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written by Deborah Lowrey

When you hear the word tools, do you think of hammers, screwdrivers, and saws? Have you ever heard of someone building a house with only tools? Sounds ridiculous doesn't it? But we humans do it continually. If you have a bunch of tools, you don't have a house, you have a pile of tools. They do not provide protection, warmth, or a place of communion.

Yet we clutch to our religions, our systematic formulas to win and influence others, books that show us the magic way to deal with difficult people, self-help seminars whose benefits linger but a few days and the list goes on. These things in themselves are wonderful, but they are only the TOOLS. These are not the lessons learned, the materials, the plan, or the home with a firm foundation. These are the tools.

Religion is a tool. No religion or lack thereof will ever be our spirituality. No formula will magically change who we are or how we act or think or live or breath. No book or seminar will ever change our pegs. That's our job. Religion and self help provide us a means, a tool, to help us and to remind us of the importance of our spiritual growth. It in itself is NOT spiritual growth.

You can sit in a church, temple, seminar, or synagogue, and you will not be altered by virtue of just being there. If it were possible, most of us have been to some kind of self-help seminar, religious service or ceremony, which would mean most of us would be very spiritually developed. We all know this to be false.

So religion and self-help are akin to our first steps in knowledge and the skills that we have presently. The first step is our tools. And if you have ever undertaken a project to build you most probably have discovered at the onset or soon after you have started your project, that you may be missing some tools and some materials.

So you go out to the hardware store, or in this case, a self help seminar, teacher, bookstore, religious teacher, someone wise and spiritual that you would like to learn some things that you like about them and want to have for yourself. You'll ask them about what you need for the project and where to get those things. Then you set off to gather up the tools and materials needed for your project. We are continuing to gather knowledge and are now gaining awareness about ourselves and relationships.

And you start. Then realize you don't have a plan. You want to build a house. Seems easy enough. Four walls, a floor and a roof. Uh oh. How big is this going to be? How long is this going to take? What kind of roof will I need to stay warm & dry? How long and high should I build the walls?

You need a plan, the motivation and sight that you need to see this through. This is a step that a lot of us try to skip. Can you imagine someone building a house this way? What would you end up with? So at this point some of us just give up. It seems like an awful lot of work. I'll just mess it up. I'll just live in or buy someone else's home.

On a spiritual plane, this is devastating to us and our growth. We stagnate. Become emotional leechs to steal from others instead of building for ourselves. We die. And it is a long, difficult and arduous death, beginning within us spiritually until this cancer manifests outward till the decay of death decomposes our lives till we finally physically die.

But some of us recognize that they need a plan. They want and need this house and make the decision to go ahead. Our plan is about faith, about thought, about taking the steps upon the road we have chosen to take. This is all about choosing our journey and committing to ourselves that whatever it is the Love brings to us to learn, we learn. We know the direction, maybe somewhat sure of the end result or at least the general direction. But as with most projects and journeys, there are a few unexpected twists and turns. But with taking and dealing with these twists and turns we can build our house.

This is how Love works. Love sees to it that we work out our problems and difficulties and brings every opportunity to learn our lessons. And Love sees those things, that we may not, that are beneficial for us to learn, hence the twists and turns. Love's way is not easy nor is it fruitless. Love is our greatest teacher and parent. And in Love we learn the balance of independence, interdependence and dependence. We choose to walk our journey of Love, but as Kahlil Gibran accurately points out "love determines our course". This stage brings about continuing knowledge, increased awareness, improves our relationship with ourselves and others, and helps to motivate and encourage us in our growth.

Now we have our home. Whew! Boy did that take a lot of work (action). But ask any homeowner who has completed their personal dream house... it was worth every moment down to the last nail. And with time the exhaustion and its memory fades, and you have your very own house.

But there are some of us who still forget that, spiritually, as in the physical world, a house is not a home. It is what you do with it. The lessons learned are to be lessons shared, not necessarily by teaching or giving seminars (though there are times that this is the case), but the impact that you have upon others simply by being you. Being a beacon for others that are setting out to build... To bring warmth, protection from the world outside, to provide a place of communion to others and yourself.

And if you think this is the end of your spiritual journey, oh so wrong. Things change. Repairs need to be made. Additions and other options added, things discarded. There are things that are new or used differently. Our journey is not an ending one. And that's not so depressing. It is a coming to understanding that we can evolve to bring the change so that we can access Love and happiness in our lives.

This is the stage that reminds us that it is only action that brings about happiness and Love. It is action that sets in motion the knowledge we have gained, the awareness that we have germinated and cultivated, the relationships that we have forged with ourselves and others, and the motivation that Love brings us... empowerment to help bring about action to change our lives and our world.

But in the end it is action that is our step alone to take. This is our choice. This is KARMA. We have the choice. We can build a home, or a house, or take refuge in a pile of materials and/or tools, or be spiritual and emotional leechs of others. The choice is ours. What is your choice and where is your home?

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