Updated: Jun 21
copyright © 2020 Oliver Bardwell
To see the world in a drop of rain,
The deepest love in a ray of light,
To suffer from a stranger's pain,
and know the day in the dark of night.....
Dedication: My mother, a strong, honest, and kind woman, was my first spiritual teacher. She raised eight children in a tumultuous household with very few material resources. She once told me that during the most challenging times in her life, she could feel Christ standing right next to her, guiding her through many trials and tribulations. She said that when she was the most exhausted, worn out, and on the verge of giving up, she would pray, and be filled with such love and light that it was indescribable. My mother is a shining example of the type of love that Jesus taught. And even though she considers herself a Christian, she’s never condemned and has always accepted and loved people of all faiths and backgrounds. She has taught me that truth is the same, no matter where it comes from.
I would like to dedicate this book to my mother for teaching me to seek the truth, to my children for teaching me how to love unconditionally, to my wife, for her love, compassion, and never-ending support—and to you the reader; I hope that this book will serve as a gentle reminder of who you are and what is essential in your life. May it awaken within you the desire to know your true self, that eternal and loving spirit that is beyond name and form.
Preface: This book was inspired and written as a guide to spiritual life and a reminder of our true nature. During its writing, I awoke early almost every morning, practiced yoga, prayed, meditated, and wrote. The words flowed without difficulty or much effort, and the book seemed to write itself. I don’t pretend to be an enlightened guru, sitting on a mountaintop in some faraway land; I grew up in small-town Iowa in middle America. Nevertheless, I can say with great sincerity that during the daily practice and conveyance of this wisdom, I have felt a profound and growing inner peace, and a wonderful change to my inner world.
I recently watched an interview with musician John Mayer, and when the subject of his writing came up, he said there was this place writers sometimes reach that he liked to call “the other side,” and that “you don’t get there very often.” What he said about being in this place that I found most profound was: “While you’re writing, you speak so much of your truth that even you are learning from it.” That is how I’ve felt in writing, reading, and editing the book you are now holding in your hands. Every time I sat down to write or edit the manuscript, I learned something.
The wisdom of The Way is universal and beyond the confines of any one religion. No matter what your religious beliefs, I hope you can find something within these pages that adds to and strengthens your spiritual practice.
The book is divided into three sections, each comprised of chapters on a common theme, topic, or challenge that we may face in daily life. Most chapters begin with a spiritual quote, have a short discourse on the wisdom of the topic, and are sometimes followed by poetic verses I was inspired to pen. These verses are meant to speak directly to your spirit.
I recommend reading The Way straight through, and then, if you’re so inclined, keep it close by as a meditation guide or a tool that you can use to bring you back to your center and spirit when your mind has become immersed in a problem or challenge.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the delusion of the mind and the ego that sometimes, it can help to have a small book we can pick up and turn to a page that reminds us of our true nature—a book without too much intellectual involvement, that contains words and verses that speak to our soul. I hope this small collection of wisdom can be that book for you.
Introduction: I know that God is not a popular word right now. Some New Age books use words like source or being instead of God, and that’s okay. Those terms may be less off-putting for the spiritual seeker who is searching for something more. Please don’t get attached to the word that is used for God. When you read the word God within this text, I welcome you to substitute it with Divine Mother, Source, Being, the One Self, or with whichever deity or term you feel most comfortable. I may even switch from one name to another at times, depending on the context. After all, God is everywhere, in all beings, in all things, and might be best described as the creative and loving force that flows through everything and all of creation.
Split a piece of wood, and I am there; turn over a stone, and you will find me.
—Gospel of Thomas, Saying 77
The Tao Te Jing says that the Tao that can be named is not the Tao. Maybe the God that can be named is not God. In the act of naming something, we separate ourselves from it. We use labels and concepts to describe a force that can only be felt, a force the mind cannot comprehend. We talk about this force’s manifestations, confusing them with the force itself, or hoping they will lead us back to the experience of God.
Enter The Dragon - Don't think! Feel....
One of my favorite movies growing up was Enter the Dragon. At the beginning of the film, Bruce Lee is playing an instructor who is teaching one of his students a martial arts technique. After they bow to each other, Bruce says to his student, “Kick me.”
The student executes a couple of side kicks, and Bruce abruptly stops him, saying, “What was that? An exhibition? We need emotional content. Try again.”
His student continues, trying once again, this time with anger. Bruce tells him anger is not emotional content. The student does the move again, this time with a different presence and strength. “That’s it!” Bruce exclaims. “How did that feel?”
The student replies, “Let me think.”
Just then, as a Zen master might do, Bruce smacks his student on the head, saying,
“Don’t think, feel. It’s like a finger pointing a way to the moon.”
The student stares at Bruce’s finger as he is pointing toward the moon and receives yet another whack. There’s a dramatic pause before Bruce continues,
“Don’t concentrate on the finger, or you will miss all the heavenly glory.”
The words God, Source, Being, Tao, and Zen are each like a finger pointing to the moon. If we concentrate too much on the finger, we too may “miss all the heavenly glory.”
God is not exclusive. We can love God or this force, by whatever name it’s called and by whatever name it is worshiped. This force is love, and the act of worship is simply an expression of love. I’ve felt this divine presence in the fields and trees, in the small meditation room in my home, in the Christian church, in the Trappist monastery, in the Hindu ashram, and in the Buddhist temple. I’ve witnessed this presence in the eyes of a child, a rich man, and a beggar. We can love God wherever we find Him. In truth, He is everywhere. There is nowhere that He can’t be found.
Read more chapters for free in the next Art of Mindful Living blog post or buy a copy of THE WAY: A Small Book of Wisdom through the link below.