Question on Meditation

Question: I try to meditate but I just can’t seem to get anywhere. I know you’ve written a book on this subject but could you share some thoughts that might help someone like me?

As we consider spiritual ideas, it’s important to remember that there are two types of learning: intellectual and intuitive. Intellectual learning involves the accumulation of spiritual facts. We do this through study and exposure to teachers. Intuitive learning is based on direct exposure to the soul. This experience is then transmitted to the intellect. Because the experience is subjective in nature, it cannot be taught. But don’t make a mystery of this. Someone can explain what orange juice tastes like, but you don’t really know until you actually take a sip and experience it for yourself. Then you learn in an instant.

Taste, of course, is not an intuitive function, but we can use it as an example of things that can only be known through experience. Touch is another example. You look at a bowl of water that may be warm or cool. The instant you place your fingers in the water you learn its temperature through direct experience.

The intuitive faculty is capable of sensing and experiencing the subtle spiritual energy that is your being. The Bible refers to this energy as “living water” that wells up from within. This metaphor provides a way to think of our spiritual connection that cannot otherwise be defined or imparted by another.

The intuitive experience is not emotional. Nor should it be confused with those “hunches” that a thing is true or false, or that we should make a certain decision. This type of knowing is important and very useful. But we’re talking about something of a deeper nature. The intuition open to the soul does indeed stir the emotion and instills peace and the feeling that something greater than our own consciousness is at work. This revelation we seek involves knowing the true nature of Being, and this is imparted only through direct experience. Jesus compared it to the wind that you feel and hear but do not see. It is invisible but very real. You know it when it seeps into your awareness. You experience the joy of freedom knowing you are much more, and something much different than you thought.

This is an important observation. As you seek to open your intuition to the soul, you do so with the willingness to let go of who and what you think you are. Most of us maintain a running internal dialog that creates an endless loop of definition and response: I am this, so that is what I need. It is best to release all preconceived expectations, all definitions of God, the soul, and the self. As much as possible, make yourself an empty vessel receptive to inner energies that are totally familiar and natural but have likely gone unnoticed beneath the constant drumming of a perpetually busy mind. I assume this is the problem you are having.

It is not possible to force results. If you find yourself struggling, open your eyes and move about if you need to. You want to break yourself of all attempts to create an experience. If you stay with it, you will likely begin to have brief, nearly imperceptible movements of spirit. If you can recapture and pursue these, fine. Just don’t chase after them. During the day, you may find such experiences rise naturally on their own, without any effort on your part. You suddenly feel good and lifted without knowing why. You experience an unprovoked sense of joy and well-being. Take these as a sign that you are cracking the shell, that more is being done than you realize.

The spiritual breakthrough will come if you stay with it. Our externally driven western culture contributes to most of the mental and emotional distractions we encounter. From very early in life, we are taught to look to the world for the peace, joy, and well-being that we seek. For most of us, going within and seeking an experience with the unadulterated core of our being is a foreign endeavor. We are taught to pray looking to the heavens rather than to the kingdom of heaven within.

A helpful attitude to hold while meditating is this: “Before they call, I will answer. While they are still speaking I will hear” (Isaiah 65:24). I have said often that we desire more because we are more. It is the fullness of your soul that beckons you to come up higher. You are not creating this desire; you are responding to it. The fact that you have come to believe there is value in seeking an inner awakening says that you are on your way to a broader experience. Everyone gets discouraged, but don’t give up on it. You will eventually find that meditation is very natural and a thing you already know how to do.

I hope this is helpful.

Down by the Riverside

[From A Spiritual Journey]

[View: A Path to Self-Forgiveness] 

In my book, Native Soul, I point out the importance of meditation and I comment on one of the most commonly expressed issues I’ve heard from people on this subject. How do you get past the incessant flow of thought when you are trying to be still and experience your spiritual center? I compare this flow to a rushing river. If someone asked you to cross that river but you could see no benefit in doing so, you may wade in, feel the power of the current and then step back out with the feeling that crossing it is not worth the risk. If that same person pointed to a tree on the far bank and explained there was a winning lottery ticket worth millions with your name on it, do you not suppose you would figure out how to cross that river?

In the first scenario, you see little value in the risk or effort of crossing the river. In the second scenario, the ambiguities of value disappear. When you understand the value of crossing that river, you will figure out how to do it, no matter how long it takes or how difficult it is.

The problem most of us face with the incessant mind is that we do not understand the value of what we might find on the other side. We have opinions given to us by others of what it means to be spiritually enlightened. We read of the ecstasy and boundless stores of wisdom tapped by those who have crossed the river. We read of great spiritual power awaiting those who have made this crossing. Yet we encounter this river, feel the force of its current and conclude that it must not be our time to cross. Perhaps if we read more about it or gather and speak affirmations that are more powerful we’ll build up the strength to take this plunge.

None of this is true. Every person alive is fully equipped to cross the river of the busy mind, no soul evolution or further learning required. The only thing that has to happen is that a shift in values must occur. Each person has to grasp the true value of crossing that river, and each person must stay with this process until he or she experiences the breakthrough.

There have always been those who promise that they can get us across. Join a special group, pay the fees, jump in their boat and they’ll take you to the other side. Or, with the touch of our specially trained hands, and a small fee, we will get you to the other side, instantly or very soon. This is all pure nonsense at best, spiritual charlatanism at its worst. The reason? Neither approach requires a genuine shift in values. The belief that people or money can get you to the other side of the river changes your focus from actually crossing the river to seeking the right people and enough money to get you across. Your values, no longer placed in the end you seek, are now placed in the means to the end. The means to the end of the spiritual breakthrough, however, is not found in people, in study or in expensive courses of spiritual instruction. It is found within you.

As a teacher of meditative technique, Jesus was what I consider a minimalist. He pointed to the other side of the river (the kingdom of God is within you) and said, go there.

But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him (Matthew 6:6-8).

He was undoubtedly approached by those who went into their room, shut the door and prayed to their Father in secret but found they could think of nothing more than their health issue, their failing business, their unscrupulous neighbor with the barking dog or gathering the needed ingredients for the evening meal. To these he offered this simple instruction:

Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened (Matthew 7:7-8).

I have to think that if he had discovered a better, faster way to spiritual enlightenment, he would have offered it. If it were truly possible for one human being to pass enlightenment to another with the simple touch of a hand, I seriously doubt he would have offered such bland instructions that obviously put the ball of enlightenment in the court of each individual.

Socrates responded to a student’s question about obtaining wisdom by plunging the student’s head into water until he nearly drowned. Pulling him from the water, Socrates asked the student what he wanted most in that moment. Air, of course, was the answer. Socrates explained that when the student wanted wisdom as much as he wanted air, he would obtain it. A shift of values was the only requirement.

The spiritual path does not require an abandonment of material pursuits. If anything is abandoned, it is because, like the man who discovered the buried treasure, we joyously let go of those possessions that wrangle our attention from a first-hand experience with God. As this experience begins to emerge in our committed quiet times, the value we place on moving deeper naturally arises. We are guided by the greater freedom we experience.

We have to have enough faith to take the plunge, even if it is blind faith the size of a grain of mustard seed. The fact is we do have the required faith. Why else do you think we keep showing up at this particular riverbank?

A Different View of Meditation

[excerpt from, A Spiritual Journey]

All of us have undoubtedly filled our conscious and subconscious files full of information about the various approaches to the practice of meditation. Our actual attempts at being still and knowing, therefore, may look very much like a search on our computer’s hard drive for an abstract notion that we deem an experience with God.

Setting aside our preconceptions of what it means to experience God, I suggest turning attention instead to our actual objective. Assuming that your soul is complete and accessible, your single interest is that of moving your awareness from your self-image to your soul. This transition can occur during your busy moments throughout the day and during those times you set aside specifically for this purpose.

It is important to understand that your soul is now and has always been instructing you on how to return. The spiritual homesickness you feel is your soul calling you home. It is also important to understand that you are responding to this call. Your dissatisfaction with your existing state of affairs and with that information you were given concerning spiritual matters can and should be taken as an indicator that something in you already inhabits the spiritual home for which you long. That something, of course, is your soul.

Most of us will interpret our dissatisfaction and spiritual restlessness as some form of lack that is ours to fill. Like the prodigal son in the far country, we come to ourselves and decide to return home, but we take it upon ourselves to begin devising the conditions that we believe are necessary for our successful return. The prodigal worked out the scheme of returning home as a servant in his father’s household, not only questioning his worthiness as a son, but also reasoning that life even as a servant would be better than the life he was leading now.

Among other things, this parable illustrates that our return home is unconditional. There are no natural barriers between where your self-awareness may be now and where it can be in its rightful home. One of the greatest unnatural barriers that we erect is the belief that our spiritual ignorance and immaturity are things we must overcome before we can return home. This false belief is generated by the self-image. The prodigal obviously believed his riotous living had compromised his right to return home at any level of heir privilege. It had not dawned on him that the sun shone just as brightly through his moments of ignorance and starvation as it had when he lived his relatively carefree life at home. “… for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45).

In building our understanding of meditation, the architectural concept of form following function may serve us well. When we understand that the function of every spiritual practice is the realignment of our self-awareness (I, ego) with the soul, then these practices take the forms that best address our understanding of this function (see Chapter 11 of The Complete Soul – Meditation Exercises). Most importantly, the practices become our forms, not those passed on by other people. When you look at a problem that you know you can solve, you will eventually find the solution. If you are struggling with meditation, it is probably because you are working from another’s definition of both the problem and the solution.

 

The Importance of Context

In these presentations, I am suggesting that you are a complete soul who has, for whatever reason, taken on the consciousness forming equipment and a physical body that allow you to interact with the material environment. That you have done this successfully is a more important acknowledgment than trying to figure out why you may have done it. Your reason for doing so, after all, may no longer be relevant.

Our primary motive behind our quest for spiritual understanding is that we are seeking a sense of context, an understanding of ourselves as an unlimited soul that has taken on the proper equipment to interface and interact with the material plane. We may clarify our motive with a statement like this:

I am a complete soul that has taken on a body and the consciousness forming equipment that allows me to interact with the material plane.

The problem is we have so identified with the virtual reality we have created that we have moved our self-awareness from our soul to this interfacing equipment. This would not be unlike the person who has become so addicted to the virtual reality of social media that they disconnect from the reality of their actual life.

Our first approach to meditation may be the simple contemplation of the idea that our soul is now complete, that the restlessness we feel is our soul calling us home. This, of course, does not fit the meditation model of sitting still, eyes closed, attention turned away from senses input, seeking an experience of some inner light that eludes us. At some point, we need to come to grips with the fact that our attempts at this approach have been frustratingly unsuccessful, and that doing more of the same will only produce more of the same results.

The reason this does not work for us is that it is not our method. We’re attempting to apply ideas that are still foreign to us, trying to understand the problem as someone else has explained it. We have not grasped its simplicity, or associated the concept of meditation with known feelings that allow us to work out our own solution.

While this suggestion may make some a bit uncomfortable, it will be to our advantage to lay aside all preconceived forms of meditation and develop our own method. We place our mind in the correct position by first getting a firm grasp on the function of meditation. What needs to happen? We want to move our self-awareness (the I) from our senses-based self-image to our soul. To do this, we need to experience the soul at some level. If we do not have some measure of experience with our soul, we will not know where we are going with any meditative practice. We’ll close our eyes and continue to grope in the dark.

To experience your soul, you first have to believe it is present and fully accessible. The simple statement, my soul is present and fully accessible, spoken frequently through the activities of your day, will begin to open the intuitive portal of your imagination. The opening of this intuitive aspect will begin utilizing the visualizing counterpart of your imagination without direction or any prompting on your part. In biblical terms, this is the Immaculate Conception, the emergence of the soul into the awareness without the aid of the intellect (Joseph). New inspiration and imagery will follow. These provide the type of experience that will ignite and direct your faculty of faith to your complete soul, and send you into productive bouts of active stillness. You may come to the same practices taught by the mystics of the ages, but you’ll do it on your own terms. This is your soul, after all.

When your self-image says to your busy mind, peace be still, the storm rages on. When your soul speaks these same words, the storm subsides. You gladly turn away from these internal distractions at the authenticity of the soul’s voice. From this point on, you will call no man on earth your father, your teacher or your guide. The training wheels come off.

To reach this point, four conditions are necessary:

  1. First, you accept the truth that your soul is complete and fully accessible.
  2. Understand that you are not your self-image. You are your soul.
  3. The only problem you face is that your self-awareness is attached to your self-image.
  4. The single purpose of all your spiritual endeavors is to move your self-awareness from your self-image to your soul.

Keep your eye single. Your motive for moving your self-awareness from your self-image to your soul has to be narrowed to the single purpose of knowing yourself as the soul that you are. If your motive is grounded in any other purpose than this –- i.e., the attainment of wealth, health, etc. – your eye is on some form of mammon and you will not be successful.

Anchoring in the Eternal

[Excerpt from my book, A Spiritual Journey]

In one of my books, I wrote about the moth and why it circles streetlights. It is believed by some who research such things that the moth uses the moon as a navigational beacon. With the advent of artificial light, the moth mistakes the streetlight for the moon. It begins with large circles around the light that gradually tighten into the frantic aerobatics we see on our night walk.

What struck me about this bit of information was the fact that we humans do very much the same thing. Our natural navigational beacon is our spiritual center, our soul that rises up from our eternal Source we know as God. We become so centered in the roles we play – careers, relationships, service organizations, etc. – that we lose our conscious contact with this deeper aspect. Like the moth, we often find ourselves rapidly circling a multitude of “light” sources that leave us feeling empty. We come to believe that our life is about the sum of these artificial lights. While we go through periods where these various centers of interest are satisfying, none can provide the permanent anchor we crave and we find ourselves flying in tight and meaningless circles.

To re-establish the moon as our true beacon, so to speak, it is necessary to go out into open country, away from the city lights. That is, we take time to lay down our roles and all issues that surround our involvement with them, and simply allow ourselves to be. I find that when internal pressure is building, when my thought and emotion is invested in resolving the many issues that rise in my own city of lights, it is always because I have lost my center. I am flying around streetlights. My life has become an endless process of resolving problem after problem in an artificial world. There is little in the way of true satisfaction, little in the act of circling the streetlight that is peace enhancing, regardless of how bright and promising it is. Only the true light that “lighteth every man” gives us the inner peace we seek.

Anytime we seek fulfillment in the roles we play, we are putting impossible expectations on these roles. We cannot draw from them what we are looking for. Many try to convince the world that this is possible, that they are spiritually enlightened because they were ordained, or they are at peace because they are wealthy, or that they are prosperous because their kids are in the right schools. We can only draw what we are looking for from our inner depths. To make the role meaningful, we bring to it the healing balance we find within. If we never venture into our depths, then this inner disconnect will send us flying from streetlight to streetlight, from role to role, accomplishment to accomplishment, circling, hoping we can take away from these the satisfaction we can only find within.

We’re all in this world but not a single one of us is of it. Try as we may, we cannot draw our true being from any source outside of ourselves. Attempting to do so leaves us flying in unsatisfying circles. The resulting unrest can be our signal to momentarily leave the city, let it all go for a time and reconnect with that true beacon, that eternal anchor that we are when we allow ourselves to be free of the roles we play.

A Simple Illustration with Profound Consequences

The concept of nonduality is the very simple understanding that all the many apparent separate pieces of the universe rise from the singular reality of Consciousness. Attempts to characterize the nature of this underlying reality will be familiar to the student of Unity and other similar New Thought approaches. It is God, the one presence and one power in which all things live and move and have their being.

When it comes to the human condition and each individual’s relationship to God, there is a marked divergence in understanding in this spiritual community. Most metaphysical teachings of the West assume spiritual ignorance, experienced as feeling distant from God, is the result of an undeveloped soul. The soul is placed on a linear scale of time and treated as if it is engaged in a process of maturing. This has produced a kind of spiritual class distinction of young and old souls. Judging by the ongoing human struggle, attributed to soul immaturity, the concept of reincarnation is adopted to explain why we do not see more enlightened souls running around on earth. Every individual is traveling through one incarnation after another, all for the purpose of advancing the soul. What we do not learn in one lifetime we learn in another. A teacher like Jesus is held up as the brass ring of spiritual accomplishment. He represents the prime example of a mature soul to which we are to aspire. Nonduality does not share this model and to explain why, I’ll modify an example I used in The Complete Soul.

Imagine that we submerge ten sponges into an ocean. Each is completely saturated with water. The water inside the ten sponges is obviously the same composition and age as the water outside each sponge. Likewise, the water that permeates the various sponges is exactly the same. What is different is the degree of awareness each sponge has of the water. Most are so focused on their identity as a sponge that they do not think of the water in which they live and move and have their being as anything but an abstract concept. All things cellulose is the foundation of their understanding of reality and they spend all their time studying and thinking about its nature. Only one sponge understands that it and all the other sponges are permeated with this identical substance called ocean water.

This simple illustration is nonduality in a nutshell.

What stands between the unenlightened sponge and the water? Nothing. How much time is needed for the unenlightened sponge to become closer to the water? None. When the unenlightened sponge will begin to understand its relationship of oneness with the water is anyone’s guess. Are there any natural barriers that exist between the unenlightened sponge and the water? No. Are there any forces working against the unenlightened sponge to prevent its awakening to the presence of the water? Yes, there is one force that is working to prevent this awakening. This is the force of self-perception. The identity is grounded in the experience of cellulose. The unenlightened sponge touts the banner: I am cellulose that may one day enjoy a relationship of oneness with the ocean.

The enlightened sponge, on the other hand, understands itself as a point of awareness floating in its environment of the ocean. There is no point where the ocean water outside of itself leaves off and the ocean water inside of itself begins. It says, I am in the ocean and the ocean is in me, but the ocean is greater. I am not the ocean, but I am a point where the ocean is expressed as a relationship with a sponge. The sponge may come and go, but the ocean remains. I, therefore, am the ocean expressing through a sponge.

The unenlightened sponges have created an entire religion based on their identity as sponges. It’s about making life as a sponge more comfortable, healthy and prosperous. These conditions become the markers used to measure enlightenment. The enlightened sponge floats by and he looks so serene and peaceful, and they want to be just like him. And so they study, pray and meditate very hard on how to be a better, more peaceful sponge. Among themselves they argue about who is most enlightened. They learn to imitate the appearance of serenity and they carefully adopt the vocabulary of the enlightened sponge. They have great conferences that reinforce the belief that more and more sponges are fulfilling their potential. They greet one another with hugs and treat each other with greater kindness. They see the dawning of a world where all sponges do the same. Their growing numbers convince them that this long prophesied new age of enlightenment is drawing near. Sponge society is on the verge of a breakthrough. They are reaching the tipping point where more sponges than not will stop competing and will live in peace, mutual respect and love for one another. In other words, the day is coming when the ocean will absolutely saturate every sponge in the same way it has saturated the enlightened one.

Now, by this illustration we can see that such a hoped-for condition has nothing to do with time, spiritual evolution or any other factor deemed an obstacle to enlightenment. The difference between the enlightened and unenlightened sponge is not found in their actual state of being. It is found in their self-perception. One is the ocean expressing through a sponge, the other is a sponge who lives with the hope of becoming one with the ocean and its fellow sponges.

Think of the soul as this ocean water that flows within each sponge. When you think of this water in relation to the water flowing outside of this sponge, you see there is no difference. The sponge simply provides a unique point of awareness within the infinite context of the ocean. There are not many souls. There is but one. But this one soul expresses through many channels. There are many kinds of sponges, but there is only one ocean.

When we engage the practice of denial and affirmation, we deny (release) what is not true of the soul and affirm what is. What is not true of the soul is that it is immature and undeveloped and in need of many more lessons to grow in strength and stature. What is true of the soul is that it is complete, fully present and composed of exactly the same life, love, power and intelligence that is found in God. The soul is life, love, power and intelligence. We do not call upon or affirm these elements into being. We release our belief that the trauma we are presently going through indicates these elements are not fully present. Our attention has shifted from the peace of the ocean to the plight of the sponge.

We align our awareness with the truth that life, love, power and intelligence are present and they are, in fact, the very essence of our being. We would call the practice of this alignment prayer. However, the more important practice we would first engage is that of re-establishing our awareness in the ocean. This is meditation. Without this experience of the ocean, we pray amiss. Prayer becomes a mind game whose objective is to enhance the comfort of the sponge. We want the sponge to experience more peace, so we pray that those conditions that are upsetting to the sponge go away.

We first seek the experience of ourselves as ocean water, we then release that which is not true of the water and affirm that which is. What Paul called the mind of the flesh, we could call the mind of the sponge. The mind of the sponge is all about the preservation and comfort of the sponge. We want to shift our awareness to the indestructible truth of the water, to have in us the mind of the water that sets us free from the struggles of the sponge.

Many metaphysical teachings embrace the model of having to move from a point A to a point B to make our world a better place. Nonduality erases the notion of two points and makes them one. That one point is the realization of what is true of the soul: It is complete, it is present and it is the fulfillment of all we seek.