How do you feel after completing that “deep” meditation, or having understood that spiritual aphorism or teaching? How does it compare to a “good” yoga class, or perhaps a soul retrieval experience? Scanning your body head to toe, noticing points of warmth, lightness, ease, or their opposites, will give you especially useful information if you correlate it with your conscious awareness. Reflecting on this mind-body connection will inform you of the quality of your spiritual nature and of your relationship with Spirit. Assuming you feel at peace, your mind is quiet, and the world appears fine as it is, what do you do next? Surely, ego monkey mind and its attachments will rise up in you again unless you try to sustain your spiritual feeling. What technique will you employ to maintain the spiritual awareness recently secured from your formal practice time? It need not, nor should it, require great effort, or be noticed by others. Consider activities that are a regular part of your practice that you can employ in a private manner. Simple activities as you continue your day might include carrying a small sacred object in your pocket, focusing on all the beauty around you, silently chanting or praying to yourself, or engaging in random acts of kindness toward others. Not only does this effort contribute to a more enduring spiritual awareness, it also brings Divinity into the world, thereby benefitting others.
Healing others, mystical union, or making the world a better place are all legitimate spiritual endeavors. But spiritual practice is complicated, requiring that you not pursue false routes. This is especially true of tempting shortcuts that prove insufficient, and even harmful in the long run. However, being human our biology and psychological conditioning push us in that direction. We move toward the shiny objects promising to quickly accomplish our goals, ease our suffering, or make us pleasantly feel more than ourselves. But be careful. It’s hard to get enough of something that almost works. It’s like eating empty calories or settling for “like” when you need “love”. You’ll be starving your soul even as you get more of what you want. And especially when seeking spiritual union, watch out for circumstances that say “drink up”, because not all intoxication is the same. Some will just leave you “high” wandering in a no man’s land, empty and addicted. But the patient and moderate pursuit of spiritual consciousness yields a different result with significantly less hardship. Consistently integrating the sacred union and wisdom of true spiritual experience results in feeling complete and needing nothing more. And as you let it strengthen your spiritual nature, life becomes invigorated by peace and love. Resulting in more than fulfillment for yourself, there is nourishment for all.
As your spiritual awareness develops you will have greater expectations of yourself. Do not expect or insist on the same from others. That will only cause you disappointment and frustration. Renounce all expectations you have of others whenever they arise. This strengthens the light you bring into the world, and further brightens yours.
Though there is some commonality to the post-biological death experience it is postulated in an almost limitless number of ways across cultures and history. And most often it is either a permanent destination or a temporary one before returning to life on earth. This phenomenon of “life after life”, with all its people, worlds, and events, exists as and within what is described as the subtle. The subtle is neither material reality, nor the formless non-conceptual Absolute (causal). It is the form that exists between the two. Most are familiar with it as energetic bodies that support our physical body and spiritual mind, and the energy meridians and chakras associated with our bodies and involved in alternate forms of healing, e.g. acupuncture. However, the subtle is more than energy and vibrations. It is also raised consciousness and alternate realities.
As higher consciousness, the subtle through its relation with the material and causal (formless, non-conceptual) reflects one’s spiritual philosophy and creates one’s unique spiritual life and experiences. It may be consciousness as archetypal luminosities, e.g. ecstasy, divine love, or as consciousness existing apart from the physical body, e.g. astral projection. It also takes the form of higher consciousness that breaks the conventional boundaries of time and space, e.g. clairvoyance, precognitive dreams. Additionally, subtle alternate realities exist as other-worlds or after-worlds and are contacted through raised consciousness, e.g. mediumship. Associated with these alternate realities are diverse spirit forms, e.g. spirit guides, angels, which one interacts with in this world. Along with ones already mentioned, when considering other recognized states of awareness, e.g. waking, sleep, lucid dreaming, near-death experience, enlightenment, human existence may be understood as constantly shifting from one state of being to another. The exact nature of these states is shaped by personal beliefs, lifestyle, and images and symbols depicting meaningful aspects of one’s existence. Put another way, one’s mind and spirit determine the nature of one’s comprehensive life on earth.
With reality understood as the intertwined concurrent phenomena of material, subtle, and causal it is reasonable to posit that the transition from this world, as well as the after-world at which one arrives, originates within the individual psyche and spirit. Highly personal, the post-biological death experience is influenced and created by one’s life (or lives) history across all levels of mind from the physical to Absolute. Of course, this requires a spiritual life dedicated to practices such as non-attachment to the material including attenuated individuality, a personal theology that serves as one’s map of reality, and familiarity with the subtle, its phenomena and operating principles. Though ultimately the Divine Principle determines this outcome, through specific mastery of one’s body, mind, and spirit one can actively influence the form, quality, and outcome of one’s immortality experience(s).
When others do not understand and then ridicule you, they reveal their ignorance. With a strong ego calmly detach, observe the foolish behavior, and remember who you are. From this stance assertion comes easily, the topic changes, and there are smiles all around. Meanwhile, the spirit within acts from grace, privately wishing them well, and sometimes even praying for them. It is in this last gesture that you move your being to divinity, and feel and project unconditional peace and love. And now if God is willing, the event moves beyond geniality, and ignorance is transformed into principled behavior on the part of the previously ill-mannered. In a miraculous moment your prayer has been answered and has benefitted everyone concerned.
Spiritual development is getting outside yourself, beyond yourself, and becoming part of something bigger and more than yourself.
You objectively recognize who you are and what you do, then you discover what is truly meaningful to you and genuinely live it without limitation. Lastly, transcending individuality, existence now becomes unity with all forms, and your being is the pure consciousness that gives rise to them.
Your identity shifts from ego to existential self to spiritual self, and then to Absolute Source.
Union with the Divine, the kiss from one’s Beloved, is the wish of all mystics. Not only because it brings one beatific peace and bliss but also because it brings love into the world. And all who come into contact with the mystic practitioner, as s/he radiates Divine Love, feel this Love. And feeling this Love the human condition is elevated and the world made a better place.
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.
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.
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.
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.