Spiritual Mirages

Spiritual Questions & Answers

Discovering inner health and transformation


I wonder whether you have ever seen a mirage?

Mirages occur in our physical world; in the desert the interface of hot and cold air creates to the eye the appearance or illusion of water. For a time the eye is misled into seeing what is not there – it is not real. Mirages can pull us away from our true course -and when we reach this destination we discover it to be unreal – empty of any substance …….

There are other appearances that occur in our physical world. Every day of our lives the sun rises in our sky to herald the beginning of a new day. But this is an illusion, an appearance that we live in and take for granted. The reality is that we and our bit of the earth that we live on has turned towards the sun – and those who live on the other side of the world have turned away from the sun and so are experiencing darkness and night.

I also have illusions or appearances of truth that I hold to be ‘the truth’. And this is so for all people; all of us journey towards discovering more and more what is real and unlearning what we thought was real. It is easier to look back and see what one has outgrown than to see what illusions one presently inhabits. Once I believed that attaining qualifications would give me self-esteem; but I have come to see that this is a mirage, as certificates and pieces of paper are external things and therefore doesn’t heal anything inside me. I was looking in the wrong place and for the wrong remedy.

I can be easily fooled by what happens on a superficial level. Ego, in particular, is fooled by what is outward and external.

I reflect on the appearance of the sun rising to begin the day. If I look at what lies behind this appearance, it shows me an inner reality that God/the Divine always has his/her focus towards me even at times when I feel distanced and unconnected. But if I fall for what the appearance is (that the sun/Divine moves away from me) then I am sucked into thoughts of being isolated and apart from the source of life, love and wisdom.

The world is not focused around me and my stuff, however much it feels that way. When I just focus on my concerns this turns me away from the Divine and reality. What is real is focused on things that endure – Love that comes from the Divine and the insight that is given through how this Love is to be expressed and lived.

Insight is given, it flows in. In-sight or inner sight that enables each of us to see more clearly the reality of a situation, a relationship …… and so the mirage is dispelled and we renew our connection with whatever path we are on towards what is the highest good or the divine will. The following quotation expresses the contrast between outer and inner sight:

Thought from the eye closes the understanding,

but thought from the understanding opens the eye.

We attain enlightenment when we love truth

for the sake of truth, and not for the sake

of self-promotion or worldly gain.

 If we look at the world with our outer sight alone, which is from a materialistic viewpoint, only the superficial, material world will be seen. Focusing on this level alone closes the inner or spiritual sight. How can we look up if we are looking down? How can we look within if we are looking without? But when we shift our focus to what is spiritual, searching for the ultimate truth behind the veils of the way things appear, we find true understanding of life on all levels.

Emanuel Swedenborg, Way of Wisdom

When I read this it reminds me to look more deeply, to open myself to in-sight; so I can see my way forward and the next step on my path. The mirages dissolve into nothingness…..

Copyright 2013 Helen Brown


Posted on 5th February 2013Categories Consciousness, Meaning and inspirationTags , , , , , , , , , , ,  Leave a comment


Inspiration — How can I get inspired?

Spiritual Questions & Answers

Discovering inner health and transformation

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Sports fans are enthralled when they happen to witness something special – a great solo run, a penetrating pass, or a brilliant shot at goal from a seemingly impossible angle. The player has had an inspired moment which takes your breath away.

Brilliant insight can also take place in science, like when Archimedes jumped from his bath when he experienced a leap of understanding about the principle of displacement and when Kekule had a flash of illumination regarding the ring structure of the benzene molecule, when he imagined a snake chasing its tale.

Kenneth Ring, professor of psychology, has found that people have often been inspired by a near death experience to find a greater appreciation for life, greater compassion for others, a heightened sense of purpose, and greater planetary concern etc.

I would argue that inspiration can take place in every area of human activity — whether it be in musical composition, private meditation, poetry, the visual arts, military combat, technological invention or even political speech-making. Such moments involve clarity and vivid awareness of some new possibility. When inspiration takes place it raises our spirits and fills us with wonder.

Whatever one’s individual situation and personal experience, who wouldn’t want to feel inspired? Surely it would add excitement and greater interest to normal living. So what does it actually feel like to be inspired and how can you bring it on?

State of inspiration

The common factor across all instances seems to be an awakening to something new, better or more important, and going beyond one’s previous concerns and habits of looking at things. Instead of being tied to the old way of doing something, a world of possibility opens up, and what is new is created. Some have said that this state of human consciousness is a spiritual gift which happens to you and takes you away from your normal self-serving limitations and puts you into closer contact with the divine spark.

Inspiration is all around

Karrie Landsverk, educationalist and professional speaker, has suggested that inspiration can readily be seen in ordinary life.

Karrie Landsverk

“There are amazing people all around us doing every day things but doing so in a way that is inspiring. It may be they work or volunteer with a cheerful heart, they are always willing to lend a hand and stop what they are doing if someone is in need, they are always learning, they are always teaching, they are always creating and so on. Nature is inspiring and beautiful as it transforms throughout each season. God’s word is absolutely inspiring to meditate on each day. I agree our children’s innocence and pure hearts are some of the best inspiration we could ever find. The point is – open your eyes, look around and you can’t help but be inspired.”

Factors conducive to inspiration

Todd Thrash and Andrew Elliot at the University of Rochester have conducted some psychological research into some of the factors which may be conducive to inspiration. In line with Karrie Landsverk’s views, they found that openness to experience often came before inspiration, suggesting that those who are more open to inspiration are more likely to experience it. Also in line with her views they found a link with the spiritual: students studying the humanities such as art, religion and philosophy were more likely to feel inspired: these being all subjects concerned with transcendent values such as beauty, goodness and truth.

Inspiration and a spiritual state of mind

Emanuel Swedenborg, spiritual philosopher, has written extensively regarding what he describes as the enlivening of the human spirit when you turn towards the spiritual with your heart as well as your mind. When you intend what is good then you will start to feel gratitude, joy, happiness, love. Then your understanding of the desirability of these things is no longer just in your head but also in your heart.

It is said that creative writing is 99% perspiration and one percent inspiration. While inspiration is not the same as effort, effort is an essential condition for inspiration. By acting on ones visionary insights you open the door to further inspiration.

Todd Thrash and Andrew Elliot would agree. They point out that both insight and the desire to act on it are both crucially important. The way they put it is to say that Yang (being inspired to) without Yin (being inspired by) is devoid of meaning and so Yin without Yang is spiritual stagnancy. In other words trying to act on one’s vision is the way to be open to further inspiration.

Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems


Posted on 14th November 2013Categories Consciousness, Meaning and inspiration Leave a comment

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The World Needs More Love Letters

Spiritual Questions & Answers

Discovering inner health and transformation

Hannah Brencher
Hannah Brencher

Hannah Brencher age 24 years felt lonely in the big city. Two and a half years ago she found a way of easing her own feelings of sadness and at the same time helping other isolated people.

She began writing letters to strangers and leaving them all over New York city to find tucked into park benches or magazines in cafes. Words of encouragement like “Don’t give up on your dreams” and “Someone believes in you.”

This all started as a comforting habit but as others joined in it turned into The World Needs More Love Letters project as now there are approximately 13,000 people involved. Now a veritable army of volunteer letter writers has formed and Brencher’s spark of an idea is spreading around the world.

Hannah, who is originally from New Haven in Connecticut, tells Positive News: “My hope was that people would feel like they would be given a proactive recipe: that they could become folded into something larger than themselves – something that blesses the days of others. My letters were filled with honesty and encouragement and words of love. I wanted the recipients to know love wherever they were standing.”

There are now approximately 13,000 people involved, young and old, men and women, from all walks of life.

And judging by the response to the projects web site this is really helping people find connection and encouragement they need.


Posted on25th April 2013CategoriesMeaning and inspiration Leave a comment

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Things desired as essential

Spiritual Questions & Answers

Discovering inner health and transformation

Spiritual Questions
Max Ehrmann

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly, and listen to others,
even to the dull and ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
they are vexatious to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be
greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career
however humble;
it is a real possession in the
changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs,
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you
to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself.
Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love,
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,
it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit
to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore, be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace in your soul.
With all its sham,
drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.”

Max Ehrman


Posted on8th April 2013CategoriesMeaning and inspiration, PoetryTags,, , , , ,  Leave a comment

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Stella English

Spiritual Questions & Answers

Discovering inner health and transformation

Stella with Alan Sugar

Stella is known as a winner of BBC tv’s The Apprentice

Her childhood was a painful one. “It was quite a lonely hard time for me.” Her father had abandoned her at a young age, leaving her mother Drusilla unable to care for her due to psychological ill-health. It wasn’t deliberate neglect. Her mother couldn’t look after herself let alone a daughter.

Stella was able to do more or less what she wanted and she didn’t know right from wrong. She says she didn’t go to school much because of being bullied there due to her appearance.

She also spent time in children’s care homes and was taken in by her great aunt, Mrs Brockman, (also called Stella) who raised her in loco parentis. However she missed her real mother and moved back with her when aged 14 – only to find her lifestyle was more chaotic. At 15 she was living alone in a run-down bedsit.

Thamesmead a place Stella once called home. It is a social housing development built in the 1960s on former marshland with a population of some 50,000 people. It has graffiti-lined avenues known for their high crime levels and grey concrete buildings.

It  has had the worst record for credit card fraud of any postal address in the country. In the 1990’s teenage gangs intimitated people on the streets. The area was then known to be associated with poverty, gang violence and race wars. There were racially motivated murders although these days there is better racial co-existence in sharp contrast with the not so distant past.

Stella mixed with some hard people, is street-wise and knows how to look after herself. She drank in one of London’s roughest pubs, The Wildflower, in the heart of Thamesmead where gangs with knives and clubs would fight after hours.

Stella however has made something of her life. She studied a one-year business course before adding City firms such as Merrill Lynch, Nomura and Daiwa Securities to her CV.
She won the prestigious BBC business Apprentice contest.  She lives in St Albans with her partner and 2 sons.

Stella has bettered herself. If she can do it, anyone can. As she says ‘You are in charge of your own destiny’. She has shown a lot of determination.

Stella was cared for by great-aunt then aged 72. Stella says ‘Her fostering me was life-changing.   “She was very strict. I went from having no rules – or if there were any, ignoring them – to having lots of rules”. “She made me do 3 hours of homework a night.”

Stella now wants to help find foster homes for the thousands of youngsters in the care
system. A report to mark the start of Barnardo’s  Fostering and Adoption week now reveals at least 8,750 new foster families are urgently needed.


Posted on11th January 2012CategoriesEthics & Children, Meaning and inspirationTags, , , , , ,  Leave a comment

Disappointment: a blessing in disguise?

Blessing in disguise?

The disappointing terrorist attack of 9/11 was clearly not a blessing in disguise. Evil got its way and many people were very badly physically and emotionally hurt. Nor in any conceivable way can many a disappointing setback be described as a piece of good fortune even if tiny morsels of something positive might be salvaged from such events. On the other hand sometimes a personal trouble can have a unexpected opportunity for a helpful outcome. For example occasionally a bout of illness can help a patient re-appraise an unhealthy lifestyle. The difficulty is in recognising what might possibly be a blessing when your expectations are so severely dashed against the painful rocks of reality. Here are 5 questions that will help you look for any blessing in disguise after you suffer a disappointment.

Was the disappointment due to your unrealistic expectations?

Sometimes when you think life is predictable, the universe has other plans. You may be taken by surprise, if for some reason you complacently suppose calamity will always affect somebody else and not yourself. Yet people do get injured on the roads in large numbers. Nobody can tell what is around the corner. Who can say one won’t get run over by a bus tomorrow?

You may assume you always get your just deserts. Don’t we reap what we deserve? But actually this is may not be the case. A drunken driver or a badly maintained aircraft can be the sole cause of mayhem to innocent passengers.

Was the disappointment something of your own making?

Not everyone learns from their own mistakes. The painful inflamed tendon in my arm was frustrating as it forced me to rest and ration my work of splitting logs instead of overdoing it everyday. It was my wife, who rightly pointed out, that I needed to learn to pace myself in re-using muscles and tendons which have grown tight and weak due to under-use. Apparently it is a common problem for gardeners to rush out in the spring and strain their backs after a winter of inactivity.

Did the disappointment show greater effort was needed?

I got excessively cross with my young grandson who was refusing to abide by the rules of the board game we were playing. Sometimes adults forget just how noisy, untidy and demanding they themselves were when children. My emotionality spoiled what should have been a leisurely family occasion. I have now resolved to try harder to be more patient with the boy whilst still remaining firm about the rules.

“What keeps me going is a constant sense of disappointment with what I’ve already done.” (Robert Wyatt, rock musician)

If we see a setback as a challenge then it can be a stimulant for bigger effort.

Did the disappointment broaden your horizons?

Say you were to suffer a major misfortune such as losing your job through redundancy, or your spouse through marital breakdown or death. Then you would be faced with a huge challenge. Perhaps having to find a livelihood doing a different kind of work. Or having to cope as a single person with no partner to intimately support you face life. In either case you will probably be obliged to get out of your comfort zone: deal with new kinds of situation: learn new skills: meet new people.

“Disenchantment, whether it is a minor disappointment or a major shock, is the signal that things are moving into transition in our lives.” (William Throsby Bridges, senior military officer)

If you happened to have a tendency towards self-pity here is an opportunity to stop adopting the victim role. This role seeks to focus on blaming something or someone else for one’s troubles. If you are such a person you will have a chance to learn instead the role of the survivor and adopt the courage that is required to tackle the unknown and experience the new confidence that comes from success.

Did the disappointment mean you need to put your hope in something beyond yourself?

When you feel like you don’t have the physical, mental, or emotional strength to pull through, you are challenged to possibly put trust in something more than yourself – whatever that may be.

” As someone who has faced as much disappointment as most people, I’ve come to trust not that events will always unfold exactly as I want, but that I will be fine either way.” (Marianne Williamson, spiritual teacher)

This reminds me of the biblical story of Jonah. His conscience told him to go to do a job of work but he didn’t want to do it and so he journeyed in the opposite direction only to end up in the sea and swallowed by a whale. In his distress he called to his God for help, vowing to make amends for his disobedience. The whale vomited him safely on to dry land.

Conclusion on disappointment

I would suggest there is no such thing as bad luck. Facing and dealing with setbacks is a part of life for all of us.

If you will, you can choose to find only the negative in your disappointment.

“When disappointment festers in our soul, it leads to discouragement.” (Joyce Meyer, Christian speaker)

Or you can look for possible blessings in disguise.

“If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment.” (Henry David Thoreau, transcendentalist poet)

Emanuel Swedenborg, spiritual philosopher, claimed there is a loving Divine Providence, under whose rule, bad things are allowed to happen, if some lessons of life can result. According to this view, your time here on earth can teach you how to be more spiritually mature and thus experience a deeper long-lasting happiness.

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” (Martin Luther King, Jr., Christian activist)

Copyright 2015 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

Posted on26th February 2015CategoriesConsciousness, Latest post, Meaning and inspiration, Meaning of life, SufferingTags, ,, , ,