Journey to Spirit

I was blessed to fill in for Dr. Bill Kerley at one of his Ordinary Life Sunday school classes held at St. Paul's United Methodist Church.  What follows is the talk I gave that day.

I thank all of you for coming.  For those of you who knew Bill would not be here this morning, I’m grateful that you chose to come hear me.  And… if you didn’t know that Bill would not be here, you can sign up for Bill’s email list that that previews each upcoming Ordinary Life session… if you’d like to be on that list, there are sign up sheets available after class.  Actually, I’m grateful that everyone of you is here… my nightmare over that last few days is that I would be speaking to an empty room… what is that about?

It’s not very often that I get to do this… so, I’ve decided to follow Bill’s way of doing things in at least one respect

(overhead – photo of granddaughter Nicole).

This is my granddaughter, Nicole.  She is six, and the world is her oyster.  My daughter Carol and Nicole have been living with us for the last few months while the flood damage to their house is being repaired.  It is a blessing beyond belief to have grown so close as a family.  The bonds I have made with my daughter and granddaughter will last a lifetime.  I think it is too bad that our modern society has lost what used to be common:  multiple generations living under one roof.

As you may have read in the Ordinary Life preview, I first met Bill in his capacity as counselor and therapist.  From the first time in his office, I knew I had found the right man.  During my first visit I met another one of Bill’s patients.  I think I can say this without violating patient confidentiality… at least I’m pretty sure that Bill wouldn’t mind.  At any rate, while waiting for Bill, I met another one of his patients.  The man had a piece of celery stuck in one ear, a carrot stuck up his nose, and he had a zucchini stuffed in his other ear.  When Bill walked into the room, the man turned to him and said, “Doctor, what is wrong with me?”  Bill immediately answered, “You’re not eating right.”  I knew then I had a winner.
I am blessed to be able to do this.  I am blessed that Bill invited me to take his place.  I am blessed that you are here today.  It wasn’t so very long ago that the last thing I felt was blessed.  It wasn’t so long ago that the world was black.  I often stand in front of the mirror each morning and marvel at the man that looks back at me.  He is so completely different from the man that looked back at me just a short time ago.  I wonder if it was even me back then… and yet, it must have been me… and yet… it wasn’t me.  Do people really change?
My journey to Spirit began a little more than two and a half years ago.  After years of suffering from low level depression (which I didn’t even know I had), I fell into a hopeless state of major depression.  Getting out of bed was a chore.  I had no passion or enthusiasm for anything or anyone.  My productivity at work was approaching zero.  On several occasions I told my wife that the only reason I had not killed myself was that it would put an undue burden on her and my daughter.

My life was not in my own control.  I felt powerless and trapped, so trapped in fact, that I couldn’t even kill myself… someone else had the power over my very ability to take my own life.  I had no out anywhere… except for anger… and rage.  Pity you if you were standing in front of me at the video rental store, or the grocery check out lane, and you delayed the line because you weren’t fast enough for me.  Or, have you ever seen someone on the freeway, his face reddened and contorted in rage, pounding on the dashboard?   It was probably me.  And my poor wife… I am filled with sorrow when I recall the number of times she was the innocent recipient of my misdirected venom and invective.

When I wasn’t in anger and rage, I simply felt dead.  My outward expressions of rage were but a tiny part of the angry emotions boiling inside of me.  I was angry at my powerlessness.  I was angry at the inherent unfairness of the world and the way it was treating me.  I didn’t dare really let go of the pent up anger in me for fear of the violence I might do.  And yet, if you had met me casually at that time, you would have probably thought that I was a nice, normal, mild mannered fellow.  What a mask I was wearing!  And when I wasn’t in anger I was simply withdrawn into an impenetrable shell.

After months of prodding by my wife, I finally began to search for help for my depression.  I did it via the internet and email… I didn’t want to talk to a real person, I didn’t want to connect with another human being at all.   I just wanted to withdraw.  So, I wrote emails instead.  My emails to several counselors and psychologists began with the words, “Help!  I’ve fallen down and I can’t get up.”

Three or four counselors responded to my emails saying that they could help me.  I called the first one.   Knowing absolutely nothing about me, he immediately suggested that I needed to be placed on anti depressants.  A few months earlier my physician had put me on anti depressants, and indeed, I was no longer feeling depressed… actually, I was feeling nothing.  People at worked commented about how calm I seemed to be, and how “laid back” I was compared to the way I used to be.  They were right.  I was a zombie.  I wasn’t getting any better, though.  I had to quit the anti depressants.  Drugs were not the solution for me… there had to be another alternative.

I called the next person on my list and she said, “You know, it sounds to me like all you need is a little bit of behavioral modification.”  It sure didn’t sound that way to me!  Even though I had no idea what she was talking about, I had PROBLEMS you know… big PROBLEMS… and she seemed to trivialize them.  Nope… I wasn’t going to talk with someone who didn’t take my problems seriously… and she probably did know what she was doing anyway, right?

My third phone call was to Bill Kerley.  Bill, in his usual circumspect way, said to me, “Look, depression isn’t your problem, it’s just a symptom that your life is not working for you.”  Holy cow!  What an insight!  Here I’d been thinking that my life wasn’t working because I was depressed, and Bill comes along and says I’m depressed because my life isn’t working.  This was to be the first of many 180 degree revelations in my life.  Was my life changing already?

I started to meet with Bill.  With Bill’s coaching and insights, I learned much about what wasn’t working in my life, and after little more than six weeks, my depression lifted, and my life began anew… at least I was functional.  I began to learn what was happening in my life.  I began to understand that my depression was a reaction, a response to my feelings about me and the world around me.

I learned about low level male depression.  If ever you’ve had feelings of depression or had the notion that things aren’t working in your life, I’d suggest a book entitled, “I Don’t Want to Talk About It – The Secret Legacy of Male Depression”, by Terrence Real.  This book gave me critical insights into why I felt the way I did, and what to do about it.  It provided me with the tools to see my own life in a more positive light, to begin to move towards healing.

At the same time, I still had many of the deeper feelings within me… anger, powerlessness, a sense of unfairness about the world.  Clearly, there was plenty more work for me to do.  It was about this time that Bill made a suggestion to me.  He said, “I think you would benefit from New Warrior training.”  “What is that?” I asked?   Bill answered by telling me that he couldn’t explain any of the details.  “Trust me,” he says, “Just go and do the training.”  Trust?!  Trust?!  Trust has not exactly been the hallmark of my life… for me, trust was reserved for… no one… not even myself.

Now, more than a few of you know that I am a strong advocate and supporter of New Warriors.  I have sensed that when I stand up on some Sundays and speak about New Warriors, there is a resistance to the idea of doing something that entails personal risk.  That is exactly what I felt.  Even though I trusted this man, he was asking me to do a risky thing.  I knew why he wanted me to go.  He was asking me to take an even deeper look at myself than I had ever done before.  In April, 2002, I caved in.  I went to the Land of My Grandfathers in Madisonville.  I took the journey of self discovery.  I became a Warrior.  I became Strong Eagle.  I was changed.

New Warrior is a right of male initiation, a passage into the realm of the mature, truly masculine male.  Unless you choose to leave during the weekend, which anyone can do, facing yourself is inescapable.  I received many gifts from my Warrior training.  I released forty years of anger, rage, and profound sadness… in one weekend… to be replaced by peace and tranquility.  It was remarkable.  I am forever in the debt of the men who lead and staffed my weekend.

For the first time in my life, I learned to trust, and in particular, I learned to trust men.  I felt real connection… and real intimacy.  I found exquisite release.  I learned that as a man, my feelings do matter, and in fact, much of my depression stemmed directly from denying and stuffing my feelings… I had been early on taught that is what “manly” men do.  I learned that much of my depression was the result of playing roles that I thought other people wanted me to play.

I was introduced into a new way of thinking about life.  I learned that for my life to have true meaning, my focus must turn away from me, and instead focus on mission and service to others.  It was another 180 degree revelation.  My personal happiness and satisfaction is obtained by reaching outward… by giving away… not through a Scrooge like attachment to me and mine.  I was changed.

In the midst of this challenge, this demand that I look deeply at myself, my Warrior weekend provided an even more fundamentally compelling insight… I was introduced to Spirit… the possibility that there might be something larger than me in this world.

Spirit?  What is that?  I was raised to believe in Science (that’s Science with a capital “S”)… as the ultimate answer for all questions.  I remember as a teenager I would get into heated arguments with my father over the existence of God.  These arguments ended one night when he thundered, “My God is logic!”  There was no more to be said.  God cannot be proved.  God cannot be seen under a microscope… if God exists, then Science could prove it… otherwise, God can’t be “really real”.  This seems to me to be a common view today… if it cannot be seen by Science then it cannot be “really real”.  This “outside” world I know well… the objective world, the world that Science can measure and see.

At my Warrior weekend, I learned that there is an “inside” and an “outside” inherent in every human being.  For some this may seem obvious.  For me, the possibility that there was an aspect of humanity that could not be explained by Science was one more 180 degree revelation.  I didn’t “learn” this idea so much as experience it… feel it… in my inner self… in my soul.

Through ritual and meditative process, I was connected to my “inside” like I never experienced before.  I touched something inside me that had never been touched.  And as I touched that which was deep within me, it seemed that it was also everywhere else at the same time… in my surroundings, in the men that were with me… in nature… in Spirit… I was touched back.  I not only connected with myself, I connected with something much, much larger than myself.  Another 180 degree revelation!  I was changed.

After my weekend, I continued to meet with occasionally with Bill, although my issues and problems seemed far less pressing.  Indeed, I began to wonder who it was that had started these counseling sessions with Bill.  My life became my own.  Some of you may think that it is unrealistic to see so much change in such a short period of time.  I must confess.  It is much easier for men than women to do this kind of psychotherapeutic work.  When it is time to regress back to childhood, men are already there.   By the way, Bill is a Warrior… he knew where he was sending me.  It turns out that there are many priests and ministers who are Warriors.

Since my weekend and my time with Bill, I’ve been like a kid riding a bicycle.  It’s new, it’s fun, it’s incredibly freeing, and it’s a challenge.  Sometimes, it hurts.  Sometimes I swerve.  I crash.  Then, I get up and try it all over again.  I come to Ordinary Life to receive the nourishment of the “spiritual soup” that Bill dishes up every week.  I’ve learned some things about what it takes to live in Spirit.  At the very least, I’ve developed a strong opinion about what constitutes a life in harmony with God, and with Spirit.

I don’t think anti depressants or other drugs are any kind of a long term solution.  I believe that they are useful for short term intervention, and in the long term they serve only to mask the real problem and prevent true healing.  I believe they block connection with Spirit.  Have you seen the commercials on TV for Paxil?  It’s an anti anxiety drug.  In the commercial, several of the people say, “Now, I can finally be me.”  On drugs?  If that were the case, then I’ve been “me” all my life… my drugs were pot and alcohol.  The tag line from the Paxil commercial is, “Paxil… Your Life is Waiting.”  This line is right on the money… life will indeed be waiting until you grab the tiger by the tail and face the human being that is truly you.  I believe that real growth, real change, and real happiness can only happen when the underlying issues are addressed.  Everything else is just a mask.

Now that I’ve been judgmental about drugs, I say that an important part of connection with Spirit is to be non judgmental.  When I make judgments, it is about making myself “one up” or “one down” with the person I am judging.  When I am “one up” I judge myself superior in some way to another human being, and my ego is satisfied that it has protected its fragile self… and yet, I am cutoff from connection and therefore, understanding of another human being, and I am cutoff from connection with Spirit.

I have found it easy to be “one down” as well.  Have you ever met someone and your first reaction was to feel small in the presence of that person?  Perhaps it was their physique that made you think about your own flabby arms and ample belly.  Perhaps it was the easy way that they mingled and made instant friends.  Or perhaps it was their natural attractiveness to the opposite sex.  When I find myself “one down” I have judged myself less worthy than others.  My ego is wounded and it runs and hides.  I disconnect from my own inner, authentic and intrinsically worthy self.  And when I am disconnected from the inner me, I cannot be connected to Spirit.  I am alone.

Therefore, I try to practice the words of Buddha (and regularly fail)… the words that Bill spoke here just a few weeks ago:  There are only two judgments.  Is it wise?  Is it useful?

I believe that without sorrow there can be no lasting change, and no connection with Spirit.  Have you ever hurt someone?  Has it faded into the past?  Have you stuffed the hurt you created into the recesses of your mind, into the trunk in the attic, because it hurts to see it in the light of day?  I have.  Have you ever exploited or manipulated someone for your own advantage?  I have.  I have been filled with sorrow for those that I have harmed, hurt, and marginalized.

What is sorrow?  For me, it is an acceptance of my responsibility of how my behaviors have affected others.  It is an honest openness to the reality of what I am and the facts of my life.  With sorrow for my actions, I can focus on hope and growth.  Sorrow teaches me about forgiveness, for I wish to be forgiven for what I have done, and I can give no less in return to any other person.  When I have sorrow, I empathize with the other and how my actions affect them.  I am looking outside of me.  I am connected.  I am in contact with Spirit.

The opposite of sorrow is blame.  With blame, I focus on how others have affected me, instead of how I have affected others.  With blame, I cling to my illusions of the past.  With blame, I try to stay in control and remain secure.  With blame, I am stagnant.  With blame, I seek revenge and not forgiveness.  With blame, I cannot connect with Spirit.

I believe that it is necessary to have a spiritual practice in order for Spirit to be in my life.  It is like playing the guitar… one may read about how to play forever, and still be able to play a note.  I was blind to this fact for most of my life, even though my wife is a person who has for many years, practiced a daily ritual of reading, writing, and meditation.

Attending Ordinary Life is part of my practice, for I leave with questions to contemplate and an opportunity for self examination.  I have a daily affirmation that I say… every day!  My wife and I have a morning ritual… the first words that either of us say are, “I love you.”  I have a mission statement that I say with regularity.

I have a list of sayings and quotes that I have collected (and that I continue to collect) that I ponder from time to time for the spiritual nourishment that each quote gives me. I offer just a few here.

(Two Overheads with the following quotes).

***** On Life (page 1)

There is no revenge so complete as forgiveness.
            -- Josh Billings

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.
            -- Eleanor Roosevelt, 'This Is My Story,' 1937

The married are those who have taken the terrible risk of intimacy and, having taken it, know life without intimacy to be impossible.
            -- Carolyn Heilbrun

If you haven't forgiven yourself something, how can you forgive others?
            -- Dolores Huerta

***** On Life (page 2)

Get pleasure out of much as you can. Nobody every died from pleasure.
            -- Sol Hurok

You're only given a little spark of madness. You mustn't lose it.
            -- Robin Williams

Don't be afraid to take a big step if one is indicated. You can't cross a chasm in two small jumps.
            -- David Lloyd George

The only thing that comes from sour grapes is WHINE.
            -- Unknown

***** On God (page 1)

Call on God, but row away from the rocks.
            -- Indian Proverb

Anybody can observe the Sabbath, but making it holy surely takes the rest of the week.
            -- Alice Walker, "In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens"

Even God cannot change the past.
            -- Agathon

Whatever God's dream about man may be, it seems certain it cannot come true unless man cooperates.
            -- Stella Terrill Mann

***** On God (page 2)

Not merely an absence of noise, Real Silence begins when a reasonable being withdraws from the noise in order to find peace and order in his inner sanctuary.
            -- Peter Minard

My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind.
            -- Albert Einstein

I believe in the forgiveness of sin and the redemption of ignorance.
            -- Adlai E. Stevenson Jr., retort to a heckler asking him to state his beliefs, Time, November 1, 1963

Learn to get in touch with the silence within yourself and know that everything in this life has a purpose.
            -- Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

I read philosophy, theology, and psychology to understand God, the world, and how I fit into it.  I meet weekly with like minded men to bond and connect at the level of the heart.  I walk to the park near my office at least twice a week to contemplate, meditate, and commune with nature.  I believe I have come close to touching the One during meditation.  I want to do more.

I believe that real psychological healing cannot occur without spirituality entering my life.  In his play, “Man and Superman”, George Bernard Shaw described hell as a place of complete satisfaction, where all desires are freely fulfilled. Personal responsibility had no place in hell. It did in heaven, however, and heaven was a place for the “masters of reality”.   When people got sick of hell, they could leave at anytime, and it was to heaven, with its personal responsibility, that these souls went.

From the time we are children we are introduced into a world of suffering, of limits, of the things we can’t have.  We are controlled by the needs of our bodies.  We are buffeted by circumstances that we cannot control.  And as we grow, we build our defenses to the world.  As adults, we become determined to “do it my way”.  We attempt to compensate for that which is lacking in the physical world by demanding ever more from that same physical world.  We try to find complete satisfaction with the physical things of earth.

Psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan said that soul is something alien to the mundane… that empowers us to bear what is intolerable and lacking in the human world.  I have come to understand sin as those acts which serve the self rather than others; the acts by which I live a life of convenience.  St. Augustine said that, “Sin is the punishment of sin.”  Doing those things which “appear” to make life easier in reality only enmesh us even more deeply into precisely that which we are trying to escape.

In order to find true love and true connection it is necessary that I transcend the world of the physical and connect with the world of the spiritual.  Even if God and spirituality are but a figment of my imagination, it seems like a much more practical way to live… a way to achieve happiness and connection… a way to overcome mediocrity.  And yet, if spirituality and God are but a figment of my imagination, then I am merely delusional once again, more healthy delusions perhaps but delusions nonetheless.  So, the question is, “Is Spirit real, or have I simply made the whole thing up because it makes me feel better?”

I conclude that Spirit is real.  Here is the short version.  Plotinus, a Greek philosopher who lived about 200 years after Christ, created a spiritual cosmology that included a “ladder” for reaching communion with the “One”.  The rungs of the ladder represented an evolutionary development of reality, of the human mind, and of Sprit.

Interestingly enough, a very similar ladder can be found in Buddhist teachings… stages of pre personal growth, stages of personal growth, and stages of trans personal growth… or transcendence… connection with God.  Indeed, this same sort of ladder can be found in Hindu teachings, early Christian writings, and multiple other religions, philosophies and practices.  I’ll explain a bit more with my next slide which is a composite ladder derived from several sources.


(Beginning with the Lowest – the “pre personal” stages of consciousness)

Matter – atoms and molecules

Sensation – life begins and differentiates itself from it surroundings

Perception – life begins to “see” its surroundings

Impulse/emotion – life begins to act on what it sees – the first degree of emotion

(the stages of “personal” consciousness)


Rules and roles – the development of the concrete mind, material gain

Formal – the beginning of the higher, reasoning mind

Vision/logic – the development of the higher mind, the conceptual mind

(the stages of “trans personal” consciousness)
Psychic – the discovery of Spirit, the illuminated mind

Subtle – the connection to Spirit beyond the personal mind

Causal – the connection to Spirit where all is formless

Non dual – the connection to Spirit where One is all and all is One.

At every level God is present.  The manifestation of increasing complexity is the manifestation of God as everything is created.  God is in everything and God is everything.  There is ultimately no difference between the Created and the Creator.  One is a manifestation of the other.  How is it that this idea of growth, this idea of transcending the personal and moving towards Godhead can be found in so many ancient histories, if not for the fact that men have touched the highest levels of connection with God.

I believe it is because men have been to the Godhead many times.  Many special men have been there.  Too many to ignore.  Too many for Science to say, “What you have experienced cannot be ‘really real’.”  The descriptions of connection with Godhead are similar, no matter the culture.  The Buddha has been there.  And, I believe that Jesus also achieved the highest level of connection, of being one with Godhead… of being One with the One… a man who touched the face of God and was God… indistinguishable.  Jesus taught that it is within all of our capacities to be one with God, if only we find the way… as He did.

Am I a Christian?  I don’t know.  I find it hard to accept the teachings of a religion filled with prejudices, a religion that has hierarchy, bureaucracy, and control like any human institution.  And yet, Jesus is a beacon, a model, a standard, the way to connection with Spirit.  His teachings are more relevant than ever.  And I am blessed to be with men and women who are all in the question.  Men and women who gather together in the search for answers.  Perhaps that is what being a Christian is all about.

Finally, several weeks ago, Bill asked the question, “Do people really change?”  Some of you said yes, and others said no.  I suggest that both camps are correct.  My transformational change is as a growing sphere… each new level of understanding that I come to integrates and incorporates all that I was at the previous level.  So, in that sense, I am exactly what I was… I have not changed… if you pull back enough layers, you find the old me, the man with anger, the man with sadness.  And yet, as I integrate that which I was, and move to the next level of understanding, I transcend all that I was… I integrate it into what now… I am something new… I am changed.

Thank you all very much.  And to paraphrase Bill… remember, you are carrying precious cargo!

My Short Reading List

Personal and Psychological Development

“I Don’t Want to Talk About It – The Secret Legacy of Male Depression”, Terrence Real
“King, Warrior, Magician, Lover – Rediscovering the Archetype of the Mature Masculine”, Robert Moore
“Inner Work”, Robert Johnson
“Owning Your Own Shadow”, Robert Johnson
“The Middle Passage: From Misery to Meaning in Midlife”, James Hollis
“Creating a Life: Finding Your Individual Path” James Hollis

God and Spirit and Philosophy

“The Power of Myth”, Joseph Campbell
“Myths to Live By”, Joseph Campbell
“The World’s Religions”, Huston Smith
“A Brief History of Everything”, Ken Wilber

Interesting Websites

Guide to Psychology -
Ken Wilber -
Integral Psychology -
What Is Enlightenment -

Please email me if you wish more information.

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Page Last Modified on April 20, 2004