Like a Fish Drowning to Swim

Living in the post-postmodern era you have seen religion give way to science and psychology, have studied the traditions and disciplines that integrate all three, and now have had a profound realization. After all this time you now know what you have been telling yourself all along, that one is not simply a human being in a physical universe, but that you are a spirit living in the world, a soul. You have been imperceptibly changing your desires and actions as you have studied and practiced spiritual truths, and now you recognize the greater sweetness and discernment with which you interact with the world and others in it. While competently living this life you have been influenced by, and drawn to something much bigger than your individual self. In doing so you have steadily relinquished things that once were so important to you. Now you more easily surrender to circumstances, intuitively knowing what to do, trusting the Source from which your direction is given. And while it can seem irrational, you now understand there is absolutely nothing more important for you to do than to keep your focus on this Source. A true renunciation, but not rejection, of the world has begun to take hold. You experience the universal truth that you simultaneously are, and belong to Spirit. There has been an awakening into a new identity signaled by improved periods of grace and virtue that persist outside of formal practice. Your love for God now penetrates every aspect of your life. However, even as you experience these exalted moments, a fear persists that you will suffer from the sacrifices necessary to continue to go forward.

Even as you trust you are becoming your true essence inner conflict arises from not knowing who you will be. Though you feel eternity at your side you know something is dying, that you will be forever and irreversibly changed, with much of what you have valued forsaken. There is a nagging feeling that perhaps you are fooling yourself, that your renunciation of worldly materialism is a denial or avoidance of sorts. Requiring that you further summon your courage, previous experience tells you the course ahead will not be governed by conventional logic, but rather absurdity and paradox. Excitement and self-doubt exist side by side. There is a feeling of being pulled into a whirlpool that will give life as never before, a drowning you hope results in resurrection. This is at once both a celebration and a challenge as you undergo further refinement of your spiritual transformation. You want more of this awakened state, and you want the confusion and discomfort to lessen. Though you consider settling for things as they are, you are reminded daily that navigating this turbulence successfully can put you on the saintly side of love, justice, and forgiveness, enabling not only your own, but others’ liberation. The stronger tendency to do something about your situation prevails, but what is it you can expect to happen, and what if anything should you do?

When the awakened soul cries out for and cleaves to God the body’s needs relax. And as long as the soul has God’s attention this balance is maintained, body and spirit are one; lover and Beloved are betrothed. If you were able to retain this awareness your disciplined efforts at relinquishing your individual identity and renouncing ways of the world would be said to have left you liberated, ensconced in a saintly transpersonal self that identifies with and loves all. However no seeker is as powerful or as wise as to be able to directly secure this prize. Instead, one’s natural inclinations, encouraged and strengthened by society around you, cause you to lose your way. The lovers are separated and the body’s needs claim dominance again, sometimes for moments, sometimes for days. You find that your love for God can weaken, and concomitantly so can your love of the world. What was becoming a familiar feeling of numinous expansiveness and unity with all around you disappears. There are aspects of what you have read about as the “dark night of the soul” yet they seem like ordinary sadness and loneliness, but perhaps irrational or unwarranted because you have friends and family, and you’re busy and feeling fulfilled. This distress is in sharp contrast to those times when you are living in beatific peace and strongly identifying with God. You are in love experiencing the Beauty in the world like never before, the radiance of reality shining through, the Divine sharing with you Its Truth and Goodness. Mindful presence is strong; as is contentment from living as the spiritual person you’ve always wished yourself to be. Blessings occur, and your needs seem to be met without effort, you feel more secure in the world. But again and again there are those periods of exacerbated grief from the times the Lover seems to have deserted you.

Hide and seek with the Lover can be a roller coaster of emotions and widely fluctuating moral behavior in which you are in a daily struggle for your true identity. There is the recurring preoccupation with the mundane tasks of everyday living, from appointments to be kept, to money matters, to health concerns. Maladaptive habits return and new virtues weaken, self-interest returning with a near sinful ferocity. And each time these have precedence over the sacred you slowly and almost imperceptibly increase the gap between God and yourself. As this separation grows you become more and more the individual self, but now also one that feels the loss of the Divine; awakening has regressed to samsaric mundanity. Previously lessening, attachment to outcomes becomes strong again. Defense mechanisms reactivate, material satisfactions dictate selfish behavior, and scarcity dominates abundance and shows as win-lose competition. Pride pursues personal success in attainment of goals monetary, sexual, and social with one’s shadow once again projected onto others. Temptations appear offering relief from your pain, even seeming like blessings for your disciplined efforts of sacrifice and service. You consider compromising the greater virtue you are beginning to live but your spiritual wisdom reminds you that worldly desires will no longer satisfy.

Mindful of these lapses the seeker frequently becomes dismayed, the hope of realizing God’s vision for oneself and humanity seems a fantasy. Practicing loving kindness, wanting freedom and justice for the world something only the irrational idealist would pursue. Feeling this separation from God, one is now at great risk for settling for less than noble virtues and right action. Christ consciousness, though a divine promise to all, now seems out of your reach. What is a little sin anyway, we’re all human and no one is perfect; one cannot always be free of irritability and resentment, always patient and kind. Permission to be selfish, even exploitive, can be granted to oneself by feelings of omniscience and/or omnipotence hijacked by an inflated ego, which convinces one of special abilities empowering one to do what others cannot do. During these trying times of vacillation between spiritual strength and lapse you learn that only total and complete surrender of all you have and all you are will suffice; and experience now gives you insight into the enormity of this task. You balk even though you know the schism between head and heart, the conflict between intellectual understanding and subjective knowing, is part of the inherent variability of the experience at this stage and is the precursor to lasting union with the Source. You gradually concede there is no reasoning one’s way around the truth of this sacrifice. You are being confronted by the Divine Romance, with its demand of archetypal surrender to the Lover of lovers. You’re participating in the journey that embraces all nature of sentient experience, keeps one attuned to the world’s Truth, Goodness, and Beauty, and blesses one with love and joy. Mercifully with time and effort, it becomes more natural to live what is required for the letting go that leads to liberation. You grasp the adage that one does not choose a life with God, but that God decides who will be saints, and you find assurance remembering God has been, and will continue, endorsing you. Chosen, you resolve to waive your personal interests and plans for your life.

It is now that one most needs to access wisdom and guidance from beyond oneself and this requires a dependence on, and devotion to God. You again recognize that only the Beloved’s will and purpose matter, not ones own. Whether God is near or far, beneficent or mean, one worships and trusts that God is working to fulfill the inspired vision. Striving and seeking become less important, while adoring and surrendering to God become paramount. Right action from regularly and consistently being mindful of your spiritual commitments and intentions is required. Commandments echo intellectually in your head. Remain alert to, and resist old maladaptive coping strategies of excess that may have lessened but you now find yourself tempted to employ because of your grief. Exercise caution regarding worldly pleasures lest you revert back to attachment and dependency on them. Be careful not to regress on your new standard of virtue. Remember the bar has been raised; some of what is socially acceptable for others is no longer permitted for you. Wiser, you choose not to tempt fate in this way but avoid risks you would have taken in the past. Now, you refuse a romantic involvement solely for fun and excitement, or the business venture that gives you a huge gain at another’s expense. And you realize willpower alone will only lead to failure in this righteous effort. Focus on the Source, your god, is all that will lead to success; nothing short of a devotion in which all else is secondary will suffice. Only in this manner will you be fully engaged in this ego to saint experiment, allowing the Source to have its way with you, guiding, strengthening, fulfilling, and transforming you.

This renewed diligent focus on the Divine results in the fuller embodied richness of “being” that is promised by renunciation. By reducing your mental and emotional focus on undesired thoughts, actions, and temptations the mind becomes free to devote itself to your relationship with the Source or God. The emphasis is on feeling Divine Presence. This involves willfully ignoring ones desires and needs in any given situation, refusing to dwell on your and others’ stories whether positive or negative. You unconditionally accept the world as it is, letting go of what you want and your plans, your ideas about the way things should be. An effort is made not to worry. Outside times of formal practice you may find yourself reciting aphorisms, mantras and prayers to secure the stillness, concentration, and wisdom that bring about the empty and clear mind you associate with the sacredness, witnessing, and love of the Divine. Using mindfulness you engage in strategic thought stopping in which you turn your distracted and wasteful thoughts to those of worship. These actions reverse moments of irritability and generate acceptance of others, circumstances, and events. In doing so your actions are more consistently characterized by greater warmth and loving kindness toward others; and it is extended to oneself as well. You’re more joyful in disposition, mentally less critical, and more patient with others. Even minor spiritual arrogance is loosening and falling away. And, there is an increase in you easily wishing others well even if they slight you. In spite of continued fluctuation in your experience you more consistently feel closer to the Divine Source. You experience the freedom from suffering and enjoy the feeling of spiritual immortality that comes from identifying with God. The world becomes a different place, its inhabitants and ones relationship with them changed; saintly virtue more resilient to life’s mundane insults and routine challenges. Not only do you feel better living in the world, there seems to have been cleared a way for more righteous action on your part. Your behavior is more often prompted by spiritual principles received as higher intuition or direct knowing. Through divine guidance you are more cognizant of natural desires while less lustful, lessening their power to tempt you into wrongful thought or action. Prevailing in this way you reestablish the saintly work of going beyond spiritually experiencing archetypal Beauty in the world to bring the universally hoped for archetypal Goodness into the world. Knowing and living archetypal Truth in this manner enables you to once again be both the change you want in the world and to inspire others to do the same.

With ones faith built on a strong trust in God’s karmic will one understands that ones hopes are being refined so they may be more attuned to the God given spiritual vision. God’s promises will be kept and desired gifts granted but most likely in a way one has not envisioned. In this turmoil in which you are drowning in both the sweetness of grace and pain of suffering opposing forces are actually working in concert. There is recognition of the universal logic of Truth as the paradoxical juxtaposition and reconciliation of incongruity and contradictions. This is illustrated in the personal freedom sought that requires disciplined surrender and submission to something more than your personal self. Relinquishing your self-interest in ways of the world results in identification with the Source, granting you the freedom desired. Restraining and training one’s mind has provided it access to greater openness, wisdom, and latitude in action than was available prior awakening. Additionally, identification with and reliance on the Source or God to deal with all concerns epitomizes the awakened awareness of “striving without striving”. It is the enactment of “being” in which one does not focus directly on one’s or another’s wellbeing or spiritual development but on the Source from which all originates. Aligned with God as pure consciousness, you remain in the eternal present, unconcerned with the past or future. Now it is unnecessary to employ willful effort to experience transpersonal states of mind, to address concerns in one’s life, and to accomplish personal goals. Remaining attentive to God is all that is required, because now what you seek is present before you, and merely involves loving the world as you love yourself. Like a fish drowning to swim, you have died to your essence, renouncing the world to become it. You are more enabled to love God, to think and act as God does, and to love as God loves. Maintaining this divine perspective on reality, faith is stronger and life characterized by an ease and freedom with which to accept and address life’s variability.

Because your mind is no longer your own the paradox of your experience does not end here. Accepting you are no longer an individual self in a permanent world you are granted freedom from separation and sin. You now embody the loving Christ consciousness living in a heavenly present with its more refined virtue. And unlike what you may have willfully attempted in the past, this virtue comes naturally and is enacted with ease. You find your conscience is stronger, nobler, because the Source or God is guiding you. It is God’s creativity in the moment manifesting according to God’s purposes, working through you bringing Light into the world to benefit others. And this accords you a freedom from self-conscious monitoring and restraint formerly required to behave properly and beneficently. You have discovered and now live from a liberated conscience. A conscience not based solely on one’s thoughts and beliefs, societally or culturally conditioned principles, or mythological truths but one that while incorporating these elements, is predicated on the information and direction given by God. In the context of the present moment you experience it as the discernment of a spiritual situational ethics showing what you need to know, and instructing you what to do. Something you could not have reasoned or imagined on your own, it is divine intervention according to God’s logic and standards. You are now living as an awakened soul in the world, identifying with the world, gracefully loving the world.

Your spiritual journey is radically maturing in ways described by various traditions, but nonetheless experientially novel for you. With your awakening you’re learning to live an ongoing grace and renewal, a faith consciousness in which God is trusted to provide, and in which one selflessly shares the gifts one receives. This further commits you to spiritual practice and worship but in ways that are markedly different from those previously required for your spiritual emergence. Now with greater patience for its unfolding there is improved resilience to worldly experience and temptations. You have let go of your self and your lifelong beliefs and habits about living in the world, trusting God to creatively handle the details. Granted freedom, your spiritual journey is an enlivened adventure experienced moment by moment without expectation, guided by the greater virtue of a liberated conscience. A saint is being born.

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