Your current spiritual practice might occur within the framework of an organized religion, or as private individual meditation. Whatever the structure, taking charge can enhance that practice.
One way you invoke a spiritual presence into your life is by asking yourself: “Why am I here?” Another is to ask the Divine for a new car. No level of prayer is right or wrong, but examining the quality of your prayer life can bring you to look beyond your own own personal self–toward something more intelligent and powerful. Whether you refer to the Divine as God, Great Spirit, Allah or Christ, seeking divine guidance means to stop asking for “things” and start asking for what really matters: trust, patience, faith, endurance, gratitude, acceptance and love.
When you step up the the plate with the Divine, be prepared to have your life reordered and false voices taken away. Distractions can be eliminated and you might be left only with the clear voice of divinity. More realistically, when this voice speaks–often in unexpected ways–it can leave you confused and unsure of what you really want. Additionally, it might be months, even years, before you’re aware that the Divine has spoken to you.
There are four stages you’ll move through as you bring a spiritual presence into your life:
- Dark Night of the Soul
While the stages often occur sequentially, they don’t necessarily have to, in fact you might not even recognize them until all is said and done. It happens with the big things in life, and with the seemingly insignificant.
When you tell the Divine that you want false voices–people, situations and influences that distract you from the truth–out of your life, you can expect the world as you know it to change. As you move away from the mundane to assuming that you have a mission, you may find yourself separated from false voices, and feeling like a stranger in a strange land.
You are beginning to unplug from the human laws of cause and effect: “If I go to school, I’ll get a great job; if I find the right partner I’ll be happy forever.” As you detach from this level of human order, you are energetically detaching from the world of human reasoning and may longer know who or what to trust. You can expect sadness, even depression, as this process unfolds. It’s a necessary element in your progression.
Dark Night of the Soul
A dark night of the soul is when you feel lost, ungrounded and abandoned. Many people assume, and often mistake, the dark night for depression, or that it emerges into one’s life following an emotional crisis, such as divorce. But a dark night will often enter a person’s life in the midst of their most joyous time.
It is always profound but not necessarily catastrophic, and it provides an opportunity to hear the voice of guidance.You may begin to meditate, read spiritual material, or become a vegetarian, and now you feel your efforts should be rewarded. When that doesn’t happen, you experience the breakdown of your concepts of the Divine, which always includes the core of your expectations of the Divine. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the mystical path is the same as a spiritual practice. Mysticism is an all-consuming relationship with the Divine. It is essential to understand the need to develop the consciousness to tell the difference between high-voltage guidance and your own personal ambition.
Look closely at the quality of your prayer life: Are you expecting God to solve problems that you should already have solutions to? Are you asking the Divine to take away the mysteries of your life, rather than trying to learn their lessons? The journey is not about controlling what you get, but embracing whatever comes. Realize that no matter which cards you are dealt, you’ll be guided to the lessons you need to experience. Your job is to master your responses to external events, not attempt to control them.
The next stage of your spiritual journey occurs when the light comes back on, or when the darkness begins to dismantle. This is not necessarily a series of profound visions or a bolt of lightning, but simply a sense of not feeling lost anymore. You have accepted that the goal is not to stop or interfere with movement and change, but to go along with it.
The final stage of the journey — and the stage to live in — is appreciation or gratitude. You take life as it is. You no longer need the Divine to give you what you think you want, but rather you are grateful for what you do have. Guidance is always there, just not always in the form of your expectations. Appreciating life becomes your spiritual practice.
Four central archetypal forces play out in your relationships
To view how the four central or survival archetypes interact with divine guidance, let’s look at Bridget, who has recently accepted a job in a remote foreign country, away from all family and friends.
Child: Has complete and utter trust that the Divine will take care of everything, sometimes to the level of ‘divine excuse’ — refusing to take responsibility because of the childlike idea that the Divine will always come to the rescue.
- Day after day, Bridget prays for a knock at the door from her new neighbors or a phone call from a co-worker, rather than taking the initiative to make new friends.
Victim: Blames the Divine when things don’t turn out as anticipated, or, may fear that a move toward a deeper, more intimate relationship with the Divine will result in the loss of relationships, power and possession.
- Forgetting her earlier prayers imploring the Divine to help her get this new job, Bridget now complains to the Divine about her feelings of isolation.
Prostitute: Exerts control over another by taking advantage of their need for divine guidance. The flip side of this is when you attach yourself to another because you think he or she can give you divine guidance.
- Bridget spends countless hours online, becoming increasingly dependent on the members of a spiritual chat community for companionship and advice, further distancing herself from human contact.
Saboteur: Shows you the divine guidance you want to hear, allowing true guidance — the stuff of tremendous change — to be ignored. It’s easy to sabotage guidance if you know your life will have to change if you really ‘hear’ it.
- Bridget accepts a coworker’s invitation to join him when he volunteers weekly at a homeless shelter. She later backs out after reading an article about a homeless man who attacks an innocent pedestrian and thanks the Divine for leading her to the article.
Areas and Questions for Reflection
The only way real change can occur in your life is if you are willing to take the time and energy required to make it happen. Spend as much time as you can on each question and write out your genuine responses to the following topics. In order to ensure that you engage the material fully and deeply, write out your responses and be completely honest with yourself. Resist the temptation to view them impersonally.
- What questions do you ask the Divine? What do you expect guidance to sound or look like? Do you ever bargain in prayer by saying things such as, “If you give me this, I’ll give you that”?
- Do you use prayer in an attempt to unravel the mysteries in your life? How might you actually embrace these mysteries as part of your path?
- How does fear determine what you pray for and how you pray?
- How do you define faith? What do you have faith in?
- Do you have any ulterior motives for being on a spiritual path? Do you view the spiritual path as a means to ridding chaos, challenge, and change from your life?
- What is the most frightening thing the Divine could tell you or ask you at this moment? Would you be able to hear this guidance and act on it?