Prayer as an effect

Photo by Diana Simumpande on Unsplash

Many of us see prayer as a way to make the universe (or God, etc.) bend to our will.

I know I used to look at it this way. I still do, at times. And I think that’s a totally human way to see the mechanism of prayer: as a cause that (hopefully) leads to an effect in outside circumstances.

However, in my recent studies, a new way of understanding prayer is emerging. Here’s what I’ve learned:

Prayer is an aftereffect of conscious alignment with the divine.

We’re not causing God to do anything. 
In authentic prayer, we’re listening, not speaking.
God is the first mover. Not us.

Prayer is what happens as a result of consciously remembering the ever-present inner-space of God…

In my tradition, we study a modality of prayer known as affirmative prayer. This is a sort of ‘improvised’ (or ‘channeled’ depending on your woo-woo tolerance level) verbal proclamation spoken from the present tense rather than an asking/petitioning of the divine to give us a hand in the future.

Here’s a poster of an affirmative prayer that I have hanging in our house by ex-New Thought minister and spiritual counselor turned media mogul, Louise Hay (because I can have #lifegoals too):

I used to see affirmative prayer (which I saw as a big step up from the petitionary prayer I learned as a Catholic kid) as a way to cajole God into making whatever-it-was-I-was-praying-for happen.

But something in me knew that this wasn’t quite right. It knew that God isn’t something to be persuaded or manipulated by the fearful, insecure, ever-inadequate ego.

It’s becoming more and more so clear to me:

The words of a prayer are an effect of divinely-aligned consciousness. Not the cause of something that we want God to do for us.

By seeing us as controlling God through prayer, we have the tail wagging the dog. Sure, we can grab the tail and wag it as much as we want, but it won’t make the dog very happy.

And just as a wagging tail comes from a happy dog, the best prayer happens as a result of conscious connection with the divine.

Meditation

In prayer, I drop into the space of divine flow. God is always Godding. But in prayer, I consciously become aware of this.

I do this by letting go of my incessant egoic thinking wherever it is in the moment, thus making the canvas of my awareness open for something bigger, grander, brighter and fuller to come through.

When it does, the perfect words come. These words arise FROM spirit and return to it through my expression.

This is the divine loop of prayer:
From God. To me. And then back to God.
Forevermore.

And so it is.


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How I pray these days

Photo by Alina Sofia on Unsplash

Prayer has been a big part of my life lately. Which is strange. Because for a very long time, it wasn’t. At all.

Being raised Catholic, I had my token prayers growing up. My mom and I would say them together before bed on our knees. Soon, I even said them by myself.

It was a routine. I didn’t really have a reason for saying my prayers. I just… did. And it was nice. A couple steps above meh. Then I got older. Fell away from the church. And stopped praying altogether for about a decade.

In the early 2000’s, I got into progressive spirituality. My gateway drug was Wayne Dyer. I really enjoyed what he and others like him said about prayer and meditation, but I still didn’t really practice it.

I even watched The Secret when it came out (c’mon now, don’t tell me you didn’t secretly watch The Secret too…). They talked about the whole Law of Attraction thing. Wow, this opened my eyes to a new kind of prayer. A prayer where I wished really really hard for things and they were to show up. Right?!

Low and behold, some things DID show up. Hey, this stuff works! But then a couple really big things didn’t show up. In fact, they got worse. I felt let down by the whole Secret thing. So I went back in non-praying limbo (besides the occasional dabble here and there) for about another decade.

Where I am today

When I started divinity school, the first step, I learned, was to get my spiritual practitioner license (which I’m currently working on). Another word for ‘spiritual practitioner’ is ‘prayer practitioner’ (talk about the least marketable title in this day and age, ever).

Essentially, I’m studying the ancient art of prayer. Prayer for a purpose. Prayer for oneself and others. Not in praying to an outside God. But to the eternally loving, whole, joyous, radiant, [insert positive quality here] presence within all of us, regardless of our creed.

I mentioned the power of prayer the other day in an article (click here to read it) and how it transformed a very important meeting I had with my mentor. I told how, before we got into the heart of the conversation, we ‘prayed in’ together, just like we always do when we chat. I mentioned the automatic heightening of consciousness that occurs in awareness when we do this.

Well, I got a few emails and responses asking me to explain how I pray. So, as much as I resist prescriptive posts, I figured I’ll share the type of prayer I’m studying with you…

Affirmative Prayer

Affirmative prayer is a declaration of the spoken word that’s intended to raise us above the level of our problems and into the presence of the divine.

Have I gotten woo-woo enough for you yet? 
No? 
Good, we’re just getting started here…

This kind of prayer can take many forms. I’m currently learning Affirmative Prayer 101, which is what I’ll share here, but I’ve been told of people who pray without using words. This is Jedi-level stuff and I’m not there yet, but I believe in its power. Because here’s the thing…

Effective prayer isn’t about the words, it’s about the level of consciousness the words emerge from. No words are needed to get there (they just help)…

Rather than begging or beseeching a God, this method involves connecting with the spirit of God within (or source, Mind, oneness, or whatever you want to call it) and asserting a statement from a raised consciousness regarding what it is you’re praying about.

So, instead of saying…

God, please bring me a ton of money to pay my bills.

You say something like…

As I realize the God within, I now know that I am an inseparable individualized expression of the life, wholeness, vitality, and abundance that flows through me right now.

Feels more… real, right? More actionable. 
Less like you’re asking Santa Claus for something.

If we were to take this up a level (which we might as well do), in my tradition, there’s a 5-step process to affirmative prayer which I’ll share with you here…

1. Recognition (God Is)

In this beginning part of the prayer, we’re bringing our full attention to God (I like to call it Source, but we’ll stick with ‘God’ here). We let the small ego part of our awareness fall away and embrace the divine intelligence within all things.

It goes something like this…

(In any of these examples, you can, of course, tweak and expand them however you want according to who/what you’re praying for, etc.):

“I know that there is only One Power in the Universe. This loving, creative principle is [insert positive quality here], and [another positive quality]…”

2. Unification ( I am)

In this next part of the affirmative prayer, we’re declaring that we’re inseparable from this divine presence. We are one with it. We are it. It can never be absent from us, no matter how much we grow ignorant of it…

“I know that I am one with God, made in the image and likeness of God. What I know to be true of God, I know to be true of me. Therefore, I am an individualized expression of [quality], [quality], and [quality]…”

3. Realization (Speaking into reality your desired good)

This is where the prayer gets personal. This is The Secret/Law of Attraction type stuff without the blatant consumerist materialism.

As humans, we are individual, customized versions of the divine presence of God. We bring heaven to earth (mind you, in my tradition, these are not geographical locations but states of consciousness) in our very own specific way. That’s what we’re bringing to light here…

“I now speak my Word to know and accept that I am [insert quality here]. I let go of any beliefs that are contrary to this and know that from this day forward, my experience is new. I am [quality]. I have [thing that comes forth from said quality]...”

4. Thanksgiving (Grateful Acceptance)

This is the sweet spot. It’s where we personally start to let things go and step into the grace of the divine. Pure gratitude is one of the highest states of consciousness we can find ourselves in and it’s what we’re creating the space for here…

“I am grateful that the Word I have spoken is being acted upon right now. I give thanks for the life-affirming nature of Source.”

5. Release (Letting go, let God)

We have the belief that, if the ego is grasping onto something, by its nature, it sabotages it. So in this final part of the prayer, we’re letting it go. We’re releasing the ego’s grasp and trust-falling into this higher intelligence as it takes over and does what it will. This part is pretty simple and punchy…

“I release this Word into God knowing it is done. And so it is.”

“And so it is.”

Those four words, right there, are some of the most powerful I’ve experienced. When you end the prayer with a strong and so it is, you feel complete. You feel amazing. You come out of the prayer with a heightened awareness. Suddenly, that weight you were carrying on your shoulders is gone and it’s been replaced with a fullness of spirit that makes you want to go out and create.

Try this for someone you love going through stuff of their own. Even if they’re not in your presence, this kind of prayer knows no time and space. It ripples throughout the consciousness we’re all united in and… shifts things.

So this is it. This is how I pray. Play with it. Customize it. Use it. Or scrap it and pretend this never happened…

And so it is.


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Our imagined disconnection from Source

Image: Juan Di Nella

Many deep spiritual thinkers throughout history have announced an individual will within a universal coordinating will.

If we zoom out on the world, it’s apparent that this universe is ‘going somewhere.’ It’s forever unfolding in depth, complexity, and unity. It will explode stars, uproot nations, and tear through ecosystems to get to where it’s going whether we want it to or not.

This has little to do with our own little, personal thinking.

So we have this sort of universal, divine intelligence that under-girdles our individual experiences.

The key is to align with it. To dance with it, if you will.

When we’re feeling in the flow, this is a sign that we’re playing our individual role in that larger divine dance.

But then we have our personal egos. We each have our individual will. We want more bacon (damn right we do). We want our internet to be faster. We want more approval. And all the other infinite things we want.

Not everything our egos demand is a part of this universal divine dance. Some of them are. But many of them aren’t.

Why is it set up like this? How can we want and desire outside of this divine movement of life?

Here’s what’s really kind of cool…

We’re humans, not automatons. We’ve been given the gift of free thought. We can plug in or unplug. Up to us.

Ernest Holmes said it really well…

Wherever the individual will is contrary to, or in opposition to, this universal coordinating will, it detaches itself from the source of its power, it goes alone, and soon becomes exhausted. On the other hand, wherever the individual will links itself up with the universal harmony, it becomes a spontaneous proclamation of that harmony, now individualized.

If you’re not ‘linked up’, mental distress kicks in and you feel disconnected from Source.

If you are ‘linked up’, you’re enthusiastic. You’re alive. Not just with a beating heart, but with a surging soul. You’re in a place of deep service. You feel at home in yourself, but you also feel blanketed in a warm presence that’s way bigger than your individual self.

So how do you get ‘linked up’?

Here’s the thing… 
You can never truly be disconnected. You can only think that you are.

And if you do this enough, it turns into a background loop in your subconscious programming.

You’ve made the unreal seemingly real.

But all it takes is a thought to get back to connection.

You’re never more than one thought away.


Jonas Ellison is a spiritual counselor and blogging mentor who writes shortish preachments in Higher Thoughts on the daily. To jump on his mailing list and get his free email course as a gift of his undying gratitude, do your thing below…

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The inner unrest

Image: Hanny Naibaho

You and I live in an age where we’re the recipients of great advances. Great technological advances. Great medical advances. Great social advances. Great food advances. Great Netflix advances. I could go on…
 
Then riddle me this… Why are so many of us in the western world so… Down and out (to say the least)?

Why are depression rates going through the roof at the same time that our world grows safer, lives longer, and becomes more connected? 
 
Here’s what I reckon (damn, I’m starting to sound like my grandfather)…
 
The world has long been focused on the material world and material problems. And we’ve come a long way. But while we’ve had our sleeves rolled up trying to connect everyone on the planet with the swipe of a finger and delivering a gourmet meal to our door with another swipe, we’ve forgotten… Ourselves.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…

Spiritual problems cannot be solved through material means.

Yes, these advances have made the world a better place to live. But none of them will eliminate the need for spiritual healing. Because even with 100% success in these fields, such healing will never succeed in making us at home in our soul.
 
No one is going to be wholly satisfied even with great economic conditions, great technical advances, great roads, great schools, or world peace until they find their inner communion with Source.
 
Even if you and I were healed of every physical and mental ill at this moment, there would still be an inner unrest. A lingering — if not an overwhelming — discontent.

Regardless of how much happiness we might find with our family and friends, we could still go to sleep at night and be alone, because there’s something within each of us that longs to go home. That longs to be at one with spirit.
 
No weight loss program, no house, no pay raise, no first dates will bring anyone the peace of mind that peace with their very own soul can bring.
 
Our life takes on a whole new meaning when we are carried on by a power not our own.


Jonas Ellison is a spiritual writer, teacher, practitioner, and an interfaith minister-in-training. He helps people deepen their lives through applied spirituality while documenting his journey along the way.

To subscribe via email to his updates and exclusive content, click here.

The myth of your littleness

Image: Mike Kotsch

Yep… It’s all made up.

Seriously, if we truly understood what animated our souls, we’d be blown away. We’d see the story we’ve accepted about ourselves to be laughable.

You and I are intimately connected to the Godhead that's been expanding the universe for eternity.

(Sorry, I really just enjoy saying ‘Godhead’. Thanks for humoring me there.)

I mean, but really? What gall of us to think that we could ever be separate from the life force that animates all of humanity and the universe at large — from micro to macro, alpha to omega?

We have nothing to prove. Only to step into and celebrate. Our littleness is and always has been an ego-created myth to keep us small and safe.

Now, turn that frown upside down and own your spiritual inheritance.

P.S. I sent out an email today that went to a lot of people where I misspelled the subject line by one letter (maybe you actually got it). Suddenly, I felt like shriveling up into a little ball and quitting the internet forever. I felt like a fraud, a phony, an amateur. I was faced with my smallness in a very absurd way. And I totally called myself on it.

I wrote this as a reminder to myself (most of these notes are). Hope you resonated with it too:)


Jonas Ellison is a spiritual counselor and blogging coach who writes shortish preachments in Higher Thoughts on the daily. To jump on his mailing list and get his free email course as a gift of his undying gratitude, do your thing below…

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There’s no such thing as a darklight

Image: Daniil Kuželev

Not really…

Even the thing we call a blacklight (I know you have one in your room for your Iron Butterfly poster) isn’t actually one. It doesn’t actually turn things dark.

When I turn my daughters bedroom light on, the darkness doesn’t refuse to go away.

In reality, darkness never wins.

The only way we can get darkness is by shielding the light. Which means darkness isn’t a thing. It’s a non-thing. An absence of a thing called light.

This is what spirit means to me.

There’s no such thing as anti-spirit. There is no dark force in the world.

This means those shadows aren’t real. 
It’s just us standing in front of the light again.


Jonas Ellison is a spiritual counselor and blogging coach who writes shortish preachments in Higher Thoughts on the daily. To jump on his mailing list and get his free email course as a gift of his undying gratitude, do your thing below…

https://upscri.be/0369ff/

Transcending the social tidal wave

Image: Paul

Many of our thoughts and actions emerge from a sort of social consciousness. An inherited mass subconscious zeitgeist that unknowingly tries to direct us.

Do you feel it?

All you have to do is listen and you’ll notice a sort of inner nervousness. An underlying fear that has no conscious origin.

You can see the effects of it in real form when you watch the news. People from varied races, creeds, backgrounds, etc. acting in tribal, primal, unconscious ways.

Maybe you’ve even caught yourself moving along with this mass. Swept up in the moment by something carrying you towards actions that are out of character only to look back and go, Whuh? I did what? That?!

This thing — this ‘social consciousness’ — is like a giant tidal wave that we’re surfing on as a culture.

I make this distinction because it’s not like a wave crashing into us. It’s not an obvious event. It’s more like we’re riding on top of this giant wave.

On top of this wave, it’s relatively still. It’s so big that it’s like a land mass. And so it seems fixed. Static.

But this wave is moving us in a certain direction at a very high rate of speed. If we don’t notice it, we’ll ride it wherever it takes us. But if we see what’s going on, we can make our way to the edge and eventually ride off of it.

What I’m pointing to here is what some have called Race Consciousness or Social Consciousness. This is the subconscious and conscious narrative we’ve subconsciously inherited from our ancestors.

Our reactions to life are largely drawn from the sum total of human experience.

It’s easy to take the urges that stem from this social consciousness personally. To blindly accept them as our own.

The key is to see the wave.
Then to gently make our way off of it.

If we can recognize it, we can respond to it. 
And we can wait for that next set of fresh waves to come in.
While the big one crashes into shore.


Jonas writes microsermons and meditations here in Higher Thoughts on the daily. Get one to enjoy with your coffee every morning by subscribing below.

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The world is a giant thought

Image: Jeremy Bishop

You can go deep down the rabbit hole if you meditate on this little nugget for a moment.

Think about it. Everything is a thought. That coffee cup over there symbolizes what it is for you only through thought. If you had no thought, what would it be? Nothing, right?

Think of the big-picture stuff in our world…

Our economic system. 
Our transportation system. 
Our government. 
Our music.
Our culture and the way we interact.
Our social norms.
How we get food to our tables every night.
Our morality.

I could go on for a very long time here. But all of these are fruits of human thought.

Even when we boil it down from the bigger, macro concepts above to the more micro and personal…

How you cook your pasta (I’ll take mine al dente, thank you).
What kind of socks you wear with your Birkenstocks (what, you don’t?).
What kind of cheese you enjoy.
What you do with your Friday nights.
Why you’ve been at that same shitty job for twelve years.
Why you talk to yourself the way you do.
Why you tell everyone you hate Justin Bieber, but you’ve given him a dedicated playlist on Spotify that you listen to in the gym.

Again, I could go on… And on…

We live in an ocean of our own thought.

If we can be aware of this and can see the nature of it, we can much more easily navigate.


Jonas Ellison is a spiritual writer, teacher, practitioner, and an interfaith minister-in-training. He helps people deepen their lives through applied spirituality while documenting his journey along the way.

To subscribe via email to his updates and exclusive content, click here.

New Thought… Is it, really?

Image: Devon Janse van Rensburg

I’m not sure what you know about New Thought, the spiritual tradition I happen to be studying, and I don’t want to get into too much geek-speak here, but I’ll just say that the public perception of it has a lot to do with manifestation, law of attraction, etc.

I don’t know about you, but when I see this manifestation stuff toted across the interwebs, my BS detector gets triggered, stat. I’ve seen so many hucksters tote the law of attraction stuff. It’s really too bad. Because there IS some value there, but it’s really only the tip of the iceberg as far as the New Thought tradition goes.

See, ‘New Thought’ is pretty literal. What we’re after here is (drumroll, please) ‘new thought’ (TaDa!). As far as we’re concerned, this is where Source lives (or God or whatever you call him/her/it). We are to loosen our old, personal, conditioned thought in order to make way for new insight from Source.

When I hear a lot of people talk about manifestation, LoA, etc. it seems to be more about rehashed old thought than new thought.

Like, I’ve always wanted that car, so I should keep thinking about it until it shows up.

No, no…

This isn’t a new thought. This is trying to create from ego. Stop trying to prove to your dad that you’re worthy. You were born worthy in the eyes of God, so you’re covered there. Give yourself the freedom to move beyond that limitation from when your dad embarrassed you in front of your little league team (sorry, I digress — PREACHING here, friends…).

Not that there’s anything wrong with that new car. I love new cars. We just got one last month. A Kia Sportage. Thing is pretty sweet, for an almost-40 dad like me. When I was a young man, I drove the clunkiest of clunkers. We’re blessed to be able to drive it. But I’m already like, meh

I mean, let me ask you — what’s the last shiny new thing you’ve received that’s given you lasting fulfillment?

Maybe if you’d let that thought of the new car go, something more enriching would show up as a new thought from Source. Something that might bring peace and provide for the multitudes. And maybe that car would be part of the equation. But the main thing? Really? If you trust Source, you’ll find there’s WAY more where that came from.

What’s incredible about the deeper aspects of spirituality is how rich the soil of fresh thinking really is.

Sure, I might want a car. That might be my starting point. But when I let that thought go, something new shows up that adds so much more depth to the situation.

And when I let THAT thought go, something even more vibrant shows up that I had no idea would add to the picture just moments before.

And this rabbit hole into Mind (yes, with a capital ‘M’) never ends. When you sink back into it and speak and live from that place, you see that there really is infinite layers to this life.

Sure beats a bigger car payment and the cops following you all around town.


Jonas writes shortish preachments and meditations on the daily here in Higher Thoughts. Get one to enjoy with your coffee every morning by subscribing below.

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Grace: The love that makes no sense

Image: Lee Campbell

The concept of grace has always been a fuzzy one. All I knew was that when I read about it, I was enthralled by what the author was pointing to when they spoke of it.

It’s been showing up a lot lately in my studies. Every time I read/hear of Grace (yep, I’ll go ahead and capitalize it), I feel something internally shift. Like something has been awoken from a deep slumber.

I’ve been wanting to write about it here for a long time, but every time I tried, it was like sand falling through my fingers. I couldn’t quite represent it in words. I still can’t — and likely never will be able to — fully articulate it, but I think I’ve come up with something for you to chew on this morning.

Grace is the love that makes no sense.

Yeah…

Grace is the thing that happens when someone betrays you, but you release your ego’s thirst for revenge.

It doesn’t make sense. Your logical mind is like, “Dude, they cheated you — you can’t let that slide.”

But Grace rises above this voice and takes the hate, fear, and deception out of circulation (kind of like what I wrote about on Easter) by absorbing it and releasing it.

Same thing when your daughter throws her cupcake on the ground in a bratty-ass fit of demonic manipulation and rage. The logical mind is like, “Bro… Dad… You need to teach that kid a lesson and spank her little ASS like YOUR dad woulda done to you.” (For some reason, my logical mind/ego is a bro — sorry.)

But Grace rises above this voice. It smiles (it even kinda chuckles) and focuses on keeping her safe until she cools down and is more receptive to a calm, but assertively loving, message.

This is what Grace does.

To the egoic mind, it makes no sense. Logically — pragmatically — this is the order of the day…

Bomb them back.
Make them submit.
Get ahead. 
Plan a preemptive strike.
Establish dominance. 
Love with your guard up and an exit plan.
Give, but expect.

But to Grace, this is so exhausting and fruitless. To the heart, all of the above is illogical.

And in hindsight, looking back, living from Grace leads to far fewer regrets and emotional prairie fires to put out at a later date.


Jonas Ellison is a spiritual writer, teacher, practitioner, and an interfaith minister-in-training. He helps people deepen their lives through applied spirituality while documenting his journey along the way.

To subscribe via email to his updates and exclusive content, click here.

A vision is not caught by force

It comes through surrender

Image: Sweet Ice Cream Photography

I have a confession. Please don’t hate me. Please don’t report me to the New Age police or come to my house with pitchforks and torches in the form of a glowing mob of meditation mobile apps (I’ve tried them all).

I’m not a big fan of meditation.

There, I said it. Most of it that I’ve tried, I find boring. B-o-r-i-n-g.

But I’m going through training to become a spiritual practitioner in the New Thought tradition (also known as a ‘prayer practitioner’), which means, I’m learning how to sit with someone in duress, listen to them, and then evoke the Godhead within so as to utter a prayer that strikes the chords of the soul and brings about a healing vibe in the room so resonant you can feel it in your bones. Or something like that…

So I’m learning a lot about different modalities of prayer/meditation. This last week, I learned about the Life Visioning Process — a meditative prayer ‘technique’ coined by Michael Beckwith.

There’s way more to this process, but here’s the skinny on the 7 steps of visioning:

  1. Get your mind clear. Meditate a little (I had to force it a bit, but that’s ok).
  2. Get into a loving state of receptivity. Not the human, relative, romantic type of love. The kind of unconditional love that underlies all words. Yeah, that kind.
  3. Mentally place your question before the intuitive faculty of the Higher Self: “What is the highest vision of my life? What seeks to emerge in, through, and as my life?” (Or, for whatever you’re visioning about.) Sit with that for as long as you want.
  4. When ready, move to the next question, which is, “What must I become in order to manifest this vision? What qualities must I cultivate?” Without censorship or judgement, open to what comes through.
  5. Ask: “What must I release to manifest this vision?” (This may include habits, mind-sets, etc.)
  6. Ask: “What talents, skills, gifts, and qualities do I already possess that will serve this vision?”
  7. No matter how clearly your vision came through, close with a resounding inner — ‘yes’ to it.

Pretty nifty, right? There’s two things that I particularly love about this method of preditation (my word for prayer/meditation):

  1. It gives you something to do. I don’t know about you, but I need more than just ‘sit and pay attention to your breath’. Visioning puts you in an open, meditative state while, at the same time, giving the monkey mind something to chew on.
  2. ‘Visioning’ is different than ‘visualization’ in that it’s a modality based on listening, not speaking. I’m trying to kick the habit of genuflecting to some anthropomorphic deity in the clouds. Visioning makes more sense to me in that we’re listening to intuitive knowing rather than speaking our demands to a God designed from ego.

So I’m doing this visioning thing, and it’s really fun because I know I’m a total beginner. I have no shame in that. Like the rookie cop with that itchy trigger finger, I want to — bang — have that vision right away, sarge…

But I’m learning that isn’t how it happens.

The Jedi thing is, not to come up with something awesome to pray for.

There’s nothing to create here. We don’t have to think of some end-goal. We’re mining what’s already there. The key is to get our own nonsense out of the way so the good stuff can come through.

We have to surrender to what’s already there, not force something new to come into existence.

It’s just that our ego gets in the way and puts its demands first (remember, it makes a horrible master but fantastic helper). But our intuition knows better.

This is what’s really interesting. When it clicks, it resembles a feeling of coming home. Not a feeling of going out and getting something.

Which is nice.
If you’re into that type of thing.


Jonas writes short daily stories and preachments on the daily here in Higher Thoughts. Get one to enjoy with your coffee every morning by subscribing below.

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A religion that takes me there

Image: Scott Walsh

Mainstream Christianity seems to still be about a series of promises and compromises between humans and a deity in the clouds. Like, here’s the things you do so that you keep God happy; and if you do them, he’ll keep his promise to send you to Heaven when you die with all the other bland white people.

Ugh… Religion could be so much more. Especially out west today, when we don’t burn each other at the stake for heresy (that I’ve heard of anyway).

From where I stand, God is an experience. An experience that rises us above the depths of our torturous egoic minds into a state of grace and heightened awareness of this thing called Life. Or something like that.

This seems to be the case across the board, whether I talk to a Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, or Atheist: they all speak of ‘something bigger than themselves’ when they speak of the Divine (even if they don’t call it ‘God’).

It’s very rare that someone has a true ‘religious experience’ in church. Mostly, people feel a lowering of awareness either into a state of guilt and lethargy or a place of, “Damn, this is cheesy as hell with horrible rock music, but it’s where my friends go, so I guess I’ll play along with it.”

Ugh…

We can do better. Can we please ditch the script and create something more powerful and compelling? Let’s scrap the shitty music and the faux righteousness for something that brings us all together and rises us above ourselves.

Let’s transform religion and create spaces and places where we humans go to tap into the God experience that is alive and well in us at all times.

Religion can very well be a place of light. And what does light do to darkness? It doesn’t ‘heal’ it. It doesn’t ‘convert’ it. It doesn’t work to change it. It just reveals itself and all of a sudden, it isn’t so dark anymore.

This is the nature of the God experience. When we can flip the switch, all of a sudden, the light’s on.

Religion should be a craft that’s based around designing human experiences of transcendence.

God doesn’t arise from scripture. Scripture arose out of it as one of an infinite number of incarnations.

What we have now largely reeks of inauthenticity, hypocrisy, and tastes as fake as the cheese on my Big Mac.

We need a safe place for candid, human conversations. We could use an arena to celebrate the divinely human experience. We are yearning to connect in a real way while celebrating the life force surging through our veins.

Yes, we can do it without a church. Sure, we can have the God experience in the woods, at the grocery store, or while looking into the eyes of our kids.

But we’re a tribal people. Sometimes we need a physical space outside our day to day lives to hold this presence.

Like a gym. For the soul. But different than SoulCycle.

Please, religion. Our bullshit detectors have evolved quite a bit these last few years. We expect more out of you. A lot more.

Take me there.


Jonas Ellison is a spiritual writer, teacher, practitioner, and an interfaith minister-in-training. He helps people deepen their lives through applied spirituality while documenting his journey along the way.

To subscribe via email to his updates and exclusive content, click here.

A short (but mighty) spirit-packed question to jumpstart your day with

Image: Tim Wright

The root of 98.765% (roughly) of our problems as humans is when we buy into the delusion of our separateness from Source (otherwise known as egoic thinking).

We can feel quite lonely in these skin bags of meat, blood, and bone, faced against a big world hell-bent on chewing us up and spitting us out.

It’s easy, if we’re not mindful, to start the day with a buzzing level of stress and anxiety. Especially when we go straight to checking email, Facebook, the news, etc. By doing this, you essentially say to the world, “Alrighty world, how are you gonna screw me over today?”

I have a much better question…

Alrighty, Spirit. Where are we going today?

(Yes, please throw in the ‘alrighty’ for good measure.)

This little exercise is simple, yet profound…

Starting the day with this question gets you out of manic ego-mindedness.

If you notice how the question is framed: It immediately gets us out of our separate aloneness and assigns spirit a partnership role. When you start saying this, you’ll get a sense that it’s not just you. You just drive the physical mechanism that spirit gets shit done with. In layman’s terms, that is.

Side note: If you’re cynical (it’s okay, I welcome cynicism — you’re in good company), you might be wondering just how this is different than having an imaginary friend. I’d admit, it is close. But I have a hard time believing in imaginary friends. Plus, Spirit is something that lives in you. It’s actually more than that — it’s your source energy. It’s probably more of you than your physicality is. (But please… Keep the imaginary friend if it helps.)

So, boom. Right away, with this question, you’re kicking your day off aligned with Source and in partnership with Spirit.

Mix that with coffee and I’d say you’re pretty much unstoppable.


Jonas writes short daily stories and preachments on the daily here in Higher Thoughts. Get one to enjoy with your coffee every morning by subscribing below.

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The power of willingness

Image: James Bloedel

You’ve heard the saying:

“When there’s a will, there’s a way.”

This is true, but let’s drill down a level deeper, shall we?

I’ve heard it put this way:

Willfulness builds a wall; willingness opens a way.
 — Someone way smarter than me

Willfulness/self-will is strong, but shortsighted. It narrows our gaze and tightens our shoulders.

With willfulness, we’re impatient with ourselves. We force things. We sleep less and eat worse. We try to stress things into being, which hardly ever works (and when it does, we suffer adverse effects).

Willfulness can be employed to push a car, but it’s not very helpful in more complex life situations.

This is where willingness comes in...

Where willfulness sees ‘a’ way, willingness sees infinite ways.

Willingness leaves room for currently unrecognized insight. It topples tables and ushers in completely new paradigms.

Willingness knows it doesn’t see the full picture. It understands it doesn’t have all the answers.

Willingness allows us to be patient with ourselves. Through willingness, we get ourselves out of the way and make room for something greater than our current vision to emerge.

Willingness comes from receptivity to the unseen. It holds a loose grip on the moment and allows it to expand and deepen — something that’s impossible under the white-knuckled death grip of willfulness.

Willfulness says, “Nope, I got this,” to outside help. 
Willingness says, “Hells yes, jump in.”

Willingness clears the way for deeper knowing beyond surface-level thinking. It softens hard places and fosters movement and flexibility.

Feeling rigid in any areas of your life? Could be a strong signal that willfulness has taken over.

Recognize it. Know that your current state of willfulness isn’t getting you where you want to go.

Breathe. Close your eyes and open your palms as a symbolic gesture that you’re loosening the ego’s grip while opening up to willingness.

Then, stay the course, but employ willingness to carry you through.

I think you might astonish yourself.


Jonas writes short daily stories and preachments on the daily here in Higher Thoughts. Get one to enjoy with your coffee every morning by subscribing below.

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Humans as endogenous beings

Image: Vladislav Klapin

Some plants that thrive in Phoenix would perish in Fort Lauderdale.

These plants are indigenous. They originate externally, requiring a certain outside environment to thrive.

We humans have a certain indigenous aspect of ourselves. This is nothing to ignore. When I consider living in a place that’s hot and sunny all year without the rest of the seasons, there’s a part of me that would rather dig its eyeballs out with a rusty butterknife.

This doesn’t just pertain to weather/environmental conditions. Some of us claim to be more indigenous to certain social/psychical environments than others. I have a friend who loves conflict and the hustle and bustle of the city. I, on the other hand, prefer the wide open spaces at this juncture of my life.

As powerful as these indigenous tendencies are in humans, they’re just ego-ideals that we hold ourselves to.

Man is that noble endogenous plant, which grows from within, outward.
 — Ralph Waldo Emerson

As much as we might have indigenous tendencies, they’re not the determining factor in the flourishing of our souls. Plop me down in Scottsdale, Arizona, and as much as I might initially hate it, if I shift my focus, I can adapt and thrive there too.

This is because humans are endogenous beings. We cultivate our consciousness from within and project it outwardly into the world.

Everything about us — how we hold a pencil; how we walk; how we talk; how we design our living spaces; our posture, fashion sense, dietary preferences, and voice — is an outer reflection of our inner state of consciousness.

Our inner-environment lays the groundwork of our wellbeing, not the conditions we find ourselves in.

There are plenty of people who’ve found their soul’s purpose and do the work of the Gods in the most hellish places on Earth.

As endogenous beings, we can venture inside ourselves, connect with the Source that creates worlds, and consciously determine how we carry ourselves into our destinies.

But please don’t make me go to Scottsdale.


Jonas writes short daily stories and preachments on the daily here in Higher Thoughts. Get one to enjoy with your coffee every morning by subscribing below.

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Opening to new thought

Image: Alex Iby

How much of our lives is lived freshly and how much of it is driven by mental patterns of the past?

Most of the time we only experience our own thoughts, beliefs, and perceptions about reality.

We’re at least once removed from the present moment at all times.

Maybe this is all we can do. After all, our brains are meaning-makers. The problem is, when we do this unconsciously, we often give life an old, tired meaning that doesn’t in the least serve us…

These filters we lay over reality often have no relationship to it. They’re disconnected from the beauty, intelligence, love, and life that each moment offers.

We entertain the cyclical, chronic thinking of our past regrets and future worries. Thoughts of stress, limitation, lack, prejudice, and doubt. Thoughts that the ego has put in place to protect us.

We filter our world through defense mechanisms that, in reality, only hinder our connection with the unfoldment of life.

I don’t know if it’s possible to experience ‘ultimate reality’. I don’t even know if there is such a thing. But I know we can open ourselves to living with fresh eyes and ears.

This is scary because what’s new is unknown. It’s unseen. It’s unheard. It’s threatening to the control-freak that is the ego.

How we handle this fear is huge. It decides whether we grow past our current paradigms or remain trapped inside them. Do we see this unknown reality as good? Or bad?

With the eyes of the past (the ego) it can only be seen as bad. But with eyes of faith (the Spirit) it can be the best thing that’s ever happened.

My good is outside of my present paradigm and I welcome it.
 — Michael Beckwith

I know we can do this. I know we can make ourselves available for a newer, fresher experience of reality. Again. And again. Forever.


Jonas Ellison is a spiritual writer, teacher, practitioner, and an interfaith minister-in-training. He helps people deepen their lives through applied spirituality while documenting his journey along the way.

To subscribe via email to his updates and exclusive content, click here.

Let life unfold

Image: Alex Iby

Sometimes we cling to life. We don’t want it to change. Every little shift in its direction of feels like seismic activity that jolts the foundation of life as we know it.

Change is threatening to the ego. Especially when it comes in the form of loss.

Losing a job.
Losing a loved one.
Losing a deal.
Losing an opportunity.
Losing good health.
Losing sleep.

All this losing can ruin our plans in an instant.

Get that?
‘Our plans’.

Life often has a different plan. The problem is, often times, we don’t listen.

Life’s nature is that of a constant state of unfoldment.

Are you letting it unfold? Or are you trying to wrap duct tape around it and keep it static, predictable, and safe?

See this unfoldment as it is… The way life naturally works for the evolution and expansion of our soul.

Our petty plans be damned. 
In this is life. New life.

Find solace in the unfoldment. 
More good is to come. 
Perfectly on-Plan.


Jonas Ellison is a spiritual writer, teacher, practitioner, and an interfaith minister-in-training. He helps people deepen their lives through applied spirituality while documenting his journey along the way.

To subscribe via email to his updates and exclusive content, click here.

God is not an interventionist

Image: Oliver Cole

If I had to name one big idea I’m learning from my ministerial studies right now, I’d say it’s this…

God isn’t in the intervention business.

God will never intervene in our lives. For good or bad.

God isn’t something we call down from the clouds and wield like a supernatural sword. It doesn’t work this way. Never has.

God functions in us. Not without us.

God is found in the quiet, vivifying inner-space of our soul.

God doesn’t mold to our will through supplication. We open up to be molded by God when we go within and make a sacrificial offering of our ego-based thoughts and limitations.

When prayer is answered, our petty problems don’t just change. Everything changes. We transcend ourselves. Our fearful, survival-based will is replaced by a much larger, all-embracing one.

We don’t use God. God sits and waits for us to allow her to use us. And then we get up. And go.

Permission granted?


Jonas Ellison is a spiritual writer, teacher, practitioner, and an interfaith minister-in-training. He helps people deepen their lives through applied spirituality while documenting his journey along the way.

To subscribe via email to his updates and exclusive content, click here.

A book review: Power Through Constructive Thinking by Emmet Fox

You may have been noticing a lot of Emmet Fox quotes in my recent posts. That’s because my nose has been buried in his book, Power Through Constructive Thinking.

This is the first book in my curriculum towards becoming a Spiritual Practitioner and then (if I keep it up) a New Thought minister. (You can read more about my journey here, if you’re interested.)

I’ve read dozens of books in the New Thought/Transcendentalist realm, but this one was the most Jesus-centered I’ve come across. Although it’s a Christian-centered theosophy, most books in this genre speak of the Divine in a more general, impersonal way. This book, however, is super-Jesusey (yep, I just made that a word) and calls on the Bible throughout. But it’s Jesusey in a refreshing way.

Emmet Fox is anchored in his belief without stepping into the territory of dogma. This is the Jesus message I can get behind. It’s one of love, unity, and inclusion. It’s subversive and it portrays how he defied the fearful/violent regime of his day (and, as we have it, one that is still alive today).

He walks through several well-known Bible verses and gives his spiritual translations on them. This sheds a whole new light on some of the old, tired, lofty ideals within it.

Takeaway

This book took me to a deep, introspective place. I particularly enjoyed the ‘7-day mental diet’. This is the practice where you’re to take 7 days to monitor your thoughts and only ‘eat’ the ones that are healthy. Any thought that resembles junk food is to be examined and discarded instead of consumed and given power to.

The kicker is, if you happen to mess up and find yourself getting pissed off at the news for an entire day (like me), you have to start back on day one.

I did this exercise and, after the first few days, felt… better. Way better. So much so that I decided to keep going. Since then, although I may have popped an accidental mental M&M at one point or another, my diet has been quite healthy.

As for the journey

So here I am on step one of many and I’m still as enthusiastic as ever on this journey towards Ministerhood.

Like I’ve said before, I don’t know if I’ll ever have an actual church. I love having a good excuse to study world religions and philosophies. And if it helps my work here, it’s done its purpose.

I love being a student. Sure, I could just randomly read spiritual texts, but having an actual curriculum keeps me focused. It gives me boundaries. And creativity digs boundaries.

Anyhow, I highly recommend this book to anyone on a spiritual journey. However, if you have any resistance to the Bible or Jesus, skip it. But if you’re cool with the J-word and are open to seeing the Christian message in a new light, this one is for you.


Jonas writes short daily stories and preachments on the daily here in Higher Thoughts. Get one to enjoy with your coffee every morning by subscribing below.

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On the anti-theology of Jesus

Image: freestocks.org

From what I’m learning, Jesus never really entered into any kind of philosophical/doctrinal western-style conversations or debates. He taught spiritual/metaphysical lessons and asked far more questions than he gave answers.

The doctrines, theologies, rules, and dogmas that make some of us cringe started flowing in after he dropped the mic and made his grand exit.

There’s nothing wrong with theology in and of itself, but to say that theology is Christianity would be false. Theology is the naval-gazing we do about Christianity. Theology came well after Jesus from men (yes, dudes) who couldn’t find the black-and-white answers they wanted in the Bible, and so they filled in the blanks themselves.

Jesus taught from the heart-level. His sayings make very little sense to the head. But scholars, lawyers, and politicians work from the neck-up.

I’m guilty of it, to a degree, by writing about it. I try my best to avoid deep theological debates and discussions because I know how distracting they are, but I definitely try to mold spirituality into daily models that makes sense to both myself and you, the reader. It’s just what we do as humans who are used to conceptualizing things with our brains.

Approach spirituality with your heart, soul, body, as well as conceptually with your mind.

You and I both know that life is deeper than what makes sense to the head.

When we start talking about the things that matter

The meaning of life and death…
Why we make mistakes…
Why we submit to temptation… 
Why it’s so funny when someone farts in public…
Why poverty happens…
How we grow old… 
How we can grow young… 
Why some have so much and others very little… 
Why we can have so much but feel like we have so little… 
The meaning of love… 
Why we treat perfect strangers better than our family…
Why we put ourselves through the torment of becoming parents… 
Why we love our kids so much…
Why we pretend to like other people’s kids… 
The nature of forgiveness…

— and the multitudes of other things that warrant a much more robust discussion than a secular explanation, we start talking in metaphor, parable, poem, and inquiry.

Like Jesus did.

However, as Emmet Fox explains in Sermon on the Mount, here’s what theology did to his message…

Glimpsing one tiny corner of the universe, and that with only half-opened eyes, and working from an exclusively anthropocentric and geocentric point of view, men built up absurd and very horrible fables about a limited and man-like God who conducted his universe very much as a rather ignorant and barbarous prince might conduct the affiars of a small kingdom. All sorts of human weaknesses, such as vanity, fickleness, and spite, were attributed to this being. Then a farfetched and very inconsistent legend was built up concerning original sin, vicarious blood atonement, infinite punishment for finite transgressions; and, in certain cases, an unutterably horrible doctrine of predestination to eternal torment, or eternal bliss, was added.

He goes on to say…

The “Plan of Salvation” which figured so prominently in the evangelical sermons of a past generation is as completely unknown to the Bible as it is to the Koran... What has happened is that certain obscure texts from Genesis, a few phrases taken here and there from Paul’s letters, and one or two isolated verses from other parts of the scriptures have been taken out and pieced together to produce the kind of teaching which it seemed to them ought to have been found in the Bible.

This is theology. This is what happens when the ego grabs control of spirituality.

When we consume ourselves in theology, we become obsessed with persuading others to see things the way we see it rather than living better lives ourselves.

If you happen to fall victim to such energy, this is my long-winded way of suggesting you step away from it.

There’s nothing to prove. 
There’s nothing to solve.

If someone says something that doesn’t mesh well with your version of the world… smile and live better.

If someone corners you with a deeply-researched chain of logic that attacks your very way of being in the world… smile and live better.

If someone attacks you for not going to church or interpreting some sacred text in just the way they do… smile and live better.

Smile and live better, friends. 
Sure beats theology, doesn’t it?


I write short daily stories and preachments on the daily here in Higher Thoughts. Get one to enjoy with your coffee every morning by subscribing below.

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