Neale Donald Walsch knows about uncertainty. He knows about the mental and emotional toll of dire circumstances. He knows what it is like to reach the “end of line” when you can’t go any farther because you’ve hit rock-bottom.
He knows because in the early 1990’s Walsch suffered a series of crushing blows — a fire that destroyed all of his belongings, the break-up of his marriage, and a car accident that left him with a broken neck.
Once recovered, but alone and unemployed, he was forced to live in a tent in Jackson Hot Springs, just outside Ashland, Oregon, collecting and recycling aluminum cans in order to eat.
At the time, he thought his life had come to an end. In a sense it had.
Wandering aimlessly through the uncharted territory of not knowing what to do next, Walsch found himself in the midst of the “dark night of the soul.”
“The ‘dark night of the soul’ is a term used to describe what one could call a collapse of a perceived meaning in life…an eruption into your life of a deep sense of meaninglessness. Nothing makes sense anymore, there’s no purpose to anything. Sometimes it’s triggered by some external event, or some disaster perhaps, on an external level. The meaning that you had given your life, your activities, your achievements, where you are going, and what is considered important collapses.”
One night, during one of his darkest moments, Walsch “grabbed the nearest pad of paper and gouged out an angry letter to the world, and ultimately to God.”
God answered back, and Walsch wrote everything down; thus setting the stage for Walsch’s emergence out of despondency and the beginning of the bestselling Conversations with God book series.
His first book, Conversations with God, was published in 1995 and became an international bestseller.
Now for the first time, Neale Donald Walsch carries his spiritual perspective into his own talk show entitled, “Conversations with Neale.”
In each emotionally compelling episode, Neale Donald Walsch “engages with a guest from the audience, to help them transcend personal and spiritual challenges to transform common life problems, shift perspective, and find hope where there was once despair.”
Simply put, Conversations with Neale seeks to “help us apply practical spiritual principles to everyday life.”
In a brief conversation with Walsch, I had the opportunity to ask a few questions of my own.
BJB: In the crowded arena of spiritual and healing practices now available in society, how do we determine what is helpful and genuine?
NDW: Conversations with God tells us there is no such thing as Absolute Truth. All truth is relative, and understood to be true in the eye of the beholder.
This is a spiritual way of hearing the same thing that physicists tell us when they say:
“Nothing that is observed is unaffected by the observer.”
What is helpful, then, within the crowded arena of spiritual and healing practices is what we say is helpful, what we have found to be helpful, in our own experience. You cannot know ahead of time, but you will know instantly at the time that a spiritual insight, concept, idea, or practice has brought you benefit.
Look, then, to your experience.
As Conversation with God advises even with regard to its own messages: “Do not believe a word that you read here. Always, and in everything, be your own authority in the matter” of what has value and what rings true and what brings you benefit.
How do we determine what is helpful and genuine?
You cannot determine it ahead of time. If you try to do that you will pre-judge, and from that prejudice will emerge your decision.
Rather, allow your direct experience to be your guide. If you want answers ahead of time, if you want to know ahead of time what is “helpful and genuine,” you will necessarily have to rely on the testimony of others.
That is a giving away of your creative autonomy and spiritual authority — and nothing has led more to humanity’s collective spiritual dysfunction than this.
BJB: How can we best gauge personal progress on the spiritual path?
NDW: You cannot gauge your progress on the “spiritual path” unless and until you are very clear about where you are going.
What is your chosen destination? What is your ultimate goal?
It has been my observation that many people — perhaps most — have not reached a place of clarity around this, and so, of course, they are equally unclear about how to gauge their progress.
I have found that answering what I have come to call the “Four Fundamental Questions of Life” has helped me enormously in determining what progress I am making toward my spiritual goals.
These questions are:
Who am I? (That is, what is my actual and true identity as a living entity in the cosmos?)
Where am I? (That is, what is this place, this realm, in the cosmos on which and within which I reside?)
Why am I where I am? (That is, what is my purpose here? Have I come here, arrived here, found myself here “at random” or “by chance” — or is my being in this place part of a larger process in which Who I Am is taking part?)
What do I intend to do about that? (That is, what is my choice, decision, and commitment regarding the living out of the purpose and agenda I have determined is mine in this life and during my stay in this environment?)
The book The Only Thing That Matters opens with an extraordinary statement:
“98% of the world’s people are spending 98% of their time on things that don’t matter.”
I have found that in my own life, from a spiritual perspective, this has certainly been true about how I have spent my time. But this is because I had no idea for the first 50 years of my life about who I was and why I was here.
The percentage of moments spent on things that didn’t matter lowered immediately when I became clear about this.
I suddenly had a measure with which to gauge my progress on a path I suddenly knew I was taking.