The Words of the Harford Family

The Four Stages of a Spiritual Journey -- Interview with Jack Harford

Chelsea Legay
April 2011

Question: Tell us a bit about yourself.

Answer: My name is Jack Harford, and I'm from Indianapolis, Indiana. I'm now here in New York, studying at the Unification Theological Seminary to get my accredited Master's Degree. For the last ten years I've worked as a technical writer, and for the last four years I've been the Unification Church state leader of Indiana and pastor of the local Unification Church center. I've been with the Unification Church now for 35 years, but before that I was doing some yoga and meditation. I lived at the Santa Barbara Zen Center for some time where I met many yogis, including the well-known Swami Muktananda. Actually, I was on my way to San Francisco to meet Swami Muktananda when I met my spiritual father, Joel Larson, on the bus.

Question: Where does your spiritual journey begin?

Answer: For me, the "spiritual journey" begins with discovering who I am. I'm finding now that as I grow older, discovering who I am is still very important. Even now, I'm discovering things about myself that I feel will help me in my future.

The next stage on the basic spiritual journey after self-discovery is to accept myself. That is a big issue for many people: accepting who God created me to be. Each person is a unique person that is not replicated anywhere else in the whole universe. Sometimes we try to be someone that we're not, or we want to be somebody different than who we were created to be just to fit in. This clouds who we originally are.

The third stage is to love yourself. I think that's one of the first two great commandments of Jesus, which are: love God with all your heart, mind, and soul, and to love your neighbor as yourself. If you don't really love yourself, it will be hard to love your neighbor.

I think the final stage is to become yourself, become who you were created to be. That's a lot of what Reverend and Mrs. Sun Myung Moon are trying to teach us, and especially what Reverend In Jin Moon is now trying to teach us through Lovin' Life Ministries. She's encouraging us to find our passion, discover that special outlet that God planted in you that makes you different from everybody else. It's not a matter of finding somebody else's passion, or taking on the passion that somebody thinks you should have. It's a matter of finding your own unique passion, because that's where you will find the greatest joy, the greatest satisfaction, and the greatest fulfillment in life. That's the journey I find myself on these days.

Question: Are there any kind of special meditation practices that you do to guide you on this journey?

Answer: I went to sessions with Swami Muktananda and Baba Hari Dass, who was a silent yogi for 24 years by the time I met him. I found that the most helpful meditation technique is Reverend Hyung Jin Moon's technique explained in his book, Cheon Hwa Dang. The practices in this book are not meditation just to try to find Nirvana or some spiritual high. Reverend Hyung Jin Moon's meditation is a practice to develop mind and body unity, which helps to gain greater control of your mind and what he calls your "thought-trains". Sometimes we have negative thought-trains that come into our life. Maybe there's an anger thought-train that comes in, and if we get on that train, then it will take us to greater anger and frustration and maybe even lead us to do something that is wrong or evil. But, we don't have to get on that thought-train. We can just recognize it.

When you're in meditation, and you feel some thought, it becomes hard to concentrate on your breathing. As you recognize the patterns of those thought-trains, and can label them as "angry mind" or "frustrated mind", the power of that thought lessens. You begin to gain control over that thought. It then becomes easier to find a way to overcome that thought-train the next time it rolls around. You become subject over that thought.

A lot of times, most people in the world are object to their thoughts and thought-trains, and let those thoughts control them. Thoughts of anger, frustration, or anything else can control their life. That always leads to a sad end, because you can't be happy with your life if you're being controlled by that thought.

Question: What were some experiences you had with yogis before you joined the church?

Answer: I once had a chance to meet Baba Hari Dass when I went to a Satsung, which is a singing and chanting session. Afterwards there was a chance to meet with him, but because he was still silent, he didn't speak. He had a little chalkboard on a string around his neck, and used a piece of chalk to write you some kind of lesson. He asked me about my life, and I shared some things I had problems with. He listened very quietly and wrote on his little chalkboard, "You worry too much. Don't be a worrier, be a doer". I'm still trying to learn that lesson! I find that I still tend to worry a lot. So when I'm meditating, my worrying mind comes up a lot, my doubting mind comes up a lot. So, I try to recognize those thought- trains and get beyond them.

One thing I wrote that I remember clearly, which is on the front page of a journal I started one month before I met the church, was this line: "I dedicate this book to the search for the truth that is eternal, unchanging and absolute"! It was almost like a Principle of Creation (the first chapter of The Divine Principle, the Unification Church's main text) lecture! Evidently, God took me seriously because a month later I was at a Divine Principle workshop.

Question: How do you think meditation can help people find their God language?

Answer: For some people whose God language is close to meditation, it may be helpful. For other people, meditation might not be as helpful. For me, meditation has a way of calming your spirit down and getting some of the brain noise, clutter, or whatever you want to call it out of your mind. Our thoughts are racing all the time, going from one thought to another. Being able to calm down your mind and your thinking allows you to go a little bit deeper inside yourself and discover who you really are and what your capabilities really are. When we get more peaceful inside ourselves because of meditation, we can become more receptive to what's going on around us. Everybody has a genius, and everybody's genius is different. If we discover our genius, our gift or our path, it will naturally lead to greater happiness and greater satisfaction.

Question: Was there anything else you would like to add?

Answer: I would like to encourage people to check out Cheon Hwa Dang. The book is not just about meditation technique, but is a very serious book about spiritual life. It is not for the faint of heart, either! He asks you to really look inside of yourself and find out what is going on inside of you. Reverend Hyung Jin Moon's book is a great aid in helping you to discover who you are.

I'm also working on a course with the education department to help people find their "God language". Each person relates to God in a unique way because we are all unique. There isn't one very small box that is the way your parents met God or is some set of rules that we have to fit into to relate to God. There are many different pathways to reach God, and every person's pathway is unique. Some people reach God through being in nature, others through being physically active. Someone else may enjoy being in silence and solitude, and like to meditate. Some people really want to be in big worship services, where they raise their hands and praise God, and all of those are good.

All of the spiritual styles are important for us to make a great spiritual movement. Every one of them has a way of contributing. Just as you need lots of people to create a television broadcast of a football game, you also need lots of different kinds of people to create a successful spiritual movement. Keeping that bigger picture of remembering all the spiritual styles is something that, as a leader, I'm trying to learn and develop.

The purpose of life is joy and we say that clearly in the Divine Principle, but some people don't believe it anymore. I think we need to put a little more focus on the fact that if we're unhappy, God is also unhappy. But if we are happy and we enjoy our family, our spouse, our children, then God is going to be happy, too. So, let's become happy people, and good luck to everyone on their journey. 

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