Being in Love and the Love in Being

As the famous line goes “the greatest thing you’ll ever learn is to love and be loved in return”. Love, the essential food for the soul, is felt and expressed in countless ways. While intensity of mutually intimate affection and companionship are sought after, the high’s pass and change. Self-validation and inner-identification must come from within ourselves, with shared love and friendship an expansion of inner beauty.

Contemporary culture puts much emphasis on sexual or romantic fulfilment when it comes to relationships. Nonetheless, life is full of an authentic diversity of relationships that touch us all. As we mature, long-term relationships take on complexity charged with the investment placed in each others lives. Challenges successfully traversed and trust built over the course of time contribute to depth and growth of love more than the less frequent magic highs.

So what is the key to keeping love alive, happy and fulfilling in relationships? We have to dig a little into the mud to find the seeds and roots of the beautiful lotus flower above. Likewise a bit of digging within ourselves is needed to find what really drives and fulfils us in relationships.

Two certainties are that we cannot determine someone else’s personal experience of reality or of a relationship, and we can only take responsibility for our own personal experience. Being fully responsible for ourselves is a key element of personal sovereignty, personal freedom from dependencies and knowing ourselves. It is part of the equation that brings needed space into ourselves and intimate relationships to maintain the spark.

We are always challenged with facing a mirror when it comes to engagement with other human minds and ego’s. The relationships we cultivate and how we deal with them say much about ourselves. There is only one effective way to cut through the complexities, and to engage with a loved one or anyone else in a way that consistently feels like you are on track, no matter what goes down. The key is learning to practice ‘presence’ within oneself and with others through the ‘Art of Being’ and the ‘Art of Listening’. Both arts are closely connected and both start within ourselves.

Drama and issues arise from conditioned programming of the mind rather than who we really are soul to soul. When identity is locked into our stream of thinking with its well entrenched opinions and personal stories, it becomes very hard to tell the difference between present awareness and perception conditioned from the past.

Our mind is a beautiful servant but a disastrous master, as many increasing modern issues of mental health, suicide, divorce and so forth indicate. Dominance and identification with mind is reinforced by our pre-occupation with thoughts, worries, concerns, and desires which are all to do with past or future. It is impossible to be and come from authentic love when we are barely in the present moment, with past pain and decisions infiltrating the present along with underlying hopes and expectations of the future. Are you consciously present and reading here and now or partially on to the next thing?

We can process specific things in therapy, but the way to break egocentric habits at the root is to be fully present in the timeless now with an awareness not dominated by thought or semi-conscious labels used to define everything. From the still and alert space between thought, we can observe thought and feeling as they arise, without being drawn in. The light of fully present consciousness, deep in us all, dissolves reactions and ‘reactions to reactions’ , like sunlight dispersing clouds of mind-forms obscuring ‘what is’. With practice we can observe our mental and emotional bodies without them defining and driving us. Conscious spaciousness can be found amidst the stream of experiences and challenges.

Mind and body are beautiful tools for self expression when we stay in the drivers seat. Ceaseless mundane and habitual thoughts and feelings become creative expressions amidst peace and stillness of mind.

Defining and interpreting things is of course necessary – writing this article for example and any purposeful mental effort. Like words themselves, mind can only point to or objectify what truly is. Once you are locked into justifying, defining and proving reality via the conceptual mind, it becomes your sense of self. Fearfulness then arises around letting go of the conceptual mind that defines you – thoughts of self, the world, likes and dislikes, what’s important and what’s not. Trouble stilling the mind is often fear of releasing this mental grip, like having to consciously release a fist you did not know was clenched. The release is as beautiful as an unfolding flower, for the stillness of being it reveals.

While it is good to stand by noble values, identifying with opinions, thoughts or feelings, can trigger conflict. Identification can lead to consciously or unconsciously manipulating or demanding validation from someone else for our mental/emotional stances, as if survival of a relationship or imagined serious outcome is at stake. While positive passion and conviction show character, this type of attachment and mental positioning is not very conscious.

The true “I” within is untouched by suffering, division and concepts. True self is not made happy or unhappy by someone else. Deep down we are indestructible and absolute, without need of “I am this” or “I am that”, we are complete as “I AM”. Past and future lose their grip when real fulfilment occurs here and now, where true self resides in the gift and outpouring of life and being.

Eckhart Tolle says that harmony is present in relationships to the degree that there is inner space in the relationship. He suggests full presence, without any agenda, be practiced with brief encounters we have with ‘strangers’ such as the ‘invisible’ shop or bank clerk, fellow shopping isle customer, or parking attendant. Tolle observes how brief seconds of presence during these connections accumulate in life to bring much richness that many of us miss out on. Being present in such encounters prepares us to bring presence to more intense and challenging engagements with loved ones we have history with.

Responding out of the stillness of mind and heart, with inner body awareness, is a gifts all involved. Holding no opinionated position while true to presence can diminish mental positioning in others without diminishing who they are. This impact of presence arises from the ability to be the space and witness of whatever is happening within ourselves as well as around us. It is not easy, and the mind can be clever by making this an ‘enlightened’ ‘superior’ mental position so it loses authenticity. This is where depth of practice in dealing with our own ego comes in.

Real life can pass by while we spend much time and energy in our role paying, navigating mental positions, fears and power games. Lao Tzu says “Do not seek the truth, only cease cherishing your opinions”. When we learn not to react to our own pain and not take stances, we can do the same listening to and beyond other peoples pain and mental positions to their true essence.

From the depth and space of absolute consciousness, relativity becomes a loving journey of adaptation, flowing the absolute presence of being into every moment and experience. Separated from the absolute, relativity sooner or later becomes suffering.

We can have sacred love and relationships with each other when we live, express and share essence of being. Relative details and content are impermanent vehicles for mastering diversity in unity, unity in diversity – they don’t define us. Loving spacious awareness is a basis for sacred love and relationships where shared living presence lies within and in our midst.

Try this!

5 Day Fast of Identification with Thought and Feelings:

  1. Daily affirm “I am not my thoughts, I am not my feelings, I am not my body and I am not my actions”. Write this out and display it where you can see it, remember and affirm it day and evening.
  2. Note your level of mental activity through the day and emotional up, downs or neutrality. It can be interesting noting this in a journal for the five-days.
  3. Take 5 minutes four times a day – morning, lunch time, arriving home end of day, before bed – for this 2 part exercise:
    • Observing: to simply sit or stand alert but relaxed – observe what you physically see, hear and feel and what you mentally see, hear and feel within as objects in the space of consciousness. All experience is occurring in the mind – no real inner or outer.
    • Grounding Your Sense of Being: include complete inner body awareness to your observing. Check in with different body parts – your feet, abdomen, spine, hands, jaw, arms, legs, heart, etc., little quick scans of non-judgemental attention only, to maintain grounding of being while you observe everything going on. If anywhere feels tight or contracted instead of relaxed and expanded, physically tighten and breath into that spot for 3 seconds then release it and breath into it again before going back to whole inner body awareness and relaxed conscious breathing.
  1. Through the five days, also practice the affirmation, the observing and grounding while doing simple things and being with people at times when you can create the space for it.

I would love to hear any feedback from anyone who does this 5-Day Fast!

Photo on VisualHunt (modified & quote added)

The Beautiful Behind-the-Scenes of Heart and Mind

The beauty of relating to divine presence simply as ‘space’ and ‘formlessness’ beyond thinking, allows us a pure experience relatively untainted by too much human concept, such as religious preconceptions of God, expectations of enlightenment, what is spiritual and what isn’t. Freeing ourselves of conditioned thinking includes dropping dogma and historical theology in the moment.

This has benefits for direct and personal spiritual experience, yet the living presence of consciousness unfolds in the practitioner of presence as ‘a being’ not without volition, love, compassion and much more that has been attributed in religious contexts and from sages of the past as attributes of God.

There is a fine line being walked in the coming century for the systems of evolved wisdom and knowledge, and for each of us, not to obscure the living presence within and about us with idolatry loyalties to concepts, ritual, terminology and impassioned opinions that are culturally and psychologically conditioned. Meanwhile, it is the timeless essence of all these systems that can then have the space and increasing receptivity in a global society to be heard and realised anew in each individual.

The shift to getting beyond the thinking mind, beyond identification with form and objects, is a liberating awakening that is a key step to the transformation of consciousness happening in these times. Nonetheless, once we begin to settle in that space and consciousness, to experience consistently and personally the living presence of universal consciousness, free of thought streams and ego identity that used to define us and our perceptions, it becomes more apparent this universe is a vast and magnificent evolving ‘intent’.

The universe is a living ‘creation’ with purpose, meaning and reality, and this is gradually emerging in new ways for humanity in this age of new sciences, technologies and the new fluid horizons of quantum reality. Meanwhile, practitioners of conscious awakening world-wide are acquiring in unprecedented numbers, conviction and recognition of the ongoing background of consciousness, self-aware as a primordial source of arising thoughts, perceptions and feelings of mind. As shared realisation matures, so does the recognition and experience of universal consciousness and presence as source, home base point and destiny of conscious life which arises from it.

Thus, in relating to living presence, in receptive open mindedness with the faith and beginners mind of a child, we can start to feel an interaction between being-ness as a point of consciousness (our own personal experience) and the greater field of consciousness. This greater field of presence becomes a medium for the dissolving of separate identity purely in ‘the finite self’. It is clear in moments of reverie and awakening that we are part of something much more (and no less) than a vast being-ness from which our personal selves and the dualistic world of form has arisen with divine purpose and intent. Our purpose is to hear it, be it and let it flow into our minds and hearts and into our lives.

Our hearts and minds are but a mirrored doorway,

reflecting what it is opened towards.

The formless is generally associated with the mysterious eternal (with no beginning or ending) outside of the relativity of linear time. Form is associated with finiteness, finite time (having a beginning, inevitably changing, but not necessarily ending). Therefore, finite form (including matter or energy, pattern and structure, order and chaos) and time seem to be inherent in the eternal and formless as does the spark of life and consciousness.

The sense of the divine seems to be most intimate, ‘personal’ and tangible when we can drop even the vehicles of spiritual or religious concepts of the thinking mind to get a direct experience of a universal spaciousness or conscious presence in which all material and mind forms are occurring.

By keeping the awareness primarily on the living consciousness in all that is happening, we can embrace the content (all that is happening within and without) while fully present without attachment and being overly drawn into it. This is becoming free from suffering. In its place a beautiful sense of the vastness, compassion and infinite goodness through receptivity, also begins to express itself through our finite form (mind, body, voice, gestures, responses and expression). Life can become a blissful meditation in motion. We can get the same sense from others as we view them in essence, as expressions of the same universal living space or consciousness. In finding this experience in ourselves, we can all the more unconditionally love and accept others by being able to better recognise the essence in ourselves, expressing itself through others whether they are aware of it or not.

Shared stillness of heart and mind is the sacred place of relationship.

We can still function, but it is definitely different to functioning from the narrative, thought and feeling reactions, wants and fears of the egoistic self. Drama, pettiness and ego driven agenda’s are symptoms of us aligning with the world of object identification whether we play perpetrator, defender or victim. Instead we can become even more effective in worldly pursuits as teachers, learners and mediators in presence and stillness of conscious being and action. We then trust and celebrate unity in our own uniqueness and unique contributions. How is this an alignment and reflective of universal purpose?

Let’s consider or imagine universal consciousness as the primordial reality before, during and since the confirmed ‘big bang’ of manifested reality. It makes sense that manifested reality in all its diversity and bestowal of life and consciousness is the escape from Absolutism for this primordial formless singularity of consciousness and being. It is also an inevitable fulfilment of infiniteness, for if infiniteness includes all possibilities then it includes finiteness. The result of the ‘big bang’ is an improbable stable and expanding universe, improbable without the factor of inherent absolute intelligence and intent, in which we find bestowed consciousness & life.

If consciousness and life is not just on our planet, but a universal intent, then it is diversely manifested throughout the vast living universe from the Deity levels through spiritual realities, to density of complex form in material realities. Absoluteness divesting its attributes in diversified manifestation in an endless evolutionary plan that duplicates itself endlessly outward in the vastness of space. This is simultaneous with an equally endless inward journey of infinite potential as a conscious realisation for each participating conscious being. It is also both the inward and outward journey for the collective universal whole as a universal entity as an evolving reflection of the primordial absolute. Intuitively this seems such a fitting act and volition of an infinite, absolute, singularity being of infinite personality, energy & consciousness divesting itself through other life forms in an act of immaculate creativity and shared experience in true universal love and grace.

To us, the freedom from conditioned concept & thought (ego), through realisation and experience of consciousness of pure consciousness, is an achievement of spiritual awakening & insight into the formless and un-manifested for mind. On the spiritual plane, pure living consciousness is a manifested aspect of infinite spirit as the unified consciousness of creator and created. In christian terms, the Father and Son personalised in unity in the Spirit. It is only in pure consciousness or spirit that we can truly realise causeless and universal joy, peace, love along with an existence of meaning in itself. The material universe is a vast and grand stage for the absolute to experience itself becoming self aware through its gift of co-creative participation to evolving material and spiritual beings, the formless and infinite progressively present in finiteness and form.

The closest we can be to God in human form is direct experience from inner peace and stillness. Closeness, certainty and full experience requires we open all our heart and mind to what is formless to us, and un-manifested materially – the universal spirit which we experience as universal consciousness, aliveness, & presence. This fulfils the great commandment “to love God with all our heart and mind.” Love is equivalent to oneness. It is its own reward, a completion in itself – a spontaneous freedom of mind and will, transcendent yet all encompassing love, goodness, beauty, peace & joyful aliveness of existence – the I AM. It can only be felt as a living consciousness in the now, as past and future are a function of object mindedness.

We can experientially expand ourselves as far as we can realise and actualise

our true nature of living being as pure conscious presence.

Freedom is available from identification with a small limited mind & body, isolated and at the effect of a reality of form. There is a play for us to participate in, of expanding towards absolutism while evolve to express and co-create infinity and formlessness into the finite and form. To do this, we must learn to function in both dimensions together, conduits for consciousness to fulfil divine purpose and intent. This means doing and being daily in a way that this consciousness and experience flows into who we are and what we do. Many are doing it already without even knowing it, while a growing mass of people attune to living more consciously and deeply.

The down to earth love and purpose we get in our daily lives, in even the simplest things like a kind gesture or a blooming flower, contains all that vast reality has provided to enable every detail to happen. Maintaining presence while facing life challenges, transforms challenges into profound doorways to self awareness and growth. Let’s breath, be and do, mindful of the mysterious & miraculous enigma of existence!

Photo credit: blavandmaster on Visual hunt/CC BY-NC-SA (modified with quote)

Five Revealing Steps to Empower Life and Love

The pivotal power we have to individually shape our life and sense of self is our mind. On the one hand, we create and define ourselves, our perceptions and our experience of life with our thoughts, beliefs and ongoing focus. What are you tuning into on a daily basis and how much content in your mind is there by conscious choice? On another level, we can open ourselves to the question of whose mind it really is – who is the thinker of conditioned and creative thoughts and maker of choices? What is it that you connect with in your heart, mind and guts and say “this is me”?

Since our thoughts and feelings are projections of consciousness, then the key to self awareness lies in our ability to identify not with the content of our minds, our appearance or performance, but with the consciousness from which they arise. When we explore this experientially as many meditators, sages and teachers before us, we go through a number of layers of observation and insight before we get to a place of being where we truly feel we are absorbed in the being-ness or substance of what and who we are.

I propose here five stages and have put in bold the practical focus to use as an exercise for each stage. As a practical exercise, it is best to only go as far as the stage you can rest in the experience of, for a prolonged period of 5 minutes or more or even indefinitely. That can take any length of time and sessions to achieve, depending on the individual, the willingness and openness, the regularity of practice, but progress does and will come. Progress through these states then becomes a natural process of observation. Gradually you will notice aspects of a further stage has been occurring with practice of sitting in silence and presence. No particular sitting position is required except that a comfortable and upright position is best for non-disturbance and alertness.

We are attuning to living consciousness that is already there, so many people can be experiencing insight and realisation of elements of all five stages while still wrestling with stage 1 or 2. However, being able to consciously reside primarily at each stage progressively reflects a fairly natural progression and integration of what some call presence, being in the ‘now’, or even aligning and uniting with spirit. There are many sophisticated and more complex systems of meditation and spiritual awakening in traditional paths throughout the world, some of which I have practiced. The stages below are a simplified set of steps to help guide conscious awareness and experience in what is otherwise a very simple but not necessarily easy practice. They do not replace the many benefits of a good teacher, a simple, virtuous and generous life while putting one’s deepest values into daily practice for conscious awakening.

We all need encouragement, guidance and inspiration and this can be from reading, video’s, sessions with teachers or other practitioners, what we focus on, the people and environment of our daily lives. Since a state of presence gives us an ability to rise above causes of suffering and reach new levels of wellbeing, it could be said to be the inner goal of all life enhancing pursuits.

Read the following slowly and feel each point as you go before practicing.

The Five Stages

1. Sensory Perception

Firstly, we must take a moment to relax the body, be aware of a few deep breathes coming in and out, and observe our experience of being here. The first stage is characterised by being present with our sense perceptions and the world around us. Our five senses are taking in data all the time whether our attention is on it or not. Go through each sense during the course of a few breathes – observing what is being seen, heard, felt, smelt, and even tasted while in a relaxed observing state develops sense acuity and alertness. Often a sense of goodness and appreciation can arise as the mind quietens with pure non-judging observation. At this stage of observing the sense-perceptions, our awareness and identification goes deeper and the mind begins to relax and notices more in the immediate present moment.

2. Mental and Emotional Thoughts and Feelings

At the second state, as the mind quietens down, in the space of our being and amidst sense perceptions, observe thoughts or half thoughts, feelings or hints of feelings as they come and go. Being present with the stream of thoughts and feelings that normally takes us with them, by observing them as they arise then letting them go, leads to a more spacious and quieter state of mind and alert presence. Therefore, in this second stage we get glimpses of the still and vast spaciousness of consciousness beyond the thoughts, feelings and perceptions and notice with fresh experience and insight that we are not our thoughts and feelings. They are contents of our consciousness as much as any other perception.

Eckhart Tolle in his talks distinguishes the contents of our consciousness as occurring in linear time (of past, present and future) which he terms the horizontal dimension. Going deeper experientially into consciousness here and now can be termed the vertical dimension.

3. Inner-body Awareness

In the third state where mind activity is settling, we start to become aware of a silence and living stillness within and around us, the feeling of ‘inner body awareness’ becomes the base or grounding of our sense of being. Proprioception is the sensing of the relative position of one’s own body parts without vision (also sensing the strength of effort being employed in any movement). The qualitative aspects of total body awareness as a unified energy field and alive presence can be heightened at this stage. Inner-body awareness with a relaxed mind and heart grounds the subjective sense of presence more deeply in the present moment. The horizontal dimension of linear time dissolves into a spacious eternal nowness where the ‘now’ is a more prominent reality, in the absence of mental activities and projections of memory or an imagined future moment.

Thus, the third state commences a more prominent sense of the vertical dimension. Taiji and xigong or yoga can train the mind in accessing these states more easily and more deeply. Other examples are heightened lucidity while deeply relaxed, or the psychological ‘zone’ in sports or dance. Simple exercises like dynamic relaxation can help here as well if you have trouble settling in this stage. Sense of time fades away as consciousness enters the fourth state.

4. Embracing the Self in Pure Consciousness and State of Presence

In the depths of this conscious state, inner body awareness becomes borderless while the mind and heart remain settled. Open spacious awareness is not a void, for there is a fullness of experience of presence and aliveness. Localised consciousness of self as a mind contained in a body dissolves into a sense of non-local consciousness where so-called ‘external’ or ‘outside’ phenomena (including thoughts or feelings of others, sounds and movement) are experienced as happening within a non-local or borderless field of consciousness. Sense of self can be displaced with this non-localised field of heightened and broad reaching awareness.

These are only words for something that is experienced in a state without words or concept. However, to give it more sense, consider the previous stages of sensory perceptions and observation of thoughts and feelings. Whether perception is of reality ‘outside’ the body or from ‘inside’ the body, it is all being processed in the brain and occurring in the mind so we are in fact experiencing everything as it is occurring in our consciousness. Without consciousness, none of it exists.

In spontaneous moments of this state, the world can seem to go into slow motion while sensory perception is unusually vivid and broad. It can be associated with unusual sensory acuity. I’ve read many accounts by sports people or others in a crisis moment describe similar states to those accessed in meditation and spontaneously.

A spontaneous shift into this state occurred when I was attacked by a group of drunken guys while walking from a concert with a friend many years ago. I had an experience of perceiving things in a 360 degree view where even small details at a distance were picked up while more immediate actions required at the time occurred effortlessly and automatically in slow motion. I blocked every kick and punch coming at me with calmness and minimal attention on them, while taking in a slo-mo panorama of everything going on all around me. It was a liberating experience without a sense of aggression, fear or reaction in myself.

This 4th stage is selfless alignment to the field of consciousness in which all experience of phenomena occurs. Thoughts are unnecessary at such times where no immediate analysis or intellectual effort is required. The moment is simply happening as we observe stillness or action occurring in it. This has been described as ‘consciousness of consciousness’ or the ‘light of presence’ and is not an intellectual process, yet is alert and aware. Heart and mind are open and clear. As one resides in this stage longer and deeper, it is accompanied with a great sense of bliss, goodness, beauty, fullness and oneness and other qualities like love which in the end are only words without the fullness and profoundness of the experience itself.

5. Embracing the World in Pure Consciousness and State of Presence

State 5 is embracing all living things and phenomena in conscious presence. Maintaining identification with the consciousness in which all reality is occurring, rather than your own mental activity and body, develops a more tangible and subjective experience of the nature of life, consciousness and energy in all things and unified connectedness. The space of presence found in stage 4 becomes inclusive and unified without being drawn into separateness by noises and motion, objects and things, without mental judgement and interpretation of events and others, or distracted by mental narrative about ones perceptions. Consciousness of consciousness cannot occur with such mental states, perceptions and activity.

It is a different modus operandi. One can function and respond with a heightened sense of freedom from an invested self. While discernment, alignment with values and standards remain intact, they are more based on resonance with the experience of consciousness than on conditioned beliefs and self-interest. Living in this state in daily life, after regular practice in a quiet place, requires a creative and spontaneous, selfless and affirming sense of harmonising with the space of consciousness in which all is happening. Sharing this state with others provides experience and insight into the source and possibilities of harmony in diversity, co-ordination or synchronisation in life.

There is so much further to be explored in the spectrum of consciousness, but the above steps are what I’ve found to be the barest foundation of most spiritual or conscious awakening practices.

Living Continuously in Pure Consciousness and State of Presence

Being able to hold the space of Stage 4 or 5 continuously in daily living is a noble aim and can lead to sublime realisation. Being a loving and aware person, then expanding the consciousness of that into a deep and continuous state of presence allows the light of awareness to infiltrate the subtlest areas of disturbance within oneself in the face of life challenges. It is consciously developing soul from both vertical and horizontal dimensions. It is transformational to all. I acknowledge all saints, masters and great teachers who truly embody conscious living as living ideals to deepen our own exploration and modern lives.

Christmas and New Year Reflections

Christmas day – the day we most want to share with those closest to us, is a celebration of family and friendship when we feel grateful for those in our lives – those who are with us on the day, those elsewhere doing the same and those who have passed on. Magic and love is in the air for children and adults alike. It is a day when laughter, companionship and gratitude are practically sacred and mandatory, enabling us to cast aside any sense of burden and celebrate life as it is with sharing and giving of ourselves, gifts and seasonal dishes.

Traditional or seasonal festive events bring families and communities together in a celebratory tone of goodwill, providing a familiar cycle of customs and culture in tune with the seasons and harvests. The festive season of Christmas and New Year in the west provides the upliftment and sense of renewal that comes from the gratitude, celebration and love shared with those close to us on a day where millions of others are doing the same. Aside from religious traditions, the modern materialistic and retail promoted aspect, the most widely celebrated aspect amidst the lights and decorations, Santa ritual and the great Christmas lunch is this celebration of love and friendship.

In religious circles Christmas marks the birth of a spiritual saviour which can imply at a symbolic and universal level the Birth of Being or Awakening: spiritual rebirth or renewal within when we open our minds to connect with the nature of consciousness and the divine nature deep within. The renewal comes with opening heart and mind with the faith, trust and good-will of a child, with many doing this openly more-so than on most other days of the year. Many people notice more smiles between strangers and general good humour and goodwill when in public places at this time. This is a very healthy release of tension and renewal of faith in humanity for the social psyche. The spirit of Christmas Day with our loved ones is the ever new vitality of life and consciousness when we share lightness of being with a spirit of genuine care and giving. Conscious connection and unity in this mind and heart space brings us closer to real spirit or Christ nature which can take us beyond our human frailties and neurosis.

Jesus may or may not be a significant figure in your life, yet he represents awakening of man to the spirit within us all and the divine as the source and destiny of all. At the time of his ministry, his was a universal message to people of all faiths, cultures and social standing about the spiritual nature of life and consciousness offering us immortality and a plan of ascendency. He encouraged all to take life and consciousness as a gift freely, with the trust and acceptance of a child, to live in thankfulness for it, giving freely of ourselves to others in love and goodwill now and forever.

The message of an available and personal connection to the grand scheme of things, that the true nature of reality is on a spiritual level that we can tap into now and that holds a hidden destiny for each of us is a truly universal and great ideal. Aligning to values and conscious living in every moment, holding the space of love and gratitude in divine presence, enables better recognition of spiritual truths. While Jesus taught the message of relating to universal consciousness as a divine Father, aligning our minds and hearts to a personal experience of the divine provides a living, profound and immediately relevant source of transformation. Spiritual experience by nature is more transcendent while also being a grounding source of being than the changing landscape of lifestyle and self image, social and cultural differences, or beliefs and ideologies based on historically conditioned trends of the time and contemporary world norms.

Spiritual truth is truth that can apply in any age and is at the base of all great ideals, philosophies and practices that lead to true awakening to those who actively seek and live it. The power and reality of spiritual truths can be recognised not only in the subjective response within the seeker but also in the values and progressively life affirming attributes evident in good people’s lives, in the social fabric of people and communities that take on such faith and values. Spiritual truth is not rocket science, but based on a subtle simplicity of faith and knowing of the pure nature of the heart and mind, a sense of spiritual truth that is a subtle key for the seeker and practitioner.

Thus, at Christmas time as we enjoy the goodwill felt in the company of people we love and share life with, we can affirm the significance and core value of life founded in shared goodwill and friendship. Without goodwill and friendship in its many forms, life becomes empty of shared meaning and fulfilment. With it, we affirm the deep down purity of soul and spiritual nature in ourselves and each other.

In this way, Christmas reinforces renewal of faith in human nature, love and goodwill. Let us renew our faith that the nature of life and consciousness finds its own reflection in such ideals and values, and that opening our hearts and minds deeply and authentically to this knowledge with conviction, can bring us closer to greater personal freedom and realisation within our hearts and minds.

The deep love and unity we feel during these festive times can feel more real than all the passing ups and downs of life’s struggles for a reason. It is a closer reflection of our true nature than the worldly troubles and the mind activity we use to deal with them. While the challenge of life is important for shaping character and refining personal identity and decisions, we need reminding of what our true nature is within and shared. Knowing our true nature provides perspective and a real foundation to be more functional individually and collectively. Acknowledging and valuing this in faith, trust and goodwill further enables us to embody and generate beauty and goodness in our lives. Aligning and co-creating our lives from our true nature of spirit, further enables us to feel fulfilled and truly ourselves, to share and manifest in the world together in the formless essence of joy, friendship and camaraderie as fellow beings on this planet in the vast universe.

Real friendship, generosity of heart, and learning to love each other (warts and all) is rewarding because it is an end in itself. It engages the true nature of being before us and is deeply personal, just as the true nature of life and consciousness is profoundly personal as it is impersonal and universal to all beings.

Embodying life in this spirit, Jesus encouraged not only universal love and brotherhood of all mankind, but gave it the context of a Creator of love and being who we can come to know on a personal level as a child to a parent. Recognising the truth and capacity for oneness in such a divine nature, awakens us beyond our material and ego self, is the foundation of our ascendent path towards the birth of Christ consciousness. This birth from within is a living, present and immediate spiritual cause for celebration for which the traditional nativity scene, the life and teachings of Christ point towards.

With New Year upon us, a reset or new starting point in our choices and decisions of the year ahead, the pursuits that drive us and give us purpose presents itself. New Year is a time we can reflect not only on sought after accomplishments and challenges ahead in a worldly sense, but also how we can more fully apply the values and aspects of our deeper nature to our relationships and the countless tasks of ‘doing’ before us. Where do our deepest convictions lie and how do we exercise them in our work and lifestyle, in our relationships, and in ourselves?

In reflecting on the New Year with the joy of Christmas fresh in our hearts and minds, let us apply conscious intent not only towards key things we want to do or achieve in the coming year but also the state of being and quality of consciousness we want to align with.

In love and good-will I hope you have had a Merry Christmas and wish you the best for a Happy New Year!

Photo by …-Wink-… on VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC-SA

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)

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.”