I’m a Taowinist, a cross between a Taoist and a Darwinist. I remember the night I realized it. I was reading Alan Watts on Taoism and this sentence jumped out at me: The lifestyle of one who follows the Tao must be thought of as a form of intelligence. That is, knowing the patterns, structures, and trends […]
Recently on the Internet I discovered a few lists of the signs of spiritual awakening (sometimes also referred to as symptoms of spiritual awakening). The lists I’ve come across so far are vague and unclear (for example: headaches and body aches, feeling as though you’re on an emotional roller coaster “for no reason,” changes in energy levels, sleep patterns, jobs, and/or relationships, gaining or losing weight, even an itchy scalp–all apparently for no reason), so I decided to come up with my own list of what I understand to be the most essential and relevant signs and symptoms of spiritual awakening.
The following is a list of nine things I experienced during the process of awakening:
1. Synchronicities that are meaningful to you. (These help point you in the right direction or help spark an important new insight.)
2. Intensely painful life “changes” that you can’t explain or know how you’ll get through. (This assures that you look within for the answers. Note that “change” is often a polite way of saying “loss.”)
3. All-consuming inner contemplation followed by possible reassessment of beliefs, especially at 3 or 4 in the morning (often triggered by happenings or things you can’t explain using your current belief systems or knowledge).
4. Receiving “secret messages” from people who aren’t aware they’re relaying special messages to you. (If they had known, they may have hesitated, and sometimes spirit just doesn’t want to take chances.)
5. Having the same thing (especially something that’s unusual) happen to you two or three times in a relatively short period of time, like, say, 24 hours. (This assures that you actually notice what your higher self wants you to notice.)
6. Waking up in the middle of the night feeling intense confusion. (This means your beliefs are being re-evaluated. Before you become clear and solid in your new awakened state, you will no doubt find yourself mucking through a period of deep confusion.)
7. Favorable synchronicities that happen regularly. (You can expect these to occur after you regularly follow through with your inner guidance.)
8. Intense, vivid dreams that seem to point you in a certain direction. (The further along in the process you are, the clearer your dreams will be and the more your dreams will help guide you in your daily life. The dreams will be in metaphor form, often in metaphors that make sense to you.)
9. Finding yourself laughing more often. (Sometimes you will wake up in the middle of the night, think something profound that’s also funny, and then laugh your head off. This is not a joke. Your higher self is playful and wants you to have fun while you’re awakening.)
Experiencing any (or all) of these signs means that spirit (your higher self) is trying to get your attention! Also, spirit is playful and wants you to enjoy the awakening process (it’s not all about pain and drama but about enlightenment, about becoming light-hearted). You will also be amazed at the creativity of your higher self.
Remember, the fast track to spiritual awakening does not depend on how much fame or fortune you’re born with (or currently possess), or on how many advanced degrees you have, but on how much you’re willing to (temporarily) forgo your comfort zones for the noble purpose of personal and spiritual growth. This is important because it is your individual growth that is of utmost importance at this crossroad in humanity’s collective evolution. Remember also that the signs and symptoms you experience aren’t just signs or symptoms; they are designed to assist you in the spiritual awakening process.
Obstacles in meditation mentioned by Patanjali:
Meditation is not hard!we are treating it as a difficult process because ,we are constantly listening to other people but never tried it seriously .It is our imposition of what meditation must be that makes it seems so. Allow me to explain:
As humans, we are vexed with stress. We hear about the meditation and its promise of peace and we are naturally drawn to meditate.
We sit down on the couch and notice that the mind is a rumbling chattering of clashing thoughts, an expression of the stress we are trying to escape.
We notice that the rumbling goes on and on, and we want to quiet it down.
You see, meditation is the noticing, not the quieting.
It is just like a parent telling their kids that they are making too much noise. The kids cannot notice because they are being the noise. The adult can notice because they have enough calm spaciousness to tell. If you can tell that your mind is a rambling rumble of thoughts, you are being the parent…you are noticing…you are meditating successfully!before knowing obstacles I thing you must read about 10-things-to-know-before-you-start-meditating
But its time to face the truth, the reality is different.We will be having too much troubles here is first shit:
1) Wandering of the mind:
You might have observed that whenever we start meditation ,our mind keeps wandering no matter how good you are at meditation.One may find it very hard to meditate because the mind keeps wondering.This restless wandering of mind is called Vikshepa in Sanskrit. This obstacle appears when the mind has a preponderance of Rajas(know more about Rajas) nature of mind.
After a while the novelty of practicing meditation starts wearing off, and our minds become reluctant to meditate.such reluctance is caused by the natural tendency of the mind to get bored doing same thing over and over again.
we must exercise will power to overcome this obstacle. Whether our mind like it or not, we should forcibly persuade our minds to continue doing meditation.
3) Unwelcome thoughts start arising in the mind:
While meditation we often find it hard to concentrate on our breath (our object of meditation) because of unwanted thoughts arising in our minds.
For instance, if one had an unpleasant argument with another person, the thought of that unpleasant experience might arise in the mind and disturb the practice of meditation.such thoughts can be very frustrating.
This is the most common obstacle we always face, we often fall asleep while trying to meditate. This sleep, called Laya in Sanskrit.
Meditation is an intense concentration, and if the mind is not under control, it is hard to concentrate.
An uncontrolled mind naturally resents being controlled, and when one forcibly tries to concentrate the mind, one falls asleep.This is Laya. Laya is a very restful and refreshing sleep, and those not experienced in meditation may consider it some kind of spiritual experience. It is caused by a temporary preponderance of Tamas guna.
5) Reluctance to practice meditation:
During meditation we may suffer from a feeling of intense reluctance to practice meditation. At that time meditation appears to be extremely dry andtasteless. This obstacle is caused by past thoughts lying latent in the mind.
No thought is ever lost. All past thoughts are stored in the subconscious level of the mind. They lie there like a seed. Just as every seed retains the characteristics of its plant ,so also these seed thoughts retain the characteristics of their full-blown conscious state.
An ordinary person’s body and mind are closely intertwined. If anything happens to the body, the mind becomes affected. When the body becomes diseased, the mind also gets affected.
A disturbed mind can’t meditate. Most diseases can be prevented by a healthy life style- a life of moderation.Don’t meditate during illness.
7) Attachment :
Attachment to objects of sense pleasure is a great obstacle in meditation. Such attachment causes the tendency not to give up sense pleasure. We have to wean ourselves away from sensual pleasures to overcome this obstacle.
According to Patanjali , meditation on the pure heart of a holy person who has gone beyond attachment to the sense objects can help us to overcome this obstacle, because what we think with great concentration,that we eventually become.
8) clinging to life:
Instinctive and obsessive clinging to the body- the unrealistic yearning to perpetuate the existence of the body for long time,if not forever- is calledAbhinivesha. Such clinging is a great obstacle to experiencing the pure- perfect and ever-blissful nature of the soul or Divine self.We should realize the inevitability of death and be mentally prepared for it. We should meditate on it.
9) Irregular breathing:
When mind lacks control and concentration, it can be swayed by fluctuating moods, causing irregular breathing. The practice of rhythmic or regulated breathing under guidance of a component teacher enables us to overcome irregular breathing.
Despair is caused by disappointment at not having one’s expectations fulfilled. One should minimize expectations to prevent despair.
So guys these are the fundamental obstacles mentioned by Patanjali in our daily practices , have you encountered any strange obstacle please comment and let us know.
Sadhguru looks at the importance of the process of karma yoga, its role on the spiritual path, and how one can go about using action as a means to spiritual growth.
Question: What is the role of karma yoga in sadhana?
Sadhguru: It is not needed really. Yoga does not need karma. Yoga is to go beyond karma. Why karma yoga has been brought in is to bring about balance in a person. Whatever we call as our awareness, our love, our experience or our glimpses of our reality, if it has to be sustained, the path of non-doing is a very wonderful path, but it is very slippery. Extremely slippery. It is the simplest and the most difficult. It is not difficult but it is not at all easy, because it is simple – right now, here and now. But that here and now – how to get it? Whatever you do, it is not in your hands. It is never going to be in your hands. But your hands need something right now, you need to hold something. That is why the crutch of karma yoga.
Without the crutch, most people will not be able to walk. There are a few beings who can walk without the crutch from the first moment. They are very rare beings. Everyone else needs the crutch to manage your awareness. Without this, most people are incapable of remaining aware. So karma yoga is brought into your life to properly temper sadhana with the right kind of action.
Activity – liberating or entangling
Karma yoga has unfortunately been described as service, but it is not so. It is a way of undoing the impressions that you have gathered. If you can joyfully involve yourself in any activity, that is karma yoga. If you do it with great effort, only karma will come, noyoga will happen!
Generally it is through various activities that you perform that you get entangled and enmeshed with life. But if the activity becomes a process of liberation instead of entanglement, it is karma yoga. Whether it is work or walking on the street or talking to someone, the nature of the activity is not important. When you do something only because it is needed, where it does not mean anything to you but you are capable of involving yourself as if that is your life, it transforms you and action becomes liberating.
When we were building the Dhyanalinga, people thought, “This is it! He wants this to happen. Let us do it! Once this is done, we can relax.” They worked like their life depended on it. They went from house to house, raising funds and bringing the necessary support and made it happen. When it was done, before they said “Ooff…” I announced ten different projects. I will always keep it on because people need that kind of action. They need to do what is needed without worrying about their fulfillment and their likes and dislikes. Anyway we are doing something for our growth, so let us do something that is useful to everyone. Let us do sensible action.
There have been many masters who created action like this. When Gurdjieff started his centers in Europe, the European elite went to him. In the morning he would give them a shovel and a pickaxe and tell them, “Dig trenches.” In the hot sun, they stood and dug and dug. These were not people who are used to labor of any kind. By the time they had worked a few hours, they had blisters all over. He stood there and drove them on. By late evening, they were hungry but they worked and worked, digging trenches. Then he would look at the watch, “Okay, it is seven o‘clock. Looks like dinner time. All of you can close the trenches again before we go for dinner.” A whole day’s work!
Doing something that does not mean anything to you with total involvement is what breaks the karmic structure. Karma means action. If action has to become yoga, action should be liberating. If your activity has become a process of binding yourself, it is karma. So the question is not about how much activity you do. How you are performing the activity is what makes the difference. If you are crawling through your work, that is karma. If you are dancing through your work, that is karma yoga.
Karma is the Sanskrit word for action. It is equivalent to Newton’s law of ‘every action must have a reaction’. When we think, speak or act we initiate a force that will react accordingly.
This returning force maybe modified, changed or suspended, but most people will not be able eradicate it.
This law of cause and effect is not a punishment, but is wholly for the sake of education or learning.
A person may not escape the consequences of his actions, but he will suffer only if he himself has made the conditions ripe for his suffering. Ignorance of the law is no excuse whether the laws are man-made or universal.
To stop being afraid and to start being empowered in the worlds of karma and reincarnation, here is what you need to know about karmic laws.
1. THE GREAT LAW
– “As you sow, so shall you reap”. This is also known as the “Law of Cause and Effect”.
– Whatever we put out in the Universe is what comes back to us.
– If what we want is Happiness, Peace, Love, Friendship… Then we should BE Happy, Peaceful, Loving and a True Friend.
2. THE LAW OF CREATION
– Life doesn’t just HAPPEN, it requires our participation.
– We are one with the Universe, both inside and out. – Whatever surrounds us gives us clues to our inner state.
– BE yourself, and surround yourself with what you want to have present in your Life.
3. THE LAW OF HUMILITY
– What you refuse to accept, will continue for you.
– If what we see is an enemy, or someone with a character trait that we find to be negative, then we ourselves are not focused on a higher level of existence.
4. THE LAW OF GROWTH
– “Wherever you go, there you are”.
– For us to GROW in Spirit, it is we who must change – and not the people, places or things around us.
– The only given we have in our lives is OURSELVES and that is the only factor we have control over.
– When we change who and what we are within our heart our life follows suit and changes too. THE
5. LAW OF RESPONSIBILITY
– Whenever there is something wrong in my life, there is something wrong in me.
– We mirror what surrounds us – and what surrounds us mirrors us; this is a Universal Truth.
– We must take responsibility what is in our life.
6. THE LAW OF CONNECTION
– Even if something we do seems inconsequential, it is very important that it gets done as everything in the Universe is connected.
– Each step leads to the next step, and so forth and so on.
– Someone must do the initial work to get a job done.
– Neither the first step nor the last are of greater significance,
– As they were both needed to accomplish the task.
– Past-Present-Future they are all connected…
7. THE LAW OF FOCUS
– You can not think of two things at the same time.
– When our focus is on Spiritual Values, it is impossible for us to have lower thoughts such as greed or anger.
8. THE LAW OF GIVING AND HOSPITALITY
– If you believe something to be true,then sometime in your life you will be called upon to demonstrate that particular truth.
– Here is where we put what we CLAIM that we have learned, into actual PRACTICE.
9. THE LAW OF HERE AND NOW
– Looking backward to examine what was, prevents us from being totally in the HERE AND NOW.
– Old thoughts, old patterns of behavior, old dreams…
– Prevent us from having new ones.
10. THE LAW OF CHANGE
– History repeats itself until we learn the lessons that we need to change our path.
11. THE LAW OF PATIENCE AND REWARD
– All Rewards require initial toil.
– Rewards of lasting value require patient and persistent toil.
– True joy follows doing what we’re suppose to be doing, and waiting for the reward to come in on its own time.
12. THE LAW OF SIGNIFICANCE AND INSPIRATION
– You get back from something whatever YOU have put into it.
– The true value of something is a direct result of the energy and intent that is put into it.
– Every personal contribution is also a contribution to the Whole.
– Lack luster contributions have no impact on the Whole, nor do they work to diminish it.
– Loving contributions bring life to, and inspire, the Whole.
Karma: that word that gets thrown around a lot.
People talk about “good” karma versus “bad” karma, or “your” karma versus “mine.”
But despite the term’s popularity, it seems like everybody has a different idea about what it actually means. If karma is truly one of the Buddha’s most important teachings, as he himself repeatedly emphasized, then to follow in his footsteps, we need to be clear about its definition.
The Problems with “Agricultural” Karma
Probably one of the most popular misunderstandings about Buddhist Karma is the idea that everything that happens to us is our karma. If we win the lottery or have an attractive partner, it’s because we performed good deeds in the past—we have “good” karma. If we get hit by a truck or our partner cheats on us, it’s because we misbehaved and have “bad” karma. And, of course, what we do now will determine our future results. Let’s just call this the agricultural view of karma: we reap what we sow.
So, what’s wrong with this idea? Well, whether we’re Buddhist or not, it creates lots of intellectual problems.
The first is that believing we reap what we sow simply seems to contradict a great deal of our experience. We act with kindness, maybe dropping a few coins into a homeless man’s can, only to have him call us a cheap yuppie. Or our chronically underperforming co-worker who spends most of the time surfing Facebook and pilfering office supplies gets a promotion.
In other words, the wicked very often seem to prosper, even thrive, while the good seem to get a goodly portion of crap.
Why, for example, do innocent infants die? They’ve barely had enough time to learn how to digest food properly, let alone perform some wicked deed. (Of course, we need to leave Stewie from Family Guy out of this equation, as well as the idea of the infant proposed by famous psychoanalyst Melanie Klein, who viewed it as a viscous and greedy succubus bent on completely draining the mother of her vital energy.)
I’m sure you’ve already come up with the answer: we must be dealing with more than one lifetime. In fact, the claim is that we have an infinite number of lives extending into the past. With this explanation, all the rewards and atrocities of life fit together like a skillful game of Tetris. We have an account for why infants die, or why we can be completely loving and faithful to our partner, only to end up alone; it’s just our karmic comeuppance from cheating in a previous life.
Sure, we still might feel unhappy because our partner is now dating a princess from Bhutan, but at least we can mourn with a sense of ease, knowing there is some order to events in the universe, and that these personal painful events are just the fruits of old, bad karma. We can also rest easy because in the future, we’ll also reap the rewards of our fidelity—it just might take time.
If we stop here, then all is well.
However, if we push a little further beyond this logical seal, then we confront what we call “the administrative nightmare.” How can all those good and bad deeds possibly be kept track of? And not just in one lifetime, but across infinite lifetimes? What conceivable cosmic ledger could account for all those transactions? It seems like an administrative impossibility to coordinate that vast amount of information and organize events so everything unfolds correctly, and justice gets served to the right people, at the right time, in just the right way. The organizational details are so complex that it leads people to say that karma is some infinitely subtle, ineffable cosmic order, inaccessible to even the most sophisticated minds.
An even bigger problem is that, with infinite lifetimes, absolutely everyone would have enough karma for nearly anything to happen to them. Put it this way: we all have everything coming.
The irony is that this view of karma ends up undermining its original purpose of explaining an individual’s unique, personal history.
Even if we manage to somehow dismiss these logical problems, we’re left with one that chafes at the heart of Buddhism. This view of karma presupposes an abiding self that’s responsible for these events, whereas the Buddha’s central message was the radical proposal that there is no self (anattā). The agricultural view of karma rests on there being some sort of enduring “you” (call it a self, soul, mind-stream, or whatever) who is responsible for what “you” did in the past, and a “you” who will benefit or be cursed in the future.
This view of karma contributes to acting in self-cherishing, ego-reinforcing ways. In other words, it supports the very self-illusion that the Buddha considered the root of our suffering.
Karma as Intention
What did the Buddha really mean by karma? The answer is simple: intention.
He said, “Intention, I tell you, is karma. Intending, one does karma by way of body, speech, and intellect.” Defining karma in this way, the Buddha departed radically from all previous thinking about karma.
In the traditional Brahmanical culture of India, karma generally referred to action. Do good deeds, and the universe will reward you in turn. But by redefining karma as the intentions behind one’s actions, the Buddha was pointing to a deeper truth: the kinds of intentions we habitually entertain—whether they’re generous and loving, or selfish and aversive—will determine the kind of mental space we inhabit. We can’t fully control whether our dog runs away, or whether our partner cheats on us, but we do have a say in what kind of person meets those events.
Karma as intention was the central message the Buddha emphasized over and over. The more any acts of body, speech, or mind are motivated by poisonous intentions such as greed and hatred, the more toxic we become, and the more we suffer, no matter what happens to us externally. The reverse is also true: intentions of compassion and wisdom shape us into beings with greater patience, who are less susceptible to suffering, no matter what happens to us externally.
To put it succinctly: Buddhist karma is not about what happens to you, but who it happens to.
Yes, the Wicked can Prosper
The Buddha’s focus on intention rather than actions and external circumstances allows us to fully acknowledge that the wicked can prosper, and that selfish behavior can bring a person great fortune and power. However, the mental state of such a person surrounded by luxury is a whole different matter. This also means that acting with compassionate intentions won’t magically prevent us from confronting the slings and arrows of life’s misfortune.
But acting out of wholesome intentions opens up the possibility of becoming a person who encounters these challenges with less grumpiness and greater ease. We have exemplars of this possibility in our great spiritual luminaries, such as the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hahn. The fruit of their karma was not the atrocities they were victims of, but the equanimity and active compassion they show in the face of such extreme oppression and violence.
So too, getting sick is not the result of one’s bad karma. People grow old, experience the pain of illness, and eventually die. The Buddha never said you could plant the right karmic seeds to avoid any of these. They’re simply not optional.
However, whether or not we suffer when confronted by them is entirely up to us.
Not Everything is your Karma
In a sense, it’s true that karma means we reap what we sow. The only difference is that we’re sowing in the furrows of the mind, and less so in actual fields in the physical world.
That’s not to say our actions don’t have consequences. If we go around smiling at people, we’ll likely be smiled at in return. If we go around slapping people, we’re sure to get slapped. Yet, the ultimate outcome of our behavior is somewhat unpredictable. We could smile at a stranger, only to have them beat us up in return.
This unpredictability happens because there are other levels of causality working in the universe.
Not everything is our karma.
The Buddha actually taught about these other levels of causality quite explicitly in what are called the five Niyāmas. It’s worth going through them briefly. Here, we give them a modern twist.
The first level of causality is called the Utu Niyāma, or the level of physics and chemistry.
The second level is known as Bīja Niyāma, or biological causality. This new level is necessary because living organisms are more complex than just their physical and chemical constituents.
Continuing up the ladder of emergent complexity, we see that some living organisms have nervous systems and minds, which can’t be fully understood by just looking at the previous two levels of Utu and Bija Niyāma. Therefore, the Buddha talked about the Citta Niyāma, or psychological causality.
Now, some minds have a more hard-wired relationship with the previous levels. Take a lizard, for example. It behaves fairly predictably, based on tight wiring between chemical signals and genetic codes. We will never train a lizard to fetch a newspaper. Other minds, such as those of dogs and horses, have greater flexibility. Yet, teaching a dog to fetch the newspaper depends on an outside stimulus—specifically, our persistent efforts. The behavior doesn’t come entirely from inside the dog’s mind. And in fact, there may be only one animal on this planet with “self-forming” minds: humans. For us, we have to identify another level of causality: karmic or intentional causality, known as the Kamma Niyāma.
Kamma Niyāma opens a space for reflexivity, self-organization, and changing ingrained habits of body, speech, and mind. The preciousness of human life rests in this potential. Karmic causality, in other words, is a whole new level of causality in the universe, allowing us the chance to awaken to the highest level, called Dhamma Niyāma, or Ultimate Reality.
Dhamma Niyāma describes the absolute, indivisible reality, the universe in its entirety. All divisions from these heights are products of a mind struggling to grasp the ultimate. We build conceptual models to try to understand this level, and some models are certainly better than others. If that weren’t the case, the Buddha wouldn’t have bothered teaching. But at this level, all models are equally empty.
To say that everything is our karma is to usurp this vast spectrum of causality into a singular, self-centered mind.
When we realize the complexity we’re dealing with, we no longer see events as a result of karma, but rather as the product of certain physical causes and conditions. We also no longer fall prey to magical thinking, believing, for example, that by giving away money and being nice, we will get money in return and be showered with niceness.
Instead, we realize that when we replace hatred with compassion, or greed with generosity, those intentions will shape the type of being we become, whether rich or poor.
Authors: Culadasa and Matthew Immergut
Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: Hartwig HKD/Flickr
Source: Elephant Journal
Virtuous actions consist of abandoning the ten negative actions and, on the other hand, of practicing their opposite.
The ten virtuous actions of Tibetan Buddhism are:
1. By avoiding killing and harming the others, and by protecting the life of other beings we will gain a long life and a good health.
2. By avoiding stealing and by practicing generosity, by making sacrifices, we will have wealth, no thieves and enemies, and a good physique.
3. By maintaining a pure sexual conduct, we will have a good partner and only a few enemies.
4.By avoiding lying and by talking sincerely and directly, we will be appreciated and respected by everyone.
5. By avoiding slandering and by making peace between the people that hate each other, we will have disciples and respectful employees.
6. By avoiding painful words and by talking calmly, amiably and gently, we will hear nice things.
7. By avoiding talking uselessly and by talking about important things, our words will be listened.
8. By avoiding greed and by cultivating an open and generous mentality, our wishes will come true.
9. By avoiding having bad thoughts and by cultivating love and goodwill, we won’t be afraid and we won’t suffer any harm.
10. By avoiding being involved in wrong beliefs, by cultivating the real point of view and by practicing it, we will have a correct and intelligent vision of reality.
As you sit quietly and immerse yourself in the peace and stillness of your own centred being, you will gradually begin to experience yourself in an undistorted manner. You will sink below or rise above your usual sense of self and instead come upon the undistorted, clear conscious experience of Being–your Being. You will experience yourself as the specific conscious expression of an infinitely expressive Consciousness, Mind, Presence, or God. You will thereby intuitively know that you are more than physical and human, that your spiritual existence is guaranteed, immortal, eternal, and true, and that your Original Nature is absolutely good. You’ll know that you are creative energy, Spirit, a unique expression of God’s infinite Self-Expression, and that at your core is Goodness. This is what you’ll experience because, in some mysterious and uncompromising way, this is what we are. We are all made of God Substance, Consciousness, Love.
As you sit in stillness, experiencing the energetic feeling-tone of “you” (Level One), you will invariably begin to feel exquisite inside. You will begin to feel at ease, deeply relaxed, natural, perhaps for the first time in a long time. And as you relax, and as you feel the energy you are made of, you will begin to feel loved. You’ll find yourself feeling this way, inevitably, eventually, as you relax inside and allow yourself to become increasingly in touch with the loving goodness that is already in you–and it is already in you because that is how you were built. Love is the all-constituting substance of Being. It’s what you are made of. And you did not create yourself.
When you sit quietly and let go of every false self-definition, of everything you think you know about who you are, and then be what’s left, what remains is the untarnished presence of who you’ve always been and still really are. This untarnished presence manifests–shines–as pure, clear awareness and unconditional love. When you experience your essence, you will feel this natural lovingness within yourself without having to do anything!
When you feel the loving goodness inside yourself as yourself–as who or what you really are, you will acquire new self-appreciation. You will realize there is no basis for being self-critical or self-condemnatory, or for harbouring guilt for some known or unknown transgression in the past, and that you have done this until now simply because you have accepted as true certain erroneous ideas about yourself. It’s obvious to you now that when you wipe the slate clean and take a look at yourself for yourself, when you experience yourself as you actually are, you encounter a very different you from the “you” you thought you were. It now makes sense to disbelieve what was never true and embrace the new self-appraisal. You are You; God’s specific Self-Expression.
You will then no longer think of yourself in self-deprecatory terms, and you will, as a natural consequence, loosen and release every remaining tendril of self-condemnation and self-hate. It will be reasonable to do this, though not always easy. It will no longer feel sane, however, or true or realistic, to be self-critical. And since your behaviour has always been a by-product of the way you feel about yourself, you’ll notice in yourself an effortless, behavioural change occurring in response to this new self-evaluation. You will become more loving, more understanding, and more truly compassionate naturally. This is a vital stage of personal maturation and is of utmost social value.
Difficulty arises, however, because we are afraid to let go of what we think we know and be what’s left. We’re reluctant to ease up on the tight sense of control we exercise over ourselves because life is hard enough as it is. We don’t want it any harder. “If I stop controlling myself to be one way rather than another, who knows what might happen! If I let go of every pretense and instead be genuine, things might get worse. Who knows what devil might be lurking in my depths?” But it’s also beginning to dawn on us that we have blindly believed false and inaccurate concepts about who we are, and have been ignorant of our true nature until now simply because we have been taught otherwise, and that maybe we’re different from how we’ve thought ourselves to be, and that it’s time, now, to experience what’s really true once and for all, come what may.
It requires tremendous courage willingly to release all of our firmly held beliefs and face ourselves directly. Courage is required because we don’t know what we’ll find. We’re afraid our worst suspicions will be confirmed, or that we’ll uncover aspects of ourselves we’d rather keep concealed. And we may! But underneath it all, or surrounding it all, embracing it all is the creative energy of Consciousness, Identity, or Presence that we really are grounded in love and goodness.
But at first we don’t know this. We don’t know that goodness is at our core. We don’t know that happiness is the natural state, that this is what we’ll find. So we feel trepidation. We’re suspicious. And we’re likely to think all this talk about love and goodness is nothing but, at best, pure fantasy. But, in actuality we’re not absolutely certain this isn’t what we’ll find. We don’t really know whether it’s true or false. We don’t really know whether goodness or evil is at our core, or if we are some blurry mixture of the two.
Therefore, we need to courageously desire to know the truth, and then we need to go within and experience ourselves directly. Therefore, want to know the truth, once and for all. Want to knowyour truth. Let go of everything you think you know about who you are, suspend every idea you now have about what’s true and what isn’t, and open your mind to what’s actually so–to the living truth of you.
This is the most logical, important, life-affirming thing you can do. You’ll be glad you risked experiencing yourself with clarity. But it can be frightening, unnerving, unsettling. However, if loving goodness is both at your core and is the surrounding all-pervading presence of Consciousness that you are–and this is something you will only ever know by experiencing it within yourself as your deepest truth–then the more clearly you experience yourself as you really are, free of any overlay of conditioning and in spite of your fears, the more love you will experience. If love is what’s in there, then love is what you’ll find when you go within. But you won’t be convinced of this until you go within. Therefore, take the chance. It’s worth the risk. And it’s inevitable. You’re bound to succeed. You will no longer be so afraid to know what else is true about you, which will further encourage you to relax deeper, trust more fully, and genuinely be yourself without inhibition or pretense.
You will discover and know that love, goodness, and creative consciousness are what constitute your being because you will experience these attributes within and as yourself. You will simultaneously realize that you did not put them there because you did not create yourself. You were created by the creative God Force. The inherent creative goodness within you is not a mental construct that you attempt to adopt, not pretense or self-deception, not something you conjure up. It’s something you discover. You go in empty-handed, not knowing, and this is what you find. And when you allow yourself wholeheartedly to experience the core feeling-tone of the love that you are, you will spontaneously feel happy. You won’t have to lift a finger or change yourself in any way. It’s the way you were built. It’s what you are. The emotional feeling-tone of love and goodness is happiness.
There will be an overwhelming sense of authenticity about this experience. You will have no doubt about its truth. You will be convinced. You will also realize that it is not egocentric to be appreciative of the creative energy that you are. Nor is it arrogant, presumptuous, or conceited to feel good inside about yourself, or to be happy for no apparent reason, or to acknowledge that you are a perfect creation of the God Force.
You understand instead that it is egotistical and arrogant to believe anything else, for you are not a self-created separate energy. It is not any more narcissistic (in the pejorative sense) to experience self-love or self-appreciation than it is to appreciate a lovely flower or a spectacular sunset. The wonder and beauty of you is not your doing, and appreciation will be the natural response of anyone who realizes this truth. What a relief! You are not who you thought you were. You are the infinite Oneness in specific Self-Expression. How wonderful to be affiliated with the great God Force.
In order to experience the natural joy of Being–in order to be happy!–we do not have to fulfill any conditions that are contrary to our original nature of loving goodness. We especially do not have to be other than the way we are. In fact, it has been the lifelong attempt to be some way other than our natural being that has made us frustrated and unhappy. You cannot be anything other than you. Therefore, let yourself be yourself–be you!–and live your truth without inhibition. Discover the truth by letting go of old concepts. Make space for the new. Release every idea you have about who you are, and then be the you that remains. Being you is not a substitute for what you can never be. It is the gracious acceptance of what you have always wanted and have never been without.
Think of it like this: The farther you are from knowing your truth and experiencing the love you are, the unhappier you will be; the closer you are, the happier. Keep it simple. It works like this because goodness is at your core and because happiness is the feeling-tone of your original nature. But, really, whether you are “close” or “far,” you are always only a thought away. Your original nature is not, in fact, far away from you. It is not elusive. It is not someplace other than where you are, nor is it something you evolve or transform into or earn. It’s right here, yours, already.
Become your already-existing naturally happy truth by spending quiet time alone every day to meditate. At least once a day sit down for a few minutes by yourself, stop moving, stop thinking, and just be. Deliberately be still. Close your eyes, relax, breathe, be aware, and consciously experience your present moment of conscious awareness. Immerse yourself in your own unique feeling-tone. Feel you. Bask in the exquisite experience of being alive, of conflict-free high-energy peace, and become thoroughly familiar with the core tone of who you are.
This is like dipping cloth into dye. Each dip of the cloth strengthens the cast of the dye and enhances the color. Here, however, you are dipping yourself into you. You are experiencing you. Each time you do so, you become more you; that is, your sense of the authentic you is enriched. Each dip into the silent experience of you washes away more false ideas, which enables the real you to shine forth more clearly to yourself and others. As you do this, something new and very interesting will gradually begin to happen. You’ll find yourself becoming more intuitive. Your mind will seem to expand, and your inner voice will start talking to you more clearly, guiding you, telling you what to say, what to think, where to go, what to do with your life. As you will discover, this is the source of right action. I will say more about this later.
Therefore, as you directly experience the living truth of who you are, two wonderful aspects of being become apparent. First, you come upon the core of goodness. This will promote a new, expanded, and truer sense of self. It will give your life new meaning, and you’ll find yourself feeling happy for no apparent reason. Of course, there is a reason. Happiness and love is the stuff of which you are made. You can obscure your awareness of it, but you cannot get away from it. You cannot actually change it.
Second, the inner feeling–or inner voice–starts speaking to you with more clarity. Or rather, it’s not that the inner voice now speaks with more clarity, but you’ll start hearing it more clearly. It will become more obvious to you, and harder to ignore. This internal communication from the deeper regions of Being can become, if you are willing, your new guide to appropriate action in daily life. You will feel good inside about who you are and be increasingly effective in all your actions.
Let’s move now into a practice mode with regard to all that has been said so far. We’ll continue with three more exercises. These have been specifically designed to help you experience the loving goodness truth inside you.
One of the first things you may notice as you sit in stillness is that your body vibrates or hums. The center of this hum is in the area of your heart and throughout the length of your spine, your core. This is where love vibrates most obviously. The purpose of the next two breathing exercises, then, is to direct your conscious feeling-awareness into the area of your heart and core and thereby increase your sensitivity to the vibratory hum. You’ll feel the love vibration inside yourself that will cause you to feel profoundly loved and profoundly safe, and you will thereby spontaneously become more loving–more of a pleasure to be around. This is good for you, and it’s good for others! These exercises are worth a few minutes of your undivided attention. Enjoy them.
Lie on your back with your eyes closed and palms flat on your chest. Begin by gently breathing in and out, aiming the breath into the chest so that you feel the wishbone at the base of your sternum expanding with each breath. Do this for a minute or two.
Then allow your breathing to flow in and out naturally, effortlessly, without any intervention on your part, and simply station your awareness in the center of your chest at the base of the sternum–where your hands are–and feel what you feel. Feel yourself breathing. As attentively as you can, note the changing sensations in the area of your heart that accompany each breath as it flows in and out.
Breathe in and out of your heart, lie absolutely still, be relaxed, and allow your breathing to flow freely and easily. Make no attempt to regulate your breathing or control it in any way. Some breaths will be deep, others shallow. Every breath will be different. All you do is remain aware of the ever-changing sensations that accompany breathing in the area of your heart.
As you practice this technique, let each breath remind you to stay centred and present in the now. When your attention strays, notice it has done so and then bring it back to the feeling-awareness of the ever-changing sensations in your chest. Do not think about the breath, nor about the meaning of love. Simply experience what’s actually there to be experienced. Stay with what’s happening. Shift from thinking mode to feeling mode, and experience your unique feeling-tone emanating from your heart center. Be especially on the look out for pleasurable sensations of warmth, expansion, or spaciousness, and notice how the movement of breath seems to fan and increase these sensations. Willingly give your undivided attention to this exercise for ten minutes.
Expanded heart breathing
Sit on the floor with your spine straight and eyes closed. If you are unable to sit on the floor, use a chair. Be comfortable. Take a moment to become quiet and prepare yourself.
When you are ready, begin with ten or twenty fairly deep, gentle, continuous breaths, endeavouring to achieve full expansion of your chest and rib cage. Allow the sternum to rise and swell forward as you breathe. Go ahead and exaggerate it, but be very, very gentle.
Then inhale fully, again lifting upward with the sternum and expanding your chest. Hold the breath for a comfortable length of time, somewhere between five and twenty seconds, and as you hold your chest gently open at full expansion, feel the sensations in the area of your heart.
Feel the obvious sensations–the physical sensations of stretch and fullness accompanying chest expansion, the feeling of satisfaction, of air-hunger being satiated, and of air-hunger arising again as the seconds go by, your heart beating, your desire to exhale–but feel the deeper, subtler energy as well. Feel the energy of love in the area of your heart as you hold your chest open. Then exhale quietly, releasing the breath at a comfortable pace and relaxing deeply. Do this twelve times.
With this technique you are increasing your sensitivity to the vibratory feeling-tone in the area of your heart. Think of this as a vortex of energy in the vicinity of your physical heart but not your actual physical heart. You will be able to feel this vortex of energy with increasing clarity with practice. Do not attempt to hold the breath as long as you can. Hold the breath only as long as is comfortable. You should still be able to exhale smoothly, quietly, without panic. There should be no strain whatsoever. Exhale when you receive the inner cue to do so and keep the breath soft, strain-free, and peaceful. This is not a contest. It does not matter how long you hold the breath. Use the technique to increase your sensitivity to the inner feeling.
When you have completed the twelve breaths, sit absolutely still for another minute or two and simply be aware of how you feel. Station your awareness in the area of your heart and core and feel what you feel. Stay aware of the changing sensations that accompany breathing in the area of your heart, the sensations throughout your core and body, the space around your body, and especially the overall energetic feeling-tone of you. Willingly let go of everything you think you know about who you are, and allow yourself to experience you with clarity.
Who am I?
Sit with your spine straight or lie flat on the floor on your back. Close your eyes and take a few moments to become quiet and still. Relax your body and allow yourself to become intimately aware of your breathing. Observe the natural flow of breath in and out of your body.
Then put aside everything you think you know about who you are and ask yourself the question, “Who am I?” Ask the question but do not answer it. Instead, feel the answer. Feel who you are. Feel the energy of you. Answer not in words but in the direct experience of the energy that you are. When your attention wanders from this very personal self-experiencing and you notice yourself thinking other thoughts, ask yourself, “Who is thinking this? Who is having this thought?” The answer will always be “I am.” Then ask yourself again, “But who am I?” Then again immerse yourself in the feeling-tone truth of you.
When you notice yourself suddenly aware of a particular sound or sensation, your attention pulled away from the feeling, ask yourself “Who is hearing this sound? Who is experiencing this sensation?” The answer will always be, “I am.” Then again ask, “But who am I?” And again blend with the feeling-tone truth of you. Find out who you are through direct experience. Keep bringing your conscious awareness back into the conscious experience of you in the now.
There is no adequate mental answer to the question. The vibrant silence is the answer. And so, be still and know.
I read a lot of biographies and memoirs about inspiring peoplewho place radical trust in God. (By “radical” I don’t mean reckless or imprudent, but am referring to the difficult, very counter-cultural act of recognizing God’s sovereignty over every area of our lives.
More on that here.) From He Leadeth Me to God’s Smuggler, Mother Angelica to The Heavenly Man to The Shadow of His Wings, these true stories are about people from all walks of the Christian life: Catholic and Protestant, consecrated religious and lay people, men and women. And yet they all have distinct similarities in their approaches to life and the Lord.
I found it fascinating to see what common threads could be found in the lives of these incredible people who place so much trust in the Lord, and thought I’d share in case others find it inspiring as well.
1. THEY ACCEPT SUFFERING
One of the most powerful things I’ve read in recent memory is Brother Yun’s story of being a persecuted pastor in China, as recounted in the book The Heavenly Man. After facing weeks of torture, including electrocution, starvation, beatings, and having needles shoved under his fingernails, he was thrown in a box that was four feet long, three feet wide, and four feet high, where he would stay indefinitely. The day after he was put in this mini cell, he felt prompted to pray for a Bible — a ridiculous idea, considering that many people were in prison at that very moment for being in possession of such contraband. Yet he prayed anyway. And, inexplicably, the guards threw a Bible into his cell the next morning. He writes:
I knelt down and wept, thanking the Lord for this great gift. I could scarcely believe my dream had come true! No prisoner was ever allowed to have a Bible or any Christian literature, yet, strangely, God provided a Bible for me! Through this incident the Lord showed me that regardless of men’s evil plans for me, he had not forgotten me and was in control of my life.
Now, the less saintly among us (cough-cough) might have reacted to that a little differently. Had I been tortured and thrown in a coffin-like cell, my reaction to receiving a Bible would have likely been more along the lines of, “Thanks for the Bible, Lord, but could we SEE ABOUT GETTING ME OUT OF THIS METAL BOX FIRST?!?!” I wouldn’t have even “counted” the Bible as an answered prayer since my main prayer — reducing my physical suffering — had gone unanswered.
Yet what I see over and over again in people like Brother Yun is that they have crystal clarity on the fact that suffering is not the worst evil — sin is. Yes, they would prefer not to suffer, and do sometimes pray for the relief of suffering. But they prioritize it lower than the rest of us do — they focus far more on not sinning than on not suffering. They have a laser focus on getting themselves and others to heaven. In Brother Yun’s case, he saw through that answered prayer that God was allowing him to grow spiritually and minister to his captors, so his circumstances of suffering in an uncomfortable cell became almost irrelevant to him.
2. THEY ACCEPT THE INEVITABILITY OF DEATH
Similar to the above, people who place great trust in God can only do so with a heaven-centered worldview. They think in terms of eternity, not in terms of calendar years. Their goal is not to maximize their time on earth, but rather to get themselves and as many other people as possible to heaven. And if God can best do that by shortening their lifespans, they accept that.
The Shadow of His Wings is filled with jaw-dropping stories of Fr. Goldmann’s miraculous escapes from death during World War II, which begs the question, “What about all the people who didn’t escape death?” Fr. Goldmann would probably respond by saying that God saving him from death was not the blessing in and of itself — after all, every single one of us will die eventually. The blessing was saving him from death so that he could continue his ministry bringing the Gospel to the Nazis. He eventually died while building a ministry in Japan, and presumably accepted that God would bring good from his passing, even though there was undoubtedly more work he wanted to do.
3. THEY HAVE DAILY APPOINTMENTS WITH GOD
I have never heard of a person who had a deep, calm trust in the Lord who did not set aside time for focused prayer every day. Both in the books I’ve read and in real life, I’ve noticed that people like this always spend at least a few moments — and up to an hour or two if circumstances permit — focused on nothing but prayer, every day. Also, they tend to do it first thing in the morning, centering themselves in Christ before tackling anything else the day may bring.
4. IN PRAYER, THEY LISTEN MORE THAN THEY TALK
I’ve written before about my amazement that really holy people seem to get their prayers answered more often than the rest of us. I’d heard enough stories of people praying for something very specific, then receiving it, that I started to wonder if they were psychic or God just liked them more than the rest of us or something. What I eventually realized is that their ideas about what to pray for came from the Holy Spirit in the first place, because they spent so much time seeking God’s will for them, day in and day out.
So, to use the example of a famous story from Mother Angelica’s biography, she had a satellite dish delivery man at the door who needed $600,000 or he was going to return the dish, thus killing all the plans for the new station. She ran to the chapel and prayed, and a guy she’d never met randomly called and wanted to donate $600,000. Her prayer wasn’t answered because she had a personal interest in television and just really, really wanted it, but because she had correctly discerned God’s plan that she was to start a television station on this particular day.
5. THEY LIMIT DISTRACTIONS
Of all the amazing stories in God’s Smuggler, one of the lines that jumped out to me the most in the book was in the epilogue, when the authors talk about how Brother Andrew’s work has continued in 21st century:
“I won’t even consider installing one of those call waiting monstrosities,” he exclaimed, “that interrupt one phone conversation to announce another.” Technology, Andrew says, makes us far too accessible to the demands and pressures of the moment. “Our first priority should be listening in patience and silence for the voice of God.”
Far too accessible to the demands and pressures of the moment. That line has haunted me ever since I read it. I love technology, but it does come with a huge temptation to feel a general increase in urgency in our lives: I have to reply to that email! Respond to that comment on my wall on Facebook! Ret-tweet that tweet! Read that direct message! Listen to that voicemail! Here in the connected age, we are constantly bombarded with demands on our attention. Periods of silence, where we can cultivate inner stillness and wait for the promptings of the Holy Spirit, are increasingly rare.
One thing that all the people in these books have in common is that they had very little of this pressure of false urgency. It’s hard to imagine Fr. Ciszek coming up with the breathtaking insights about God’s will that he shared in He Leadeth Me with his iPhone buzzing alerts every few minutes, or Brother Yun seeing the subtle beauty of God’s plan in the midst of persecution while keeping his Twitter status updated on a minute-by-minute basis.
6. THEY SUBMIT THEIR DISCERNMENT TO OTHERS
People who have a long history of watching the way the Lord works in their lives notice that he often speaks through holy friends, family members and clergy. If they discern that God is calling them to something, especially if it’s something big, they ask trusted Christian confidantes to pray about the matter and see if they discern the same thing. And when others warn them not to follow a certain path — especially if it’s a spouse, confessor or spiritual director — they take those indicators very seriously.
7. THEY OFFER THE LORD THEIR COMPLETE, UNHESITATING OBEDIENCE
One of my favorite parts of God’s Smuggler is when Brother Andrew got a visit from a man named Karl de Graaf who was part of a prayer group in which people often spent hours of time in prayer, most of it listening in silence:
I went out to the front stoop, and there was Karl de Graaf. “Hello!” I said, surprised.
“Hello, Andy. Do you know how to drive?”
“No,” I said, bewildered. “No, I don’t.”
“Because last night in our prayers we had a word from the Lord about you. It’s important for you to be able to drive.”
“Whatever on earth for?” I said. “I’ll never own a car, that’s for sure.”
“Andrew,” Mr. de Graaf spoke patiently, as to a slow-witted student, “I’m not arguing for the logic of the case. I’m just passing on the message.” And with that, he was striding across the bridge.
Despite his initial hesitation, Brother Andrew discerned that this was something that God was calling him to do, so he learned to drive. It seemed like a complete waste of time, an utterly illogical use of his resources, but he was obedient to the Lord’s call. I won’t spoil what happened next for those of you who plan to read the book, but let’s just say that shortly after he received his license, it turned out to be critical to the future of his ministry (which eventually brought the Gospel to thousands of people behind the Iron Curtain) that he know how to drive.
I often think of how Mr. de Graaf responded when Brother Andrew was scratching his head about this odd message: “That’s the excitement in obedience,” he said. “Finding out later what God had in mind.”
Obviously we can’t grow closer to God by aping the actions of others, but I find lists like this helpful as a starting point for reflection on my own spiritual progress. I hope you found it helpful as well!
Some days our minds have a difficult time understanding God’s plan. At least that’s true for me. I’m guessing it’s true for you too. We want so desperately to “get it all.” To see God’s plan for the future. To understand how it is all going to work out right here on this earth. In this decade. Or this year. Or this week. Or this second.
I can’t see the future. Although my kids might argue with that statement a bit. After all, they think I have eyes in the back of my head.
When I can’t understand God’s plan, there is a question I find myself asking:
Where is God in all this?
The more I’ve been reflecting on this question recently, the more I’ve realized that the problem is not where God is.
Because God is everywhere.
The problem is that I’m asking the wrong question. You see, the question I should be asking is:
Why can’t I see God in this?
Because His fingerprints are all over His handiwork. Even when bad things happen to good people, He molds and reshapes until you can’t even recognize the bad anymore. It’s a plan called “redemption.”
So I’ve stopped asking God where He is. I mean, it’s pretty obvious that He’s been here since before the beginning of time and He’s not going anywhere. The Alpha and Omega.
I’ve started asking Him to reveal Himself to me.
Lord, help me see Your work in this situation.
I pray prayers like this one for when you can’t understand God’s plan.
And I am reminded to trust the Creator of the universe through these 14 Bible verses for when I can’t understand God’s plan.
So I thought I would share them with you.
Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure. Psalm 147:5
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Ps. 8:3&4
Can you send forth lightnings, that they may go and say to you, ‘Here we are’? Who has put wisdom in the inward parts or given understanding to the mind? (this is God questioning Job) Job 38:35&36
For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!): “I am the LORD, and there is no other. Isa. 45:18
But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! Luke 12:28
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isa. 55:9
Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations, Deut. 7:9
For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death. Ps. 48:14
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Prov. 3:5&6
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. Isa. 40:28
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever! Ps. 111:10
Do you have a Bible verse you could share that helps you understand God’s plan when you can’t? Would love it if you’d leave it in the comments.
Author: Rachel Wojnarowski