Archive for September, 2009

Reflection on Healing and Curing

September 30, 2009 - 1:52 pm 27 Comments
What Defines Spiritual or Religious Maturity?
As an interfaith minister, spiritual director and transpersonal counselor, over the years, people have come to me with a wide variety of probing and earnest questions. Among those that are the most commonly asked, are the questions about “Am I on the right path? How do I know that I am making any progress?Depending on the person, the path, and the practice, my answer can vary…
But here are some general guidelines, from trusted sources, that most people asking these kinds of questions find to be most helpful:
One of the better ways to assess our growth or depth comes to us from the renown psychologist, Gordon Alport. He developed what could be called a spiritual maturity scale by which we can begin to assess or measure where we have been, where we are now, and where we might be going next… Here is my summary of his conclusions, and I will ask you to compare them with your own insights and understandings. A religiously mature person is someone who has:
1) A well differentiated sense of yourself; You are willing to explore, and you readily acknowledge that being genuinely religious or authentically spiritual in today’s culture is a complex challenge- one that comes at you from all sides, and tests how well you can keep centered, resilient, free… A more mature assessment of yourself begins by admitting that your current state of knowledge, wisdom, and understanding are ongoing, fluid, and in need for further refinement.
2) One’s religious outlook and one’s spiritual awareness is dynamic, and never static. It realizes fully and for the most part, gratefully, that our comprehension of faith (what we trust or have confidence in- what gives us courage and/or solace) comes from a combination of sources. It comes to us from our parents and formative religious experiences, from our personal desires and needs, and it also can come from our adult aspirations and opportunities.
3) A mature understanding or religious expression is one that functions as a moral compass that directs your behavior. The experiences gained for the choices and from the consequences of your choices act as a reliable ongoing reference point for your life.
4) A more mature religious expression or spiritual affirmation has an interpersonal and social component that makes it accountable and makes it complete. Self concern, while important, cannot be one’s only focus. To be mature and more aware involves us directly in social justice issues, human rights, and ways that affirm the worth and dignity of each person.
5) A mature spiritual outlook or a deeper religious understanding is effective; to promotes problem solving on both the personal and interpersonal levels. While the personal quest is important, often it is when we are working in relationship, being involved in community, is when we can discover answers that the individual search alone may not perceive. Being together serves or blesses us.

The relationship between religion and health is an ancient one, going far back in human history to shamanism, medicine wheels, and incantations. More recently, Mary Baker Eddy’s Christian Science has had many adherents.

In a conversation on a theology of healing at a U-U minister’s gathering, pointed me in an intriguing direction- the distinction between the two words, often mistakenly used as synonyms, curing and healing. Curing has to be with the elimination of disease. It is primarily the province of medicine and surgery. Healing has to do with a more inclusive view of the human being, its relationship with the whole of life, not merely the health ( or the lack of health) of an individual. The achievement of a whole (holy) relationship with all of life, healing, is truly the province of religion.

Between these two, lies another realm- an interface between psyche and soma. Perhaps an interpenetration is a better word. Here are located the functional or psychosomatic ailments in which the body is made ill by the state of mind or emotions. It is also the realm of curative powers of the mind ( a la Norman Cousins Anatomy of an illness or The Biology of Hope) play a role in restoring the body’s health. One recalls William James, and his “religion of healthy mindedness.”

So four possible outcomes may arise from our efforts at healing and curing. We may be cured and healed, neither cured nor healed, cured but not healed, or healed but not cured.

Writing a last letter to be read at her memorial service, to “neighbors and fellow creatures” one woman beset by an incurable cancer wrote:

“I am writing from enormous pain and sickness and fever and fatigue. It does come to us sometimes to feel a change, a rearrangement in the heart’s geography where we find that our longings face not the mornings but the evenings, when our thirst for sleep, rest, peace, and not for the golden beginning of the day. This at least is what I have now, and at this gathering together the bad times are over for me, and there is no more pain, and there are no more tears.”

She was obviously healed but not cured. It reminds me of my own aspirations: ” to die at 95 in perfect health” not cured, but healed.

The Characteristics of Mysticism

September 30, 2009 - 10:01 am 18 Comments
Holy MenCharacteristics of Mysticism
Frances Vaughan, Ph.D.
Mysticism belongs to the core of all great religions, yet no definition of mysticism can be broad enough to encompass all experiences and practices described as mystical. It is possible, however, to describe some of the characteristics that have been commonly attributed to mysticism.
As a subjective state of mind, mysticism is associate with a state of consciousness that surpasses ordinary experience through union with a transcendent reality. (Eliade 1987) The mystical experience was characterized by William James (1958) as ineffable, noetic, passive and transient. The mind, according to James, lies helpless under the luminous shadow of the real.
Western authors such as Rene Gueron, Aldous Huxley, Frithjof Schuon, and Huston Smith point to a common mystical experience underlying all religious theologies and doctrines. This view has been disputed by postmodern thinkers such as Stephen Katz and is discussed at length in ReVision Magazine (Fall 1989)
In her classic work on Mysticism, Evelyn Underhill (1955) discussed the following characteristics of mysticism:
1) Mysticism is the art and science of establishing conscious relation with the Absolute. The mystic is the person who attains union with the Absolute, not the person who talks about it.
2) The mystic has surrendered to the embrace of reality and sees a different world through transformed vision. The mystic lives the spiritual life.
3) Mysticism can be viewed as the art of arts, their source as well as their end. Symbol and image are the means  by which the mystic attempts to communicate a vision of reality, although the full meaning of the mystical experience can never be contained in any representation.
4) True mysticism is an active, practical life process. It is not passive or theoretical. It is not a philosophy and has nothing to do with occult knowledge. It is not concerned with manipulation of the visible universe. Its aims are wholly transcendental and spiritual.
5) Union with the One is obtained neither from intellectual investigation nor from emotional longings. These must be present, but they are not enough.
The mystic way entails an arduous psychological and process and the liberation of latent state of consciousness, sometimes called ecstasy or the unitive state.
6) In mysticism, the will is united with the emotions in the desire to be joined by love to the one eternal and ultimate object of love as perceived by the soul.
7) The one reality is, for the mystic, an object of love that draws us homeward under the guidance of the heart. The business and method of mysticism is generous love in all aspects of life. This passion is never self-seeking, but pursued only for the sake of love.
Restatements of the relevance of mysticism to contemporary life can be found not only at the heart of the great religious traditions, each one expressing a unique perception of this universal experience, but also in art, and in the life of any human being that awakens to spiritual knowledge and ecstatic love.

Characteristics of Mysticism

Frances Vaughan, Ph.D.

Mysticism belongs to the core of all great religions, yet no definition of mysticism can be broad enough to encompass all experiences and practices described as mystical. It is possible, however, to describe some of the characteristics that have been commonly attributed to mysticism.

As a subjective state of mind, mysticism is associate with a state of consciousness that surpasses ordinary experience through union with a transcendent reality. (Eliade 1987) The mystical experience was characterized by William James (1958) as ineffable, noetic, passive and transient. The mind, according to James, lies helpless under the luminous shadow of the real.

Western authors such as Rene Gueron, Aldous Huxley, Frithjof Schuon, and Huston Smith point to a common mystical experience underlying all religious theologies and doctrines. This view has been disputed by postmodern thinkers such as Stephen Katz and is discussed at length in ReVision Magazine (Fall 1989)

In her classic work on Mysticism, Evelyn Underhill (1955) discussed the following characteristics of mysticism:

1) Mysticism is the art and science of establishing conscious relation with the Absolute. The mystic is the person who attains union with the Absolute, not the person who talks about it.

2) The mystic has surrendered to the embrace of reality and sees a different world through transformed vision. The mystic lives the spiritual life.

3) Mysticism can be viewed as the art of arts, their source as well as their end. Symbol and image are the means  by which the mystic attempts to communicate a vision of reality, although the full meaning of the mystical experience can never be contained in any representation.

4) True mysticism is an active, practical life process. It is not passive or theoretical. It is not a philosophy and has nothing to do with occult knowledge. It is not concerned with manipulation of the visible universe. Its aims are wholly transcendental and spiritual.

5) Union with the One is obtained neither from intellectual investigation nor from emotional longings. These must be present, but they are not enough.

The mystic way entails an arduous psychological and process and the liberation of latent state of consciousness, sometimes called ecstasy or the unitive state.

6) In mysticism, the will is united with the emotions in the desire to be joined by love to the one eternal and ultimate object of love as perceived by the soul.

7) The one reality is, for the mystic, an object of love that draws us homeward under the guidance of the heart. The business and method of mysticism is generous love in all aspects of life. This passion is never self-seeking, but pursued only for the sake of love.

Restatements of the relevance of mysticism to contemporary life can be found not only at the heart of the great religious traditions, each one expressing a unique perception of this universal experience, but also in art, and in the life of any human being that awakens to spiritual knowledge and ecstatic love.

What is Spiritual Direction? A Brief Overview

September 28, 2009 - 2:28 pm 8 Comments
What is Spiritual Direction?
Spiritual direction is a learning process of attuned listening….  ( In fact, the first rule of St. Benedict is to listen- Asculta!) Whereby one learns to listen to the interior questions and their intuitive answers. It is a relationship of affirming the true and beholding the good. It is facilitated by working with a director who can alternatively known as your soul friend.
With that person, you walk together- as companions on a spiritual journey of self discovery, grace, and revelation…. It is a sharing in the search for the deep self where we engage our longings, seek to heal our wounds, and discover our wonders.
In this relationship, there is an active, continual, and gracious acknowledgment that we live most fully in a tri-alogue… Adding in a correspondence with a God or Spirit of your knowing and understanding …is to disclose the hidden sacred dimension of life and its many facets.
In that sense, spiritual direction is a covenant of caring for one’s life and for God’s place  and presence within it- it is an appreciation, and appraisal of one’s life story; its struggles, its challenges, its promise and its blessings.
Spiritual direction is the relational process of discovering how and in what ways the Holy (or that which has sacred dimensions and sacred meanings) influences and guides your understanding, your motives, values, and reveals a deeper sense of self.
Classically, spiritual direction especially in the most prevalent Ignatian tradition asks you about the directions God is taking you in your life….  (I prefer the Benedictine model of the “Ores et Labores” model because that adapts well
2
Or more easily to our Western lifestyle….. I prefer to ask where are you taking God?  Into what parts, portions, or facets of your life? These questions also seem to favor adaptation into a Buddhist and Zen style or the Franciscan/Gandian model of service that has parallels itself to the Bahkti and the Karma Yoga paths….)
A Spiritual Director (and one can choose the less hierarchical term, Soul Friend) has a distinctive role to play in your path towards wholeness and holiness….. Or if you are more psychologically oriented, she/he is a peson who can facilitate moving towards self-actualization, individuation,  and the process of becoming an authentic person….
As a resource person, they offer you their insights for your consideration, their discernment for your comprehension, and can actively suggest possible paths and ways toward wholeness/integration in your personal search for meaning…. They will often emphasize spiritual disciplines, devotional reading, and other meditative and physical exercises to try that may refine your attunements to the inner callings of the Spirit; thereby assisting you towards making those stirrings and wonderings ever more present, and more widely accessible.
Who is a Spiritual Director?
Your spiritual director is generally not your pastor or your colleague per se…. She or he is rarely if ever  your confessor- in the sacramental tradition- nor would they properly be your psychotherapist (there is currently much debate over the mixing and blending of these roles- I have come down on the side of keeping them separate and synergistic….)
3
While there may be parallels and important links, especially to a depth psychology such as Jungian analysis, participating in SD is not therapy nor is therapy a substitute for SD.
What makes them different?
Most often, the most distinguishing factor is the agreed on continual reference to or acknowledgment of the sacred at both the start and the end of a session. There is a constant or continual reference to the tri-alogue as alive and operating as a source of motives, values, virtues, and directions for your life…. This acknolwedgement can come in many ways….From a prayer, to a chant, from silence to bells, to a chalice lighting and a devotional reading….
Its value is to engage and welcome the presence of the Holy by one’s sacred intention during the meeting…. Utilizing the symbolic world of ones faith or wisdom tradition, their inspirational sources and resources that they are currently exploring or have found inspiration and solace in their applications in their lives…. In short, spiritual direction occurs and is conducted in a constant atmosphere of sacred intention, reverence, and spiritual intimacy….. Which, by the way is not pious, and can include humor, and discuss topics that might be considered to be religiously taboo!
Because SD presumes a certain level of emotional and mental health, it does not dwell on systems or symptoms- so it doesn’t ordinarily look for cures or even rational explanations…. Instead, SD assumes a wholeness, a wellness, and an integrity that will be further disclosed by God’s grace and the Spirit’s unfoldment. The goal of SD is to allow for and to facilitate a deepening, a ripening, a revealing…. (in the words of the Aramaic Jesus “Twobway Hun”-Blessed are you….)
4
Directors ask: Where is God or the Holy for you? Where in your experience have you felt its presence and effects? How can you learn to allow more of God, the Good that already is, into your live and into your heart?
Oftentimes, we seek out SD because we are currently feeling as if something is missing, lacking, unknown or unfulfilled in our lives….. Spiritual direction teaches us to honor those longings, those yearnings– that your hunger and thirst are not emotions of lack or frustration, but act as  a gracious impulse within you, as an inpelling, and sometimes a compelling invitation to go more deeply, and to know oneself, one’s soul, or God more fully.  (From a classical Christian view point we desire to become more integrated, more Christ like- which has, for me, the best definition in the early Church leader, St. Iraeneus, who said that ‘[the Christ became human so that humans could become more Christ like… And to be more Christ like is to be more fully human and more fully alive!”]
Not everyone who can act effectively as a spiritual facilitator for you has to be a trained professional…. But a professional will have the best capacity of staying with you, walking with you over time, experience, circumstance, and revelation and provide you with a sustained relationship or companionship…… (children, pets, nature and various mystics and misfits can provide you with insights!)
Classically, and for that matter, charismatically, one cannot be trained to be a spiritual director unless they are first inner-directed… That is, unless they first receive the charisms and the gift of the Spirit as a significant part of their vocational call…. They are given the gift of discernment which they will use in guiding and assisting others along the spiritual path…..
5
Being well educated is not a protection or an assurance that you will receive good quality of care…. it is however, a reliable measure that they will be able to understand or comprehend the many descriptive languages and various paths one might pursue…. From that place, there is an extended period of training or refining- a skill based awareness one can receive that attunes and refines that spiritual gift…..
Your spiritual director need not be of your own faith tradition….. And most often in the USA, they come from a sacramental tradition that recognizes spiritual gifts and spiritual disciplines such as the Episcopal, the Orthodox, and the various kinds of Catholic traditions….. The main point here is that you feel respected…  that the stirrings of your heart can be heard, and that an essential relationship can be formed between you.
Some Mechanics and Practical Considerations:
Usually, SD is conducted on a 1X a month basis…. If it is a particularly crucial time in a person’s life, it could occur more often…..
The cost is variable….. It will range from a good will donation to a regular sliding scale fee. If this is a part of a director’s livelihood, then they will set a fee…. I will often use this standard of measure: I will charge half of what you would pay for a psychologist appointment…..
Some styles of direction are gentle, patience, and offer much forbearance…. Others are more directive, and many directors supplement their work by offering their clients selected and directed readings, meditations, and other body/mind/spirit disciplines, and might recommend weekend or extended sessions and intensive workshops……     Any questions?????

What is Spiritual Direction?

Spiritual direction is a learning process of attuned listening….  ( In fact, the first rule of St. Benedict is to listen- Asculta!) Whereby one learns to listen to the interior questions and their intuitive answers. It is a relationship of affirming the true and beholding the good. It is facilitated by working with a director who can alternatively known as your soul friend.

With that person, you walk together- as companions on a spiritual journey of self discovery, grace, and revelation…. It is a sharing in the search for the deep self where we engage our longings, seek to heal our wounds, and discover our wonders.

In this relationship, there is an active, continual, and gracious acknowledgment that we live most fully in a tri-alogue… Adding in a correspondence with a God or Spirit of your knowing and understanding …is to disclose the hidden sacred dimension of life and its many facets.

In that sense, spiritual direction is a covenant of caring for one’s life and for God’s place  and presence within it- it is an appreciation, and appraisal of one’s life story; its struggles, its challenges, its promise and its blessings.

Spiritual direction is the relational process of discovering how and in what ways the Holy (or that which has sacred dimensions and sacred meanings) influences and guides your understanding, your motives, values, and reveals a deeper sense of self.

Classically, spiritual direction especially in the most prevalent Ignatian tradition asks you about the directions God is taking you in your life….  (I prefer the Benedictine model of the “Ores et Labores” model because that adapts well

2

Or more easily to our Western lifestyle….. I prefer to ask where are you taking God?  Into what parts, portions, or facets of your life? These questions also seem to favor adaptation into a Buddhist and Zen style or the Franciscan/Gandian model of service that has parallels itself to the Bahkti and the Karma Yoga paths….)

A Spiritual Director (and one can choose the less hierarchical term, Soul Friend) has a distinctive role to play in your path towards wholeness and holiness….. Or if you are more psychologically oriented, she/he is a peson who can facilitate moving towards self-actualization, individuation,  and the process of becoming an authentic person….

As a resource person, they offer you their insights for your consideration, their discernment for your comprehension, and can actively suggest possible paths and ways toward wholeness/integration in your personal search for meaning…. They will often emphasize spiritual disciplines, devotional reading, and other meditative and physical exercises to try that may refine your attunements to the inner callings of the Spirit; thereby assisting you towards making those stirrings and wonderings ever more present, and more widely accessible.

Who is a Spiritual Director?

Your spiritual director is generally not your pastor or your colleague per se…. She or he is rarely if ever  your confessor- in the sacramental tradition- nor would they properly be your psychotherapist (there is currently much debate over the mixing and blending of these roles- I have come down on the side of keeping them separate and synergistic….)

3

While there may be parallels and important links, especially to a depth psychology such as Jungian analysis, participating in SD is not therapy nor is therapy a substitute for SD.

What makes them different?

Most often, the most distinguishing factor is the agreed on continual reference to or acknowledgment of the sacred at both the start and the end of a session. There is a constant or continual reference to the tri-alogue as alive and operating as a source of motives, values, virtues, and directions for your life…. This acknolwedgement can come in many ways….From a prayer, to a chant, from silence to bells, to a chalice lighting and a devotional reading….

Its value is to engage and welcome the presence of the Holy by one’s sacred intention during the meeting…. Utilizing the symbolic world of ones faith or wisdom tradition, their inspirational sources and resources that they are currently exploring or have found inspiration and solace in their applications in their lives…. In short, spiritual direction occurs and is conducted in a constant atmosphere of sacred intention, reverence, and spiritual intimacy….. Which, by the way is not pious, and can include humor, and discuss topics that might be considered to be religiously taboo!

Because SD presumes a certain level of emotional and mental health, it does not dwell on systems or symptoms- so it doesn’t ordinarily look for cures or even rational explanations…. Instead, SD assumes a wholeness, a wellness, and an integrity that will be further disclosed by God’s grace and the Spirit’s unfoldment. The goal of SD is to allow for and to facilitate a deepening, a ripening, a revealing…. (in the words of the Aramaic Jesus “Twobway Hun”-Blessed are you….)

4

Directors ask: Where is God or the Holy for you? Where in your experience have you felt its presence and effects? How can you learn to allow more of God, the Good that already is, into your live and into your heart?

Oftentimes, we seek out SD because we are currently feeling as if something is missing, lacking, unknown or unfulfilled in our lives….. Spiritual direction teaches us to honor those longings, those yearnings– that your hunger and thirst are not emotions of lack or frustration, but act as  a gracious impulse within you, as an inpelling, and sometimes a compelling invitation to go more deeply, and to know oneself, one’s soul, or God more fully.  (From a classical Christian view point we desire to become more integrated, more Christ like- which has, for me, the best definition in the early Church leader, St. Iraeneus, who said that ‘[the Christ became human so that humans could become more Christ like… And to be more Christ like is to be more fully human and more fully alive!”]

Not everyone who can act effectively as a spiritual facilitator for you has to be a trained professional…. But a professional will have the best capacity of staying with you, walking with you over time, experience, circumstance, and revelation and provide you with a sustained relationship or companionship…… (children, pets, nature and various mystics and misfits can provide you with insights!)

Classically, and for that matter, charismatically, one cannot be trained to be a spiritual director unless they are first inner-directed… That is, unless they first receive the charisms and the gift of the Spirit as a significant part of their vocational call…. They are given the gift of discernment which they will use in guiding and assisting others along the spiritual path…..

5

Being well educated is not a protection or an assurance that you will receive good quality of care…. it is however, a reliable measure that they will be able to understand or comprehend the many descriptive languages and various paths one might pursue…. From that place, there is an extended period of training or refining- a skill based awareness one can receive that attunes and refines that spiritual gift…..

Your spiritual director need not be of your own faith tradition….. And most often in the USA, they come from a sacramental tradition that recognizes spiritual gifts and spiritual disciplines such as the Episcopal, the Orthodox, and the various kinds of Catholic traditions….. The main point here is that you feel respected…  that the stirrings of your heart can be heard, and that an essential relationship can be formed between you.

Some Mechanics and Practical Considerations:

Usually, SD is conducted on a 1X a month basis…. If it is a particularly crucial time in a person’s life, it could occur more often…..

The cost is variable….. It will range from a good will donation to a regular sliding scale fee. If this is a part of a director’s livelihood, then they will set a fee…. I will often use this standard of measure: I will charge half of what you would pay for a psychologist appointment…..

Some styles of direction are gentle, patience, and offer much forbearance…. Others are more directive, and many directors supplement their work by offering their clients selected and directed readings, meditations, and other body/mind/spirit disciplines, and might recommend weekend or extended sessions and intensive workshops……     Any questions?????

What Outlines Spiritual Maturity?

September 28, 2009 - 1:36 pm 8 Comments
What Defines Spiritual or Religious Maturity?
As an interfaith minister, spiritual director and transpersonal counselor, over the years, people have come to me with a wide variety of probing and earnest questions. Among those that are the most commonly asked, are the questions about “Am I on the right path? How do I know that I am making any progress? Depending on the person, the path, and the practice, my answer can vary…
But here are some general guidelines, from trusted sources, that most people asking these kinds of questions find to be most helpful:
One of the better ways to assess our growth or depth comes to us from the renown psychologist, Gordon Alport. He developed what could be called a spiritual maturity scale by which we can begin to assess or measure where we have been, where we are now, and where we might be going next… Here is my summary of his conclusions, and I will ask you to compare them with your own insights and understandings. A religiously mature person is someone who has:
1) A well differentiated sense of yourself; You are willing to explore, and you readily acknowledge that being genuinely religious or authentically spiritual in today’s culture is a complex challenge- one that comes at you from all sides, and tests how well you can keep centered, resilient, free… A more mature assessment of yourself begins by admitting that your current state of knowledge, wisdom, and understanding are ongoing, fluid, and in need for further refinement.
2) One’s religious outlook and one’s spiritual awareness is dynamic, and never static. It realizes fully and for the most part, gratefully, that our comprehension of faith (what we trust or have confidence in- what gives us courage and/or solace) comes from a combination of sources. It comes to us from our parents and formative religious experiences, from our personal desires and needs, and it also can come from our adult aspirations and opportunities.
3) A mature understanding or religious expression is one that functions as a moral compass that directs your behavior. The experiences gained for the choices and from the consequences of your choices act as a reliable ongoing reference point for your life.
4) A more mature religious expression or spiritual affirmation has an interpersonal and social component that makes it accountable and makes it complete. Self concern, while important, cannot be one’s only focus. To be mature and more aware involves us directly in social justice issues, human rights, and ways that affirm the worth and dignity of each person.
5) A mature spiritual outlook or a deeper religious understanding is effective; to promotes problem solving on both the personal and interpersonal levels. While the personal quest is important, often it is when we are working in relationship, being involved in community, is when we can discover answers that the individual search alone may not perceive. Being together serves or blesses us.

What Defines Spiritual or Religious Maturity?

As an interfaith minister, a spiritual director and transpersonal counselor, over the years, people have come to me with a wide variety of probing and earnest questions. Among those that are the most commonly asked, are the questions about “Am I on the right path? How do I know that I am making any progress? Depending on the person, the path, and the practice, my answer can vary…

But here are some general guidelines, from trusted sources, that most people asking these kinds of questions find to be most helpful:

One of the better ways to assess our growth or depth comes to us from the renown psychologist, Gordon Alport. He developed what could be called a spiritual maturity scale by which we can begin to assess or measure where we have been, where we are now, and where we might be going next… Here is my summary of his conclusions, and I will ask you to compare them with your own insights and understandings. A religiously mature person is someone who has:

1) A well differentiated sense of yourself; You are willing to explore, and you readily acknowledge that being genuinely religious or authentically spiritual in today’s culture is a complex challenge- one that comes at you from all sides, and tests how well you can keep centered, resilient, free… A more mature assessment of yourself begins by admitting that your current state of knowledge, wisdom, and understanding are ongoing, fluid, and in need for further refinement.

2) One’s religious outlook and one’s spiritual awareness is dynamic, and never static. It realizes fully and for the most part, gratefully, that our comprehension of faith (what we trust or have confidence in- what gives us courage and/or solace) comes from a combination of sources. It comes to us from our parents and formative religious experiences, from our personal desires and needs, and it also can come from our adult aspirations and opportunities.

3) A mature understanding or religious expression is one that functions as a moral compass that directs your behavior. The experiences gained for the choices and from the consequences of your choices act as a reliable ongoing reference point for your life.

4) A more mature religious expression or spiritual affirmation has an interpersonal and social component that makes it accountable and makes it complete. Self concern, while important, cannot be one’s only focus. To be mature and more aware involves us directly in social justice issues, human rights, and ways that affirm the worth and dignity of each person.

5) A mature spiritual outlook or a deeper religious understanding is effective; to promotes problem solving on both the personal and interpersonal levels. While the personal quest is important, often it is when we are working in relationship, being involved in community, is when we can discover answers that the individual search alone may not perceive. Being together serves or blesses us.