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Practicing presence effortlessly

I love it when I meet someone that just effortlessly is spiritually mature – they function and interact with others effortlessly, one foot in the spiritual and the other in the physical worlds. Spiritual maturity brings with it a level of inner wisdom that is impossible to imitate.

Nonetheless, from the outside, their emotional intelligence seems simply innate, as if they were born with it. Admittedly, I have no idea of all the inner work that they have done to get there! I wasn’t present to witness their perseverance in the face of difficulties – their dark night of the soul.

But I know about my journey. I know how hard it has been for me to go from simple head knowledge to a transformation of my way of being with others in the world.

I still see all the times that I get irritable, rather than responding peacefully with compassion.

Last week, I wrote about the lack of emotional intelligence that I see in so many Christians, and I realised after writing it that was really lacking was not simply emotional intelligence, but also spiritual maturity. That concentrated effort, that skillful direction inwardly, of profound change and transformation.

I realised that what I yearned was for more Christians that were truly transformed by the renewing of their minds.

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Transformed by the renewing of your mind…

It is so easy to memorise Bible verses and recite them back to someone. But it’s another thing entirely to allow those same verses and wisdom to change your heart and being.

You can knock someone out with the Bible. I’m sure you’ve run into your share of Bible bashers.

But can these same people envelop you with their Presence and Compassion?

How about you – have your neural pathways and habitual responses been changed to that place where you simply show up as love for another?

If you never told anyone what your personal beliefs were, and they were asked to describe you, would they say:

S/he is loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, honest, gentle, and has self-control.

If that’s not the description that they give – how can you claim to be full of the Spirit? Because the fruit of the Spirit is simply this: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness & self-control.

The mark of true wisdom

Love Your Neighbour as Yourself

Emotional intelligence becomes vital in order to love your neighbour as yourself. It’s only when we allow ourselves to delve into this space, rather than head-knowledge of memorised Bible verses, that we can truly begin to understand the depth of compassion required to follow in Jesus’ footsteps.

People did not flock to Jesus because he knew and could recite the law.

That he could.

But that was not why they followed him!

They followed Jesus because he lived from a place of empathy and compassion. They could feel his love. He touched their lives in a way that the Pharisees and scholars had never done before.

Respect of I AM is the beginning of Wisdom

When you are truly practicing the presence of the Infinite in your life daily, drinking each and every day from that fountain…. others begin to come to you for advice. They ask you to help them deal with and solve their problems.

In part, because you have mastered that pause – the silence and space between the stimulus and the response. The silence that allows you to check in – are these my thoughts and emotions or someone elses? What wisdom is available to me now in this moment for this situation?

The truly wise have embraced personal change and growth, becoming flexible and adaptive, rather than reactive.

Most importantly, the beginning of that emotional intelligence and wisdom comes from spending time in silence. Not in reading the Bible and memorising it – but simply in the Silence of deep thought and contemplation. The self-awareness that comes from “how does this apply in my life?” and “am I applying this?”.

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Self-awareness

From a place of spiritual maturity, we no longer say “you make me feel…”, but rather “I am allowing myself to feel…”. Self-awareness and wisdom bring us to a place where others no longer control our joy. When you take full responsibility for how you feel, you become the master of your own happiness.

In one way, this happens by controling your thoughts. An emotion (physiologically) only lasts 90 seconds. Any lasting emotions are the effect of us replaying in our mind the memory, so that we experience again the emotion.

As such, when we control our thoughts – which thoughts will I choose to dwell on? – we can then get a handle on our feelings. For example, if we have made a mistake – we can choose to replay this over and over in our mind. Or not. Feeling the guilt – over and over – is a choice we have.

Present-focused

This self-awareness allows us to avoid negative self-talk, to let things go and to move past what has happened. When we become focused on the “now”, rather than on the past – on the present beingness, rather than mistakes that happened already – we can accept or give forgiveness and move forward.

Choosing to forgive and forget is a choice we make – sometimes a daily choice. Especially when the emotions associated with an event are strong. We choose to replay the event – to allow the emotions to build up within us. Or we can choose to change our thought patterns and let it go.

The memory is simply a memory of the past – we can choose whether or not to let it affect the present – by controlling our thoughts and emotions.

Spiritual maturity brings us to a place where we are present in the present moment – rather than reliving the past constantly in the present.

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Identifying our feelings

This same self-awareness – and social awareness – allows us to identify our emotions and feelings.

How do I feel right now?

What emotions are these? This is more than “I feel bad”, but actually having a strong emotional vocabulary. It’s having the patience to identify whether the emotion is angry, anxious, irritable or sad.

Articulating these emotions enables us to be able to explain the present experience – even if only to ourselves. But this also allows us to notice what caused or brought on the feelings. Is there a particular pattern or triggering thought or event that causes me to go into feeling this way?

And because we are in touch and able to identify our own emotions – we are able to identify and empathise with others. We notice their feelings – and can more easily notice which emotions they are experiencing. The more in touch we are with this, the better judge of character we become. Therein lies the wisdom.

Strengths & Weaknesses

Another benefit of self-awareness is the learning and growth that comes from knowing your strengths and weaknesses.

You can be open to receiving counsel, even negative feedback and criticism. Because that is all an opportunity for growth. Feedback provides the chance for positive change!

When we look at any person with spiritual maturity and wisdom, we will no doubt discover that they are surrounded by wise counsel. They have (or have had) their mentors and those that they learn from. They have learned not to rely entirely on themselves, but to allow others to assist them in their growth.

In case you hadn’t noticed – I love Proverbs, especially as it relates to emotional intelligence – Emotional intelligence in 22 Proverbs

Well-placed boundaries

Finally, while it’s true that spiritual maturity means we don’t hold grudges or ill-will towards another, it also makes you difficult to manipulate or sabotage. Wisdom is being difficult to offend – having enough self-confidence to stay out of the petty or to take things personally.

Nonetheless, there is room for confronting others gently, without creating a bigger problem, while holding them at an arm’s length. Not everyone has to be part of your inner circle, especially if their attitudes and behaviour are not compassionate and understanding.

Having emotional intelligence and spiritual maturity means knowing who to keep as your wise counsel and when to deal with impertinence speedily. It requires a balanced assertiveness: being tactful and empathetic, while at the same time uncompromising in your beliefs.

At the end of the day, to do this, we have to filter out our own emotional reactions and dig deep into the triggering response we feel towards some people. Dealing with them requires that we hold our emotions and feelings in check, so that these do not fuel the fire!

There is no room for finger-pointing at this time.

Instead, this is a time to say what you mean, and mean what you say. Keeping your word and commitments in every way, so that others can see your integrity and authenticity.

More EQ and less rote learning

It is so easy to “know the right answers” and have Bible verses at your fingertips. Any fool can memorise them!

But can you know them?

But a truly wise man or woman will write them on their heart – will allow their thoughts and mind to be transformed, by changing the way that they relate to the present, the past and the future.

Living in flow with the Infinite is about understanding the power of the present moment. Of Presence in the present.

This is our only point of power – the only place that we can make a difference.

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Emotional intelligence, “We are dangerous when we are not conscious of our responsibility for how we behave, think, and feel.” — Marshall B. Rosenberg

4 comments

  1. Nice one. Spiritual maturity saves a lot of stress and headache in making too many explanations. You become connected and purely express yourself having peace of mind around the people whether friend or colleague

  2. “Of Presence in the present”
    Being able to live and think in the now. Nice line.
    Wonderful post.

  3. Love this post, Beth! While I’m not a Christian and didn’t grow up with any religious affiliation in my family, I still very much relate to the idea of spiritual maturity. Later in life, I stumbled upon meditation which awakened me to the whole idea of awareness and mindfulness. I had no idea what any of that was until I let myself be still to observe the mind. Interestingly, there are many parallels between mediation and prayer; as both create a stillness and focus of mind, allowing us to reach beyond ourselves to our common humanity. While I don’t pretend that I go about my day with one foot in the spiritual world, I do have moments. However, those glimpses of what’s possible is all I need to keep practicing. Well done and so well written!

    Roger

  4. This is a great post. I got a lot of satisfaction and joy from reading it. I agree that the Bible verses are not just to be read but lived. It takes prayer and practice getting there but the rewards are fantastic. Wonderful post once again.

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