The Spiritual Life and The Ultimate Spiritual Challenge

The Spiritual Life and The Ultimate Spiritual Challenge
Image by MarciaAnn 


Narrated by Barry Vissell

Video version at the end of this article

There are many important things we do here in this life, like loving and being loved by others, or finding meaningful ways to help people and the planet. But the most important thing is our spiritual connection, our relationship to our Source, our higher power, divine love, the life-force of the universe. If you don't like the word, "God," choose a word that works for you.

A Human Beloved Will Never Be Enough

The important thing is knowing you are not alone, knowing you do not have to do everything by yourself. Even being in a relationship with another person cannot fulfill this spiritual need. Another person cannot show you love all of the time, just like you cannot be completely present with your partner all the time. I couldn't imagine a more loving person than my wife of over five decades, Joyce. But I can't expect her to be present with me all the time. I can't look outside of me for something that has to come from inside of me.

I remember Joyce once giving me an analogy of a glass jar filled with pebbles of all sizes. There was one large pebble, really a rock, on the top. This, she said, was God. Then there was one pebble, much smaller than the rock, underneath. This, she said, was me. Smaller still were the pebbles that represented our children and grandchildren. And even smaller were our friends and family. Then there was lots of gravel and sand representing everyone else.

And I remember my initial feeling of actual disappointment that I was not the rock. I was just a large pebble! My ego wanted to be the largest rock in Joyce's jar. But my heart understood. Divine Presence is so much more important a connection than another person, no matter how wonderful that person is.

Embracing Our Dependence

Our happiness, our feeling of real peace, depends on our spiritual connection. But first we must confront our dependence. We must stop pretending that we are only strong and independent. Yes, of course, there is nothing wrong with being strong. We all want that. We want to do as much as we can by ourselves. But we can't do everything.

I have always prided myself on my physical abilities. I have been able to do many things in my life. Now, as I get ready to turn 75 this May, I am being forced to confront my physical weakness and limitations. I have a choice. I can get bummed out about my aging. Or, I can learn the greatest spiritual lesson, my dependence on Spirit.


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Feeling my dependence has been my biggest challenge in life. It took me years to finally open up to my need for Joyce's love. Seven years into our relationship, I even tried to prove that I didn't need Joyce by having an affair with her best friend at the time. All I proved was that I was an idiot, and her leaving me finally gave me the chance to open my heart to the gift of dependence. When she saw evidence of my emotional and spiritual growth, she could finally come back to me.

And now, I'm opening to my need for God, day by day accepting the gift of my dependence. And what a gift it is! As I embrace my dependence on Divine Spirit, I can feel my true strength. That's the paradox. As I learn to ask for divine help, in even the most mundane things, I become happier.

Two Parts of Prayer

I wrote a previous article about being stranded in my sailboat in the middle of huge Lake Tahoe, without even the slightest breeze to get me back to shore. And I couldn't start my small outboard motor. I tried every trick I knew, and pulled and pulled on that starter cord until my arms ached. Then I remembered my dependence on God, and asked for divine help. The next pull on the starter cord brought the engine to life. One event like that could be chalked up to coincidence, but there have been so many that I can no longer ignore my dependence on my Source.

Feeling dependence on Great Spirit is the prerequisite for a spiritual life. And prayer is the action needed. Prayer can consist of two parts. First, gratitude, one of the fastest spiritual paths you can take. How wonderful to thank God for all the blessings in your life. Each time you pray, you can include something new to thank.

And second, ask for the help you need, the hard parts of your life, the relationships that are troubled, the work that you need, or healing for illness or injury, or even the motor that won't start. Nothing is too big or too small to ask for.

The Ultimate Spiritual Challenge

I strongly believe that the ultimate spiritual challenge is to fully accept the divine both outside and inside. It is beautiful to love God outside of us, to love and have personal relationship with the holy angels and the great master teachers. This is the devotional nature of spirituality, where we are lovers and beloveds. But no less important is a second truth, that each one of us is part of God. It is an enormous responsibility to accept that we are also Gods and Goddesses. To do this with our egos, without the deepest humility, can get us lost. Only when we realize that all of us are Gods and Goddesses equally, can we be of real service in this world.

In the late 1970's, Joyce and I had a spiritual teacher named Pearl in Mt. Shasta. She helped us identify the "I Am Presence" within us, our true spiritual identity. To this day, I practice claiming my true spiritual identity. One of my favorite affirmations is "I am the presence of the great masters." I say this to myself, and then try to feel what it might be like to be an illuminated saint, to only want to love (like I sing in one of my songs), to only want to bless the world. Sometimes I am successful in catching a glimpse of what it might feel like. Yet even a tiny glimpse changes the course of my day. And it can change yours as well.

A Free Gift for You

To help you with your spiritual life, we would love to give you a free gift, our new audio album of sacred songs and chants, available for download at SharedHeart.org, or to listen on YouTube.

Book by this Author(s)

Heartfullness: 52 Ways to Open to More Love
by Joyce and Barry Vissell.

Heartfullness: 52 Ways to Open to More Love by Joyce and Barry Vissell.Heartfulness means so much more than sentimentality or schmaltz. The heart chakra in yoga is the spiritual center of the body, with three chakras above and three below. It is the balance point between lower body and higher body, or between body and spirit. To dwell in your heart is therefore to be in balance, to integrate the lower three chakras with the higher three.

Click here for more info and/or to order this book.  Also available as a Kindle edition

About the Author(s)

photo of: Joyce & Barry Vissell, a nurse/therapist and psychiatrist couple since 1964, are counselors, near Santa Cruz CAJoyce & Barry Vissell, a nurse/therapist and psychiatrist couple since 1964, are counselors, near Santa Cruz CA, who are passionate about conscious relationship and personal-spiritual growth. They are the authors of 9 books and a new free audio album of sacred songs and chants. Call 831-684-2130 for further information on counseling sessions by phone, on-line, or in person, their books, recordings or their schedule of talks and workshops.

Visit their website at SharedHeart.org for their free monthly e-heartletter, their updated schedule, and inspiring past articles on many topics about relationship and living from the heart.

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