Spiritual Growth Within a Group

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From the very beginning of time, there was a master plan set down by the Creator which established, within a given time frame, certain progressive steps through which humanity was to move in order to rise to a certain level of spiritual purification. Many of life’s experiences could mesh with wisdom and knowingness so that each soul could emerge with a complete sense of Oneness with the Creator. As we progress through our life experiences, we begin to discover a profound purpose, a logic and glory of a spiritual expression, that which transcends the basic needs of the physical form and the persistent ego that tries to control who we are. We begin to develop a compelling urgency that reaches beyond the mundane to a much richer, fuller existence.

Each lifetime offers us the possibilities of utilizing all of those many qualities that we have accrued from lifetime to lifetime. Our ultimate goal is to strive to release the constrains of the ego and to act in Oneness with all of creation…where everyone is truly equal and where individual gain or distinction is no longer our primary focus.

Is it possible to look at life where it truly doesn’t matter which profession someone chooses, which country one lives in, what the color of ones’ skin is or what religion one practices? What matters are the simple, day-to-day interactions with our fellow man and learning forgiveness and compassion in every human encounter.

There are many avenues in our lives that we can walk on that help us practice unity, sharing, and experience a unifying in spirit for the evolution of our planet. These avenues can be walked along, but remember that they can also be walked as a part of a group consciousness. Most of us in this world are working independently on our spiritual growth and that, of course, is very important. However, another process that assists us in becoming more loving, compassionate souls is through utilizing group energies by working together in groups with a unified focus.

Our ultimate goal as preached from the Heavens, spoken through our souls and known by our entire being is to truly learn to love…to love ourselves, to love our neighbors as ourselves and to love every creature on Earth as a piece of God and of ourselves. Is it possible to love if you are not in relationship with another human, animal or other form of energy? It has been said that “He travels fastest who travels alone.” This may be true in many fields of human endeavor; however when the goal is learning how to love, it follows that such can be done only in relationship with others. When we want a closer relationship with God and are searching for Him in our own way, we are in a relationship with Him during the process. To search for God actually means to “learn how to love.” Even when we love ourselves, we are in a relationship with ourselves and are learning acceptance within ourselves…if we love a beautiful sunset, we are sharing an experience with another form of nature…if we love our homes, we are sharing a relationship with all that the home represents (security, comfort, peace, etc.).

Just as we have relationships with our spouse, our children, our family and friends, we also share a strong relationship with others of like mind. Whether it be sharing a day on the golf course with a golfing buddy, walking through a mall with a friend who is also a shopping fanatic or walking the beach with a special someone, hand-in-hand enjoying the beauty and sounds of the ocean, sharing an experience and common interest with another person can expand the enjoyment of the experience. This is the same as the joys of sharing a spiritual relationship with someone very special. When we are seeking truth and understanding within our lives, it is more profound when it is shared with others on the spiritual path.  Being a part of a focused spiritual group is an incredible opportunity for expanding who we are and how we think and live our lives. We each have a “calling” that has brought us to this world: to share a relationship with those other seekers, by maximizing relationships to achieve a much greater understanding of who we are.

How does a group help us develop a greater understanding of who we are? There are a number of excellent reasons for the effectiveness of work in small groups. They are:

  1. Motivational
    All of us may discover when we start on a new activity that our consistency, persistence and interest are strengthened and enhanced by the encouragement, support and interest of others involved in the same activity. When our focus seems to wane or when we get emotionally or mentally out of balance, their encouragement can spur us on; and in turn, when their motivation is low, we can encourage them.
  2. Stability & Balance
    We may, at times, become emotional or frustrated about a situation that we are experiencing. When we are dealing with a very complex area of study, in sharing with others we may see the wisdom of a more moderate and balanced attitude. As we begin to study and reflect upon the difficult concepts involved in spiritual unfoldment, we may find that our own way of reading or thinking is quite different. If we share our reflections with others, we discover that there are ways to view certain issues other than our own initial response. As we listen to another person’s perspective, we grow in the ability not only to appreciate the point of view of others but also to establish a more modest evaluation of our own ideas. We gain both as we listen and also as we give of ourselves to others. In sharing the burdens we carry, they grow lighter and we find ourselves strengthened by the response and encouragement of the group, some of whom may have dealt effectively with similar situations.
  3. Sense of Humor
    A third way in which a group can assist us on our path is to help us with a “sense of humor” about ourselves. In work as serious as soul development, we need to learn not to take ourselves too seriously. The group may help us see that some experiences that may appear so great or so tragic can be occasions to laugh at ourselves when we view them from a different perspective.
  4. Prayer Support
    A most important way in which the group enhances growth is through mutual “prayer support”. In groups that pray for each other, there is given an energy, support and protection that cannot even be properly evaluated in ordinary terms.

It is very important to understand that we all learn not only through self-introspection but also through comparison. This process is especially enhanced in the sharing of viewpoints and experiences in a group. As we listen to another, it is not that we should agree or disagree or try to discover who is “right”, but rather, that as we genuinely permit ourselves a different perspective as offered by another person, there may be a quickening of growth within ourselves. Therefore, it can be said that personal growth may be more enhanced by the dynamics of interaction in a peer group rather than solely in self-study.

Group gatherings may be called study groups, spiritual groups or a school that teaches students how to discover their own deep, personal beliefs. Whatever terms we use, they might better be called groups for the study, meditation and application of learning how to love. It is through this process that we are able to truly understand who we are and what we value and what we believe as truth in our lives. Group discussion, the group energy and the comparison learning can be a tremendous tool in our spiritual growth. We must remember…the spirit of the group is learning how to love

Some seekers who attend spiritual classes may be disappointed when they find the group failing to be in full agreement with their own viewpoints. Or, they find the group failing to measure up to their expectations in terms of some criterion of social or intellectual status. Such a response misses the point of the group because these criteria fail to reflect the essential purpose of the group which owes its oneness to a shared IDEAL, not necessarily similar IDEAS.

Along the same line, sometimes in a group there is one difficult, challenging individual who you find yourself judging. (On the flip side, you may possibly BE that challenging person to someone else!!) Rather than being a weakness to the group work, this gets us close to the very heart of the purpose of such groups. As we seek to grow personally in all of the dimensions with which the lessons deal, we come in time truly to love and appreciate that person with whom we initially were having the most difficulty. In the process of learning how to love this difficult person in the group, we find the group has been a laboratory in which we have experimented and learned about relationships. We then discover these lessons have generalized into our lives in such a way that we are now dealing more effectively with other “difficult” people, in our families, in our jobs and in other relationships.

The major theme of interest which draws people together in such groups may be the realization that there is more to us and to the meaning of life than we see in our present physical manifestations and circumstances. In our growth in a group setting, we find that we have a new, broader hope in the meaningfulness of life. This, in turn, leads to renewed motivation and the consequent energy that accompanies motivation, a new sense of direction in one’s life and a purpose guided by a clear commitment to ideals. As we seek to grow, we discover that that which stands in the way is generally ourselves. As we come to a growing awareness of the many dimensions of our own being, we gain both a deeper acceptance of our weaknesses and a more humble and thankful appreciation of our strengths. We find that the weaknesses and shortcomings that we have may be, with the thrust of a new spirit, turned into strengths!

As we come to understand our individual beliefs through our study of lessons, grow in attunement to the spirit through meditation, and experience improved relationships with others through daily application, we come to see that beyond all of this is the living force, the Spirit, acting in our lives and bringing about a transformation which no ego-oriented self-improvement program could ever even begin to offer.

We must approach with dignity and with compassion this task of becoming whole in every aspect of our lives. Even though the timing or experiences may differ from individual to individual, the end result is consistent…we must use this external support system to emerge through this process with the strength and understanding that we are not separate from God or one another but are in relationship with Him and all the rest of creation.

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