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Apr 24

What do You Know For Sure

Used with Permission from http://www.publicdomainpictures.net

The other day I was flipping through the channels, and I came across some sort of special involving Oprah. It was an extremely interesting segment, where Oprah was really opening up regarding her background, her spiritual path, etc. One thing that really struck me was when she asked the interviewer (and the audience at large) a very simple, yet profound question, “What do you know for sure?”

This seemingly simple question really got me to think about my own life, background, and spiritual path. It also made me ask myself several questions. First, have I really progressed, even after many years of seeking and practice? Second, have I really come to any greater understanding of myself or the universe than I had a decade ago? Third, is there anything that I can definitively say for sure?

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I am in the process of editing a book that I have been working on since 2004, where I really explore the teachings of the eight major world religions, and discuss how I have used those teachings in my own path. The editing process has been extremely interesting, because I can literally see how my views and thoughts have changed, sometimes drastically, regarding God, the spiritual path, and even who I really am. There have been portions that even at eight years old still remain relevant and accurate to me, while there are sections that are less than a year old, that I have heavily revised and updated.

So to answer the question on whether or not I have progressed, I guess that depends on what I mean by “progressing”. Too often, we tend to try and categorize things so that we can plot out our progression or regression. However, when it comes to the spiritual path, our journey only ends when we die, but I can at the very least say that I am a happier person, and my wife seems to think that I have become calmer, more rational, and more loving, so I’ll count that as a success! 😀

Regarding whether or not I have come to any greater understanding of myself or the universe, I have to say that I have, or at the very least I have become comfortable with paradoxes. I believe that through meditation and introspection, I have begun to understand who “I” truly am, as well as how I am unique, yet interconnected with all of creation.

So what do I know for sure? Really, there are only three things that I can say I know for sure. 1) I believe that we each have a purpose in life, and the driving force behind that purpose is to be happy. My pursuit of true happiness is what started my spiritual seeking to begin with, and has been the driving force of my pursuit to live in the now. 2) At the very least there is a divine force that is the creative energy behind the universe. Now then, I am open to debate on what this divine force (God) is or isn’t, and I’m sure that my views on what God ultimately is or isn’t will continue to change and adapt. I also know that I will never know all there is to know about God, and I’m Okay with that. 3) That giving and receiving love and compassion are vitally important in order to make ourselves happy, as well as those around us.

These questions also got me thinking about my son, and whether or not I am properly facilitating his own development. While some people might think this to be silly or premature since my son is only three, but I feel it is my absolute duty to ensure that he knows that he is loved, as well as assist him in becoming the best person he can be. Perhaps I can even assist him in avoiding some of the pitfalls that I experienced in my youth? Or, perhaps those things that I view as a “pitfall” where actually instrumental in making me who I am today, so perhaps pitfalls are intrinsically necessary. However, I know that I will always be there to love and support him, and I will do my best to make sure that he knows that.

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity.” – Albert Einstein

Practical Tip: Ask yourself the simple question, “What do I know for sure”. Ask yourself this question, and use it to really examine your beliefs. Don’t be afraid to tackle the tough questions, the things that you think you really know, yet have never examined critically. Sometimes the greatest discoveries come only after breaking down barriers that we never knew existed.

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Also please check out my book, “The Path: Using the Religions of the World as a Guide to Personal and Spiritual Development.” (Click on the book cover to view on Amazon.com)

25 comments

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  1. zen and the art of borderline maintenance

    VERY thought-provoking. And I don’t think it’s silly you are thinking about your son’s development. This is the time to make a huge difference. I see a mindful parent.

  2. sheilapierson

    Great post – never too early to think about your son and his development… As far as the spiritual path, as soon as I thought I had it all figured out the rug got pulled out from underneath me. I’m in the beginning stages of re-discovery…it’s a lifelong process I’m learning…

  3. Empty Words

    I read somewhere that experiences before the age of 6 are what shape who we become later in life. Those early experiences develop our personality and set the framework for the rest of our lives What you’re doing for your son is incredibly important.
    :) Christina

  4. aleafinspringtime

    Dear Jason, another deeply introspective post. I usually have to sit and ponder in silence for a while – sometimes days to let your message sink in. I am actually going to think through your no.1 and if you have time, perhaps further elaborate on the concept that the driving force behind our purpose of life is happiness. (Could it perhaps be something else apart from happiness and happiness is the by product of achieving the said purpose?)

    Btw, which 8 major world religions did you study in the writing your book? Please update us on the progress of your book! I would be very interested to get a copy! Thank you so much once again! Sharon

    1. Jason E. Marshall

      I truly believe that our purpose in life is to be happy, and truly enjoy life. If you look at the psychologist Abraham Maslow’s work, especially his hierarchy of needs, it seems to be human nature to continually drive towards and seek out a fulfilled and completed (happy) state of being. According to Maslow, once we have our physiological needs (food, water, sleep, etc.) taken care of, we move onto seeking out and securing safety needs (shelter, security, etc.), then we move onto love and belonging (friends, family, sexual intimacy), then esteem (confidence, achievement, respect to and from others), and finally self-actualization (morality, creativity, and even spiritual maturity). Being truly happy requires fulfillment the external and internal needs. We can have all of our external needs met such as physiological and safety needs (Most people in today’s society has these basic needs met for the most part), but for some reason many people have problems when it comes to their internal needs such as love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization, so that is where many people’s feelings of unhappiness comes from.

      I think, I’m an attorney not a psychologist 😉 , that the key is to maturely and confidently build and refine the internal levels, but that is difficult to do. For example, it is hard to change or break-off relationships with toxic friends, family members, and intimate partners (love and belonging stage) so many people simply stay in toxic relationships. However, if the individual will make the courageous decision to make whatever changes are necessary, that toxic part of their life can be removed, and replaced with something positive. For the esteem stage, if people would stop seeking esteem from external sources, and instead be self-confident, then the anxiety and depression associated with relying on external means for esteem (happiness) will be removed. For the final stage (self-actualization) to actually be achieved, all of the lower needs have to be met, or there is no foundation for it to be reached.
      So to make a long rambling statement short 😀 we all want to be happy, but we need to make sure that the building blocks of our needs (life) are in order in order to reach real happiness. If we do not have the foundation of physiological and safety needs met, we can’t build strong relationships, or have good esteem, and we will certainly never reach true self-actualization. Also, without good relationships and esteem, we can’t reach the ultimate goal of self-actualization, or real happiness. So sometimes to be happy, we have to undergo difficult changes, engage in occupations, hobbies, etc., that make us happy, and constantly undergo introspection, so I guess in a way our goal is to be “happy”, but happiness is a by-product of refining the external and internal forces of our life.

      For my book (which really started as a personal journey and the writings were just for my own reflection use, and only became a “book” later), I studied and examined Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, as well as Celtic/neo-paganism. I’ll certainly keep you updated! I am in the process of some final edits, as well as negotiating with some prospective publishers, I’m really hoping that I have my end wrapped up by this summer.

      As always, thank you so much for your comments!

    2. Jason E. Marshall

      I truly believe that our purpose in life is to be happy, and truly enjoy life. If you look at the psychologist Abraham Maslow’s work, especially his hierarchy of needs, it seems to be human nature to continually drive towards and seek out a fulfilled and completed (happy) state of being. According to Maslow, once we have our physiological needs (food, water, sleep, etc.) taken care of, we move onto seeking out and securing safety needs (shelter, security, etc.), then we move onto love and belonging (friends, family, sexual intimacy), then esteem (confidence, achievement, respect to and from others), and finally self-actualization (morality, creativity, and even spiritual maturity). Being truly happy requires fulfillment the external and internal needs. We can have all of our external needs met such as physiological and safety needs (Most people in today’s society has these basic needs met for the most part), but for some reason many people have problems when it comes to their internal needs such as love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization, so that is where many people’s feelings of unhappiness comes from.

      I think, I’m an attorney not a psychologist , that the key is to maturely and confidently build and refine the internal levels, but that is difficult to do. For example, it is hard to change or break-off relationships with toxic friends, family members, and intimate partners (love and belonging stage) so many people simply stay in toxic relationships. However, if the individual will make the courageous decision to make whatever changes are necessary, that toxic part of their life can be removed, and replaced with something positive. For the esteem stage, if people would stop seeking esteem from external sources, and instead be self-confident, then the anxiety and depression associated with relying on external means for esteem (happiness) will be removed. For the final stage (self-actualization) to actually be achieved, all of the lower needs have to be met, or there is no foundation for it to be reached.
      So to make a long rambling statement short we all want to be happy, but we need to make sure that the building blocks of our needs (life) are in order in order to reach real happiness. If we do not have the foundation of physiological and safety needs met, we can’t build strong relationships, or have good esteem, and we will certainly never reach true self-actualization. Also, without good relationships and esteem, we can’t reach the ultimate goal of self-actualization, or real happiness. So sometimes to be happy, we have to undergo difficult changes, engage in occupations, hobbies, etc., that make us happy, and constantly undergo introspection, so I guess in a way our goal is to be “happy”, but happiness is a by-product of refining the external and internal forces of our life.

      For my book (which really started as a personal journey and the writings were just for my own reflection use, and only became a “book” later), I studied and examined Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, as well as Celtic/neo-paganism. I’ll certainly keep you updated! I am in the process of some final edits, as well as negotiating with some prospective publishers, I’m really hoping that I have my end wrapped up by this summer.

      As always, thank you so much for your comments!

      1. Travel Spirit

        Wow…I love the way you think and express yourself!!

  5. aleafinspringtime

    p.s. I deeply admire that you put much concern in thinking through about your son’s development. It really is our absolute duty to educate and nurture them from their earliest childhood on all aspects of life. I wish you great insight, success and wisdom in carrying out this most great responsibility! Warmest wishes to you and yours, Sharon

    1. Jason E. Marshall

      Thank you Sharon! I have resolved myself to just do the best that I can do, and in the end, that is all any of us can do! Thank you for your comments and warm wishes!

    2. Jason E. Marshall

      Thank you Sharon! I have resolved myself to just do the best that I can do, and in the end, that is all any of us can do! Thank you for your comments and warm wishes!

  6. Anne Onsøien

    Very interesting, you made me think..and I like exploring my mind;-) nice blog, good luck with your book!

  7. secularpriesthood

    What do I know for sure? Interesting. How can one be sure about what he feels in his gut, his soul, spirit, intuition? And yet I am. I cannot prove a lot of the things I have come to be sure of, and yet I am. I have proved them to myself in ways I suppose I could never explain to anothers satisfaction. Perhaps it’s meant to be that way so each person must seek for themself. As a teacher I try to explain it, but that only takes one so far. Great post!

  8. thefirstmilesucks.com

    I really enjoyed this post. My son is 14 and since his birth, I have kidded my husband that our son’s upbringing has been one big science experiement. Humor is huge in our household. There is nothing more perfect than a laughing fit with your son until tears are rolling down your face! Anyway, his life has been the polar opposite of mine. Growing up, my life was so full of drama, tragedy, and inconsistency. These “pitfalls” shaped me and made me who I am. Made me strong. Made me appreciate things. So, I have often wondered how my child, who was experiencing this healthy, normal childhood with two loving parents would end up. I mean, come on…he has never heard his parents even really raise their voices at each other, much less a drunken rage with flying dishes. Fortunately, he seems to be on a wonderful path. I look at him sometimes and can’t believe my genetic material could make something so great. And I guess that is my one thing I know for sure-I gave birth to him! I keep waiting for something bad to happen. And I guess if it does, we will roll with it and learn something from it. Thanks again for this post and your blog. It is very interesting to me.

    1. Jason E. Marshall

      Thank you for the wonderful comment, and sharing your own story! I didn’t always have the best childhood either, and at times my relationship with my parents, especially my mother, has been extremely strained. I hope to have a really positive and loving relationship with my son, so that he doesnt have to go through some of the heartache and stress that I have had to go through.

  9. Robyn Lee

    Great post Jason…I agree and say I will do my best and hope that it works out ok! Love and following what feels like a purpose or calling is key too. But truly – there is not much I know for sure other than these. Being ok with the mystery is part of my work. Blessings!

  10. metaphyzgirl

    great post, thought provoking. I know I create my own experiences so I try to create them Consciously, but obviously because I am having a human experience in this physical temple of mine, I am prone to human error and ‘forget’ myself at times; during these phases (which are often !) I unconsciously create my here and now experience. I have to look to my ’emotional Guidance System’ for information about how I am doing ! If I feel low or angry or bad in some way, I have to check the thoughts behind my feelings/emotions to analyse what thoughts have I been entertaining to cause me to feel like this? When I feel happy and joyful I know I am creating and sending out good vibes into the ether and that this is what I will attract back. So yes, we are here to experience joy and happiness. We decide what we think therefore how we feel (when we are consciously aware); but often we forget and move about in a ‘dream-like’ state. I love the teachings of Maslow and also Carl Custav Jung. I am also interested in getting a copy of your book. Wishing you every success. Blessings.

    1. Jason E. Marshall

      Thank you so much for the wonderful comment! We are here to enjoy life, and sometimes we have to remind ourselves to plug in and actually be present in life (live in the now), rather than just moving through life unaware. Thanks again!

    2. Jason E. Marshall

      I’m glad that you enjoyed it, and it is absolutley necessary for is to not merely walk around in a dream like state. However, sometimes “waking up” is hard, and keeping from nodding off is even harder, but to really enjoy, and really experience life it is necessary. Thank you for sharing!

  11. insiderap

    I like your post! It is a good and insightful read.

    My comment: One of the best investments you can make in this life is of your time, interest, and concern about the development of your son. I have learned this from experience. My oldest son is thirty and I used to take him with me to work in a Snuggly (guess that dates me) when he was a baby. I introduced him to music at 4 years old, took him to classes, and escorted him to perform as a teen (when he was too young to enter establishments unaccompanied). We have always talked about everything. Today he is a professional performing artist working all over the world. We still routinely discuss life’s issues.

    As I sit at this computer my youngest, a 7 month old daughter, sits on my knee. Sometimes its awkward to type but it is helping solidify a significant relationship that will affect her as she develops. I have 5 other children, ages 5, 6, 10, 11,& 25. I have special relationships with each of them. I am blessed and most grateful.

    It is never too early to focus on your child’s development. Also don’t plan on stopping. As he grows up don’t be surprised if you are his BEST FRIEND. By the way, my father left this plane 25 years ago. He was my best friend and we are still very connected.

    Diam rek (“Peace Only” in Wolof)

    1. Jason E. Marshall

      I’m glad that you enjoyed the post, and thank you for sharing about your family. I really hope to have a long and positive relationship with my son, because I haven’t always had one with my own parents. Thanks for sharing and commenting!

  12. Jess

    Thanks for visiting my blog, and for the “likes”!! Glad you’re putting so much emphasis on letting your son know that he is loved. This is very important in his development, so keep up the good work! I’m also glad you are putting so much time and thought into discovering the truth about God and the purpose of your life, in a world where many people hardly give it a thought at all. As for me, I can tell you that the defining moment in my life was when I trusted Jesus Christ as my savior, and allowed Him to take control of my life. This has led to the only true happiness and peace I have known. I also researched other major world religions early in my life, and found that Jesus was my only path to true happiness, everything else I had tried to make me happy up until that point was worthless and fleeting. By trusting Him, and following the Bible, (God’s Word) I now know my purpose in life – this takes away stress and uncertainty and leads to joy and peace. By-the-way, number 3 on your list, to love (and compassion) is the greatest command in the Bible:

    Matthew 22:37-40 says:
    Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

    1. Jason E. Marshall

      Your very welcome, I enjoy reading your blog. I am also glad that you have found peace and fulfillment through the Christian path. I grew up a Christian, but I guess now I am an odd (unique?) mixture Christian Gnoticism, Buddhism, with a little bit other various paths sprinkled in. Thanks for your thoughtful comment!

  13. Rev Dani Lynn

    Great post. Thank you for sharing (and thanks for visiting my blog). And I think you’re son is very fortunate to have you. :)

  14. bneal817

    The heart of the spiritual journey is not getting answers, or learning more – but rather diving deeper and deeper into questions without answers, losing oneself in mystery and paradox…

    Great post, glad to find your site Jason.

    ~ Ben

    1. Jason E. Marshall

      That is a wonderful message, and so true! Thank you for sharing Ben!

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