The spiritual practice of emptying the heart of all but Love means love is your response to all the world presents to you; a commitment to renounce the world’s mundane ways and to not become attached to desires that hinder your relationship with the Divine. All the while unconditionally accepting every worldly thing and event as an aspect of the Divine. With this surrender you bring compassion into the world, and also find that love comes to you from the world.

Not the Proverbial Life

Like the proverbial stone thrown into the pond with ripple begetting ripple, quick personal change results in the need for further changes. You are alerted to this by a discomfort caused by challenges emerging from the most recent changes you’ve made. Additionally, this success reminds you of your long-term life goals and raises fears that if you don’t take further action you may miss out, and then never be happy. Both these welcome and unwanted results are unknowingly reinforced within you by the world through social convention, capitalistic corporations, governmental politics, and dogmatic religions. Even those close to you, who wish you well and want the best for you, participate in this operation telling you there is more to do. They suggest what to do, try to persuade you to do it their way, and may even offer to help you do it. But what others and the world do not do is support you in being your unique self. Rather they encourage you to be who they believe you to be. And because they are also under the same worldly influences as you, and are also conditioned to be what world culture wants one to be, they will unknowingly support those goals not your personal ones. It is not possible for it to be any other way; most people are simply not aware of this conditioning and often lack insight into their own unique character and life to be of any genuine assistance to another. Furthermore, others rarely have a thorough comprehension of your values, character, and unique destiny, the information required for anyone to make an informed decision about their life.

To wisely make changes in your life it is important to remember it is a process in which one change leads to another, and then requires yet another. Change occurs in more than just one’s beliefs, feelings, and behavior. Change in these habits results in one’s identity and character also being reshaped. Each change redefines you, even if only slightly, and it is from this new identity that you make the next change required to continue your healing or growth. And with each change you must consider your personality traits in relation to specific aspects of your personal journey. A simple illustration is the need to take the next step after having previously increased recreational activity to increase social time with others. Further personal work may now be necessary to reduce a noticeable increase in anxiety, strengthen one’s confidence and esteem, or improve one’s interpersonal assertion. These secondary efforts are the necessary follow through that support the initial habit change, and make it more natural and regularly occurring in one’s life. The resulting permanent change in personality now supports what is meaningful in one’s life, i.e. active lifestyle, friendships, interpersonal effectiveness, and leads to self-actualization.

Not only does this understanding of personal change produce lasting results, but it also fosters an attitude of living every moment of one’s life on a leading edge of personal discovery. And it grants one further insight into the world, providing an objectively real, rather than conditioned view of it. Together they give one the feeling of newness in every moment of every event in one’s life. With this approach one feels openly receptive to the present, unconditionally alive, and that one is living life as a daily adventure. And most importantly, one secures and is able to live one’s true life and destiny.

     Questions:

What is the origin of your beliefs, values, and goals in life? Consider the significant sources and people who have influenced you.

Who do you trust to give you good counsel about yourself and your life when you need it? What is it that makes you trust them in this way?

When was the last time you attempted to change a habit, only to revert back to it after a brief period of change? Did it become a complete relapse or only a partial one? Explain the outcome.

Consider a habit you would like to change, how you would do it, and how it would feel when the habit is first changed. Then imagine the challenges that would arise upon the initial change in habit, and consider what your strategy would be to prevent a relapse.

Consider three things in your life you wish were different or not in your life. Now consider each one’s exact opposite. Reflect on whether or not these reveal what is meaningful to you, and if they provide some direction for you to live a more fulfilling  life.

(Mind and Behavior)

Positive Changes in Self Resulting from Spiritual Practice

You now understand you are not your body, while respecting that the body-mind-Spirit nonduality is your true identity. And because you know changes in one of these three can bring about changes in the others, you employ this knowledge to create and maintain your wellbeing.

You have come to know how easy it is to relax your body and bring about calmness in the mind, and that sustained meditation or prayer practice leads to feeling peaceful. And now you also use your willpower to bring about calm and/or peaceful feelings as you wish or need.

Because spiritual ritual, especially prayer, chanting, and meditation improve your ability to concentrate, you are now able to focus on a topic for sustained periods of time without your mind moving onto another topic. Along with feeling peaceful, this improved concentration enables you to think through topics more thoroughly, and to notice things of which you were previously unaware.

As mindfulness has become stronger through practice, you are now better able to observe and monitor your thoughts, feelings, and actions as they occur in the moment. Additionally you have an improved ability to observe the effects of your actions, as well as those of others. This internal and external awareness results in you being more engaged with yourself, others, and the world.

Your relationship with the world has changed and you realize how little you really know. Previous assumptions and long held beliefs no longer serve you as well, and you have begun the search for truth in earnest. You find yourself being more open- minded in general, and receptive to others, their ideas and ways of doing things.

With an acute awareness you realize the degree to which there are negative thoughts and emotions in the mind, and have begun the arduous task of controlling them. With the ultimate goal of eliminating these harmful aspects of mind, you now aspire to a higher standard of behavior.

You recognize your present and past psychologically painful experiences. And in doing so you’ve learned to manage, express, and resolve negative thoughts and feelings. You are mastering the art of grieving and have an improved ability to recover from psychological pain and return to wellbeing.

You now live more in the present. Whether good or bad, the past is not denied or forgotten, but is objectified. Your history no longer carries an emotional load, feels like it happened a long time ago, and may even feel like it happened to someone else. There is a new person living the life you call your own, and you are attending to what is right in front of you, experiencing the now and new.

You are now more attuned to what is meaningful for you in this life. You have begun to refuse what only satisfies, instead seeking what is fulfilling. New actions, activities, and friendships replace the old less desired ones as you are guided by your values and authentic personal goals. You feel you are on the path to actualizing your true self.

You no longer believe that the physical world is all there is, motivating you in an earnest pursuit of wisdom regarding reality, human experience, and the Mystery. You have identified and are pursuing your spiritual goals that are linked to your personal worldview based on your chosen tradition(s), experiences, and values. And this pursuit contributes to you having a meaningful life.

You now experience more transcendent states of awareness, e.g. unitive consciousness and supernatural occurrences. Knowingly without undue anxiety or confusion, these are integrated into your spiritual life and transpersonal identity. And so now, more than ever you are aware of the Spirit within.

 

 

Wrong Mind, Right Mind, or Spiritual Mind

After being a psychologist and practicing psychotherapy for over forty years if there is one thing I have learned it is that no one does anything one hundred percent of the time. Even the most anxious person feels calm sometimes, the saddest feels happy, and the coldest acts friendly. Everyone shifts across different states of mind, sometimes out of one’s awareness and sometimes through conscious volition. The latter done through being mindful about the content of one’s mind, and present to one’s choices and actions in any given moment. Everyone has three states of mind to monitor and manage, and if done well will foster personal and spiritual growth. These states of mind may be labeled as wrong mind, right mind, and spiritual mind. And by attending to them one is able to strengthen or weaken them by shifting from one to another as one chooses.

The method being proposed is simple to describe but challenging to do consistently and to master to the point of it being natural. Yet, if one has developed some basic mindfulness and presence skills it is possible to learn and use. The method requires being mindful of these states of mind, what are actually one’s various personae, and shifting from an undesired to desired one: from wrong mind to right mind or from right mind to spiritual mind. One must shift the whole mindset, the gestalt, not only some of the qualities. And when successful one experiences a change in one’s being, feeling that one’s “me” has been altered. Effort is then focused on maintaining the chosen mindset.

The following descriptions of the mindsets are given only to serve one in generating one’s own personal list. One may label them what one likes, but one should avoid being pejorative: maladaptive mind, wellbeing mind, spiritual mind; or, poor mind, thriving mind, waking mind. The three minds are distinguished by their mental, emotional, subjective, and action characteristics. Wrong mind is: mentally self-loathing and negative; emotionally fearful, sad, or angry; subjectively down, feeling inferior, weak, a failure, and a victim. It involves: poor concentration or being spaced out; confusion regarding self and one’s goals; and, aggressive action toward self and others. Right mind is: mentally self-accepting and objective or positive; emotionally neutral, calm, or joyful; subjectively feeling confident, strong, equal, and capable. It involves good concentration and focus; clarity regarding self and one’s goals; and assertion in one’s action for self and/or toward others. Spiritual mind is: mentally accepting self and others, nonattached to outcome and open to what happens next; emotionally neutral, peaceful, and/or loving; subjectively feeling equanimous, expansive and deep, and in union with “other”. It involves: focused presence with higher intuition or direct knowing, clarity regarding truth, and “action without action” assertion that is beneficial and naturally positive regarding self and others.

In many ways this method is one of retrieval. One retrieves knowledge and wisdom, bodily experience, and transcendent experience to either maintain or shift one’s state of mind: whether one is drawing from personal learning or healing, or from one’s spiritual practices one is using what one has already experienced and knows. One rejects the wrong mind, chooses not to focus on it, and volitionally embodies the desired subjective feeling while remembering the valid mental content associated with the right mind. And if one desires spiritual mind, one adds the transcendent qualities of that mind, essentially shifting right mind to spiritual mind.

Embodying the subjective feeling means one maintains or assumes the body posture, breathing, and movement of the desired mindset qualities, for example calm, strength, and/or confidence for right mind. Strength training, yoga, competitive sports, stretching, actually any body postures and movements one assumes throughout one’s day, can provide this if one has already recognized the qualities in them that are being described. Doing this first can provide a mental clarity and objectivity that enables one to either correct cognitive distortions or falsehoods, and/or repeat the positive and useful knowledge one has previously learned. These two steps then move one more fluidly into right action. As mentioned previously, the separate aspects of this process need to occur as one gestalt, practically simultaneously. Of course this is where practice is required.

Spiritual mind is always best achieved from right mind. One does this by remembering one’s formal practice experience. For instance, one can recall and relive in the moment what meditation is like mentally (e.g. not thinking), emotionally (e.g. emotions rise up and pass), and subjectively (e.g. boundary of self feels expanded beyond usual limits). Breathing as if in meditation, praying as one engages in other activities, or even reflecting on spiritual aphorisms are means to move to spiritual mind. One might also recall times when one’s mind was altered into transcendence unexpectedly or without formal practice. This might include remembering a morning sunrise, a peaceful walk in nature, or even aspects of a paranormal experience.

This is not necessarily an easy means to improve one’s mind. However with practice it is a viable means to do so. Mindfulness and presence skills cultivated through practice enable the volitional control of one’s mind as described in this method.

Perhaps most importantly, formal practice on its own will not result in improving one’s ego-existential psychospiritual condition or achieve the transpersonal one. What one does in formal practice must be employed while living in the world; actively controlling one’s mind being the sin qua non of this application if one is to develop spiritually.

Delicate is the Love of God

When strong it is a love without beginning or end; irrepressibly expressed it is limitless, and the world changed forever for those endlessly touched by it. Divine Love is more than unconditional love; it is the supernatural love of God. Though similar, it is so much more than the all-accepting love with which most people equate it. It is a bliss in which you have lost yourself in the other and everything else around you. All existence arises and passes in the moment with nothing separate and apart from you. Fear drops away, no longer taking space in awareness; one’s presence is without anticipation, receptivity, or intention. One just “is”, tranquilly resting as enormous peace. Being, you are speechless, with no words coming forth; no need, Spirit will speak when It is ready. Adoration and warmth prevail; coming forth regardless of circumstance, for nothing but beauty lies before you. Perfection is the order of the day and joy the background music. And if shared with another, one is certain the search is over, one’s soulmate has been found, kismet realized.

You’re fooling yourself if you think you can will your heart to love this gloriously, it can only be granted by God. It must come through the grace of God to one who desires such a gift and has sacrificed oneself to the world. Then, above and beyond all else, you must obey and submit to God’s will if you are to have an ongoing relationship with the given grace that sustains this numinous Love. No matter what your religious beliefs or God, worship is now a matter of maintaining God-given virtue and God-directed altruism regarding all others as a means of expressing love to God. Without this worship Divine Love as powerful as it is, will be lost.

If one’s dedication to this worship is weak Divine Love remains fragile, subject to diminishment, and even death by the ways of the world. And the most common, one might dare say most tragic course to this end is to love another human being as if he or she were the rightful sole recipient of this love. To do so means one has romanticized what was Divine, retracted one’s love from God, and become more attached to another person than to God. And in separating oneself from God one loses the grace that had been granted, tarnishing the Light of the Love within. God, who had been shining through you all along, is no longer alive within to recognize Itself in the other, and Divine Love withers away.

(Questions to further assist one in exploring this topic may be found at noperfectom.com)

Reconciled Differences

You and I are not the same person, so I’m sure my god is different from your god. Because of our individual differences all gods are personal and unique, though most do not recognize this, insisting their god is the One. And not even realizing when we agree that our god is the One, we really are not referring to the same god. Oh my!

Not only that, but everyone’s spirituality is different, even though our language and common experiences might agree, and there is even theology that says it is all so real and true. However, no matter its religious origin or degree of concurrence among us, it is personal and unique. We practice differently, we seek different results, and even when in pursuit of the same objectives there are differences we do not discern. Oh no!

Equally challenging, maybe even more so, is that your reality is not the same as mine. It only appears we live on the same planet, in the same universe. We don’t. Though the principles that manifest my world and yours are the same, the result is not; the earth I walk upon, and the reasons I do so are not the same as yours. The good news and the Goodness, lies in the fact that we can agree upon so much when we are traveling such different realities. And though there is a consensus reality we can agree upon, there is much of it we do not. No matter how obvious or subtle these differences are they remain significant, affecting our every action. Oh well!

So the principles of manifestation to which we are all subject require some basic agreement. Primary is that Spirit creates diverse forms, all of Itself though never completely of Itself. Hence there is a Mystery to continually try to recognize but that will never be known. And even though the conclusive truths and personal forms of God each of us believes in will vary, it is necessary that diversity be respected, altruism lived, and love given unconditionally. All God’s true religions and spiritual practices support differing worldviews for their theologically valid truths while discarding falsehoods and misinterpretations. The resulting commonality of Truth, when accurately known, experienced, and lived leaves us all in one world, all of one people, all of one God, All as One. Oh yes!

(Questions to assist in further exploration of this topic may be found at noperfectom.com)

 

 

A Comment on Resilience, Happiness, and Personal Growth

Resilience is most often understood as adapting to or coping with adversity or a serious traumatic event in one’s life. One addresses the psychological distress reflected in one’s body and mind, expresses and shares one’s experience, and makes use of support from others. If you examine the psychological literature behind this definition you find another, far more dynamic concept of resilience. It is one rooted in authentic happiness, self-actualization, and spiritual experience, underpinnings from which one can draw, giving depth to one’s resiliency. Experts call this more comprehensive resilience posttraumatic growth (Tedeschi, Park, & Calhoun, 1998) and there are three primary aspects of it that draw upon these roots. These are the inevitable change in one’s identity and self-image, one’s relationships, and in one’s worldview and life philosophy. A “lemons into lemonade” approach in which one is encouraged to be receptive to events beyond one’s control, while responding to them in an actively engaged manner, changing oneself and one’s life as prompted by the adversity and hardship one is facing. Processing experience in this way benefits problem solving regarding the crisis, fosters positive identity change, and contributes to one’s spiritual development.

Authentic happiness has been defined as moments of absorption in an activity that is fulfilling to a person (Seligman, 2002). Happiness is not defined as moments of joy and excitement or as times of lively thrilling activity. Instead, it is transcending self-consciousness, an “in the flow” forgetting of oneself, while engaged in valued and meaningful activity. The other positive elements are nice but optional; “following one’s bliss” is what is important. And because one is more informed about one’s self and life one makes better choices and takes appropriate action on one’s behalf. When life is weighted more toward these fulfilling moments than unsatisfying or painful ones a person is happier. This happiness is the more enduring kind that adversity or trauma cannot steal and to which one can return time and time again. It is also this meaningful activity that further clarifies and strengthens the feeling of being one’s true self, with these insights begetting more truth and happiness.

Maintaining a fulfilling life based on one’s dynamic, self-actualized identity enables one to maintain an attitude of receptivity to imposed change, while supporting non-attachment to one’s personal status quo. A time of crisis in which one grieves one’s losses while embracing the inevitable transformations of self, relationships, and worldview not only strengthens one’s authenticity but also lends true direction to one’s life. And then one is given the opportunity to shape and live out one’s destiny as it evolves, with one being more resilient to feeling personally devastated or that one’s life is ruined. One feels a permanency even in the midst of difficult change, thereby feeling a mastery over the situation. It becomes about who one truly is and what statement one will make with one’s life. This quality response to a crisis improves one’s wellbeing as it proactively prepares one for future unexpected challenging events.

The psychological literature tells us that spiritual and religious models are helpful during times of crisis. They provide a way to give meaning to tragic events by furnishing an established worldview on life’s mysteries from birth to afterlife, helping one comprehend and reconcile to one’s circumstances. Inherent in these teachings are instruction and guidance on action to take to work one’s way through adversity. Now the crisis also presents an opportunity for the individual’s spiritual development. This can range from having one’s spiritual beliefs affirmed and strengthened to the transcendence of one’s individual ego self. One can be moved at these times to know first hand the divine presence that exists within and around all of us, spiritual emergence occurring as personality expands to include this transpersonal condition mind or higher self. Additionally, the resulting state of awareness benefits one by providing an equanimity and uplifted state of awareness that is useful in facing adversity. This experience is faith consciousness, and is sometimes referred to as God/Spirit not preventing adversity or crisis in one’s life but assisting one in seeing one’s way through the adversity.

Individuals have choices when facing troubling times or crises. If the choice is to resist, or in some way deny the truth of the inevitable changes, one remains miserable and the negative effect of a crisis becomes a chronic condition from which one may not recover. But as noted, a crisis can result in posttraumatic psychological and spiritual growth while further strengthening one’s overall resilience. If one’s efforts focus on embracing change the experience can be personally meaningful, leaving one happier than before, and further along on one’s path to authentic happiness and self-actualization. And perhaps further along on the path to self-realization.

(References and questions to assist in further exploration of the topic for oneself may be found at noperfectom.com)

 

Out of Body, Out of Mind

On the spiritual path, especially if a novice or receiving no guidance, one can sometimes confuse true transpersonal experiences with those of a poorly formed or weakened ego condition, a phenomenon called the pre-trans fallacy (Wilber, 2000). Two of the most common ones occur when one concludes one has had an out-of-body experience (OOBE) when one has actually experienced a psychological symptom of anxiety called depersonalization or derealization. In both cases one feels oneself to be in a different reality and divorced from one’s body. Another form occurs when cognitive awareness is altered but one does not distinguish between focused mind and non-focused mind, rationality and irrationality, and distorted versus objective reality. Rather than the transcendence it is believed to be it is actually only a misrepresentation of everyday identity and reality.

That one’s worldview is not as severely challenged with depersonalization as it is with the OOBE is one factor that distinguishes the two. Depersonalization often occurs in a stressful situation. Like an OOBE it feels surreal, but unlike the OOBE it is accompanied by significant discomfort or nervousness prior to, during, and after the experience. Also, depersonalization can usually be linked to previous long-standing anxiety complaints and symptoms. There is frequently anxiety after the OOBE but it tends to be associated with difficulty comprehending an experience that is counter to one’s understanding of reality, or an uneasiness associated with realizing you no longer know the world as you once did or the way others do. Whether or not one sees one’s body and/or moves about in a different landscape are two more significant factors in distinguishing between the two phenomena. Depersonalization does not involve actually observing one’s body, but is only an “as if” experience occurring in the mind as vivid imagination, while the true OOBE involves observing one’s body and/or finding oneself in another landscape different from the one just prior to the event. And this may even involve control of the experience, similar to lucid dreaming and astral travel in which one explores and interacts with the environment in which one finds oneself. In contrast, the interaction with, and change in one’s surroundings in depersonalization are limited to efforts to cope with familiar consensus reality

Spiritual practice across traditions emphasizes alteration of conscious awareness in which one’s cognition, sense of self, and reality is altered. In one’s eagerness to achieve this state of mind one can misidentify poor concentration with its long succession of associations, that usually generate confusion and minor separation from logic or one’s surroundings, as raised awareness. In actuality this is what is commonly referred to as being spaced out. This occurrence of losing continuity of one’s experience because of poor concentration, and then perceiving reality in an altered fashion, is misconstrued as positive while in actuality it is only a distortion of reality, e.g. a play on words that may be novel but does not reveal spiritual truth, misheard and misunderstood auditory stimuli, altered visual perceptions due to unusual light and shadow. One can be said to be out of one’s mind, irrational and out of touch, rather than in a focused transcendent mental state or expanded mind. The true experience of raised awareness, whether transpersonal or nondual, is one of presence with concentration on, and receptivity to, immediate experience. Cognition ranges from quiet stillness to non-thinking to direct knowing of truth in a given circumstance, and is experienced without conscious intent. Additionally, one experiences an alteration in mind in which one feels one has been moved more deeply into reality, that is, into archetypal and/or superconscious awareness. In sharp contrast to the spaced out condition there is an emergent wisdom in which all objects and phenomena are relationally integrated. Worldly phenomena and objects are understood as empty of inherent meaning and are formed by, and arising in reality due to Ultimate Consciousness, the Source, of which one now recognizes one is a part. Experiencing this subjective expansive feeling of one’s individual self transcendently merging with the “other” as union, or as fully experiencing nondual being the Source, is a second distinguishing factor in validating true spiritual self and reality change. Mundane understanding and rationality is maintained while simultaneously experiencing the world through the dominant raised awareness of the a-rationality of the nondual cosmology as noted above. And rather than willful action or reflection on this, one simply abides in this process of expanded identity and manifestation, commonly referred to as being in the now, or Being. Now truly altered, reality is markedly different, revealing nondual mind-matter memory and creation.

As one considers these distinctions between pre-ego and transpersonal/nondual events an important caveat cannot be ignored. It is that there are times when one’s experience is characterized by elements of both conditions, e.g. an OOBE can be preceded by an anxiety attack . Integrating the experience then requires addressing one’s psychological character and functioning and also one’s spiritual experiences, knowledge, and development so one may correctly understand and follow-up on the experience in the most beneficial manner. This also stands as an argument for the integration of psychology and spirituality, and for the advocacy of psychological wellbeing as part of any spiritual practice.

 

 

 

 

 

Passed It On?

Have you educated yourself today? Or maybe learned something about yourself that was important? And what was it about, your shortcomings or your strengths? And what did you do with that information? Hopefully you did not hate yourself for shortcomings or mistakes but accepted yourself for who you are. Maybe took pride in your courage and honesty, and even set your intention to further improve the asset or imperfection, so you can be the person you wish to be. Or perhaps you celebrated for the goodness you discovered, relishing the moment of recognizing some knowledge or skill you possess. And to whom did you pass on this insight, not in some guilty or bragging fashion, but as some wisdom that could benefit someone else? Humbly keeping in mind that when we scratch the surface we are all pretty much the same, struggling with our character flaws, and if fortunate rejoicing in our successes and good traits. All the while learning to love others and oneself for the evolving person each one of us is.

Three Loves

If in my loving you I tolerate your bad qualities and behavior I will detach or shut down to you, and bit-by-bit our relationship will sour. And our initial chemistry and friendship will likely weaken or die. Resentment will remain in the background, and will eventually be partnered with a degree of antagonism. Even if living under the same roof we will be living apart, and contempt will likely become our companion, projecting a shadow over our lives.

So long as there are no differences that are deal breakers, and our similarities are many and the inevitable differences between us serve our happiness and growth, then romantic love will prosper. Fitting together this way our love will be genuine, with the chemistry and worldviews we share seeing me through to accepting your shortcomings, all the while remaining lovingly close to you. Instead of detachment there will be the same compassion extended to you that I grant myself. And because this supports open conversation characterized by understanding, affirmation, and self-discovery our love will grow as we share with one another our experiences in the world. We will have a love that is secure while continuously bringing us to the edge of ourselves, both as autonomous individuals and as an empowered couple.

And if we are true soulmates, our relationship will be blessed by the wonder of all loves, unconditional Divine Love in which through some Mysterious way the spirit in me sees the spirit in you. Some say this is God loving the God in each of us, as God loves Itself. And if our relationship is not harmed by detached love, and true romantic love endures, then Divine Love will be maintained and strengthened serving to support both our relationship and our spiritual growth. Our life will be one of living with Spirit, graciously abiding in and sharing the good fortune of our Love and Its Light.