Thursday, 27 March 2008

The spiritual path and its three stages

At the moment I am off from work recovering from an operation on my foot so I have more time on my hands. I can see how tempting it is to take oneself away from conventional life in order to receive insights and intuitions. I have found that since my mind has been relatively empty of the pressure from work that insights and intuitions are more readily available.

This morning when I was lying in that precious state between sleeping and waking I was reminded of what for me are the three stages of the spiritual path. I saw with perfect clarity the tools that one can use to attain each stage. Again, these are just my insights, I don't consider the stages or the tools to be the truth but they resonate with me. I offer them as guidance to the reader to play with and try out if they also resonate. The most effective and less dangerous way to handle the spiritual path is to treat it as a game. For me it is a game I desperately want to win yet on the other hand it doesn't matter whether I do or not. What is important is to play full out within the rules of the game.

This is the paradox of the spiritual path - the desire to experience and realize while also not caring whether or not it happens. It is this paradox that is the hardest to grasp never mind put into practice. What I am clumsily trying to say here can be best understood from a Sufi saying 'The thing we tell of can never be found by seeking, yet only seekers find it'. Summed up in these few words is the beauty and frustration of the spiritual path.

I see the spiritual path as happening in 3 stages:

Stage 1: KNOW THYSELF - This involves becoming aware of everything that motivates our behaviour, to understand not judge the decisions we made when we were children which drive our behaviour now and to take responsibility for that behaviour. The tool that is available for doing this is reason. Reason is the most powerful tool there is for shifting consciousness. The more we use reason and work things out for ourselves the more we accelerate progress along the spiritual path. This reason applies to the writings and teachings of self-confessed spiritual teachers. The Buddha said something along the lines of don't believe anything that is said, test it out for yourself, if it accords with your experience then the choice can be made to accept it or not. The ability to be discerning and clear about what resonates and what doesn't is critical for the spiritual path.

Stage 2: KNOW THE SELF - At some point the realization will come that what appears to be separate is in fact not separate. One Soul that appears to be divided but in reality has never divided. The tool for this is Consciousness. We become conscious of the unity behind the separation. When the consciousness reaches a certain level the heart awakens and then comes the realization that everyone and everything is connected. Like the hand which has 5 separate fingers but they all come together at the palm; like the firework which begins off as one and from it comes all the individual sparks, but all the sparks have come from the one. Knowing the SELF is realizing that there is no separation between me and others.

Stage 3: KNOW THE ONE - This is the next step after self-realization and is the state of realizing THAT which makes everything possible. I get connected to a Presence which is more of an energy. I say this because there are no visions of any deities. There is simply a deep abiding peace and calmness. A resting in what IS. The impossibility of describing this stage is reflected in how difficult I am finding it to write about this stage. Here there is no perception of separation, everything is one, the Divine is realized in everything and is realized as being composed of everything. The tool at this stage is Grace which is not given by anything in the mind.

My spiritual life now consists of me staying true to these stages, working to deepen them in whatever way I can. They give me a framework which works and through them I feel I have a framework for where I am going....which is nowhere............

I had just finished reading the above and was congratulating myself on how well it had all come together when the computer crashed and I lost the Internet connection. With it went everything I had written. I immediately knew why. I had allowed the ego to operate. I had forgotten that although the words are written by me they do not come from me. For a moment I allowed the ego to take over from humility and in that I paid a price. Humility is one of the most important qualities on this path 'who am I that I should be given such insights and intuitions', not 'what a great writer I am'. I try to be vigilant about this but on the spiritual path there is no mercy.

It may appear strange that this is how I interpret a loss of Internet connection which to the reader may be more to do with co-incidence or bad luck, but my experience of this path to date is that, it is when the ego is in danger of being inflated that I am brought down to earth quite heavily. I am grateful for this and will always acknowledge the lesson I am being shown.

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