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meaning | ˈmēni ng |
what is meant by a word, text, concept, or action
intended to communicate something that is not directly expressed

| ˈmēni ng fəl |
having meaning
• having a serious, important, or useful quality or purpose

Friday, February 19, 2010

How is it possible to stay grounded on a path of self inquiry and spiritual transformation?

Matthew Higdon asks "How is it possible to stay grounded on a path of self inquiry and spiritual transformation when loved ones or colleagues do not share or support that path?"

He later followed up with more details:

"If even the least among us is a potential Christ, Buddha, or otherwise radiant luminary, how does one stimulate themselves consistently and maybe others to awaken subtler focused awareness during some sort of internal practice on a daily basis? Is it possible without an external teacher? Is it possible for a disciplined spiritual aspirant to remain grounded in the practice and consistent when cohabitating, collaborating or colluding regularly with (Self) destructive persons outside a professional healing or guidance capacity?"

Hi Matthew:

You ask a question that anyone on this path to enlightenment will ultimately face. And in asking it, you well understand why we hear stories of great teachers reaching their enlightenment alone in a cave. The path to enlightenment is seemingly easier without distraction or associating with those that seek to undermine it.

Or is it?

As I encounter more and more experiences of a Spiritual nature in my life I find that there are numerous methods that enable us to connect to the Divine. Some are for brief moments of time, others last a few hours, some a few days, a few linger for weeks at a time and some introduce us to a life lived in harmony. And within this myriad of methods, there is disparity amongst everyone's experiences. Some methods work for some people, but not for others.

Unfortunately this leads to judgment. When one person invokes a method to attain enlightenment but it fails for another, the latter's Mind is faced with a paradox:

Either the method is valid and they are unable to connect or the method is invalid and the enlightened person is delusional. I'll leave it to you to conclude which of these two options the egoic Mind chooses.

And thus we have a sea of Humanity seeking a connection with God but with various results. And in the context of judgment, we have most people concluding that their way is "right" and the other ways are "wrong." Even if they haven't found peace, harmony or a connection with God, many people conclude that their method for "finding God" is correct.

And then there is you with your individual experience. You've tried different methods and some of them are working. Maybe you aren't able to sustain this enlightened state but you've tasted it. It's become present for brief moments in your life and you find that a bit more of your path has been illuminated.

In this, we're all the same. We've found something partially enlightening and we want to share it with others. Some are further along on this path and thus find themselves both seeking and guiding. Others are just beginning and find themselves seeking answers, methods, teachers, etc.

And then there is the rest of Humanity. More specifically, our family, friends and colleagues. They come in and out of our daily lives like bouncing balls landing in your matzah ball soup. They are on various paths of their own and when those paths don't align with our path there is conflict.

So we've set the stage for your question. You're seeking, finding answers, exploring and opening up to the beauty of God. On the path, you're finding that you're growing and connecting in beautiful and harmonious ways. You surely have much further to go and you're not immune to the egoic ways of the Mind, but you find the path calling you to go further.

And in your life, you find many of your loved ones falling into categories such as:

Doubting Thoms - those that have no clear direction of where to go, but they're fairly sure you're not on the right path.

Silent Objectors - politically correct and convinced that their path is "the" path for all, these people talk with you about everything but God and politics.

Zealous Zealots - convicted in their path and not shy about pushing it on others, these people are quick to point out that your path is wrong and why it is wrong.

Sponge Spiritualists - believing nearly everything that exists is true, these people seem to believe in nothing because they believe in everything. From crystals to UFOs, "It's all good." As an aside, these people might be the ones who manage the Spirituality section in bookstores.

There are surely more and the point of this exercise is not to categorize people in order to judge them. In fact, it is healthy to review such a list and ask yourself, "Which of these roles do I tend to play?"

The first part of your question was, "How Is it possible to stay grounded on a path of self inquiry and spiritual transformation?"

In the context of the environment we've just described, we're called to ask the question, "Why?"

Actually, this is my favorite question. And it is my favorite question because it illumines the truth. Thus we are called to ask, "Why are we on a path of self inquiry and spiritual transformation?"

Seriously, what's the point? Why does God want us to inquire and transform? And if we are intended to do this, why don't we just start out self aware and transformed? And furthermore, "Why are we all so different and why are there so many paths?"

The crowd illustrated above surely has answers to these questions:

Doubting Thoms: There is no point. It's all meaningless.

Silent Objectors: You're on the wrong path and missing the point but I'm not going to discuss this with you.

Zealous Zealots: Not only are you missing the point, but your path is doing harm by not doing it the right way.

Sponge Spiritualists: We don't really know what the point is. There are numerous points and they're all beautiful.

But you've tried the ways of the objectors and the zealots. And you've been to a few sponge spiritualist gatherings in your day. But something calls you to a more fulfilling connection and thus you not only find that your path is emerging, but you find it unacceptable to not further your journey on the path.

And somehow...in all of this...you believe there is a truth. Somehow, throughout all of Humanity, there is a thread that binds us all together and draws us towards the truth. So as the zealots scoff and the objectors ignore, you embrace them with a smile for you love their passion despite their tactics. And you find empathy for both the doubters and the purveyors of everything mystical. In this, you aspire to stand strong for all of humanity as we seek a collective connection to the Divine.

You see, the key is in the mix. While we can appreciate the solitude of the consciousness evoking cave, we see that this too is only a partial truth. For it is our connection to one another that binds us and raises us higher. Like all of mankind, we seek community in this aspiration and thus our detractors bring conflict into our lives. But this is precisely where we grow.

In mankind's harmony, we find wisdom in the teachings of Jesus Christ. We find peace in the insight of Buddha. Krishna too awakens us to the truths that are all around us. And so too the beauty of a yoga class brings us into union with the Divine. With all this beauty we find happiness, growth and, dare I say, enlightenment.

So to answer your question I'm afraid I must turn it around:

On the path of self inquiry and spiritual transformation, it is advantageous to ground ourselves with loved ones and colleagues who do not share or support our path.

The reason is because there is no single path and the path does not lead to a destination. You see, the path is the destination. The harmony you feel walking the path is the enlightenment. The desire that wells up within you is not to reach the end of the path, but to engage others on "their path."

Thus it is precisely the loved ones in your life that bring you into a more full experience. The conflict they bring into your life is meaningful because it illumines where you can go deeper. With this exploration we find love for the doubters, objectors, zealots and sponge spiritualists.

This is not to say that this is an enjoyable experience. These people in our lives engage our egoic, Mind driven self. They often unknowingly draw us away from God in their aspirations to reveal their perspective of the truth. The path becomes more slippery with the mental ways of the Mind and, when we're drawn into conflict, we find that our experience is less loving, less uniting and less expansive.

And in this mental existence, we too are drawn to fix the world. We see everything, other than our view, as broken and we believe that we can make the world a better place. In this perversion, we too live within the judgmental ways of the very Mind we are seeking to coax into harmonizing with God.

But the life we seek is not mental. The harmony we seek is in union with the Body, Spirit and Mind. And so we enter into a relationship with others that isn't governed by the thoughts of the Mind. Judgment goes out the window despite others labeling us as being right, wrong or somewhere in between. Instead, the grounding we seek is through the emotive dimensions of the Spirit where we engage everyone in our lives with Love.

So we find new meaning in the teachings of Jesus Christ:

But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. - Luke 6:27-28

In answering the second part of your question "how does one stimulate themselves consistently and maybe others to awaken," we ourselves awaken to a new method for conveying wisdom: Love

Again we can ask ourselves in these encounters, "Is there a way I can approach this in a more loving way?"

I'll close in sharing that it is not only possible to stay grounded in non-supportive environments, but it is within these environments where the greatest lessons are learned. It is there that we find balance standing in chaos. By focusing our efforts into love, uniting Humanity and expanding God we find that our purpose reveals that we are precisely where we need to be. And that the lessons that we seek to learn are written in the words of those in our lives.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Akram asks, "How do I lose my mind?"

Akram asks, "How do I lose my mind?"

Hi Akram:

By "How do I lose my mind?" I assume you mean how does one step outside of living a mental existence whereby our every action is controlled and governed by the egoic Mind? Most often we identify with our Mind's thoughts via the perpetual voice in our heads, but beyond that internal dialogue, there is this mental part of us that auto-pilots us through life.

And by asking how we can lose this part of us, we're actually stepping into distinguishing "what" we are. In Plato's Allegory of the Cave, he describes people watching shadows projected on a wall by things passing in front of a fire behind them. Like windows unto reality, these viewers believe that the cave shadows are reality. He then explains how someone who is freed from the cave comes to understand that the shadows on the wall are not constitutive of reality at all, as they can perceive the true form of reality rather than the mere shadows.

The Allegory of the Cave is an important part of this understanding. Can you imagine if some shadows appeared on the cave wall and explained to the viewers that they weren't viewing true reality? The very reality to which they were subscribed would seem incredible in its claim that it was not true. After all, if the shadows weren't real then how could one believe what they have to say?

Such is the problem in asking this question and understanding the answer. The question itself is asked by the logical Mind and the answer will ultimately be considered by the Mind itself. This is akin to asking the warden if a prisoner should be freed. The Mind is not likely to accept any answer which results in it losing control of you.

Understanding this paradox is critical to accepting the answer to your question. And this raises a larger trend in humanity to seek logical answers to life's problems. It is as if we can climb to the top of the mountain to ask the guru the secrets of life and conclude, "Wow, why didn't I think of that?"

The truth of the matter is that the answers you've already come up with on your own represent the extent to which the human Mind can answer this question. The answer exists beyond the logical ways of the Mind. And the egoic, control oriented Mind is not likely to agree with any answer that results in its loss. Thus to accept the answer to your question, you must step outside of the Mind and into the self to which you aspire.

But how does one do that? How does one step into an identify of self that we don't yet understand?

The answer is faith. Despite being commonplace in our society, faith is not logical and not the favored approach of the Mind. I'm not conveying that faith is the answer to your question, but rather that your path to the answer will require faith beyond the logical ways of your Mind.

So as we prepare to address this topic we expect that the Mind will object. You can be assured that your Mind will protest by saying, "That isn't true." Or, "I don't believe that." And like pleading our release to the Warden, we shouldn't be surprised to hear our Mind object.

But wait a second, "Isn't the Warden doing his job?"

Did we not hire the Warden for a reason? Do we really think that firing the Warden will result in a more peaceful society? Will the inmates live in harmony if we fire the Warden? Or is it possible that the Warden serves a purpose but he has assumed too much responsibility?

So as we explore this new identification of self and method for managing our lives, we can have empathy for the Warden. We can assure him that he won't be terminated. He won't have full autonomy to run our lives anymore, but he won't be fired either. Thus we aren't really seeking to lose the Mind but rather to let the Mind play a valuable, but balanced, role in our lives.

But to move the Mind to a healthy co-manager position in our life, we must introduce what we are. If we're not the shadows on the wall, then presumably "we" are what is watching the shadows. And if that isn't the Mind, then what are we?

As you're well aware, you're not just a Mind but you're also a physical Body as well. If you were in a coma, your Body would still function but your Mind would be offline. Thus you are both a Body and a Mind.

But you're more than a Mind and a Body. You also have a Spiritual aspect to your "self." Thus you're not just one of these "parts" but you're actually the combination of the Body, Spirit and Mind.

And this is where consciousness enters the equation. Your consciousness comes from more than just the logical thoughts of your Mind. Your sensations and feelings contribute to your overall consciousness too. Thus what "you" are is the collective consciousness of your Body, Spirit and Mind in this lifetime.

The time aspect of this understanding is important because your physical Body and your Mind will not survive your physical death. Your Spirit will remain and so, in one sense, you are pure Spirit. But in this lifetime, you are the collective consciousness of all three. And since it is in this lifetime that you're managing your life, it is in this collective consciousness that you must emerge.

As you can see, our goal is not to be "not-Mind" or to be "pure Spirit" but rather to achieve harmony and balance amongst our Body, Spirit and Mind. We want the three to work together as a team. Just like on the playground, we're asking the three parts of us to play nice.

Hold on a second, you're not evaluating this with the logical ways of your Mind are you? If so, you're already starting to mount the objections as to why this isn't true. That's OK, but recognize that your Mind is doing this because it is on the defensive. As much as we can find balance in this collective consciousness, this is new territory for the Mind and it is skeptical.

So how do we move into this harmonious existence without letting our Mind taint our experience? The answer is to enliven the Body and Spirit in order to bring them into the conversation.

If you've read my book or followed me online, you're well aware of the check-in I advise for the end of each day:

What have I done today to nurture my Body?
What have I done today to nurture my Spirit?
What have I done today to nurture my Mind?

By energizing our Body, Spirit and Mind (yes, the Mind too) we bring the three parts of us into one. And by engaging each part of us on a daily basis, we bring our lives into balance.

It is true that this practice won't silence the voice in our heads. But that is not our goal. Our hope is to bring the Spirit and Body into the conversation. By learning their languages and appreciating their input, we find that the way we navigate through life becomes less egoic, less hateful, less divisive and more expansive. And thus the opposite is true too that our lives become more "we" than "I," more loving, more uniting and in harmony with God.

Start small by growing and calming the Body, Spirit and Mind. In this the connective bonds between them will become stronger and your Mind will release its dominant control of your life. It is possible but you must have faith.


Darwin Stephenson