It goes without saying that most religious and spiritual practices and systems have their pearls of wisdom and approaches to gaining spiritual experience and realisation. Foundational pillars for building a spiritual life, aligning our lives and actions with divine truth and presence, are initially morals and ethics. It is the positive inner response to morals and ethics as children that first initiates our spiritual journey. Later we begin to feel our personal convictions around them and let them shape and define our decisions and actions. Ethics and morals can be conditioned by beliefs and culture or they can be more universal.
Attitudes and convictions around human rights are an example of what is ethical or moral in one culture can be seen by another culture as immoral or unethical. Religion and culture, history, and how harsh or conducive life conditions are, have an effect on the mores evolved in a civilisation. Thus, we see in some cultures, a disparity between how they treat their ‘own’ compared to outsiders. This is particularly strong in those cultures and religious sects that still retain their links to a long history of tribal life and warfare, or having to have strict codes of conduct to survive harsh conditions. Similarly, attitudes of rights even within a sect, tribe or community can be in conflict with ethics and morals of outsiders when it comes to things like treatment of women, children, the old and sick, the influence of security and ware fare as well as trade.
As our personal spiritual characteristics mature, ethics and morals become part of a more integrated and universal set of convictions which is what I refer to as values. No matter what the conflicting ethics and morals between different cultures and people, there are common values of love and support within the family, codes of courage and honour, ideals of love, compassion, beauty and the sense of truth, as well as values around codes of conduct to do with honesty, goodness, and considerations of the sovereignty of the individual inclusive of consideration of the wellbeing of the group.
I am of the view that personal spiritual maturity raises an individual’s values above the conditioned mores of his or her own culture to more universal values that are the shared ideals of most major religions and globally influenced modern philosophies. The more values can be applied universally to all peoples at all times, be applied equally to all so that unity (not uniformity), wellbeing, prosperity and sustainability are promoted equally to all as well as to the resources required for the future, the more those values resonate with the true nature of life and living consciousness itself. The individual and the group must be sustained and given the opportunity to thrive on the basis of mutual co-operation, love and liberty. Obviously, if society and each of us individually compromise our codes of conduct, morality and values in order to manage the lowest denominators of human nature and conduct, then our systems and approaches to life are more limited in scope. A remedy is to uphold ideals truly set on universal values that apply in a fully harmonious and friendly universe.
Maintaining high ideals is the only way to gain insight into how they operate and apply in an evolving world. We can then better adopt insight in applying universal values to everyone at all times in our life. In this world of contrasts, where ignorance often still prevails, how do we apply our ideals and values to perceived evil in the world or as it arises even subtly within ourselves? How do we apply these values while in inner conflict or conflict with another, such as when we feel threatened? How do we apply these values when we feel common human emotions like anger, hurt, or sadness? What about other emotive states like self-absorbed pride, self-loathing, jealousy or guilt?
Love of God and all beings as brothers and sisters is the Christian golden rule as does seeking first the ‘kingdom of heaven’. Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita also teaches that oneness with the divine comes first, before the cares of the world. This is because, when we are in a state of pure presence in the moment, where our sense of being and existence transcends thoughts, feelings and actions, we are immersed in the living essence of life and consciousness itself. It is not a mindless, void that eliminates any sense of divinity, humanity, purpose or meaning. Connecting to the living essence of what we are is a connection to something profound rather than just a disconnection from the material world or from our projections of self. Being in the world but not of the world is obviously not identifying with an empty and lifeless void that leaves us robotic or zombie-like.
True awakening into the living light of our own life essence and pure consciousness does equate to connecting to spirit. When we can be immersed deeply in that place then all our feelings, thoughts and actions are external to the consciousness that is our true essence. Feelings and thoughts are inner projections, while the perceptions of the physical senses and the external world they perceive are also experienced as objective occurrences in the medium of our boundary-less consciousness.
Thus, part of spiritual practice is learning to accept all positive and negative thoughts and feelings in ourselves and perceived around us equally. Personal attachments and aversions are all by nature perceived through the conditioned mind. Spiritual identification comes with identification with the substance of who or what we are and not with the projections of self, whether they be good or bad, positive or negative. Being in true presence creates the space for abiding compassion, goodness and growing receptive understanding that is more capable of universal love and discriminating life situations by how they resonate with divine presence rather than how well our reality is conforming to conditioned ideas of good or bad or how they serve our preconceived self-biased agenda’s.
All arising feelings and thoughts can be equally witnessed in the light of clear and true consciousness with presence. A loved one, a stranger or someone causing conflict around us or within ourselves can also be experienced in undisturbed equanimity depending on the power and depth of ones own state of presence This offers greater proactive choices of response, that is not reactive or based on fear or threat.
Being able to sit with positive highs and uncomfortable or painful lows of thoughts and feelings equally is part of renunciation. Handling life in the moment this way, from the inclusive love we find in deep ‘being-ness’ itself, happens when conscious presence of being becomes an end in itself. When it becomes the core of our existence and identity it allows us to do what is termed as loving God and others universally. Progressively doing it within ourselves without being selective enables us to apply spiritual presence to the good, the bad and the ugly within and in the world. Even more, it gives us the insight that the relativity of positives and negatives is a less enduring reality than the true essence of life and consciousness in which it occurs.
In this way, as anger or grief, excitement and happiness, melancholy or disengagement occur, we can open up to these experiences honestly and consciously without identifying with them. Allowing ourselves to experience the full spectrum openly requires having a solid centre that does is inclusive, not prone to attachment or aversion, yet unaffected by the partiality perceived in the moment. That place is the pure essence of our life and consciousness in the here and now. It can be termed at some point of realisation as spirit-consciousness.
I remember once, after spending time with some remarkable yogi’s, gaining the insight that even the masters feel the full spectrum of human emotion in an exquisite way where any level of pain can be contained in an even greater bliss. It is not what we think and feel that defines us, but what we do with it reflects the level of our spiritual identification at the time.
Identifying with the living consciousness from which all emerges is the high path to gaining spaciousness of consciousness. This awareness provides more choice, greater wisdom and perspective on the nature of our human thought and feeling projections. All becomes meaningful when we deal with it in the resonance of consciousness of consciousness. Negatives and disturbances dissolve faster based on the ability to be present with them consciously. The transformation that occurs is an increasing quality and frequency of thoughts and feelings that resonate with the transcendent inner sanctum that is available to us. Conscious processing becomes less necessary.
Rather than rejecting uncomfortable thoughts and feelings, people and situations, we can embrace them as a practice rather than fighting them, or trying to find an answer or fix for them to go away. Gradually, a transformation and shift will occur where full presence is less shaken and we can respond to positive and negative elements in equanimity with the full spectrum of who we are intact , more alive and conscious.
Practicing letting go within ourselves to be present and consciously embrace all aspects of ourselves and life, builds trust in what we are without our own separate manufacture. With that progressive knowing and trust, through practice and attention, our thoughts, feelings, perceptions and actions can be offerings in this presence. As it becomes greater than our own sense of a separate self , divine providence will help us to continue and lend us strength even when we are amidst a major challenge or “the valley of death”. A deepening and expanding sense of calm alertness, an open mind, body and heart and a unified sense of connectedness are the guide posts for our progress. The thoughts, feelings, perceptions and actions that arise and harmonise with this bring abundance and happiness. Learning to conquer our own demons by practicing this in the face of our negatives and pains will bring unimaginable rewards and a sense of personal freedom.