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.
Most everyone wishes to feel love, peace, and joy: being loved as a member of a group, in relationship with another or the Divine; to feel peaceful because one is free of fear, secure in one’s being, and generally secure in life; and, to experience joy from fulfillment and having what one wants in the form of things, people, or events in one’s life. When living a lifestyle emphasizing personal growth and spirituality this happiness takes different forms depending on one’s primary psychospiritual condition at any given time (see article on this site, Overview of the Transmodern Spirituality Paradigm, https://noperfectom.com/overview-of-the-transmodern-spirituality-paradigm/). Awareness of these variations provides a means to monitor one’s wellbeing and progress, and can also assist one in avoiding insidious pitfalls inherent in the spiritual journey.
Whether just starting out in life or facing challenging problems in living, success defined by society and culture characterizes the first tier of happiness. This includes: accomplishing an improved degree of safety and inner security usually by remedying past psychological conditioning that has left one frightened, constricted and/or angry; securing the right friendships and a loving partner with whom one fits well; and, mastering oneself so one can act in one’s own best interest in all situations thereby achieving what one wants health wise, financially, materially, and interpersonally. A satisfaction with oneself and one’s life has been achieved.
With this success accomplished the second tier of happiness is initiated with a search for meaning, which gives purpose to one’s life. Now love has expanded to accepting oneself, not for being successful or perfect but for being one’s unique self, a whole being living the human condition with all its trials and tribulations. And because one acts from authenticity one makes better choices, resulting in more joy from achieving and/or securing what one wants in life, whether it be relationship, vocational success, spirituality, etc. In this tier, peace is security in oneself and in life. One has come to realize meaningful life resides in the pursuit of one’s dreams, not only in attaining them. One has also learned to not resist opposition to one’s efforts but to pursue the path that is welcoming. And because one remains absorbed in more meaningful activities, inevitable struggle does not steal joy or security because there is an attitude that all experience is life being lived fully and richly. This tier is the happiness of existential fulfillment.
Spirituality, and the accompanying radical change in one’s perspective on reality determine the happiness of the third tier. One’s identity is no longer strictly individual and independent but at times transpersonal. There are more experiences of unitive awareness in which one experiences being in union with other sentient beings and non-sentient objects. There is also a felt-attitude of nonattachment to outcome in the unfolding of life events. With this spiritual worldview there is greater acceptance of life as it is, one remains more present to the moment, less controlling, and experiences more peacefulness. Coupled with other philosophical tenets, e.g. immortality, one feels more secure in an unpredictable universe. Adding to this, but also singularly important is the decreased coveting of material objects or particular experiences. Less dependent on worldly materialism, joy arises from the existential fulfillment of sacred experience lived from the transpersonal identity. Additionally, change in the way one experiences love serves to improve the quality of peace and joy. Now there is a human-universal love for all sentient beings, with others’ behavior and character being less a determinant of loving feelings than in the previous tiers (which emphasize filial and romantic love). This change in love includes an increased altruism and service to others resulting in one feeling more liberated, further adding to one’s joy. Additionally, as part of the stronger transpersonal identity, one begins to experience fleeting times of divine unconditional love. These are moments in which everything seems perfect as it is, and they are characterized by a complete absence of fear. All of which further add to one’s love, peace, and joy at this tier. This is the quality of happiness granted to the earnest spiritual practitioner.
The forth tier of happiness may be succinctly described as nondual being of awakened-enlightened awareness. Identifying with the Source of all that exists, realizing oneself as both the Creator and the created, one knows oneself as both Consciousness and the worldly forms It creates. Love, peace, and joy are divinely unconditional with one experiencing universal perfection, absence of neurotic disturbance and suffering, and the complete liberation associated with sacrifice of self and service to others. One lives from a nondual cosmology of reality including, but not limited to timeless awareness and immortality (see Costeines, 2009). Life is Being (not doing) as one thinks (without thinking), feels (without feeling), acts (without acting). Strictly speaking one is love, one is peace, and one is joy.
These tiers have been described in the present manner to assist in assessing one’s psychospiritual condition and happiness, and to provide some basis to monitor one’s spiritual progress. There are two conceptual qualifications required for the best understanding and use of this information. First, though presented in levels, these forms of happiness may also be understood as holons, levels unto themselves but also simultaneously existing in the other levels to a lesser degree or as potential. This accounts for the variability of experience in which one may primarily reside in one level but at times experience qualities of another. Second, it must be remembered that these happiness levels are elements common to all human experience and that each one of us lives and expresses them in our own unique way and time. One’s circumstances, resources, values, worldview, and life goals determine these details.
By realizing that one’s awareness and behavior are in constant movement within and across these holons one is able to maintain the right perspective on one’s individual-transpersonal identity, character, and happiness. Just because for one moment, one day, or one week one was peaceful and loving toward others does not mean the next moment, day, or week one will be the same. This is the rule of thumb that “what goes up must come down” until a permanent enlightened personality change has occurred. Until then one must learn the personal and unique manner in which this fluctuation in happiness occurs. This is so one can efficiently re-establish the individual or transpersonal happiness of one’s sought after and/or dominant psychospiritual condition. This mandates monitoring, and then managing whether or not one’s choices and experiences contribute to losing, maintaining, or strengthening one’s happiness. This entails reflecting on the various ways in which love, peace, and joy are typically experienced and expressed in one’s life. And this requires discerning if happiness is primarily individual or transpersonal as determined by not only its form but also its motivation and objective. While actions may be similar, e.g. helping another, one’s motivation for doing so can vary, e.g. monetary gain versus spiritual practice without individual gain. This distinction is of utmost importance. Psychological practices are necessary for addressing challenges to one’s personal happiness while spiritual practices have different goals.
These levels of happiness may also be used to provide guidance in avoiding spiritual problems that arise when personal and spiritual happiness are confused, commonly experienced as spiritual bypassing and spiritual materialism. Spiritual bypassing is when one uses spirituality in a maladaptive manner to cope or heal psychologically. Some examples are: cultivating relationship with a deity to replace a relationship one has lost with one’s parents; using spiritual practices to manage one’s negative moods rather than psychologically resolving the dysphoria; explaining away adversity or hardship with a spiritual cliché like “it was meant to be”. Spiritual materialism is similar but differs in that one believes one is acting or progressing spiritually but in actuality is strengthening a materialistic lifestyle or worldview. Some examples are: classic ego inflation of concluding from several extraordinary human experiences that one is better than others; expecting spiritual practice to provide one a life free from adversity and pain, and complaining, feeling like a failure, becoming angry when this proves not to be true; and, believing one is able to materialize what one desires, attributing positive results to oneself, forgetting the Source/God is the Creator. Achieving psychological or materialistic goals with one’s spirituality, rather than practicing spiritually for spirituality’s sake, e.g. for service and/or altruistic, virtuous character, is the defining characteristic of these problems.
Reflection on these ideas while considering basic spiritual principles can enable one to avoid spiritual bypassing and materialism; and prevent these pitfalls from becoming permanent impasses to one’s spiritual development. In spiritual practice the material and psychological are meant to serve the spiritual and collective not increase the individual. And this includes respecting and living by the truth that a spiritual life will include worldly hardship, often seen as a threat to happiness. Nevertheless, while not emphasizing the individual, spirituality may very well provide wellbeing and happiness to one’s life as a secondary benefit. But these should not be the end goal of practice, but instead be used in service of spiritual development: when basic physical and psychological needs are met it is easier to pursue a spiritual life, e.g. a healthy ego is necessary to sustain practice, to transcend independent individuality. Even so, happiness is not to be seen as the true goal of spiritual practice. In fact most traditions prescribe not becoming attached to good fortune, returning blessings to the Source, etc. Rather it is the Source/God, and the manner in which It brings out the best in all of humanity, including oneself that is the overarching goal. Living accordingly requires fearless honesty with oneself so there is keen insight into one’s actions, and an ability to hold to one’s principles while others around one may be acting worldly and/or materialistically. One remains knowing that regardless of circumstance Spirit provides the love, peace, and joy we all seek. As such Spirit is the provider of lasting genuine happiness for oneself, and for all. And when practicing from wisdom, not ignorance, we collaborate with God/Source through the tiers described toward this goal.