Hello – It has been so long since my last post!
While many articles on this site touch on health, longevity, performance and quality of life much of the content comes back to quality of consciousness and state of being. This requires meditative reflection and opening up to inspiration for the words to flow. However, the truth of the subject matter is not in the written words is where those words come from. My hope is they inspire being present in yourself. Time away from the words can also be important to keep some perspective.
To better establish living in multiple countries with a mobile income has been taking some focus from preparing books in progress and general writing. Now I’m back, may the writing here keep the channel of writing flowing and add some value to you – this one with a possible theme for the year.
Recognition of conscious presence is where I find personal empowerment and meaningful living arises, which includes communicating that aspect of living to others who resonate with the message and enjoy developing its potential in their own life. It is an aspect that raises us beyond the purely sensory and material world and life to address the most profound aspect of who we are.
Being consciously in the moment when still or in action empowers our doing in whatever activity is going on, making it meaningful and unavoidably an expression of our values. Complete absorption in doing and thinking requires a balance of conscious being, otherwise it becomes too easy to get drawn into identification and lost in that thinking and doing.
When we are completely surrendered, still and silent – mind and body – there is more space in our personal experience to open up to and notice the subtle essence of living reality or existence. The formless consciousness that is experiencing this moment discloses nothing beyond thoughts, feelings and sensory content that we can put our finger on, yet we can feel a shift when experiencing these things as a living consciousness that transcends them.
Spacious presence here and now is where we can feel closest to a sense of absoluteness and oneness of being. Through co-operative receptivity and conscious stillness the essence of who we are finds clarity in our awareness and expression of it. At the same time we can allow a deepening experience of who we are at any time and place by our choice to be fully present. From depth of presence we can open up with intent to the formless essence of living reality in and around us.
There is an accessible and tangible essence of living consciousness to be personally known and expressed through us. It is an evolving manifestation in all others and all things. Thus we can not only feel more connected within ourselves, but also to life around us, by consciously engaging in it. With practice, we can more consistently and deeply sensitive to feeling aligned with the creative and living essence of life.
Expansive and profound consciousness is subtle yet simple and accessible. It can draw us beyond the little self which is limited to sensory pre-occupations and worldly concerns.
Reaching beyond form and opening up to a greater subtle reality is the essence of any spiritual path. Applying oneself through a feeling of authentic attunement is primary to forming concepts or beliefs that can only be useful in partial and limited ways. Applying authentic attunement to meaningful values like our own sense of love and trust, goodwill and other qualities that invoke a sense of higher purpose in all we do, are examples of this kind of conviction.
Personal experience and application of such values is beyond our sensory and thinking minds, yet can be consciously cultivated and developed. We can find inspiration in our own stillness and spacious receptivity to a personal sense of our life and consciousness, because conscious volition is inherent in our living essence. So are the values that help us feel the richness and beauty of life. This is something we all share, albeit described differently.
Through success and disappointment, joy or sense of loss, our indestructible base can be gained from faith and alignment to what is there when all of the mind, body and heart are surrendered in wakeful, knowing love and trust. This space is unaffected by the content – what is going on around us and in our minds – it is deeper than where we are affected by such things, even things that matter a lot in our life. The power of love is in love itself. The power of consciousness is in consciousness itself.
Our need to being truly fulfilled, is a need beyond the animalistic need for food, shelter, company and security. It is the natural need to resolve the tension created by consciousness itself irrepressibly expressing itself more and more fully through us as our true nature, and our own conditioned developing sense of self based on separating and defining itself to survive or thrive. Progressively resolving this tension through surrender and conscious presence can be our path to be less limited and self defined, while consciously experiencing something greater living in and through us in whatever we do and wherever we are. The are no ordinary moments and countless opportunities for spontaneity and creativity within.
Suffering and feeling limited is a calling to break beyond our own attachments and aversions, mentally and emotionally. But what do we connect with as a means of letting go from within? Faith and trust in the essence of love, compassion and connective-ness, as we can most deeply feel it, is where the answer lies. It is given many names, yet beneath the responsibilities and needs of our human life is the hidden agenda that our true essence be embodied and expressed. When this is recognised, the form it takes or doesn’t take is less important. However partially we may feel and embody this essence in our daily life provides the assuredness of progression towards meaning and purpose, versus conditioned and unconscious grasping for things or others to help us feel fulfilled.
Meditative mindfulness in simple moments in stillness or conscious actions helps develop applying these ideals during life’s ups and downs. We can enjoy ourselves, life activities and others more fully when we bring in generous openness, a transcendent wholeness to them all in shared reciprocity as unique reflections of the same living essence in oneness. This is living in and from love.
May this year unfold to be one of dissolving obstacles and barriers to abundance and peace through living and holding the space of conscious presence.
Photo on VisualHunt.com (modified with quote)
How many times do you do you have a sudden realisation that you were not present at all when you were just doing something and now barely remember doing it? Common moments like this can be driving home or doing a domestic chore. Even worse, is having that realisation after doing something really important for someone, or only partially paying attention when a loved one was talking with you or doing something with you that could have been a special moment?
Allowing ourselves to get lost in our stream of thoughts too much of every day is even easier now with the cacophony of distractions in modern life on top of over-thinking and lack of time or care to just sit and be fully present. Not balancing ‘being’ with ‘doing’ means we can be cut-off from the most important aspect of who we are within ourselves and with each other – and that is love.
To help reconnect, there is a resurgence and redefining of ways to practice consciously being present in the ‘now’ on a daily basis. A specific chosen mindful activity serves best when it is a self-nurturing and quiet activity. A regular and particular time of day, is most effective when it is the start and end of each day.
One of the ways our thinking mind can draw us out of our deeper self, is through our unconscious acceptance of assumptions which come out of long term habitual thinking, as do our automatic or reflexive opinions and stance on things.
It is natural to categorise things as good or bad, right or wrong, important or not important, likeable or dislikable and even spiritual or non-spiritual because these dualistic points of view become part of our moral identity and character.
This is okay when we are open to adjusting and refining our boundaries and views as our knowledge and maturity develops. However, making them a rigid and unquestionable part of our identity, turning them into a universal truth everyone must agree to in order to be acceptable to us, is what can have our past conditioning run the show, so we are seeing old projections rather than what is truly before us. This can get in the way of our ability to listen more deeply to ourselves and others in the present moment.
When our points of view come into conflict with other people’s views, the inner tension can alert us to turn up our state of being present. With presence, we can review how to deal with even subtle tension and conflict in a way that maintains our own integrity to presence here and now, while being respectful and open to other people’s points of view. This is part of living from the heart and exercising wisdom. It is putting trust in our own deeper nature, rather than than identifying primarily with an opinion or belief which may have some merit, but is a projection of mind and not our true selves.
Treating our viewpoint as a universal fact leads inevitably to making other people wrong or manipulating them into thinking ‘our’ way as the only ‘right’ way, because no two people have exactly the same ideology. Many people have vastly different views on certain matters. When we are unconsciously judging and manipulating, we are removed from our innate wisdom and love.
If we are identified with the living presence that is doing the thinking, then we can loosen the hold and be free from the compulsion to take a strong position on every opinion and thought to defend our identity. This is because when our identity transcends our thoughts and beliefs, it is not defined by them. We can then take our view points and reality as relative and feel less threatened when they are challenged.
I imagine that you recognise certain conditioned beliefs and their matching experiences are your own and not necessarily the truth or experience of everyone. Yet many people have a mindset or have decided certain views are simply the way they are, things are and that is it. When we do this, we close ourselves to new positive experiences and awareness of new possibilities in relationships and life situations that are part of our life path and life lessons.
I have come to the point of view that the only way to truly bridge differences between people, and move through our own defences and unconscious walls, is to commit daily to coming from love with everything, including ourselves.
While there are many types of love in life, what characterises true love is a heartfelt sense of our own oneness with whatever or whoever inspires or requires our love. From the point of view of spiritual awakening, that means everything and everyone, but it does not mean becoming passive and easily manipulated to other people’s views.
It does mean looking beyond differences to a sense of common essence with others as a primary mode of operating, and then dealing with any issues only once that sense of oneness is found in that moment. Being centred there within our own hearts, then connecting with that essence in others as first base is required to then apply love in communication and engagement.
A person or relationship, an activity, an object or sensory delight that we may apply the word ‘love’ to is usually where we feel a bond, emotional investment or a strong sense of pleasure. On a deeper level where we become more identified with our universal self, the essence of ourselves as a living being, love becomes more broadly the sense of unity or oneness within our own inner essence, which is the same living essence expressed uniquely through all other living beings in a living and animated universe.
This love transcends, yet does not exclude romanticism, sentimentalism and pleasure seeking. Nonetheless, these can draw us away from real love when invested in from the conditioned and conditional mind. They are transformed to something beautiful when embraced with presence and essence.
From this view, oneness exists every microsecond whether we are dealing with pleasure or pain. Suffering comes when we cannot accept, when we struggle with or resist pain. Being in oneness means learning to have a sense of connection to life and reality no matter what is going on, so that good or bad, pain or pleasure, do not draw us into rejection or attachment. In this way, our depth of oneness and presence enables us to experience greater depths of pleasure or pain without being drawn away from its great breadth and strength.
We all have great reserves of untapped strength, wisdom and compassion. Only the vast spaciousness of presence can give us the ability to be open heartedly present with deep pain in ourselves and in others.
On this basis, it is helpful to be reminded or inspired to feel our love and oneness or connection to people and the world by tuning within to our own soul with heart and mind, having a conscious choice as to with whom, when and how we express or flow this conscious love and sense of being into the moment.
I often reflect on a principle that to a non-spiritually minded person, nothing is spiritual; but to a spiritually awakened soul, everything is spiritual. Spiritual here is implied by conscious presence that transcends the thinking mind. Much of the time, our hearts and minds serve us best when clear and reflecting our true essence like a still pond reflecting the moon. Clearer thoughts can then arise than when we are locked in our own stream of thinking and reacting to mind disturbance and mind content.
In this state, our own unique character and body are outer garments of expression to be used consciously to express our deeper essence. The living conscious essence that is experiencing the mind, body and character we have, is intimately with us every second yet impossible for us to really define intellectually. It is closer than our own thoughts. It is where we can find a profound sense of transcendence and authenticity of being while observing our life experience in the present moment.
Greater potential and challenge for pleasure and fulfilment arises when we can engage this consciousness in any situation with anybody, and in specific moments with a specific somebody. This requires equanimity and non-attachment to our own position and stance in life, so that many battles once fought over various points of view are no longer engaging us. Yet it also means living with conviction to whatever task, behaviour and principles are in alignment and engage us at the depths of our being with full consciousness.
Being more present, appreciative and open with conscious depth, enables exploring greater depth of experience and having the courage to meet challenges as well as many simple and special moments with an open heart. All experiences and actions can benefit everyone, including ourselves, when approached with a heartfelt and conscious intent.
It is our thinking mind that labels people, situations and things so that they become over-familiar and taken for granted. This happens when we are perceiving them through a conditioned mindset of associations that have become habitual. Being in the present moment tunes us in to even common or familiar settings as if we are there for the first time, enabling a timeless appreciation of things, like a long term relationship or elements of daily life, as a gift.
The conditioned and thinking mind cannot provide this because it defines everything into its own self image and time bound set of thoughts and feelings. Living presence experiences the living moment directly. The conditioned mind experiences everything through its own constructed content, narratives and conclusions. Even things that were once precious can become part of what feels like ‘ground-hog day’ to the conditioned mind. It is then we unconsciously become distant and only partially present while our mind goes into a blend of auto-pilot and distraction with unrelated streams of thoughts. Meanwhile, we miss being fully present in a relationship or situation.
It is a challenge to notice when we have a limiting thought and shut down. It is also a challenge when we are drawn into a thought stream, then realise we are not fully present, to then awaken ourselves with a deep breath and ‘re-set’ in the here and now. It is time for us to rise above our own conditioning when it is activated and decide to be present with our own love.
Open hearted presence is enough to transform a conditioned thought or feeling in ourselves that is causing a ‘shut down’ and distracting us from being more present, loving and embodying our authentic true selves. It is not the situation or person causing our ‘shut-down’ but our own inability to respond consciously.
When you notice you are taking a position against something, or else feeling mental, emotional or physical resistance with someone or a situation, see if you can use breath and body awareness to relax and become open from within to deal with the situation from a strong and open heart. Be open to whether the resistance or tension is arising from within yourself or is something you are picking up from around you. Transforming such moments requires self-honesty, being non-judgemental and trusting in the power of presence in the world before launching into any action or expression.
The power of presence is available once you have found the sense of oneness with self and all of life in the moment revealing not only love but that you are love.
In addition to comments like “I can’t meditate, my mind is too active”, I also get many questions about how to deal with mental and lifestyle obstacles to practicing presence or mindfulness during daily life, as well as during meditation sessions. What I offer here is a very simple approach that I believe is the basis of good advice on mindful presence and meditation from many practitioners and teachers that I also apply on an ongoing basis.
The short and simple answer may sound basic but there a lifetime of refinement involved and once you practice this approach for a relatively short but consistent time, it takes out the frustration factor many experience in trying to force or use their will in controlling the mind. Frustration only compounds the mental obstacles to being present and enjoying relaxed deep meditation.
The key is to make any distraction or disturbance, thought pattern or other obstructions, your focus of observation rather than fight it or let it drive you. This is best done in combination with relaxed conscious breathing and inner body awareness to help centre and anchor you. In other words, include mental chatter or outside disturbances in your conscious field of observing with loving or non-judgemental awareness.
Especially in the initial seconds or minutes of resetting yourself, combining conscious breathing and fullness of inner body awareness not only helps relax mind and body but also provides an anchor for you be still and present (the eye of the storm) amidst mind activity, stressors and pressures of the moment or environmental disturbances. A dissociation then occurs between you as the observer and these active elements which helps train the mind in maintaining undisturbed presence while being amongst the continual flow and changes of form and activity of life in general.
A disturbance may be noise or activity around you, inner turbulence or mental activity, an emotional upset or a mounting feeling of pressure that there is too much going on at the time to pause and really be present while you deal with it. It can be a countless array of things that the mind hooks on to in its habitual mode of activity and having to have an ongoing narrative when your focus is away from the true essence of consciousness.
Once you have taken enough breathes combined with inner body awareness to begin to settle (even if you only have minutes for the exercise) you can then give yourself permission to observe your mind activity in a detached non-judgemental way as you continue. This helps the mind to settle further and can be done eyes open or closed.
Even if it mind activity remains agitated for a time, affirm you are not your thoughts and that this is only the activity of mind which will pass. When you continue to observe mind activity while present with breath and inner body awareness, a subtle shift of identity occurs. Consciousness of being as the thinker of thoughts becomes more primary to the unconscious identification with the effects of thoughts and feelings that are our inner reaction to a situation. Low energy levels and mood of the day can also require us to be more consciously present than usual in order to experience mindful presence, feel ourselves and be on top of things.
Whatever it is, the fact something is challenging you to feel stillness, calmness and be fully present in the moment means that ‘something’ is the training you have been gifted in that moment to go deeper and become more adept at mastering your psychology, awareness, effectiveness and wellbeing.
A semi-conscious allowance to be pre-occupied, distracted with inner tension, or waiting for something to pass before you take a breath and relax mind and heart into a conscious state of being, is a symptom of identification with, and being sucked into, the narratives, conditioned perceptions and mindset of the conditioned mind. It can also come from investment in an outcome so that we loose ourselves for a time in some mundane pursuit that seems vitally important in that moment.
The conditioned mind is based on past programming and future concerns. Our true consciousness or state of being is always fully present in the here and now. Being disconnected to that full presence is a sign of reactivity, avoidance or attachment to some aspect of what’s going on in relation to past experience and future concerns. The only true remedy is to let go of concerns and break the loop by practicing some mindful presence for a time. Then when you go back to dealing with whatever is going on you can feel more present, aware and bring that sense into your actions and way of dealing with things. Often, perspective and perception shift and we can then deal with things better, less reactively and with more awareness.
Another prompt to take a moment to practice conscious presence is when you find yourself taking a conflictive position on some matter, opinion or stance. This can take us out of presence and into our mental projections of beliefs, opinions and reactions. Whether these are right or wrong, good or bad, we are more empowered, clear and on track if our identification is not centred on an opinion or resistance to external matters and instead rests in timeless and non-judgemental consciousness while we deal with the relativities of life.
Internalising a sense of conflict and non-acceptance with something, even if it is not involving you, get’s in the way of feeling whole, balanced and open in the present moment.
Even at this moment take some deep breathes, being present and aware of your entire body from within. In the precise moment affirm all is as it is including yourself and you can be fully present in heart and mind. Does this simple intent and action help you feel more present and aware of yourself and your surroundings?
Consider the last time you got caught up in a situation or train of thought (it can be positive or negative). Continuing a few conscious breaths of body awareness here and now, imagine being more fully present with an open heart at that time you are recalling, so you can experience and respond to it with more of your deeper consciousness. It may mean enjoying a good moment more or dealing with a difficult moment better, feeling the empowerment of not losing yourself in it and applying yourself consciously.
Come back to any distractions or stressors that may be current in your day or evening and be present with it fully – observing with a relaxed, open heart and mind. Affirm that “It is what it is”. Simply by more fully illuminating our experience in any moment with a full and present consciousness not identified with it, choice and transformation become more possible within and through you. This is subtle yet becomes more and more empowering and awakening with practice.
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When it comes to diet, stress management, dealing with any health and lifestyle issues or deepening your own personal spiritual life there is one common key factor. If you have high levels of stress, churn over repeated discussions in your head about certain things, procrastinating about certain compulsive or ingrained habitual behaviours you want to change or have a persistent ongoing concern, then the following is especially relevant.
The backbone to all of these areas is self-love, because it impacts our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. Before you assume that is just rewarding and nurturing yourself, which is great, the self love I am referring to goes deeper than that.
We really cannot receive or convey love fully unless we are open and accepting within ourselves to fully experience our own love, independent of our personal and unique expression of it.
The body and mind are only fully healthy when there is an accepting and loving foundation to our state of being. Cell function, hormonal balance, brain function, immunity, digestion, the microbiome in our bodies as well as cardio vascular and nervous system health are all impacted by our emotional and mental tone and what messages we are giving ourselves each and every day. It is a feedback loop between mind and body so balance or imbalance can be self-reinforcing. Self-love is a tonic for stress, anxiety, physical imbalances and the key ingredient to personal wellbeing.
To explore our own potential in having a personal and experiential spiritual aspect to life, requires a sensitivity to frequencies of love, compassion and good-will. Our sense and expression of these can only be authentic or deep if we draw on these qualities of consciousness regularly within and towards ourselves as well as others. Our relationships or sense of connection is also empowered, as people recognise and are drawn to someone who emanates comfort and self acceptance with love in themselves.
So what is self-love at its foundation? If we contemplate love aside from specific associations with romance, love of family or friends, love of a pet or a life passion, then we must look to what all these contexts (and any others) have in common in terms of what we recognise and know as love. If love is inclusive of these different relationships and feelings, it is also deeper and more universal than what distinguishes each of them.
In line with many spiritual teachers and traditions, I relate to the essence of love as being the recognition and spontaneous sense of oneness. When we recognise a living aspect of ourselves in another living being or in nature or life around us generally, then there is a sense of connection and unity that underlies all form and differences which are temporary and changing.
We can feel a sense of oneness when on our own and it is possible in any situation with others. It may be conscious or only semi-conscious at times but we respond positively nonetheless when this feeling arises from within, and especially when it is a mutual experience with others. There is a pure beauty, happiness and goodness that comes with a deep sense of unity as our being-ness includes our own world and others.
This is where meditation or coming back to simple mindfulness can be of great assistance. The mental narratives of our conditioned mind are often negative in tone. This is a primary cause of stress or disturbance and can be tied in with chronic illnesses. Even if they are positive, identifying with our commentaries and conceptualisations is losing ourselves in a mental construct rather than being in an alert state of presence in the here and now and experiencing it as it is. Absorption in mental constructs creates a sense of disconnection from ourselves and others. It is a tension of misalignment which may have become subtle in its normality and is a root cause of underlying discontent and unhappiness.
Our mental narratives and conceptualising are generally conditioned by the past and projected onto the present or into the future. This puts us out of sync with feeling love and oneness in the here and now because true love and presence is a living and spontaneously arising feeling from the nature of our consciousness which is timeless rather than a projected concept or time-bound thought.
Being aware of our thinking and narratives then shifting gears when they are not useful or positive is a great practice of self-awareness and beginning to adjust old thinking patterns. In most cases, they are actually not that positive or useful, unless part of a creative or problem solving process. The greatest practice we can do in our busy lives, is to take opportunities every day to not think at all and just ‘Be’.
This does not mean putting pressure on ourselves to have no thoughts which is a practice of frustration and inner conflict. It means that we take time to just be and observe. If that observing includes an open hearted acceptance and mindful awareness of each thought as it arises, as well as our breath, body and immediate surroundings, then the mind will settle down and we can begin to feel a deeper peace and be restfully energised.
This is a practice of self love in and of itself. Unity and connection within ourselves wherever we are at the time arises from the conscious space in which you are reading this now. Even if there are things about ourselves or a situation we would like to change or improve in time, in any single given moment we can practice letting go of our attachment to an outcome or future-based projection we have constructed, and simply accept be here and now. Trusting issues can be resolved out of this presence is a totally different way of going about life for someone who is constantly pre-occupied.
Positive thinking can be a great means to an end, as it can make thinking more constructive and absent of self-sabotaging and limited conditioning. The thinking mind tends to focus on what distinguishes things from each other and whether they are favourable to us or not. This is the dimension of separateness where fear and concern, attachment and aversion become more activated. It is also how we get drawn in and become reactive to life.
However, settling into the essence of our living being and consciousness through mindful presence can be an end in itself. Its value is in the moment as well as being cumulatively and progressively beneficial.
Free of our narratives and concerns about past or future allows the unchanging and continual primacy of being become the foundation of our doing. Allowing time to practice and experience this regularly leads to recognition of a wonderful quality and sense of being. This spectrum of feeling is pervaded with love and compassion for it is a unified field of awareness. It does not need to be willed or manufactured, as many practitioners confirm generation after generation, because it arises spontaneously when we give it mind and heart space.
Even if you know this conceptually, it is not the same as actually allowing yourself to ‘be that space’ here and now. Applying it daily develops the art of being and doing without getting lost in the doing. When we are in conscious being, we experience the primary essence of ourselves and others as the same universal essence.
In a state of conscious being, what we may like and dislike about ourselves or others becomes transitory, relative and superficial. It doesn’t define us in any moment. When an issue arises that actually matters, it can be approached without reactivity because it no longer matters completely. The primacy of conscious being keeps things in perspective.
There is an inherent perfection in formlessness that helps us accept and work with the relativity of form. The way we face and perceive life situations may reflect aspects of our character but are not absolute truths or who we really are.
In presence we don’t become anaesthetised, but rather more perceptive, accepting and capable of acting creatively without reaction. We can more deeply love with a penetrating awareness.
Ultimately, conscious awakening is a deepening understanding through personal experience that unlimited conscious love is what we are at the core of our own living essence. Complete love is always here and now – self love is about opening up to it here and now from within, then letting it fully infuse our awareness and ‘doing’ with each breath.
There are three big benefits from contemplating death in a positive sense. Firstly, it adds to appreciating every living moment, making the most of it, and not taking things and others for granted. Secondly, it adds a sobering depth and motivation to contemplating the big picture of life and contemplating spiritual meanings. Thirdly, it gives perspective on what the little things and big things are in life and worth your energy and focus. In other words, what is important and not taking too much too seriously.
In terms of spiritual growth and general maturity, as we let go of fear and embrace life more fully, one of the final fears to face and move through is the fear of loss and death. It may not be the concept of death that is frightening but times in your life when you come close to it personally or with someone close, or when you get a sense of letting go fully into something unknown where your own sense of self is put to the test, then facing death and fear of death can seem pretty close.
Spiritual awakening as a transformation ultimately hits the chord of any fear of death, because true awakening marks the end of identification with the ego self. This can feel like a type of death for the part of us we are letting go. In the Bhagavad Gita (Gita 6:37-39), Arjuna’s question reveals one of the final fears and anxieties in the mind of one who has recognised the truths in Sri Krishna’s teachings yet still has doubt in himself to fulfil them. Self doubt feeds this final fear when we are poised to let go of what is tangible and familiar to the ego mind and step in faith towards the values and consciousness of the higher Self. Essentially Arjuna is asking what happens to a person who is unsuccessful in yoga (spiritual union) who has let go of material identity but has not mastered his mind, so ends up short on union of consciousness as well as material success and identity. It is a fear of being lost between worlds, of failure and loss in gaining nothing.
Sri Krishna’s answer (Gita 6:40-44) reveals the Gita’s view of life and death. He reflects on the immortality of spirit as consciousness and that anyone with good intentions and actions will never meet with an evil plight or death. The idea of reincarnation is a strong part of Indian thought and culture, providing a context and karmic rationale for both heavenly and worldly, life and death consequences for choices about living one’s life. Whether you are of a culture or personal belief in reincarnation back in the material world or incarnations through higher levels of spiritual realms beyond this world, the same principles apply, whereby salvation does not arrive by merit of a heavenly pass at death. Rather death is just a portal to further ongoing existence and where we continue to reap what we have sown, playing the main role in our own salvation and development towards true awakening.
Similarly (Gita 2:27-28) is less poetic but very clear and applicable to all of us whatever our faith, convictions or belief. Considering a universal truth in this world for those prescribing to different views of life beyond death, no one can argue about the inevitability of death. Krishna notes this and the veiled nature of existence before and this material life as a fact of life, so “why lament about it”?
That everything material changes and passes is cause to ponder the big questions about reality, before and after the fleeting time we have in our current physical body, and the profoundness of experience and consciousness accessible to us. Whatever our lifestyle, bodily deterioration is occurring gradually and is ever present on a physical level, until at some point the body will be cast aside (Gita 2:22).
Easwaran in his Gita companion says “It is good to face death with courage, but that is not enough; we must learn to face it with understanding.” (p.191). In a spiritual sense, through meditation and practice of presence generally, we can become familiar with consciousness that transcends sense organs and objects, including projections of mind. This transcendent awareness brings with it a sense of living awareness and identity independent of the body and thinking mind. Thus, an intuitive sense or even knowing of death as a doorway to another state of pure consciousness comes as a natural part of insight and realisation of the nature of this unchanging consciousness from which our ever-changing perceptions and responses arise.
Being mindful of death can be a means of making the most of each living moment, of the profoundness of every moment. Some saints and seekers do things to deepen this mindfulness. Saint Teresa of Avila kept a skull on her desk. Yogis, saints and masters in India sit before cadavers to meditate to help them transcend mortal mindedness. Warriors (spiritual and military) or those living in harsh conditions often use the inevitability of death to fuel their conviction and focus on their conscious choices, actions and life path. It fuels comradeship. It heightens the focus, conviction and mind power of shamans.
In the Gita (8:12-13), Sri Krishna gives Arjuna a crash course in how to die which is the basis for various meditations and mudras for unifying mind and soul, as well as preparing for optimum consciousness during death. Basically, the meditation describes withdrawing the vital energy and focus from body and senses into the mind where a mantra and intention towards the divine or consciousness of consciousness itself is the sole awareness accompanied by the sound of Aum. This is full immersion in pure awareness and presence. From there in Gita terms the consciousness transcends mind “into Buddhi, the higher mind, and finally into what is called the causal body, the seat of I-consciousness. Easwaran discussing this verse describes the process “like taking off an overcoat button by button, then removing your jacket, and finally your pullover, folding each piece carefully and setting it aside.” (p.194).
In normal meditation, some vitality is kept in the body to keep it living. Experienced meditators will vouch for a heightened sense of aliveness and awareness when in this state than normal body consciousness. Whatever the details of after death existence, Sri Krishna notes the unchanging nature at the seat of consciousness itself, which can be realised in life and continues after death.
Uniting all faculties “by the power of yoga” or the biblical “loving God with all your heart, your soul, your strength and mind” to achieve deep awakening requires sustained devoted and dedicated effort. It does not have to be complicated, done always with closed eyes, but rather a consistent part of being present while we attend to living our lives fully present in our selves, our environment and others. It does require a balanced character and approach to life. Spiritual teachings universally view development of the soul and ‘awakening’ as a cumulative result of mindful practice while living a meritorious life as the key to fulfilment and happiness, as well as readiness for when it is time to go.
Arjuna asks Krishna ‘what if we aren’t ready and haven’t got there?’ The assurance is when death is understood through contemplation and knowing the nature of consciousness itself, it looses its terror. Much of the problem with dying is the inability to let go, along with regrets about life. As Easwaran points out, in conscious dying “all attention is on where you are going: there is no attention on what you are leaving behind, which means no clinging. It’s not so much that you’re not afraid of death; the question simply does not arise”. In other words, like in deep meditation and practice of presence, the process is less about letting go of identification with thoughts and body and more an engagement with a known existential state of being.
Many people who have been in a dangerous instant where they thought they were about to die, experience no fear and an instant acceptance. I have experienced this a few times. My daughter experienced it when she fell from a cliff and thought that was it. As an observer in that instance I confronted my worst of fears as a parent then went into protect and rescue mode when I saw her mercifully injured but okay below. It is different for the person facing this moment for themselves, when all of life has lead to one key instant.
The cumulative effect of spiritual effort contributes to our level of consciousness at death. Meanwhile, we can enhance the experience and depth of conscious choosing in our daily lives as the layers of conditioning stored in the material mind is unravelled in the light of that consciousness and spiritual identification. The opportunity for continued learning and discovery, facing challenges “calmly, courageously, and compassionately” is part of our purpose.
I’ll finish with a final note from Easwaran that the getting of wisdom is not just learning more, but the capacity to learn from past mistakes while facing new difficulties by ‘detached intellect’. “Detached intelligence is the very source of wisdom … that acquired wisdom awakens us to the extent we listen to it, not so much in the head as in the heart.” (p.203).
God Talks To Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita, by Paramahansa Yogananda (Self Realisation Fellowship, 2nd Edition 1999)
The Bhagavad Gita, by Swami Sivananda (Divine Life Society, 15th Edition 2015)
Essence of the Bhagavad Gita: A Contemporary Guide to Yoga, Meditation and Indian Philosophy, by Eknath Easwaran (The Blue Mountanin Center of Meditation, 2011).
The Fullness of Love
Having a life full of love means being able to receive and feel love in ourselves along with a life of sharing it with others. There is an undying and causeless love we can draw on at anytime which gives our relationships and occupations meaning and purpose when we can love each other and what we do. Knowing and doing what you love with love is fulfilling in and of itself because it is embodying, expressing, sharing and channeling this love into the world as you experience it.
The Bhagavad Gita 13:27 says: “He sees truly who perceives the Supreme Lord present equally in all creatures, the Imperishable amidst the perishing.” Swami Sivananda describes someone with this view as self-realised. Sivananda likens the divine essence in us all as like the heat that is common in all kinds of fire, the gold that is the same in different ornaments and light being the same from different lamps.
Paramahansa Yogananda refers to the ground of all creatures who share the same substance of life which is the Lord as consciousness (chit in sanskrit) and existence or being (sat). Yogananda goes on to equate our identity as creatures and mortals with delusion and perishing, yet “as children of the Most High, sons of the Creator, we partake of His uncaused and indestructible nature.”
The cosmology of the Gita can be brought down to ourselves as the centre of the universe as we each experience it, not as isolated orphans, but as part of a living conscious universe with the capacity to live in a way that benefits and harmonises the rest of life. According to Easwaran, the Gita proposes the whole in each of us, as each of us is an expression of universal consciousness in which is contained the entire universe. Thus we can see ourselves in each other and in all “which is the basis of universal love”.
“To put it dramatically, the whole cosmos is a setting for us to rise above it and go beyond time, place, and circumstance into the supreme reality that is God”. Easwaren (p.52)
True Freedom of the Muni
The Gita 2:55-57 describes the freedom of the muni (one who can dissolve his mind in divine presence or God) as relinquishment of worldly desires, entirely contented in the Self, not shaken by anxiety under afflictions nor attached to happiness in favourable circumstances, free from worldly loves, fears and angers – he is settled in wisdom and steady discrimination.
Part of the practice of this relinquishment can be in the small things in life. Easwaran brings it right down to basics, using eating your broccoli as an example of weakening the conditioned mind which is happy only with what it likes. With practice and maturity “you find yourself no longer compelled to do what you enjoy, but instead enjoying whatever you do.” (p.160). Another aspect is what I described in a previous post as “embracing the good, bad and the ugly”. Meanwhile, another attribute of the muni is to absorb worldly desires into oneself then dissolve them in the vast ocean of presence.
Yogananda refers to pure bliss from meditative and spiritualised actions as the source of complete satisfaction and supreme happiness of the muni. It is this that enables us to embrace all aspects of our life with equanimity and absorb all desires into a greater and stronger bliss. Yogananda gives us the ideal of the perfect sage, whose outer nature still retains some egoity as an individualised consciousness in the form of a spiritualised ego retaining the bliss of presence even after meditation and while performing actions in life.
Many of us do not realise there is no pleasures of the flesh without a soul identifying with the body for it to happen. Yet instead of identifying with soul presence, we cling to bodily and worldly pleasures for satisfaction and relief from the rigours of life – “just as a mad lover, identified with his beloved, thinks his happiness dependent on her and her alone!” The wise man perceives all bliss is contained in the inner self, the nature of the soul being different to the nature of the body. “As fear is caused by a sense of impending misfortune, the wise man, identified with the soul, knows no such desires. Anger results from the nonfulfillment of a bodily or mental desire; the muni harbours no such desires.”
Finally, Yogananda explains the neutrality of the wise in all circumstances, is not a heartless indifference but conscious control and calming of the faculties of consciousness. The conditioned mind is as a “puppet of nature”, actions and reactions an excitable yet predictable mix of delusive influences. The key is in recognising the distinction between the blessed nature of the soul and the excitable and transitory nature of body and mind.
Easwaren describes being truly free as when no mental state or “emotion can overwhelm you, no craving can drive you into action”, where dependence on others and outside circumstances and the tides of fortune no longer hold any sway, there is no compulsions or need to manipulate anyone. The “heart is full of joy and your mind full of peace” and whatever occurs you always experience true completeness. (pp.57,58). The recognition of the depth if these attributes is where we can access them through authentic and consistent practice of presence in stillness and in action.
Commenting on a similar verse in the Gita, Yogananda explains (Gita 2:70) that the ability to absorb all desires within, keeping an inner ocean of quiescence filled to the brim, does not mean abandoning good aspirations – “in spiritual life giving is receiving.” He quotes Jesus words in Matthew 25:29: “For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance; but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.” Actively pursuing a desire to give joy and peace, or any acts of goodness to others will bring more joy and peace to the doer. The deeper we go in drawing on inner love and peace in living and sharing our life, the more vast an ocean of divine Self is made available to one and all to commingle in the universal ocean of divine life and consciousness.
In this post I draw on the wisdom of two saints and master yogi’s Paramahansa Yogananda and Swami Sivananda as well as the wise and much loved devotee of the Gita, Eknath Easwaran. It is always good to draw on the pearls of auspicious and venerated teachers to whom I give thanks.
God Talks To Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita, by Paramahansa Yogananda (Self Realisation Fellowship, 2nd Edition 1999)
The Bhagavad Gita, by Swami Sivananda (Divine Life Society, 15th Edition 2015)
Essence of the Bhagavad Gita: A Contemporary Guide to Yoga, Meditation and Indian Philosophy, by Eknath Easwaran (The Blue Mountain Center of Meditation, 2011).
It goes without saying that most religious and spiritual practices and systems have their pearls of wisdom and approaches to gaining spiritual experience and realisation. Foundational pillars for building a spiritual life, aligning our lives and actions with divine truth and presence, are initially morals and ethics. It is the positive inner response to morals and ethics as children that first initiates our spiritual journey. Later we begin to feel our personal convictions around them and let them shape and define our decisions and actions. Ethics and morals can be conditioned by beliefs and culture or they can be more universal.
Attitudes and convictions around human rights are an example of what is ethical or moral in one culture can be seen by another culture as immoral or unethical. Religion and culture, history, and how harsh or conducive life conditions are, have an effect on the mores evolved in a civilisation. Thus, we see in some cultures, a disparity between how they treat their ‘own’ compared to outsiders. This is particularly strong in those cultures and religious sects that still retain their links to a long history of tribal life and warfare, or having to have strict codes of conduct to survive harsh conditions. Similarly, attitudes of rights even within a sect, tribe or community can be in conflict with ethics and morals of outsiders when it comes to things like treatment of women, children, the old and sick, the influence of security and ware fare as well as trade.
As our personal spiritual characteristics mature, ethics and morals become part of a more integrated and universal set of convictions which is what I refer to as values. No matter what the conflicting ethics and morals between different cultures and people, there are common values of love and support within the family, codes of courage and honour, ideals of love, compassion, beauty and the sense of truth, as well as values around codes of conduct to do with honesty, goodness, and considerations of the sovereignty of the individual inclusive of consideration of the wellbeing of the group.
I am of the view that personal spiritual maturity raises an individual’s values above the conditioned mores of his or her own culture to more universal values that are the shared ideals of most major religions and globally influenced modern philosophies. The more values can be applied universally to all peoples at all times, be applied equally to all so that unity (not uniformity), wellbeing, prosperity and sustainability are promoted equally to all as well as to the resources required for the future, the more those values resonate with the true nature of life and living consciousness itself. The individual and the group must be sustained and given the opportunity to thrive on the basis of mutual co-operation, love and liberty. Obviously, if society and each of us individually compromise our codes of conduct, morality and values in order to manage the lowest denominators of human nature and conduct, then our systems and approaches to life are more limited in scope. A remedy is to uphold ideals truly set on universal values that apply in a fully harmonious and friendly universe.
Maintaining high ideals is the only way to gain insight into how they operate and apply in an evolving world. We can then better adopt insight in applying universal values to everyone at all times in our life. In this world of contrasts, where ignorance often still prevails, how do we apply our ideals and values to perceived evil in the world or as it arises even subtly within ourselves? How do we apply these values while in inner conflict or conflict with another, such as when we feel threatened? How do we apply these values when we feel common human emotions like anger, hurt, or sadness? What about other emotive states like self-absorbed pride, self-loathing, jealousy or guilt?
Love of God and all beings as brothers and sisters is the Christian golden rule as does seeking first the ‘kingdom of heaven’. Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita also teaches that oneness with the divine comes first, before the cares of the world. This is because, when we are in a state of pure presence in the moment, where our sense of being and existence transcends thoughts, feelings and actions, we are immersed in the living essence of life and consciousness itself. It is not a mindless, void that eliminates any sense of divinity, humanity, purpose or meaning. Connecting to the living essence of what we are is a connection to something profound rather than just a disconnection from the material world or from our projections of self. Being in the world but not of the world is obviously not identifying with an empty and lifeless void that leaves us robotic or zombie-like.
True awakening into the living light of our own life essence and pure consciousness does equate to connecting to spirit. When we can be immersed deeply in that place then all our feelings, thoughts and actions are external to the consciousness that is our true essence. Feelings and thoughts are inner projections, while the perceptions of the physical senses and the external world they perceive are also experienced as objective occurrences in the medium of our boundary-less consciousness.
Thus, part of spiritual practice is learning to accept all positive and negative thoughts and feelings in ourselves and perceived around us equally. Personal attachments and aversions are all by nature perceived through the conditioned mind. Spiritual identification comes with identification with the substance of who or what we are and not with the projections of self, whether they be good or bad, positive or negative. Being in true presence creates the space for abiding compassion, goodness and growing receptive understanding that is more capable of universal love and discriminating life situations by how they resonate with divine presence rather than how well our reality is conforming to conditioned ideas of good or bad or how they serve our preconceived self-biased agenda’s.
All arising feelings and thoughts can be equally witnessed in the light of clear and true consciousness with presence. A loved one, a stranger or someone causing conflict around us or within ourselves can also be experienced in undisturbed equanimity depending on the power and depth of ones own state of presence This offers greater proactive choices of response, that is not reactive or based on fear or threat.
Being able to sit with positive highs and uncomfortable or painful lows of thoughts and feelings equally is part of renunciation. Handling life in the moment this way, from the inclusive love we find in deep ‘being-ness’ itself, happens when conscious presence of being becomes an end in itself. When it becomes the core of our existence and identity it allows us to do what is termed as loving God and others universally. Progressively doing it within ourselves without being selective enables us to apply spiritual presence to the good, the bad and the ugly within and in the world. Even more, it gives us the insight that the relativity of positives and negatives is a less enduring reality than the true essence of life and consciousness in which it occurs.
In this way, as anger or grief, excitement and happiness, melancholy or disengagement occur, we can open up to these experiences honestly and consciously without identifying with them. Allowing ourselves to experience the full spectrum openly requires having a solid centre that does is inclusive, not prone to attachment or aversion, yet unaffected by the partiality perceived in the moment. That place is the pure essence of our life and consciousness in the here and now. It can be termed at some point of realisation as spirit-consciousness.
I remember once, after spending time with some remarkable yogi’s, gaining the insight that even the masters feel the full spectrum of human emotion in an exquisite way where any level of pain can be contained in an even greater bliss. It is not what we think and feel that defines us, but what we do with it reflects the level of our spiritual identification at the time.
Identifying with the living consciousness from which all emerges is the high path to gaining spaciousness of consciousness. This awareness provides more choice, greater wisdom and perspective on the nature of our human thought and feeling projections. All becomes meaningful when we deal with it in the resonance of consciousness of consciousness. Negatives and disturbances dissolve faster based on the ability to be present with them consciously. The transformation that occurs is an increasing quality and frequency of thoughts and feelings that resonate with the transcendent inner sanctum that is available to us. Conscious processing becomes less necessary.
Rather than rejecting uncomfortable thoughts and feelings, people and situations, we can embrace them as a practice rather than fighting them, or trying to find an answer or fix for them to go away. Gradually, a transformation and shift will occur where full presence is less shaken and we can respond to positive and negative elements in equanimity with the full spectrum of who we are intact , more alive and conscious.
Practicing letting go within ourselves to be present and consciously embrace all aspects of ourselves and life, builds trust in what we are without our own separate manufacture. With that progressive knowing and trust, through practice and attention, our thoughts, feelings, perceptions and actions can be offerings in this presence. As it becomes greater than our own sense of a separate self , divine providence will help us to continue and lend us strength even when we are amidst a major challenge or “the valley of death”. A deepening and expanding sense of calm alertness, an open mind, body and heart and a unified sense of connectedness are the guide posts for our progress. The thoughts, feelings, perceptions and actions that arise and harmonise with this bring abundance and happiness. Learning to conquer our own demons by practicing this in the face of our negatives and pains will bring unimaginable rewards and a sense of personal freedom.
“People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Luke 18:15–17)
At Easter time, it is fitting to reflect on another message from Jesus who is not ennobling naivete, or simple-mindedness, by receiving the kingdom (spiritual awakening and experience) like a child. He points directly to purity of heart and openness of mind as keys to the kingdom. Faith and trust in a divine parent in essence is like a child’s faith and trust in the protection, care, and authority of his or her worldly parent and other adult role models. It encourages us to live in the context of a friendly universe, not defined by the disappointments and rigors of worldly life.
Children in a normal and healthy environment learn much through play, and wake up daily to a universe they trust as friendly and safe. They are often uninhibited in their enthusiastic joy and spontaneity toward life. To a mature adult, feeling and giving wholehearted faith and trust can be more difficult. Openness and good will with an indwelling sense of universal friendship are not only required for entering the kingdom but are also essential for the capacity to invite the experiential leading of God’s living presence.
Like a child in the material world, the material senses and intellect are naïve to the subjective experience of spiritual presence and have little capacity to grasp spiritual presence and truth without the recognition and subjectivity of a receptive heart and mind. Increased depth and fulfillment from within through spiritual experience, further confirmed in shared experience with others, encourages a loving and positive outlook and experience in life. Increasing freedom from material attachments and aversions, through identification with spiritual presence, offers a lightness or joy of being akin to childhood innocence and uninhibited energy. This is very healing to a soul burdened by worldly life.
It is also good while tackling the big and deep aspects of life that we don’t take ourselves too seriously, as that can lead to a self-absorbed life. Too much self-focus, driven by lack of self-acceptance, can form an egoistic identity around our spiritual path, which is counterproductive. Jesus did not teach introspection and self-evaluation other than self-honesty and love. His teachings are based more on the selflessness of one who has the treasures of the divine and is left with an urge to give wisely yet selflessly to others.
Most people recognize the need and hunger for meaningfully constructive and fulfilling lives and relationships. In modern developed countries, where survival is handled for most, our needs are more around quality of life and meaning in a society where both can be lost amid a commercial and consumer culture. The battles fought are as much about our mindset and emotional needs as any material need. Many religious paths encourage removal of worldly distractions from what true inner happiness and reality is founded upon. The adult world becomes filled with complexities of responsibilities and pursuits, status and attaining material comforts. Meanwhile, divine love and other aspects of the divine nature can only be truly embraced and experienced with an open heart and optimistic trust that can be likened to that of a child. Approaching spirituality like a child implies a pure, sincere intent and openness of heart and mind. There is a simplicity to this state of the heart implied here rather than an intellectual conceptualization of the kingdom.
Childlikeness does not mean that Jesus proposes looking to God and the kingdom of heaven as a way of avoiding life and responsibilities. Jesus’s life and teachings were and are about tackling life fully with the best and highest of principles and values intact. Thus, the kingdom provides the most certain, lasting, and authentic platform to face all of life courageously. This is because it helps us to connect to our true eternal nature in the ideal of trustworthiness and goodness with a sense of fulfilling a higher purpose.
Spiritual experience includes and yet transcends logic and reason, which is why it is founded on faith and associated with the receptiveness of a child. Yet, the subjective experience becomes a recognizable and reliable home-base that permeates all aspects of life when consciously acknowledged with conviction, openness, and willingness. If we have made that step, we easily recognize it in one another as well.
Genuinely letting go in mind and heart to just ‘be’ with an attitude of open trust and faith is like a silent prayer. It creates conscious space for Spirit to be felt and is the entrance to the ‘kingdom’ within. It is the art of allowing the spaciousness and receptivity inside ourselves to be filled while remaining empty of our own self-made content. Breaking down the mind’s resistance to letting go is best done softly, with a child’s trust and optimism. Aligning with Spirit is a two-way process, like a dance of spirit and self-will, and it can get extremely deep and subtle once the dance begins to flow and develop. Like a dance, it can become a sublime, moving, like an ever-changing yet familiar ebb and flow of harmony.
So much of our living can be captivated in ups and downs that are really part of conditioned and programmed patterns or habits of thought and perception. Material mindedness is a limited and relatively unstable consciousness mostly of conditioned thoughts and feelings exclusively relevant to partiality and linear time. Conditioned thoughts and feelings are repetitive and actually quite predictable when appraised honestly and objectively.
Therefore, the indwelling Spirit’s influence, with our will and cooperation, is to assist our intuitive mind in tuning our consciousness to the higher vibrations, where divine presence and leadings can be discerned. This is where creative and spontaneous insight occurs, even flashes of genius, along with our sense of connection and fulfillment. Less energy and mental activity is then spent on unproductive repetitive thoughts. Divine presence experienced with our whole selves allow it to make the adjustments we are ready for, over whatever time is required, to spiritually mature.
Daily living with spiritual conviction leads to consistency of conscious connection to a state of God’s presence. Passing emotions and thoughts have less and less ability to disrupt the background of super-consciousness (consciousness of consciousness), of peace and goodness, light and beauty, truth and joy.
The purity and strength in this peace and stability persist and renew moment to moment, as it is a living presence in the ‘now’. True divine presence never gets boring or stale, it has a refreshing renewal effect that contains joy with a deep inner smile, akin to the purity and openness of a child. Because it is tapping into an infinite transcendental source, we receive an endless stream of the “living waters” (John 4:14).
We can sometimes see and feel an amazing old wisdom and presence reflected in a child’s eyes. Finding that presence within brings us to a place where we don’t need to arm ourselves with a manufactured ego and self-image but rather find authenticity in facing life openly as we are, putting trust in the moment and life, in the Spirit that moves and fills us. We know we are loved and supported, and as long as we are true and connected, know that all will be okay.
An open and receptive adult mind and heart has greater affinity and rapport with children as well as people in general. When centered in the divine, we are less self-preoccupied in internal dialog and increasingly released from cycles of emotional tiredness and reaction. Therefore, we feel much more in the present moment. The thought process is more spontaneous and adapted to the needs of the moment rather than conditioned by the endless narrative of our own passing opinions, programmed associations stimulated in the brain, and past-programmed repetitive reactions to ongoing reality.
When we accept and embrace this life and world as unconditionally bestowed gifts, along with all their potential ideals and possibilities, then it follows that we embrace every moment. Valuing and appreciating these gifts will enrich our experience of them. A human child is conceived by the will and actions of its human parents co-creating with the divine source of the spark of life and consciousness. Likewise, when we are born of the Spirit of life and pure consciousness, we are progressively glimpsing ourselves as conceived by the Spirit and sharing its nature. Like the human child, it is for us as spiritual beings to be of the love of our divine parent and let our sense of the divine reveal our own divine nature. In personalizing and identifying with our divine source and parent, we become a reflection of our own experience of the beloved divine Father/Mother who is our living source and destiny.
At Easter time, it is the resurrection I feel holds the most powerful message for us and is the purpose of the suffering on the cross. As a child receives and reflects the love of the parent in full trust, so can we open our minds and hearts to receive and reflect the love of our divine source and nature. This is the resurrection within that frees us from suffering and gives it purpose.
Disappointments and challenges are a part of life and dealing with them positively becomes a key part of success and maturity as we get older. Many of them we create for ourselves through our decisions, our actions and their consequences. By ‘we’, I mean each of us personally as well as ‘we’ as a community or society. The relativity of life and the suffering we experience ourselves, that fills the pages of humanity’s history or we see happening in so many places around the world in current times, can make us question the justice and nature of the reality we live in.
It is only with a big picture view, while paying attention to the most profound sense of life that insight has provided us, can we appreciate that for evolving creatures of free will, free intelligence, to exist in this vast miraculous universe, there is a sense of existential purpose behind the existence of evolving life and consciousness. It is in these modern times of exponential growth in our understanding of life and reality, that we can also appreciate with that knowledge and understanding comes a greater sense of the nature of things, including ourselves and the inherent purpose to reality. Love, friendship and the beauty of nature – these things alone do so much to make life worth living.
These current times are showing us more and more clearly that we have a responsibility with real consequences as caretakers on a planet that is becoming smaller and more impacted by the things we as a civilisation. Do we learn to co-operate and do things sustainably for future generations and gain the immense gifts a global awakening promises? Or do we fall short of responding to the signs of pending crisis and the calling of evolving ideals and potential while exploitation and degeneration of each other and our world brings us to global conditions unable to sustain us further?
I have faith in the triumph of our deeper natures over the temporary and more limited conditioned mind on a personal and global scale. Crisis has always been the activator for leaps and bounds in evolution in biology, culture and intellect – and these times are no exception. In terms of our history and current challenges, themes of the battle between true righteousness versus ignorance and intentional evil is layered throughout our evolution into our psyche and continually reflected in our evolving philosophies, arts, and now all forms of modern media. It is a battle fought on subtle and gross levels, on brutal and sophisticated levels, on personal and collective levels.
However, spiritual awakening and principles remind us that none of the drama and adventure changes the divine essence from which reality arises and from which life and consciousness itself arises. In our core being is a living force we all share that is life, therefore life-affirming as are the values of goodness, beauty and truth. The process of our evolution and lives at stake is a powerful one of adventure for the spiritual warrior. As survival becomes more sorted in modern times of technology, the quality of life and consciousness will become the major factor in how well we move forward and shape our future.
A book with much controversy is the Urantia Book. Whatever readers views are of the details, what I love most about it is the sophisticated way it discusses spirit and deity and the picture it offers about how immense and grand the universes and the plan of life could be. In discussing the primacy of a unifying and central cause of all reality in this vast universe, for us on our fragile planet of many uncertainties, certain factors described as “inevitabilities of evolutionary creature life” are mentioned (Paper 3, section 5). These are listed as points of consideration in reconciling the challenges and seeming disasters of life with the concept of a universally sovereign divine and just intelligence and plan:
“1. Is courage — strength of character — desirable? Then must man be reared in an environment which necessitates grappling with hardships and reacting to disappointments.
2. Is altruism — service of one’s fellows — desirable? Then must life experience provide for encountering situations of social inequality.
3. Is hope — the grandeur of trust — desirable? Then human existence must constantly be confronted with insecurities and recurrent uncertainties.
4. Is faith — the supreme assertion of human thought — desirable? Then must the mind of man find itself in that troublesome predicament where it ever knows less than it can believe.
5. Is the love of truth and the willingness to go wherever it leads, desirable? Then must man grow up in a world where error is present and falsehood always possible.
6. Is idealism — the approaching concept of the divine — desirable? Then must man struggle in an environment of relative goodness and beauty, surroundings stimulative of the irrepressible reach for better things.
7. Is loyalty — devotion to highest duty — desirable? Then must man carry on amid the possibilities of betrayal and desertion. The valour of devotion to duty consists in the implied danger of default.
8. Is unselfishness — the spirit of self-forgetfulness — desirable? Then must mortal man live face to face with the incessant clamouring of an inescapable self for recognition and honor. Man could not dynamically choose the divine life if there were no self-life to forsake. Man could never lay saving hold on righteousness if there were no potential evil to exalt and differentiate the good by contrast.
Is pleasure — the satisfaction of happiness — desirable? Then must man live in a world where the alternative of pain and the likelihood of suffering are ever-present experiential possibilities.
Throughout the universe, every unit is regarded as a part of the whole. Survival of the part is dependent on co-operation with the plan and purpose of the whole, the wholehearted desire and perfect willingness to do the Father’s divine will. The only evolutionary world without error (the possibility of unwise judgment) would be a world without free intelligence. In the Havona universe there are a billion perfect worlds with their perfect inhabitants, but evolving man must be fallible if he is to be free. Free and inexperienced intelligence cannot possibly at first be uniformly wise. The possibility of mistaken judgment (evil) becomes sin only when the human will consciously endorses and knowingly embraces a deliberate immoral judgment.”
The spiritual nature in us provides a sense of altruism and universal love, not the primitive creature mind from our primitive past. From deep in our higher consciousness comes the compassion, empathy and mercy for one another’s suffering. At the same time, becoming conscious and fully present in our existential and living loving awareness, awakens us to the temporary nature of material existence and any suffering associated with it. In contrast, yet all embracing of this relative existence created for a great universal purpose, is the timeless nature of the essence of us that remains untainted and indestructible throughout life’s trials. Life experience offers to shape and develop those who would engage the best they can call on in themselves in goodwill. Through faith and our psychology we must draw on the power within to remain connected and intact to participate in this journey of life. Part of the point of the journey is to reside fully in awakened loving consciousness and thrive as we learn to embody, express and flow the unity and uniqueness of our essence into the life we live.
In compassion for ourselves and each other, it is good to remember that there are no mistakes in the greater scheme of things. All of time and the resources of the universe gather to allow us this planetary life for our greatest purpose and destiny to unfold as it is. It is up to each of us with what we are and have, and where we find ourselves, as to what it is to mean and how it is to count. Gradually, we must come to know and trust in a living and friendly universe, consciously identifying more fully in the the spiritual nature within in order to transition to the next stage of our evolution. Our technology and pursuits must better flow sustainable universal laws and we better understand the consequences of our collective and personal actions. It is then our intellects and physicality can truly blossom as reflections of our true and emerging inner nature. From this turning point, more and more people will consciously recognise the subtle light and love that beckons from within consciousness itself. The true agent of change is emerging from within us. Quality of consciousness, serving our personal and collective greater purpose and greater good more fully, are becoming primary factors that connect us to what is real and authentic.