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Finding and Enjoying the True Treasure of Life

In the modern era, there is so much commercial noise globally around obtaining things, worldly wealth, and success— on our phones, computers, iPads, and tablets, as well as on TV and wherever we go on the city streets, on public transportation, in shopping malls, in the magazines we read. In our twenty-first century comfort many of us do not feel the need for a ‘Kingdom of heaven’ or a ‘spiritual life’ at all, whether we are enjoying our worldly struggles and challenges or not.

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and in his joy he went and sold all he had and bought that field.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. When he found one very precious pearl, he went away and sold all he had and bought it.

(Matthew 13:44–46)

Relative to the noise, complexities and distractions of our lives today, one could be forgiven for thinking the kingdom of heaven is even more deeply buried than ever. The ‘treasure’ or ‘pearl’ in the teachings above are not contradictory to worldly success and wealth, but the obsession or even the identification with material world things is close to the root of missing the riches of realization of true self and reality. The cultivation of desire and attachment to the material, the mindset of “things” as an end in themselves, is a threat or obstacle to “being” in the what Jesus referred to as the kingdom.

Jesus testifies that the treasure of the kingdom of heaven is something to be discovered and found—hidden within us and not blaring at us like so many worldly acquirements. Our will, intention and co-operation is required to find the true treasure within us and present all around us. There is divine purpose in this requirement for us as co-creators of our own destiny and participation in life and consciousness.

This parable describes how, for the person who seeks and does discover, recognize and stake a claim, this treasure or pearl can be acquired securely. First, we must keep it treasured within where it was found. Second, by making it the primary purpose and importance of our life, identity, and inner focus, we must devote all of ourselves and all we have to the alignment and sustenance of this inner connection and co-existence in the divine. This is done with the awareness of what is the cause and what is the effect in our existence and experience of life. Only in this way can we truly embrace the whole spectrum of material, mental and spiritual life. ‘Selling’ all we have or are, and buying the field, is taking ownership of our life and of the treasure within, devoting every part of our nature and life (the field) to the treasure within it. This is like the principle of loving God or the divine nature of all, with all our heart and mind.

The merchant is like the spiritual aspirant who has a realization or revelation within himself, that he or she has recognized the precious or authentic divine truth being sought. Once he has this recognition, the merchant or aspirant wisely acts and devotes all he is to aligning with that pearl of truth and nurturing its growth and fulfillment in his life. This taking of ownership through focus and action will lead to the bearing of spiritual fruits in one’s character and in one’s life. When these are in abundance, so to can all aspects of the life that is true for us be in abundance.

When it comes down to an authentic and undivided mind and sense of self, we need to have a strong and certain sense of identification with our true self. What is that true self? It is not our thoughts, beliefs, emotions and points of view. It is not who we present to the world or who we think we are. It is the consciousness and spaciousness that is experiencing all of that.

To get beyond our own projections of what we think ‘that’ is or who we ‘think’ we are, we must practice letting go of the things we are not and observe them. Mental activity and the things of life never stop, so gaining deeper perspective can come from consciously observing them, including our narratives and perceptions of them. When there is enough space consciously and a strong enough sense of ‘being-ness’ that we can become familiar with, that state of being enables us to experience the phenomena of our inner world and its activity as it is arising. We we can observe mindfully in each moment our thoughts and feelings, our complete subjective experience of being in the moment, then start to separate the things we are not from what we are. We can sharpen our distinctions of what is our own inner activity – projections, responses, reactions and perceptions of the outer world.

Until we invest our identification completely in the observer or ‘experiencer’ rather than the content or experience, we will still get drawn into identifying with the good and bad, the ups and downs of our divided and conditioned self and be led away from true ‘beingness’ by those same thoughts and feelings by our attachment or aversion to and from them. Identification with the content of our life results in a divided mind suffering inner conflict and insecurity deep within from attachment and identification with a small and separate ego self. This self is based on an investment in survival and protection as a separate self. It is the self of attachment to its own reality of manufactured layers of beliefs, responses and reactions to ensure survival and happiness based on fear and uncertainty.

When we invest ourselves in the consciousness that is unchanged and experiencing all of this in the background, a great spaciousness arises, where we can can experience things more as they are. We then have greater awareness and choice about our responses, and by dissolving our identification with our own separate reality about reality, we can experience greater unity in our sense of self and as part of the cause and effect of things as they are. Gaining a rock solid ‘isness’ of things is by virtue of the nature of the life and consciousness from which we experience existence. We are actually more enabled to do respond effectively without anxieties or misplaced intentions. In identifying with the consciousness that is experiencing the individual self, we realize the individual self is an extension of life and consciousness itself which is our greater self. The true self is not a product of the world, it is not self made and the things of real concern are not our normal daily worries. In this realization, we can gain an ever present humility of being unified with a vast and endless whole as an individual while also feeling that same vastness and wholeness is expressing itself through the individual self as a vehicle for each of us all to be here.

The more we base ourselves in our own truth and knowing of this, and allow ourselves to be and live in that subjective experience, the more is revealed about the true nature and unity of life and consciousness. The greatest aspect of this, as confirmed by all great masters of the ages, is the deepening experience and understanding of love and unity, of inherent goodness and beauty. In the acquirement or discovery of this great truth is the gratitude and appreciation of truth and compassion for all of life. Our recognition of some aspect of divinity comes from the knowing of the nature of life and consciousness from direct awareness and choosing, from which comes the knowing of what this essence reveals of the nature of its own substance and function, cause and destiny.

Photo by europeanspaceagency on VisualHunt / CC BY (quote added)

Connecting to the Power of Life in the Present Moment

Mindfulness

Mindfulness, is a buddhist term embraced by western psychology and is now a modernised term for practicing awareness of experience in the present moment or a ‘state of presence’. In the buddhist context it develops self knowledge and wisdom to achieve enlightenment and be free of suffering. In western therapeutic modalities it is used to deal with mental illness, anxiety and stress. The last sixty years it has been researched and recognised as an approach for various effective therapeutic uses, in addition to general wellbeing, performance enhancement and spiritual awakening.

The deeper art of mindfulness is in training the mind to let go of identifying with projections of self. Projections of self may be through identification with outward appearances, circumstances and material things. More primary are inner projections of identification with thoughts, emotions and bodily experience. These ever changing aspects of experiencing the world as individuals can take us on cycles of ups and downs that seem to have a life of their own. Many people’s sense of self and the world, moods and states, perceptions and opinions are reflected in their mental narrative and emotional state as an overall accumulative effect as well as acutely during intense moments. Identifying with them is considered to be the source of suffering by ancient teachings. Training our mind enables us to get beyond our projections of self, deeper into authentic states of inner equilibrium and self realisation, beyond thought and emotion and into the more stable background of consciousness from which mental activity arises.

The inner projections above are the primary ways we really get locked into egocentric identity and loose our ability to be consistently in the drivers seat when it comes to thoughts (most of which are repetitive and predictable yet filter our experiences enormously), emotions (which can really influence our perception independently thoughts and beliefs or collaboratively with them, cause us to be reactive instead of proactive, and forget ourselves when they arise intensely). Body image and inner body experience can also become part of a self-perpetual loop. Emotions, thoughts and bodily experience become illusory when based on our conditioned programming and expectations, we cannot separate them from our sense of who we are. Our personal experience of thoughts and beliefs becomes its own evidence of the reality of those same conditioned beliefs and views thus reinforcing them. The psycho-physical landscape of how we hold ourselves in body and form in the world reveals where we are balanced and life affirming. Alternatively our stress patterns will reflect imbalance, a divided mind identified with positive and negative thoughts and beliefs spliting our identity from our true state of Being.

When we are identifying with these three primary inner projections, they cease to be useful tools for embodying, expressing and sharing our true presence in the world. Instead they become a tool of the ego and in the guise of ‘adaption’, ‘protection’ and ‘self image’ and become the substance of what ‘ego’ does to separate us from a true sense of connection and oneness with life and consciousness. Ego hinders us because it involves identifying with aspects of our life and selves that have no inherent existence of themselves. Ego identification is investing our experience of self in the things and self-created images we give meaning to, rather than identification in the source of where that meaning and purpose truly comes from, our true self as pure consciousness and life.

So how do we best practice ‘mindfulness’ in a way that disengages us from this false identification? Can we be more fully and consistently in a unified state, harmonising mind, body and emotion with our true nature and values? Can we spend more time in qualitative creative and insightful states rather than mundane and habitual ruts of thinking? Is it realistic to be consistently in this space of alignment at the right place at the right time? What further aspects of life experience open up to us when spiritually mature in this way?

Mindfulness is in principle so simple, it can easily be disregarded by ego consciousness. Not only that, it can be very difficult to break old habits and so requires consistent practice, consciously with will and effort until it becomes second nature. Even then, we must be on guard when it comes to egocentric states that take us back into identification with conditioned patterns and suffering. The ego seems to resist being put in its place once we have invested in it for security, success, survival or happiness. In truth, the ego can do nothing of its own because it is our creation, our own projection of ourselves.

Practice and Application of Mindfulness

Essentially, basic mindful meditation is a practice in stillness for what is also required in action to live in a true state of presence. It is being able to subjectively surrender our complete experience in the moment to the consciousness from which it arises. It is allowing ourselves to be still, present and unified in a presence or spaciousness of being. This state is found, and not manufactured, often using breath or another single focus as a way there. We can observe each thought, feeling and data input as it arises or presents itself. Initially, many associated thoughts and feelings are are noticed like a cascade effect of ceaseless mind activity. Things can seem to get busier before they settle if we are not used to this shift.

With practice of stillness, presence and observation, these associated thoughts and feelings diminish until we experience some space between arising thoughts and observed sensations. Eventually we realise they occur in our consciousness, and we are in fact the space of consciousness in which it all occurs. It is not about understanding this intellectually, but being in it fully and subjectively. With that experiential realisation it becomes much easier to get into the zone quickly and more easily maintain it while we go about our day of tasks and communications. Thinking and feeling becomes more balanced, even minded, yet even more rich and far reaching with more choice.

Enormous changes occur once this happens, this shift and new sense of inner freedom and wellbeing continues to provide greater depth, awareness and insight based on personal realisation and experience that goes deeper than our words and mind narratives can conceive. Love, receptivity and connectedness can be enriched on new levels. This space is not vacuous but full of subtlety.

With practice, the most opportune time to apply mindfulness is during highly positively or negatively charged experiences. Mindfulness is not just a neutral or numb state, although can be easier to attain in a neutral state t first. Relaxing mind and body during ‘charged’ times, and embracing each thought and feeling as a projection of who we are, help flex the muscle of consciousness and awareness. These times offer high energy that intensifies and expands our state of presence. When ego identified, we tend to energise projected thoughts, feelings or egocentric needs relevant to the time, loosing ourselves in intense moments, sensations or role playing. With mindfulness we can embrace the same content from a deepening and expanding consciousness with alignment in our true state of being and transform the energy from reactivity into a personal victory of higher consciousness and conscious action.

It is sometimes useful, while witnessing these times of highly positive or negative experiences, to affirm simply and briefly within yourself “I am not my thoughts”, “I am not my feelings”, “I am not my body”. Then simply be, observing what is going on within and without before we speak, decide or act. The content (thoughts, feelings, perceptions) are still there to be experienced even more deeply but without attachment, aversion or the dislocation of identification with them. No matter how bad or how wonderful our thoughts and feelings are as they arise, our true being is an immensely greater field and reality from which they arise. Embracing really strong thoughts and sensations in this conscious state of presence enables greater joy, true insight and reality of being.

Practices like Taiji, qigong, meditation and yoga help us to disengage from identification with our inner projections. Actually doing anything you enjoy with complete attention can be effective for many people in sport, business, or hobbies like working in the garden. The advantages of taiji, qigong or yoga is that they create a space to feel every part of the body and breath consciously and fully while relaxing the nervous system and mind. They are designed and developed over the ages to balance the mind and body energy specifically. Golf, relaxed rowing or gardening for example, can offer similar states but not necessarily cultivate the focus and quality of the conscious state depending on the intention and experience of the doer. Likewise, we see in the orient, zen walking and raking, flower arranging, calligraphy and painting done as a sacred discipline in special settings along with martial art applications like archery or taiji sword. With intentional practice, intent and setting are important combined with controlled and relaxed activities done in a state of still mind, synchronised movement and breath.

Activities that are too sedate or too stimulating to mind, body or both may not be as effective to develop the mindful state. The above are active ways to utilise inner body experience to take one out of the thinking narratives of mind. Yoga teaches one to release resistance, discomfort and disturbance by relaxing and breathing into it with acceptance and allow it to transform without having to process or ‘do’ anything with it. The light of pure awareness or consciousness itself is transformative and unifying. So it is with all things in life. This is why some non-action techniques of sitting meditation or sivasana (corpse pose in yoga) are considered as both the most simple and advanced techniques of practice. What activity incorporating these principles would make an enriching part of your daily practice?

 

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Three Proven Approaches to Spiritual Health and Vitality

Three main branches of yoga defined in the Bhagavad Gita thousands of years ago, before the many diverse styles and branches (and focus on physical asanas) of modern times.  They apply universally to any faith or path as the three main aspects of spiritual practice:

  1. Alignment with divine love and compassion (bhakti yoga, devotion, worship)
  2. Wisdom through knowledge and realisation or direct experience (jnana yoga)
  3. Practical application of mindfulness and values through selfless action and service (karma yoga)

How can we utilise these principles to nurture and practice them in our modern lives?

Bhakti Yoga (The Path of Love and Devotion)

Bhakti Yoga, the way of love or devotion, can be well suited to modern life. Easwaran in his Gita companion book says it is “natural to forget ourselves for those we love.” (p.125). The challenge is to deepen our understanding and experience of love. Love is a term applied to so many deep and superficial things these days, that it is almost too crude or too common a term to apply to a more rarely experienced deep and profound consciousness that is the essence of our spiritual nature. Real love and compassion in the conscious sense, go beyond emotional or mental needs and preferences to become a state of consciousness also transcending self will.

The sanskrit word bhakti means a state of consciousness in which you forget your (ego) self. A common counsel to those practicing bhakti yoga is to practice the art of unconditional love with one relationship (a partner, intimate friend or close family relationship), then extend that love genuinely out to others and ultimately to all life.

A spiritual or religious view helps by providing a sense of a shared source and destiny of life and consciousness as the means of connection and unity with others. A transcendent foundation to reality helps one understand inherent unity beyond the conflict and diversity of the material world. Authentic love and devotion to a divine or universal being (bhakti) must come from a deep personal truth and connection which requires spiritual effort and the ability to get past the conditioning of differences in appearance, gender, culture, religion and ideologies.

If we can regularly connect from within to a presence or field of love in and around us, with no labels attached, then we can better learn to consistently identify with it in place of identification with the little ‘self’ by consistently aligning our actions and state of consciousness in this state, in the present moment, throughout all that we do on a daily basis. This in turn produces the ability to remain in the flow of universal or connected consciousness. In A New Earth, Ekhart Tolle describes in depth, three states that allow this connection and flow: enjoyment, acceptance or enthusiasm. Bhakti is possible anytime by connecting within in the correct state of consciousness that we are capable of at the time and situation.

Therefore, while religious chanting, singing and dancing are traditional and common practices for surrendering into a bhakti reverie, so to can quiet and private worship or meditating, walks and time in nature, as well as quality time and intimacy with friends and loved ones. Intimacy here means communication and connection that is truly an authentic sharing of each other in a selfless way, where we have the safety and understanding to be frank in sharing values or uplifting views and heart felt thoughts with each other. 

Bhakti is not about a purely moralistic universal love or a romanticised emotional ideal. It is a transformative and heart felt experience of a profound connection and oneness of divine love that expands ones view, understanding and compassion for all life. It is spiritually significant where it includes a sense of a greater reality and presence than the material world before us. Thus, relationships gain a deeper meaning when their purpose includes affirming and expressing this universal sense in each other for the benefit of all.

Jnana Yoga (The Path of Wisdom through Realisation and Knowledge)

Jnana Yoga, the path of wisdom or knowledge, is not just about intellect . Easwaran describes it as “direct, experiential knowledge of the unity of life, attained by progressively seeing through the layers of delusion that glue us to the body and mind – something that is simple to talk about but almost impossible to do.” (p.118). (also see the Gita 12:3-4)

Scripture and teachings in spiritual traditions can be a means of obtaining tried and true guidance, especially with guidance from a teacher. For most people in modern times, access to quality information is now huge from many channels, but still requires discrimination of quality. However, jnana is really about the inseparableness of knowledge and experience. Especially when it comes to authentic states of consciousness, our own nature of being (spirit and consciousness) enables us to recognise truth when we experience it. There is a deep capacity of recognition of profound reality and divine truth when we experience it. The deep wisdom of masters is not from dry intellect but hand in hand with love of God: “to know is to love, and to love is to act” (Easwaran, p.119, also see the Gita 18:54-56).

Karma Yoga (The Path of Spirituality through Action and Service)

Karma Yoga is the path of selfless action. It is more than service, which is most important, as service becomes yoga “when we forget ourselves in that work and desire nothing from it ourselves, not even recognition or appreciation.” Therefore, the quality of consciousness in which an act is done, is an integral part of the spiritual value of performing actions and service to others. Many who receive great recognition have done great things for the world, so this distinction is not at their expense. Rather, it highlights the importance of people doing acts in ways that shrink or dissolve egotism and separateness. “The question is what effect this work has on them [the doer]. If it loosens egotism, pride, and the bonds of separateness, it can be called karma yoga, but not if it is making these bonds stronger.” (Easwaran, p.120).

Sri Krishna says true selfless actions alone will help free us from the results of past karma (Gita 4:22-23) which is why this approach of service is called karma yoga. In his autobiography, Gandhi spoke about how difficult it was to tirelessly work for others without getting attached to things turning out his way. Since we can’t control so many factors in life, Sri Krishna affirms it is in our power to act wisely, but wise not to be anxious about the outcomes so we may live and act with an evenness of mind (Gita 2:47,48). Caring about our actions and motivations without getting entangled in our own personal investment of the outcomes is a fine line to walk. Gandhi summarised this famously with: “Do your best, then leave the results to God.” This is the secret to Karma Yoga – using the right means to achieve the right end without attachment to the outcome.

Dhyana yoga or meditation is the foundation of all yogic paths in order to train our minds to get to deeper levels of consciousness. In these busy times of materialistic distraction, such a regular practice becomes all the more valuable. It is our own personal and direct connection to spirit or the divine that really determines the spiritual quality of our life. It can only be found by being fully aligned in the present moment. Krishna in the Gita says:

Meditation is superior to asceticism and the path of knowledge. It is also superior to selfless service. May you obtain the goal of meditation, Arjuna! (Gita 6:46)

Love, wisdom and service exercised throughout life from deep consciousness and connection to the whole, obtained through worship or meditation, is our ultimate purpose in being here and all we do. So, create a little checklist and see how you exercise these three aspects in your life.

Recommended Reading:

Essence of the Bhagavad Gita -; A Contemporary Guide to Yoga, Meditation and Indian Philosophy, by Eknath Easwaran (Nilgiris Press, Tomales, CA, USA, 2011)

God Talks With Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita, by Paramahansa Yogananda (Self-Realization Fellowship, USA, 1999, Second Edition)

The Bhagavad Gita, translation & commentary, by Sri Swami Sivananda (The Divine Life Society, India, 2015, Fifteenth Edition)

A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose, by Eckhart Tolle (Penguin, 2008)

Photo by Eddi van W. on VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-ND

Uplifting the Quality of Love and Friendship in Your Life

A great aspect of life that I find most encapsulates beauty, goodness and truth is friendship. What a marvellous gift! Friendship universally valued, is founded on mutual love and regard for one another. It nurtures our sense of connection and enriches life. It’s a safe and nourishing means to gain perspective of our personal realities through sharing thoughts, feelings and views with each other. In friendship we truly enjoy each other and life as personalities, invigorating life meaning, the value of sharing love, reminding us what is important. We couldn’t imagine life without it. Every friendship is so unique, and what we gain and share in different friendships often surprise, delight and fulfil us mind and soul.

Our need for companionship is a natural instinct on every level of our being as we are not created to be in isolation. Beautiful friendships do not come from neediness and dependency on each other for security and completeness. Beautiful friendships reciprocate an unconditional love that each person has found within. These authentic friendships we all would like in abundance and the way to cultivate them is to cultivate our own ideal ‘friendship’ in ourselves.

To become a good friend to others is much more achievable if we have an abundance of love and a sense of connection within ourselves. Feeling complete, means we have more energy and concern for others. There is one reliable source of this.

In the Gita, Krishna speaking as an embodiment of the divine says: “I am the Self, dwelling in the heart of all beings, and the beginning, the middle, and the end of all that lives as well.” (Gita 10:20) It is universally recognised that it is in the heart we most truly see ourselves and each other. In religions around the world, it is the calm or spirit aligned mind unified with the heart that is attuned to truth, meaning and higher values.

A pure intent, coming from love and strength rather than seeking it, enables us to be more present and loving, able to respond to life and situations with thoughtfulness and compassion. We all want to respond more readily to authentic and genuine needs, rather than react or get ensnared by conditional ego needs in our ourselves or in others. From a free and independent state of ‘universal love’ we can seek to understand others, even when their actions may not be in our own interests.

To love universally does not mean approving or advocating indiscriminately when we see things that are obviously misguided or outright evil and wrong. However, like the saints and masters, we can condemn the sin and love the sinner as we ourselves hope to be treated. This means exercising love with wisdom. It is only through understanding that we can genuinely achieve the spiritual ideal of ‘loving our enemies’. Even the worst types of characters can be friendly to their family or those close. Therefore, spiritual wisdom in our responses is being discriminating but non-judgemental to those who slight us, seeking out the goodness in them, understanding why they do what they do, then responding appropriately without taking it personally. In the joy of righteousness, or the courage of challenging injustice, we can act with love in our hearts for the benefit of all concerned. It is not easy at all, yet a profound ideal of applying mindfulness.

Offering love and friendship in any circumstance is a way to freely apply our higher nature whether joyously or sternly. If the intention is to be true and authentic and of most value to others, then such acts of love and friendship are not a means to an end but fulfilling a pure and complete end in itself.

Those who realise the power of an open heart in facing life, discover the sacredness in and through their relationships. Personal spiritual experience comes from a sense of the divine in the universe at large as well as a personal connection within. This personal religious awareness may permeate all four levels of the realisation of values and the enjoyment of universe fellowship: the physical or material level of self-preservation; the social or emotional level of fellowship; the moral or duty level of reason; the spiritual level of the consciousness of universe fellowship through divine worship. (Urantia I:5:5.2)

Thus, friendship can be a sublime channel for actualising divine love if, even in ordinary moments, we consciously connect to the source of personal love within and omnipresent universal love around us. “Love spontaneously gives itself in endless gifts. But those gifts lose their fullest significance if through them we do not reach that love, which is the giver. The question is, in what manner do we accept this world, which is a perfect gift of joy? Have we been able to receive it in our heart where we keep enshrined things that are of deathless value to us?” (Rabindranath Tagore, Nobel Prize-winning poet of India).

Jesus love and regard to all people equally, challenged the social mores of racial and gender prejudice in his time. He broke such a social code when speaking to a Samaritan woman by a well, saying: “whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a fount of water springing up to eternal life.” (John 4:14). This ‘fount of living water’ amounts to our own conviction and willingness to feel great divine love within ourselves and to embody it for the benefit of all.

Realising the inner fountain of love and life according to Sri Krishna is to calm worldly attachments and aversions, focusing oneself completely with inner devotion with the divine. In the Gita, Krishna speaks to the cultivation of such love within when he says: “Only by undistracted love can men see me, and know me, and enter into me. He who does my work, who loves me, who sees me as the highest, free from attachment to all things, and with love for all creation, he in truth comes to me.” (Gita 11:54,55)

A great sense of meaning and purpose comes with cultivating conscious love and friendship and including the world at large in that love. It is greater than the pursuit of a personal happiness from external things or trying to fill emotional or psychological gaps in an isolated and conditioned self.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second most important commandment is this: ‘Love your neighbour as you love yourself.’ There is no other commandment more important than these two.” (Mark 12:30,31)

Thus, the key to great love and friendships can be found by applying spiritual values in ourselves and with others to overcome worldly and ego needs. Sacred friendship requires effort – engagement of all aspects of our personality, and an acknowledgement of a personal relationship in and with the divine. The rewards are immense and real.

Jesus presents ideal love and friendship as the love of a divine parent to all combined with the mutual love of neighbours or brother or sister sharing a divine source and destiny: The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me who is doing his work.” (John 14:10) “.. you will realise that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you”. (John 14:20) “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you.” (John 15:9) “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:12,13).

This depth of love is a great human achievement to be exercised in wisdom. While Jesus followed through with this truth in the ultimate sense, we can devote our lives to mindful daily practice. Truth, beauty and goodness in our true nature is demonstrated by so many people the world over. There is a quiet majority who are essentially good and beautiful souls. May love, unity and friendship become the art form of our times.

Recommended Reading:

The Berean Bible (download online – public domain)

The Bhagavad Gita (download online – public domain)

The Urantia Book (download online – public domain)

Photo by drhenkenstein on VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-SA

Enhancing Beauty, Truth and Goodness in Our Lives

“The concept of truth might possibly be entertained apart from personality, the concept of beauty may exist without personality, but the concept of divine goodness is understandable only in relation to personality. Only a person can love and be loved.”

The Urantia Book 1:7.3

Life can be received as a bestowed gift. Can we lay claim as humans to be self made, to understand and control the spark of life, the source of consciousness, in this material universe? We are self aware of our existence with a depth of perception, intelligence and understanding. In contemplating and observing this simple yet profound fact, many of us come to a realisation that the nature and source of our consciousness and life, conscious beings in a structured vast soup of molecules called the universe, is of a transcendent and universal nature. This nature includes all attributes of conscious experience that are a result of it – including great love.

Any unifying field of reality will include a primal energy behind the observable inherent patterns and structures as well as chaos and randomness. In addition, with the evidence of intelligent life and our own subjective and noblest truths, such a unifying field can be no less than the giver of life and consciousness. Therefore, attributes of self awareness, purpose and meaning must also arise from a vast and infinite cause that may not be human on a creator and deity level, but neither can it be divorced from or less than the lives that it bestows – our most evolved attributes as individuals and as humanity.

We are each such a small part of a vast and abundant evolving creation. The immensity reflects the infiniteness of the universal source. Yet, the personal and individually unique aspect of each of us also reflects that the infinite scale of creation is matched by personal attention and connection in each living being. So we are each important with a purpose. The personal and rich nature of our life and consciousness can only come from such a vast and immense universal force and infinite being with great love. Thus, the personal spiritual aspect of our relationship with what we may call God, can be fittingly appreciated and cultivated in a way akin to child and heavenly parent, as personified in many world religions.

The realisation and knowing of divine presence and love brings a gradual accumulation of implications and revelations in its wake as we mature and face life. Our capacity to experience the fullness and richness of that spiritual relationship deepens and expands if we consistently draw on it as much as we engage in the life before us with honesty and authenticity. There is a beauty and symmetry in Infinite Being of a transcendent, absolute and perfect nature being able to share a sense of finiteness and imperfection with us as ascendant beings evolving towards the perfection and nature of the infinite on both a personal and vast collective scale.

The Urantia Book (quoted above) also says that God is to science a cause and primal force, to philosophy an idea and hypothesis of unity, and to religion a person, even the loving heavenly father, as a spiritual experience (1:6.2). He is all of these and more. We may see divine beauty in life and the material universe, recognise or feel a sense of truth in our intellect but a knowing sense of goodness is always personal. Whatever names, religion or path we use in our instinctive knowing and gravitation towards spiritual nature, the most relevant and compelling step from faith and sense of recognition of the divine, is realisation of personal connection. It is a loving experience of profound truth, beauty and goodness.

Every aspect and moment of life can be impacted when we begin to take ownership of our own personal spiritual convictions and conscious experience. Realisation cannot be thought out intellectually as much as discovered, when we open ourselves up in faith, drawing from the source of our life and consciousness within our own hearts and minds. This is a shared situation and reality with countless others. While the detail of self and life may define us as individuals, the essence of our values, struggles and higher truths are universal as is the life and consciousness from which it arises.

With a manifested body and material universe around us, a personal subjective illuminating connection within, we can see that although the ‘maker’ remains unseen to our physical perception, a shared connection with our maker is within. We can develop this sense through how we apply it in our lives with each other and compare views and understandings with one another. Despite the extremes and dualities of good and evil that are a legacy of an evolving material world, it is up to each of us individually to align and identify with the affirming substance of what we feel within and between us.

The highest teachings of east and west agree that our greatest enemy is ourselves. Our conditioned mind and our obsession with fickle thoughts, desires, likes and dislikes become a cage of false identity and limited perception. We remain detached from others and life while we are attached single eyed on our inner narratives and conditioned responses to the data our physical senses provide, including chemically induced moods and emotions from our bodies or what we put in them.

Yet when we learn to free our minds, distinguishing between the product of mind activity and the consciousness doing the thinking, we can start to align with existential being – not of our own conditioned manufacture. It is the consciousness under our noses, so to speak, or rather deep within our mind. It is existing consciousness that is there already when we’re not trying to be or do anything. Once we go there repeatedly, we start to bring more order and choice into what we think, how we react and look to a more inner sense of authenticity. Inherent in this and in the absence of need or compulsion for outward verification (through worldly power, security, wealth, recognition, sensuality, etc.) is an inner verification of aligning with truth, beauty, goodness and the values of love and the genuine interest of others. Causeless bliss within becomes more available as we align insight and pure consciousness. It is also revealed more in life and people around us.

In aligning with a source that has given life and consciousness to all, our own separate will and self interest can mature into one of personalising the greater universal will. We can become more authentically ourselves by progressively embodying our own conscious experience of universal presence and its attributes. Intention and application brings realisation. Spiritual realisation leads to a natural reverence for all life, a co-ordinate and co-operative sense of contributing to the progress and interests of everyone. This is the key to engaging in the flow and synchronicity of life, experiencing the universal presence and its qualities in everything as a connected unity.

The challenges of life are there for us to overcome by drawing on the indestructible and dependable reality within us. This reality is for us to realise subjectively, just like discovering a deepening sense of love, as a more real and immediate dimension to ourselves than the changeable and temporary nature of material senses and world around us. The material world becomes an instrument or vehicle of transformation through alignment and application in the divine.

Universal goodness, beauty and truth can genuinely infuse our personality. We can appreciate it more in life and others. We can follow whatever vocations and relationships in life we are drawn to with a baseline sense of meaning and purpose. This meaning and purpose is fulfilled by how consciously we embody spiritual reality and values. When we seek to selflessly apply love and goodness, beauty and strength, conviction and truth to all aspects of our days and lives together, we can find greatness in small things and a dependable inner identity embracing any life challenge.

Recommended Reading: The Urantia Book  (available from various organisation publications and online stores as well as free online downloads).

Photo credit: maf04 via Visual hunt / CC BY-SA

Winning the Most Important Battle with Love and Unity

The Battle Within

Both Mahatma Gandhi and Paramahansa Yogananda among other esteemed masters and teachers of India hold that the war of the Gita is the war within. There is a field called Kurukshetra (north of Delhi) where the battle is said to have occurred. Yet these great teachers insist in the Gita the field is an analogy for our mind and the battle one we must all fight within. The entire Gita poetically and profoundly narrates a conversation between Arjuna and his treasured lord and companion Sri Krishna during the legendary battle between a divided ruling family and their forces.

Much in the Gita supports this such as when Sri Krishna tells Arjuna the enemies he must conquer are lust, fear and anger. The dialogue between the two becomes a living truth when the principles covered throughout the discourse are applied to thought and action. The Gita concisely represents the essence of India’s ancient and timeless spiritual wisdom as well as teaching true yoga before it diverged into its many modern streams.

Life as Unity

Eknath Easwaranin his companion book The Essence of the Bhagavad Gita states that “the central message of the Gita is that life is an indivisible whole – a concept civilisation flouts at every turn”. The principles of unity and how to live with them in the Gita is the only way we can have abiding peace or live with one another and the planet in harmony.

Getting to the Root of our Problem

While Krishna’s initial response to Arjuna’s pleas of counsel in the battle field sounds hopelessly philosophical, instead of hacking at the branches of Arjuna’s issues (and our own) it goes to the root. As frustration leads to anger and eventually war or a cycle of crisis, it is only in understanding who we are and what truly satisfies us that can provide a basis for living together in peace and prosperity. The Gita presents the bottom line of all human dilemmas as a conflict between a lower self and a higher self. This is the dual nature of human and divine. Both Christ and Krishna embody the purpose, path and fulfilment of unifying this dual nature once the divine is given dominance. Yet the path is difficult and the aligning requires an artful approach to life and knowing ourselves.

Suffering and Awakening

With awakening comes a even deeper connection to others, greater understanding and compassion. Easwaran makes the distinction between those who suffer life’s hardships while dwelling upon themselves versus those who experience no separateness and experience suffering universally – “with such a vast field to absorb your capacity for sorrow, there is little left for dwelling on your own suffering” 1. A hallmark of the Gita (and a universal theme in spiritual traditions) is the two approaches to spiritually aligned living of contemplation and action. Victory over selfishness is through selfless service, where there are always things to be done to ease sorrow and suffering of others. (Note Gita 6:1).

Easwaran says: “The main problem with identifying ourselves [predominantly] with the body is that we spend our lives trying to satisfy nonphysical needs in physical ways” 2, such as through relationships based on separate needs, compensating for ego driven desires, needs and deficiencies or through material wealth, power, recognition for security. This can occur in all spectrums of human life from survival level to high levels of excess. Sri Krishna and the Gita would counsel that this is a bottomless hole because “that which is infinite can only be filled with something infinite”. The deepest drive within us, beneath appearances and conditioning, is for “direct, personal, experiential knowledge of the eternal reality that is within” 2.

Stress

Easwaran notes it is often not the circumstance or task itself that makes us stressed but the mind dwelling on our dislike, wishing things or people were different, making people wrong, while “always making ourselves the frame of reference” …. “stress flourishes in a divided mind” 3. He suggests that no one really knows what the external world really is, since what we experience is largely determined by our nervous system and mind. We create our own turmoil and the nervous system responds to our choices while we think we are reacting to things outside. (note Gita 2:14). “Events are just events, neither pro nor con, neither for us or against us. That is why the Gita says when we see life as it is, we see that there is no cause for personal sorrow. This one insight brings compassion and the precious capacity to help without judging or getting burned out” 4.

“This is practicing yoga on the surface of life” and “what begins as training attention becomes, in time, training of the will, and eventually desire” … unification of consciousness gradually moves, level by level, deeper an deeper into personality” 5.

Yoga to Unify self with the Divine

Most spiritual traditions agree, the little self will (ahamkara in sanskrit) or the ego is the culprit behind our difficulties, conflicts and sufferings. Yoga is about healing the ‘split’ consciousness and resolving the battle perceived through ahamkara. The word ‘yoga’ relates to the english word yoke; signifying binding together parts that have been separated. But yoga originally did not mean so much union of body, mind and spirit so much as “complete identification with the atman, [universal spirit within] which uses body and mind as instruments” 6.

The mark of healing the split between our true nature and identification with mind and body is unconditional love of life (Gita 6:29,32). Because there are countless problems and issues to work through, Sri Krishna says: “Don’t just try and tackle the problems the mind creates. Go to the root: tackle the mind” 7 (Gita 2:41).

Just like walking is a great skill that becomes unconscious, yoga as explained in the Gita, trains us in the experience of monitoring the lower mind from the higher mind, providing a higher level of feedback. Thus with training we can maintain balance when faced with anger, fear, negative emotions and thoughts. This does not impair feeling deeply, but removes compulsive and reactive responses so the mind regaining balance quickly is at its best in dealing with what is at hand. Easwaran recommends practicing doing little things you dislike or are uncomfortable with to “lower the like and dislike threshold” and gain a more balanced mind 8. Ways to do this are including less liked foods in your diet, prioritising chores at home or essential tasks at work that you tend to avoid, while affirming their benefits to others as you do them.

Becoming more “free to enjoy everything and equal to every situation” means “you have choices everywhere, so you never feel trapped: whatever the circumstances, you can break out”. The Gita says this brings a lasting joy long before yoga is perfected (Gita 2:40).

Through regular practice of yoga combined with right intent, the spiritual aspirant can achieve the goal of unification and become a yogi. “The ultimate goal of yoga is lofty, not at all easy to attain. Shankara says succinctly, “Yoga is samadhi*.” It is not just a matter for faith, although the first steps require it. Sri Krishna asks us to put the teachings to the test for ourselves and Arjuna finally rises to the challenge (Gita 18:73).

* Samadhi – direct experience of reality when the mind is still and settled in living realisation of the unified and consciously awakened state. Sahaja samadhi – continually established in wisdom or samadhi. The experience of unity in meditation and realisation must be experienced repeatedly for direct awareness to gradually become continuous. Sahaja samadhi is to live in samadhi in all creative acts and normal life moments, navigating challenges and successes without any disturbance of the unified state.

Recommended Reading:

Essence of the Bhagavad Gita -; A Contemporary Guide to Yoga, Meditation and Indian Philosophy, by Eknath Easwaran (Nilgiris Press, Tomales, CA, USA, 2011)

Quotes: 1. (p.64); 2. (p.73); 3. (p.164); 4. (p.165); 5. (pp.165,166); 6. (p.111);

7. (p.113); 8. (pp. 116,117);

God Talks With Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita, by Paramahansa Yogananda (Self-Realization Fellowship, USA, 1999, Second Edition)

The Bhagavad Gita, translation & commentary, by Sri Swami Sivananda (The Divine Life Society, India, 2015, Fifteenth Edition)

Connection and Unity in True Love, Beauty & Freedom

The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.1(Luke 17:2021)

Jesus [standing by a well] answered. “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:1314)

When the words of Jesus are looked at on their own, they mostly present universal truths that resonate and can uplift any religion, philosophy or spiritual practice. Here, the divine is directly acknowledged as an available living experience — albeit through the analogy of water—and not in parables.

Jesus’s key uplifting point in his life and teachings was the kingdom as a subjective reality, just as love is. It is up to us to align and enter, something we can do only within ourselves.

We look for love in other people and relationships, yet we can be overflowing with it from within ourselves. When we tap into the infinite and eternal love of the divine, relationships become more holy, less dependent, and less conditional. Sacred friendships become vehicles to feel the joy, brotherhood or sisterhood of shared authentic divine love that has been there deep inside all along. We can get to actualize and personalize this love and knowing through ourselves and with each other. Just being present, and celebrating that love and “knowing” in the heart, provides the joy of living. It is not about the emotion that is often observable but the quality of truth and the realization experience.

When spirituality becomes grounded in this very point, then ideologies, religious affiliation, personal beliefs, and philosophies cease to become divisions. They become chosen paths to suit, nurture, and develop one’s spiritual personalization, life conditions, and application in life. Even in one religious sect, each unique individual has unique interpretations, perspectives, and insights in their personal ideology. We are collectively experiencing and expressing endless and unique varieties of approaches to a common deified source and center, a shared divine heritage and destiny with other equally unique brethren.

Jesus in his teachings aimed to redefine and bring God directly to each person, and each person directly to God through emphasizing the indwelling Spirit of God in each person. He did this through many simple analogies like the “water” of life here. He gave teachings about loving one’s neighbor, doing good to others, practicing forgiveness, and living in a mindset of serving God within oneself and within others. Most powerfully, he embodied what he taught and lived by example in a masterful way. He trusted God not only with his own life but faithfully relied on the presence of Spirit in others to provide for their own recognition of “divinity” and truth in his teachings thus finding it more clearly in themselves.

Jesus called people to put trust in a directly accessible God within themselves. With that personal sovereignty and ability, each individual has the responsibility to progressively align with the Spirit. The development of goodness, beauty, and truth into one’s thoughts, actions, relationships, and identity are the fruits of this relationship with the divine. Devoting all aspects of love with a whole heart is the meaning of loving God with all your heart, mind, and soul.

The reward here and now is enjoying a knowing and living relationship in the Spirit, your own sense of direct connection with God. This connection lies deep in the pure consciousness from which we perceive ourselves and life. Connecting here is not only to ourselves but provides an authentic realization of our true connection to all things and everyone. Life’s troubles then have less of a hold. A sense of immortality develops, and you experience a shared recognition and loving kindness with others. Celebration with those of the same realization and conviction of truth enriches life.

Our sense and experience of divine love makes the integration of deeper truths, rising beyond material attachments and gender, nationality, and cultural and religious identity an organic and natural process. It also enriches all relationships in life. Realization of this truth of ‘the kingdom’ makes you less prone to the frailties and conflicts that arise, regularly vitalized in a way that one can never be from dead and statically fixed ideas and beliefs.

On its own, aside from the established religion about him, Jesus’s kingdom remains a positive progressive journey of increasing certainty through the proof and tangibility of lived and shared daily experience.

This is more powerful in its transformation and spiritual enrichment than a hopeful belief and vague notion of a remote and final destination we hopefully arrive at after death. It is a kingdom of daily practical values that shape life choices and actions in terms of qualitative happiness and life enrichment. It is a consciousness with which we face both life and death armed with faith and certainty of our own spiritual identity and personal path.

1 Other translations use “is within you” or “among you” or “within your grasp.”

Like Waves and Drops of the Ocean

Waves and little drops play their timeless dance,

Rolling, bubbling, splashing and spraying,

Rising and falling silently or reaching high to crash and tumble,

From shoreline the steady timeless rumble or quiet lapping.

 

Coming into form then merging and returning to formlessness,

Always an inseparable expression and action of the sea,

Seeming to revel in motion when towering dramatically and suddenly,

Or languidly rising and falling rarely cresting with power dormant.

 

Wave and drop a brief and minuscule extension of vast ocean,

Shaped by the winds of time and chaotic turbulences amidst a familiar flow,

Oblivious to massive tides and planetary forces that also shape their paths,

Of forming and re-forming, again and again merging with the source of their substance.

 

Their own watery substance reflecting the unfathomable depths below,

Every wave and drop expresses unique beauty of infinite form and detail,

Each necessary in the passage of time to the continuity of the whole,

Ripples united in a play of the vast sea and the elements that shape them.

 

Always apart in form yet unified in substance,

Sometimes crashing together, moving indefinitely apart, always moving in pattern,

The waves and little drops know no name or definition,

No views and differences of opinion about their nature, source or destiny.

 

There is no argument or agreement about the depths beneath,

No consensus required on preferences for conditions,

Of wind, sun and rain, for calm stillness or storm,

Each one manifested by the same energies and elements that form them.

 

How grand that we know our own nature,

That knowledge, name and form allow us to evolve ourselves while in form,

Shaping and developing our own world around us as well as our little selves,

Our source and destiny a great ocean of life and consciousness from which we rise and merge.

 

Must knowing the form come with the folly of forgetting the unseen whole,

Treachery of knowledge, power of naming and categorising entrapping the mind,

Consuming identity and nature when defined by separateness and conflict,

The vast inseparable source reduced to division, or rejection or forgotten altogether.

 

It is only in knowing the waves and drops minutely,

Relative to the inseparable interactive elements of ocean, wind, and earth,

Vast whirling planets and space that direct the tide and bring it all to bare,

May true understanding arise embracing both form and formless forces.

 

Yet does knowledge reveal of the beauty of the calm sea and terribleness of the storm,

The humility in feeling the vast power of ocean and earth and their gift of life,

Vital freshness or bite of salty wetness and the glory of riding cresting wave,

Knowing that arises from realms of the heart and in the rich depths of experience.

 

Heart and mind, knowledge and experience, form and formlessness,

Material and consciousness, phenomenal and ethereal, master and servant,

One without the other a blissful ignorance or sorrowful suffering,

While embracing what is, as both and neither is to come nearer to creator.

 

Only in detail are we uniquely personal and evolving understanding,

All else is diversity in unified experience of shared challenges and forces,

Directing the farsighted to oneness of realisation and revelation, eternal being and meaning,

Glorious and miraculous that we are also that, the vast and unified ocean of consciousness.

 

By Colin Chenery

Photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/bostik/6310836292/”>bostik_</a&gt; via <a href=”https://visualhunt.com/re2/90ba41″>Visualhunt.com</a&gt; / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”&gt; CC BY-NC-ND</a>

Your Guide to Meditation and Conscious Wellbeing

 

The Twelve Principles of Meditation

A peaceful and calm mind, along with a peaceful and calm heart brings a sense of wellbeing, relaxed focus, and increasingly produces a feeling of happiness. Brain wave patterns, happy hormone production accompany many benefits to mind and body. With practice, as the sense of thought and body dissolve into an open and spacious fullness and stillness, a spiritual benefit arises as we learn to achieve a state of presence that is found rather than manufactured, that is beyond thoughts, feelings and changing perception. This state of unified consciousness is the real essence and preparation of true yoga practice and meditation which go further with focus.

“The Self is not the individual body or mind, but rather that aspect

deep inside each person that knows the Truth.”

Swami Vishnu-devananda, renowned Hatha and Raja Yoga authority

and Founder of Interntaional Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres.

The state is best achieved by attaining steady observation of the mind in equanimity and calmness. With practice the benefits can be felt throughout the day and the meditation becomes the anchor point for continuous practice when in action. This is when we gain more freedom from reactivity, changing moods, stress responses, imbalance and disease. Meditation is showed to significantly reduce catabolic decline that accompanies ageing and assist in mental stability and wellbeing. In observing our inner life along with our outer life, we gain more choices in how to respond, so the doing and the being of living becomes a more conscious, progressive and enjoyable journey. We can feel more present and experience things more serenely and deeply.

The key to enjoying and developing this skill is to practice for the sake of practice. You just do it daily and let the results occur in their own time. Like sleep, meditation cannot be forced but allowed to happen. In the meantime it is a short time spent regularly for yourself that will eventually bare ‘flowers and fruits’ of immeasurable benefit.

It is not essential to still the mind completely as a beginner or even intermediate, so do not let ongoing thoughts discourage you. Sogyal Rinpoche, a renowned authority on Tibetan Buddhism, uses the analogy of letting your consciousness be like an old grandparent sitting calmly watching the children (your thoughts) at play. He also has used the analogy of sitting strong and stable, lower body a base and body still like a mountain, your mind the sky and thoughts clouds that come and go. Let them be and if they distract you, then when you realise it just let them be and come back to your practice.

Developing a calm mind is more likely with technique. Therefore a simple technique that provides a focus, synchronicity of breath focus and an inner object of concentration, is the best place to start.

There are many forms and styles of meditation, most of them eventuating in the same result. Swami Vishnu-devananda (pictured) formulated the following Twelve Principles which provide the key points in most meditation approaches and for beginners to achieve gradual results.

  1. Location – have a dedicated place where you practice regularly to build an atmosphere and place where you will quickly feel the right state with time.
  2. Time – choose a regular time once or twice a day, when you can switch off from daily concerns during your practice. Dawn and dusk are traditionally ideal times or early pre-dawn and last thing at night.
  3. Same time and location each day conditions the mind to slow down more quickly and deeply.
  4. Posture – spine straight and erect but comfortable. Use a meditation cushion for cross legged options can help align the hips and spine, or a firm chair where you can sit upright free of back or arm rests. Feet flat on the floor for chair sitting. Hands are best positioned in cupped the lap or palms up on the thighs where elbows are relaxed, and the shoulders a little back to open the chest slightly. The traditional meditation position is facing North, East or somewhere between.
  5. Instruct your mind to remain quiet for the duration of your practice. When thoughts do arise, observe them without attachment and maintaining focus as described in the following points.
  6. Regulate your breathing – start with three to five minutes of deep relaxed breathing, being mindful of each inhale and exhale without any forced holds, and then let it calm down into a natural rhythm. Build up to 30 minutes or more.
  7. Establish a comfortable contained pattern of gentle inhales and exhales of about three seconds each.
  8. Once you establish the breathing pattern, maintain this pattern consciously but also let the mind relax and wander a little as forced concentration will make the mind restless.
  9. Then choose a focal point either in the heart centre (anahata chakra) or between the eyebrows (ajna chakra). You may want to try a session on each until you decide which one is best for you then stick mostly to one location in your practice.
  10. Hold your attention in one of the above chakra (energy centre) points throughout the session while also moderating the breath as above.
  11. Allow meditation to come in glimpses and gradually more sustained periods. It will come when the mind is in a state of a clear non-verbal thought as you do your practice. Other sensations will occur which can be noticed and let go of like any random thought. You will still be aware of your practice without mental narrative or wandering.
  12. After long practice, duality of this from that, of the doer and doing, disappears and samadhi, the superconscious state is attained.

Some people who get agitated with a really active mind can include a mantra, like the sound of OM, to quietly repeat with each exhale and then, after a period of deep relaxed breathing, do silently within. This combined with the breath and point of focus at the anahata or ajna should help occupy the mind so it becomes more single pointedly focused and progressively relaxed. Otherwise the above points should be sufficient to build a good base with time and repeated sessions. There are various techniques to help calm the mind and focus that will be touched on in other articles. However, keep it simple at first and enjoy the journey the above approach will take you on.

Happy meditating!

Mind Clearing for Energy and Success

Six Steps to Gain Insight and Releasing Limiting Beliefs

Meditation, yoga and practices that help maintain a calm mind and heart are key disciplines to developing awareness, and help us tackle the mind at the root by deepening our identification with consciousness deeper than thought.

However, to deal with specific recurring thoughts or negative life patterns, it is useful to address specific outmoded beliefs and views. This can be liberating and enhance our capacity for growth and happiness, especially when we have some unconscious block to break through.

During the years I worked in therapy, one of the techniques I used was rebirthing which uses a circular pattern of conscious breathing that opens the mind up to memories and insights. It energises mind and body and can clear blockages.

One client suffered chronic fatigue and had noticed patterns of ill-health and self-sabotage in her career at specific times of opportunity and success. Cycles of feeling energised, excited and hopeful seemed always brief and repeatedly ended in disappointment and fatigue.

I will call her Chloe here. During a key session, Chloe’s breathing became more intense in waves until she wept deeply. Over much of an hour she moved through layers of healing as a result of re-living an event in her child hood that she had forgotten. She was age 4 or 5, standing on a train platform with her little sister and father. It was the end of a hot day out and they were all tired. She was repeatedly asking her father if she could carry the box of donuts he had bought for them all when they got home, but he wouldn’t let her.

She got increasingly upset until he reluctantly and impatiently thrust the box at her, saying “Alright, just be quiet and do not drop them!” Tired and sooky, she held on to the box as they waited on the hot platform for the train. When the train pulled to a stop, the doors opened. As they stepped into the train, Chloe felt the box slip from her hands and fall between the train and the platform, irretrievably on the stones below. Staring in shock and disbelief, she felt her father angrily grab her arm and pull her into the train as the doors shut. He was swearing under his breath and angrily stated the obvious, “I told you not to drop them! That is exactly why I didn’t want you to carry them. How could you do that? Unbelievable!”

Standing forlorn with her head down, Chloe felt herself as a child with a terrible sinking feeling in her chest and stomach. The child quietly wept, while the adult registered a deep decision to the effect of “I can’t be trusted” and “I can’t even trust myself”. As she felt the pain of the child, the life between then and that moment flashed before her. She registered a familiar bad feeling and saw how she had reinforced that decision and belief in countless ways that had limited her. The adult also wept and gradually realised she could now let it go.

This simple situation really brought home to me that it is not the adults version of a ‘serious’ event where some of our pain stems from. Some people come out of the worst situations with great survival strategies and positive convictions. At the same time simple situations like Chloe’s ‘donut moment’ can prove life impacting in deeply reinforcing a negative belief and unresolved anguish or pain.

It is not what happens to us, but the decisions we make as a result of what happens, that conditions the mind.

Chloe was able to release her sadness and connect with the pain at the level and mindset she remembered it being locked in. In our debrief she further came to terms with this old belief and forgave herself, her father and many situations and people since that time that she could see she had protected and reaffirmed that pain. She affirmed a new trust in herself. Months later she sent me a card to say her energy levels, positivity and motivation personally and professionally had improved significantly. A change had occurred and she felt more free with more choices.

It you have an ongoing hurt, recurring negative thoughts or specific negative outcomes try the following six-step exercise:

  1. Write a list of painful experiences in your life, especially in childhood, when you have a bit battered and bruised by life or had some momentous event occur and challenge you. Another approach here may be to first look at what obstacle keeps coming up in your life now and you want to break through.

  2. Take time to go through the past experience writing key thoughts and feelings that occurred at the time. Alternatively, do the same with the feelings and thoughts you get around a blockage you are experiencing now and, with some deep breaths and relaxation, find times earlier in your life when you felt the same (the focus is your inner feeling not the situation around you).

  3. At the time of your earliest experience, what basic belief or decision did this affirm to you about yourself or life in general? Don’t over-think it, but just note anything that comes to mind. Allow a flow of thoughts and make a list of decisions or beliefs, noting how each one makes you feel or the location, size and nature of feeling in your body.

  4. Now identify the one’s you still feel a ‘charge’ on that you may still be proving to be true at times in your life. Turn each negative thought into an “I” thought, such as “I am ….” or “I can’t ….” or “I’m not ….”.

  5. Affirm these are only beliefs that filter our perception and experience of life and flip each of the negatives into a positive affirmation or life affirming thought and belief. Like Chloe affirming “I am fully responsible, trustworthy and loved as I am”, or “I, Chloe can be trusted and completely successful with anything I really want”. Imagine the possibilities if the positive affirmation you had was applied to the most valued things in your life now.

  6. For each negative belief and associated feeling spend a week or more with the positive affirmation. Forgive yourself or any specific person associated with the past event and belief. For those really hurtful events, remember that forgiving someone is not necessarily making what happened okay. It is about letting it go so it doesn’t continue to negatively impact the quality of your consciousness and perceptions any more.

Use the positive affirmation as a mantra silently or out loud. You can write it down daily twenty times noting how you feel, until the emotional or body sense associated with it feels comfortable and real. You can also write little signs of the affirmations that really lift your energy and outlook, and leave them in places you like to be reminded (such as a bathroom mirror, fridge, car dashboard, work computer screen, etc.). Then go through any others in your list.

Taking stock and working with conditioned thoughts and beliefs for a period of time is an important stage in really understanding how our conditioned mind impacts our perceptions, experiences and outcomes. It empowers us to know we can identify and change this conditioning and discover more choices for ourselves and life circumstances.

Meditation is about getting beyond the thinking mind and beliefs, until every moment becomes a choice in the quality of awareness, consciousness and state of being. In the meantime, facing discomfort and negatives in ourselves is not only a huge source of maturity and growth but also creates new outcomes and possibilities in life.