new understanding

TrustintheLord

No arguments here; trusting in the Lord is a good idea. Challenging at times, yes, but still a good idea. It’s the “lean not unto thine own understanding” part of this passage that, until recently, left me puzzled.

Our own understanding, I reasoned, is how we get through life — understanding the need to steer clear of a hot stove, our neighbor’s need not to hear our stereo, and the relative insignificance of the things we worried about last month or five years ago. We are put on earth to learn, grow, and understand in order to be better earthen vessels of God’s love, right? So why would we not lean on that while we trust in the Lord? Are the two mutually exclusive, as the verse seems to suggest?

The passage above is the King James Version. The New Revised Standard Version, which was our regulation study Bible in seminary, is not much help, wording it: “Do not rely on your own insight.” The Living Bible even kicks it up a notch: “Trust the Lord completely; don’t ever trust yourself.” Yikes.

Not trusting ourselves, our intuition, and what we have learned hobbles us in life and decreases our ability to trust and serve God. If we trust that God put us here — gifts and flaws and all — for a reason, and we do not trust ourselves, are we really trusting God?

More doubts creep in: “What if I’m not doing it right? Look at all my mistakes . . . sure, God forgives, but I can’t forgive myself. Of course I can’t trust my own understanding.”

So we look to someone or something else — a parent, therapist, partner, our work, our politics — to measure and determine our worthiness. Talk about slippery slopes and shifting sands.

Clarity on this Proverbs passage eluded me for years until a friend and I were talking about prayer — not the talking, requesting, praising, or thanking part, but the listening part of prayer. We talked about the importance and challenge of letting Spirit reach through the clutter of our minds, especially the mental chatter that cuts us down, and speak to our hearts. That’s when she mentioned the “trust in the Lord with your whole heart” verse, her new favorite.

And that’s when it all clicked. That still, small voice that lifts us up — not the one that tells us we’re not good enough, nothing we do makes a difference, and that some other human being always knows better — is what we can trust. It comes directly from God to us . . . but how do we know which is which?

Doreen Virtue explores this in her book “Divine Guidance: How to Have a Dialogue with God and Your Guardian Angels.” Divine guidance comes from God and God’s creations, including our higher self, angels/ascended masters, and our loved ones on the other side, Virtue says. False guidance comes from our or others’ lower self (or ego). Our higher self is set at the factory, so to speak; it is perfect, whole, and complete, just as God created. The ego is created not by God but by ourselves as we and those around us operate under the dark illusion that we are separate from God.

Virtue includes charts that break down the distinctions between the higher and lower self, and between true and false guidance. True guidance, for example, is gentle, loving, empowering, says the same thing repeatedly, and most often emerges in response to prayer. Even if we are being warned about something, that information is given calmly, constructively, and in a way that encourages us to respond rather than react. False guidance is anxious or angry, critical, disempowering, switches topics and perspectives impulsively, and comes in response to worry.

This all fits with what I have learned and experienced about intuition, our God-given communication and navigation tool. The ego is easy to hear; it’s loud, in your face, and always has a fire to put out or someone to please. Clearing that clutter to tap into our intuition can require more conscious effort, such as prayer, meditation, or exercise (or all of these), though some intuitive insights seem to come out of the blue. In either case, intuitive or God-given information is delivered in an uplifting way. Human beings may reprimand, condescend, or rebuke; God is greater.

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart” — not just with thine brain. If we can hear God with our hearts and put these overloaded brains of ours to use following through on that guidance, our paths may not be smooth or straight — but they will be our paths, and God’s.

A medium at large

“You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: Life-Changing Lessons from Heaven,” by Theresa Caputo with Kristina Grish (2014)

To me, Theresa Caputo’s gift for connecting the living and the dead is more believable than what happens on her reality TV show, “Long Island Medium,” or at her live events. However, I do enjoy the show and was happy to have had the opportunity to see her in person when she came to Fort Wayne last year.

Reality TV is — well, reality TV, and while any psychic or medium is going to have hits and misses, only the big hits make the final cut. As for the live experience — you have a theater packed with ticket holders, many of whom are grieving and quite anxious to be randomly read. Then there are the non-ticket holding spirits who want to get a word in. Even with her gregarious personality, how can a psychic medium who has struggled with anxiety, as Theresa has, do readings in the midst of such intense energy? That atmosphere seems ripe for scrambled signals.

However — when I look behind the hype and the heels (which also can’t be good for the “chi”), I see a woman who has struggled to understand and accept her God-given gifts and is, like the rest of us, just trying to put and keep it all together. It also helps that Theresa is my age (a fellow ’80s stone-washed jeans survivor), and I love that she keeps using that old cassette recorder.

On to the book. Instead of a progressive narrative, it’s an amalgamation of topics on issues such as faith, authenticity, and gratitude, each underscored by Theresa’s own experiences and those of her clients with Spirit. The lessons build on and inform each other, “but you won’t get lost if you jump around based on how you’re feeling that day,” as Theresa says in the intro.

True to her general theme, she emphasizes that our loved ones really are present and eager to continue to help from the other side. They cared when they were alive, and death does not stop them from doing so, especially if they are part of our soul circle. “If you’ve got work to do, (your mother’s) soul will continue to meddle and help your soul graduate to the appropriate level,” she writes.

Chapter 10, “Intuition Ain’t Just for Psychics Anymore” is actually pretty useful. Everyone has some level of intuition, and it’s an important navigation tool here in the physical world, if we are willing to use and trust it. It’s never wrong, although it may take you in a roundabout way to where you’re meant to be, Theresa says. When we are traveling that roundabout way, it’s easy to think our intuition has screwed up and sent us down the wrong path. No way, she says — Spirit always knows the way and what we need at each step. “Guidance isn’t always obvious, but if it were, you’d never have to intuitively search for meaning and thus, learn many lessons,” she says.

Again, the breadth of topics here precludes looking at all of them, but that chapter on intuition stood out for me. If you are interested in how intuition works, whether you associate it with the P word (psychic) or not, it’s worth checking out.

The Angel Lady’s story

Known as the “Angel Lady,” Doreen Virtue has produced a host of books, recordings, and oracle card decks, many of them about angels. My curiosity about her life was piqued when I learned she was raised in the Christian Science tradition, as was my mother. Though I am not a Christian Scientist, it is one of the strands of my spiritual DNA, and I wondered how it informed Virtue’s journey as a writer, healer, and intuitive.

“The Lightworker’s Way” (1997) is about two-thirds memoir. Virtue’s mother was a Christian Science practitioner who worked to heal clients through prayer. She also used spiritual treatment on young Doreen and her brother whenever they had cuts or bruises. The wounds would practically vanish in front of her eyes, she recalls. Christian Science teaches that any illness, injury, or dis-ease is a product of the mortal mind. Since God is all good and only good, anything else is not of God and therefore doesn’t really exist. Still, the family kept their spiritual practices quiet: “Oh, you’re those people who don’t believe in doctors!” one of Virtue’s classmates sniffed.

“Nothing is lost in the mind of God” was the affirmation Virtue’s mother taught her, and which she used to retrieve everything from a lost coin purse to a couple of wayward pet rats. The same was true of the clairvoyant experiences she had as a child and brushed aside as life progressed.

Despite the original source of love within her family, she writes, she sought “even more” from outside sources — alcohol and marijuana use as a teen, an unplanned pregnancy, and two (at that point) difficult marriages and divorces — based on the illusion of separation from God. That illusion, she says, is persistently and perniciously fed by the ego; the higher self knows better.

If I understand Virtue’s concept of the ego correctly, the ego is the “monkey mind” that constantly chatters as it tries to figure everything out. It’s the part of us that fears, judges, and needs something outside of ourselves to feel worthy and secure. The ego blocks our inner guide, that intuitive voice that resides in a peaceful space above the ego’s constant shifting. “Inner-guide instructions are loving and positive, while the ego’s advice is based on fear, contempt, and beliefs in scarcity,” she writes.

The ego changes its mind constantly, so if you like a roller-coaster ride, that’s the way to go, she says. If you always have a fire to put out, you don’t have to think about the bigger picture: your life’s purpose. Even being helpful can be a trap of the ego, she says later in the book. Getting preoccupied with problems, especially the kind it’s much easier to talk about than solve, will only impede your progress. Intuition is that inner knowing — you know, but you don’t know how you know. It is the still, small voice that always informs, uplifts, and guides. That is the voice to which we are wise to listen.

Virtue earned degrees in psychology, worked as a counselor, and wrote self-help books and articles. But something was missing. As her psychic ability began to reawaken, her spiritual quest led her into territory that felt much more dangerous than being a Christian Scientist kid at school. Now she had a professional reputation and a livelihood as a public speaker and talk show guest to consider. But emerge from the psychic closet she did, obviously.

Part II of “The Lightworker’s Way” is an instruction manual in everything from the parallel worlds of energy and spirit to heightening psychic receptivity, spiritual healing, mediumship, and, of course, angels. Entire books have been written on each single topic here, and yet her instructions are remarkably detailed. This could be very helpful to those who are curious about exactly how it all works, or is supposed to work. However, I saw no acknowledgement that each person develops his or her own style or processes, or any encouragement for doing so. Perhaps I missed it.

Finally, what is a lightworker? See Virtue’s explanation here.