Law of Attraction

Contemplative spirituality and “trusting the river” with Greg Hildenbrand


More than 50 years ago, Greg Hildenbrand started his spiritual journey after a traumatic event. Greg is a contemplative spiritual director, an author, and a singer-songwriter and in this insightful interview for MysticMag he talks more about his work, the importance of connecting with others and trusting our own instincts.

Check out the interview below!

When did you discover that you had that spiritual side and that you wanted to invest your time and energy in that direction?

The journey began for me with my dad’s sudden death when I was 14. It rocked my world, and nothing I’d been taught in church or school provided a reasonable context for processing or recovering from that experience. I needed something deeper than the surface-level answers and explanations typically given, so I began investing time and energy into spirituality, a process that continues today, 54 years later.

Can you share with us more about what is contemplative spirituality? Is that teachable or do you need to have a specific personality and/or intuition?

For me, contemplation is an intentional practice to consciously (re)integrate our physical (tangible) and spiritual (unseen) natures. Spirituality explores the mysterious, unseen, and unknown aspects of life. The teachings and practices of contemplative spirituality increase our awareness of the interconnectedness of what is happening in our physical lives and what is happening in our spiritual lives. The two are reflections of one another, so we can impact one through the other. Contemplative spirituality helps us develop different, more expansive ways of seeing, knowing, and acting.

Contemplative spirituality is infinitely teachable, although it helps to have a persistent “itch” that cannot be adequately scratched in other ways. That “itch” or spiritual hunger is a state of being where a person is most consciously open to receive what is offered. Casual curiosity will not carry a person far down this path.

In your contemplative spiritual direction, do you have a specific base of clients (age-wise, gender, education, etc) or is it all over the place?

Most of my directees are in the second-half of their lives, which is not so much an age in earthly years as a particular stage of life. As we mature into adulthood we often find ourselves dissatisfied and drifting from job to job, location to location, relationship to relationship and, at some point, realize a new job, location, or relationship will not bring the contentedness we seek, only a temporary calming of our restlessness. Until one realizes in a deep way, usually through considerable suffering, that there is no lasting satisfaction in physical solutions, destinations, products, or other “answers” that lack conscious awareness of a spiritual reality, they probably have little to gain from contemplative spirituality.

I don’t think gender or education significantly impact those seeking spiritual direction, although females, often being more naturally intuitive, may be drawn to it at a younger age than males.

With the pandemic, more and more people questioned their life choices, career paths and even promoted complete turnarounds. Do you also observe that, and do you see it as something in the heat of the moment or a large transformation that is permanent?

I believe anything causing great changes over large swaths of humanity is spirit-induced and is a wake-up call to those conscious enough to pay attention. The current pandemic certainly qualifies as a time of great potential transformation for those seeking more than a return to their pre-pandemic lives. Some are being forced out of their previous life-arrangements while others are reorganizing their lives by choice.

Such historic moments invitations to ask questions about one’s life and actions while reassessing priorities and directions. This is a “liminal space” for society, a time when positive transformations are more easily realized. Any changes occurring during such times will be “permanent” only until the next great shift (individually or collectively) occurs.

The pandemic has brought many important discoveries to light, like the various types of work that can effectively be accomplished virtually. The downside, I fear, is that virtual interpersonal communications are a poor substitute for face-to-face encounters. We connect with others on many levels beyond our faces, words, and voices, many of which require our bodies to be in close proximity to each other.

Do you have specific signals that warn that someone doesn’t have a spiritual direction or is simply going through the motions?

The signals that spiritual direction is not the best avenue for a person at a particular time will come from the person. They will grow bored or simply drift from spiritual teaching to spiritual teaching, just as they have done with jobs, relationships, and locations. It is not a deficiency or a sign of weakness in the person. It only means they are not ready to go deeper in this way, yet. Perhaps they never will reach that readiness, and there is nothing wrong with that. It is a person’s own spirit that guides spiritual direction – the spiritual director is only a facilitator.

One of your books “Churchianity vs Christianity: How the Church Cancels Christianity” called my attention. How do you believe that the church should change course and promote followers of Christ and not followers of itself?

In my opinion, the root of the church’s failing is its misunderstanding that Jesus the Christ is not to be worshipped but followed. There is no record that Jesus desired to be worshipped or to establish a separate religion. There is, however, plenty of evidence he encouraged people to follow, meaning to become like him or to do what he did, regardless of one’s religious beliefs or lack thereof. Worshipping is a whole lot easier and requires much less of us than following. Churches mostly teach about God instead of guiding people to experiences of God, which is what Jesus taught and lived. Too often, churches teach heaven and hell as opposite options for eternity after we die, which is how many churches justify their existence – as “after-life” insurance. Jesus taught heaven and hell as present realities. Churches tend not to teach how to enter our moments in ways that allow an experience of oneness with God (which is to enter the kingdom of heaven) or that align our daily consciousness with the presence of God that is always within us.

It is telling that Jesus referred to himself as the “Son of Man,” although others referred to him as the “Son of God.” A Son of God implies something unattainable or inaccessible to mortal beings. A Son (or child) of Man (or humanity) is a consummated or whole human being, meaning one who has successfully integrated the physical and spiritual natures at the core of our being. That is the nature of our true selves. The Christ, or the child of humanity, is something all of us are invited to consciously awaken to, which is how Jesus of Nazareth attained oneness with God. The life and teachings of Jesus model that for us, not as a divine storyline to be worshipped, but as a template to adapt to our life experience.

C.S. Lewis, a popular religious author of the last century, wrote that churches should be producing “little Christs.” Little Christs may or may not find a church helpful in living a more fully integrated life of conscious oneness with all that is. Until churches can focus on helping people awaken to their oneness with God and worry less about their own self-preservation, they will continue to struggle. Most churches do their best work when they focus on serving the poor, the suffering, and the social outcasts. Of course, those are the people least likely to be able to help finance the work of the church, so a delicate balancing act is required.

Do you have a special message for our readers in these challenging times?

Yes: RELAX! There is a guiding part in each of us (our soul or spirit) that knows what it is doing and what is required. What we need is provided when needed, although it is often different from what we want or expect. Trust the river…

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