Who Needs Secret Knowledge?

Making things simple can take a long time. We have pored over books, attended metaphysical services, classes, and workshops, met with advanced leaders only to discover that we are one with spirit and that spirit is here right now. The only special knowledge we need for that realization is the simple awareness that it’s true.

Be still and know that I am God. Or, be still and know you are one with the presence, and that presence is here now, always, and you cannot help but be one with the presence. There. No more books, no more services. No more classes, no more workshops.

Perhaps not quite so fast. In our daily lives, we can fall into the great forgetfulness. But lucky us, we can wake ourselves up again and again. A friend asked me, “How do you wake up? What’s the process?” We can use whatever brings up to awareness: meditation, prayer, chanting, stopping what we’re doing and paying attention to our surroundings, taking a walk, altering the pace of our breathing.

We experience peace in the wakefulness. I don’t know if our walking-around life gets better as we move to more wakefulness. I like to think it does, but that doesn’t really matter.

We can be of more use to others if we’re more conscious of the presence. In awareness, we can be of more use to ourselves in the world. Thankfully, drama dissipates – both the drama stirred up by our own little selves, and the drama of the world around us.

As we awaken, the world around us calms down. That makes it easier to be still and know that only the presence is real and I am one with the presence.

Is Faith Required for Peace?

What do you need to believe in order to experience peace? Does faith take you there? Many use faith to find peace. They experience peace through faith. Have faith in God, and God will take away your troubles and calm your mind.

For many faith becomes a blanket of divine substance and calming protection.

Yet faith in things unseen is not required for peace. Peace is at hand, in all of us at all times. In your true essence, you are peace. When you let go of the world, peace is what remains.

You do not need a belief system to find peace.

We can experience peace in meditation. In the breathing. In the exhale and the pause before the inhale. Peace becomes a presence.

For a long time, I thought that presence was something outside myself. Something I was reaching. Or something that was reaching me. Spirit. God. The divine consciousness.

No. The presence is not something outside yourself that comes to visit, then goes away.

You are the presence. The presence is your true existence. Your essence. Connected to everything.

We don’t have to struggle to connect. We are connected. We don’t have to work to find peace. We are peace. All that is required is awareness. Not religion. Not a set of beliefs. Not faith.

Over time, the connectedness becomes easy to experience outside of meditation. For it is you in your essence, as close as anything you can experience. Intimate. Essential. Here now. In every breath.

You cannot get this peace wrong, for it is you, and it is always with you. The peace is you. Your troubles are not real. Your thoughts are not real. And yet, you don’t need to let go of your troubles or your thoughts to experience your essential peace. For it is you, here, now, and it cannot be otherwise.

Truth Is an Arrow

Keeping to a spiritual path is not as easy as it looks. Meditation, staying in the now, keeping mindful, reading the latest “it” book, reading one of your past “it” books that got you started into all of this. The list doesn’t seem taxing. Yet it can be surprisingly difficult to remain on a clear spiritual path.

On the song, “When He Returns,” from the album, Slow Train Coming, Bob Dylan sings, “Truth is an arrow, and the gate is narrow that is passes through.” The entire album is Born Again Christian spirituality, but the idea of truth as an arrow and the gate is passes through being narrow applies to any spirituality.

I can fall asleep spiritually very easily, and when I fall asleep, the arrow is gone. When I turn my attention back to my spirituality, it is there waiting. It goes nowhere. I’m the one who goes away. At times, I had nodded off for years.

When I’m not paying attention to my spirituality, my life doesn’t go very well. When I’m paying attention, things are fine in my life – most of all my life isn’t really my life any more. The sense of “me” diminishes and the world grows large. I disappear into the arrow. And the view from the arrow shows that everything is cared for.

Getting back to my spirituality is not a climb, it’s a fall. A release and letting go.

The truth is an arrow and the gate is narrow that it passes through. Beyond that lies nothing. Beyond that lies everything.

Kindness to Strangers

Last year, the writer George Saunders delivered the convocation at Syracuse University where he talked about the importance of kindness. Yet he believes kindness doesn’t come naturally:

“Each of us is born with a series of built-in confusions that are probably somehow Darwinian. These are: 1 – we’re central to the universe, 2 – we’re separate from the universe, and 3 – we’re permanent (we believe we won’t die). We can see these beliefs as we prioritize our own needs over the needs of others.

While pointing out that we know better than this intellectually, Saunders noted we still tend to live by these perceptions viscerally. I agree. You can watch these beliefs play out in our behavior. How we act is the “tell” that reveals our true level of understanding. Gandhi put it well:

Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.

In Saunders believes kindness is hard. As we struggle to put our spiritual beliefs into action, this becomes very clear. Kindness asks that we override the belief that we’re central, that the self is real, and that it must be protected. Getting out from under the domination of the self requires that we surrender to the good of the universe even as the universe offers no visceral evidence of good.

Most of us live in the delusion that the self is real and its interests must be paramount. This belief affects our behavior profoundly. It prevents us from taking care of each other except inasmuch as the care for another extends our own self forward – as in parenting or mentoring. We are not naturally inclined to show kindness to someone who isn’t an extension of our self.  For that kindness, we must overcome the delusion of self.

 

Is Spirituality Experienced or Learned?

Where do our spiritual beliefs come from – experience or study? The answer will likely evolve over time. As we have more spiritual experiences, our beliefs will naturally lean to the philosophy or religion that best reflects those experiences.

When we’re children, that doesn’t quite work. Children don’t often recognize spiritual experiences because they are so foreign to the beliefs they learn at home or at their family’s place of community worship. When I was a kid, I had a number of spiritual experiences that I didn’t recognize as spiritual. The experiences were alien to the Presbyterian church we attended. They were beyond everything I was taught.

Those childhood experiences seemed like a form of madness rather than spirituality. Many involved the natural world, though at the time, I didn’t realize the natural world was spiritual. I also had childhood experiences of being someone other than myself. That certainly didn’t seem spiritual. Looking back, it very much was.

As an adult, I’ve followed spiritual paths that felt warm and encouraging – Unity, Science of Mind, Self-Realization Fellowship. Those were positive learning centers that helped deepen my spiritual understanding.

In recent years, I have been drawn to Hinduism and Taoism, especially the teachings from The Upanishads and Lao Tzu. I am not attracted to these teachings just because they are beautiful – they are – but because they explain what I’ve been experiencing.

Spiritual experiences can be simple – life just showing us who we are. Or they can be a matter of noticing that the world appears quite different than it used to. The world I see now is more like the world I saw as young child – before I was taught that what I thought I was seeing was not there.

Everything Is Not Enough

Lately I’ve been listening to the late Texas folksinger/songwriter, Townes Van Zant – always worthy time spent. One verse in particular stood out. On first blush, the words are rather plain. But the power of Van Zant’s words floored me on this recent go through. The lyrics come from the song “To Live Is to Fly”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2JGc2CvM0EQ

Everything is not enough;
nothing is too much to bear.
Where you been is good and gone;
all you keep is the getting there.

While Van Zant is not ordinarily considered a spiritual songwriter, great songwriting always has spiritual aspects. You can’t say anything truly meaningful without saying something spiritual.

The first line, “Everything is not enough,” captures the crux of life. In this illusory world, true satisfaction is not possible. Since the world is an illusion, it cannot nourish. We must take nourishment from the vision of oneness within. So “everything” is the world could never be “enough.”

As for the second line, “nothing is too much to bear,” we get another look at the same thing – the world can’t give us what we need. Indeed, if we look to the world for satisfaction, we will receive “nothing,” and that’s a heartbreaker – it’s “too much to bear.”

The next line, “Where you’ve been is good and gone,” shows that the past also cannot nourish. Where we have been is “gone.” Then, he shows what we can “keep” from our experience in this world, it’s “the getting there.” The “getting there” is the now. We get to keep the now. It’s all we receive in this world because it’s the only thing that’s real.

These simple words sung in the folksinger’s vernacular – no fancy or poetic language here – says something quite powerful about what it’s like to be alive. In just 24 words, he has said enough to fill a book.

 

It Guides Me Now

For most of my life, I’ve been aware of a “still small voice within” that seemed more important than the rest of the thoughts banging around in my head. While many associate this phrase with the Old Testament, Mahatma Gandhi also used it when he said, “The only tyrant I accept in this world is the still small voice within.”

For much of my childhood and adult life I was aware of something inside me that was more essential than all the noise of the world. During much of that time, I could only barely hear the voice, and I could only barely feel the presence that seemed to go with the voice.

I often thought, there is something inside me that knows.

I had an odd confidence in that voice. Yet the nose of the world nearly obscured it for years. There were times I tried deliberately to increase the volume of that still small voice. But it stayed remote and scratchy, like a radio station in the middle of the night you can barely hear – a station that happens to be playing the music you most want to hear. It slips away again and again.

Then, I experienced a physical trauma that suddenly changed how it felt to be in the world and changed what it meant to be in the world. All for the better, surprisingly.

As part of that change, the still small voice became clear. The shift in clarity seemed almost physiological. The voice was suddenly at hand, and the sense of presence I always associated with the still small voice seemed to permeate the very cells of my body. Instead of far away and indistinct, the voice and the presence became accessible.

I don’t know what to call it. I don’t know what it is. But I trust it and it guides me now.