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Spiritual Growth

We all think about our physical wellbeing. Many of us exercise to maintain good health. A few go to great efforts to learn from experts about metabolism and nutrition and fitness. Readers of Infinity are among those who are going to an effort to take care of themselves so that they can enjoy life and be productive for their whole lives.

Then there is the parallel, corresponding spiritual wellbeing. Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) spent the last thirty years of his life learning about the metabolism, nutrition and fitness of the human spirit, including the conscious mind and the deeper, unconscious soul, as he called them. There is a vertical dimension of your inner life that is your relationship with God as you understand Him.

Our spiritual life is not fully developed at birth. Indeed, you likely know someone who has not developed spiritually. And you certainly have a complaint about some habit of thought or feeling; about some recurring trial, unhappiness or limitation.

Many wise people have provided methods for discovering and overcoming our spiritual limitations, illness and wounds. Swedenborg’s philosophy is its own paradigm of Neo-Christian theology and psychology that is based on the notions that God is pure love, that humans are radically free, and that the intellect and will parts of one’s spirit, which begin not only distinct but psychically separate, will be joined and act in concert in a healthy, developing human spirit.

Like many other teachers, Swedenborg offers a huge amount of information. And then he says again and again that such knowledge is worthless unless it is used in one’s thinking, feeling and acting. Only then is there any effect. The more you know about and develop this inner dimension in your life, the more your work on you physical life will bring you blessing.

These ideas, and the spiritual disciplines found around the globe, are combined in a group process for spiritual growth. The goal of the process is to help you work on yourself through discovering and overcoming spiritual limitations in an open, honest and constructive way. The method is sharing, not judging, not criticizing or advising. We don’t need more people telling how to fix our spiritual lives, any more than we need more people telling us to exercise! The point is to support each other, providing a safe, effective listening place in which to do this work. The spiritual growth group is just that, a group process, although it is moderated by a ‘leader’ who is trained to listen but not to admonish, scrutinize or advise.

In order to bring the teachings about your spirit into reality, there is a small task to do each week. This means that everyone is encouraged to view intensely some aspect of his or her nature that is blocking happiness or spiritual growth.  For instance, it may be criticism of others or criticism of oneself.  The task assignment includes a means to facing up to and handling the negative emotion, of, here, criticism.

When a dozen or so people spend a little time each day on a specified “task” and then share their experiences in the weekly gatherings, a reciprocal encouragement is created that solidifies the work each person does during the week.

This program, like Swedenborg’s point of view, offers the participants a higher power who is the Lord Jesus Christ, .  People in the course are not required to accept that, but they must have some kind of higher power to do “the work” of regeneration.

The only requirement for this course is a desire to grow spiritually.  All people are welcome to attend whatever their religious philosophies may be. Much, but not all, of the input is from the theological Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg  (1688-1772), which people are invited to consider provisionally. But the main teacher is experience.  In this sense, all who take the course are teachers as well as learners, since we learn from honest sharing.  The leader is not there to “fix” anything, and is not an expert.  He or she is just a tour guide.   

The course is a practical, day-to-day way of working on your regeneration. The course will work for you to the extent that you use the tasks, and observe what happens in your inner life.

OUTLINE OF THE TASKS
Each session focuses on a different task that everyone has worked on during the preceding week.   Each person has the opportunity to share his/her experiences of working on the tasks.   The twelve tasks are:
1. Waking up to spiritual life
2. Observing the emotion-thought connection
3. Not identifying with negative emotions
4. Letting go of criticism
5. Replacing negative thoughts with positive ones
6. Taming the “wild elephant”
7. Dealing with many forms of lying
8. Living in the present
9. Handling false cause
10. Choosing higher delights
11. Forgiving self and others
12. Handing your life over to the Lord

 

Infinity Magazine February 2006