Tuesday, 25 November 2008

The spiritual journey is about being powerful in the world.....not isolated from the world

Last Saturday I went up to one of the bookshops where I had left some copies of my book. The manager there had told me a couple of weeks ago that he was going to make it the book of the month in the next edition of the journal the shop publishes. When I went up to leave some more copies, he said that he had read some of the book and that it was 'very honest' and when he said this he looked at me strangely. I didn't know what to make of this and the first thought that came into my head was 'why be a writer if you're not going to be honest'. I didn't say this though. There was one of those silences that can be seen as awkward but I wasn't awkward I just waited patiently to see what he would say next. He then asked me if I would come up the next Saturday and have a coffee to speak in more detail about the book. I agreed and last Saturday was THE day.

When I arrived he greeted me with a warm smile and told me that it would be a few minutes before he could leave. I was in no hurry and so I turned to look at some books on a table. 1 of the books I felt compelled to pick up was called 'blueprints for awakening' and it is a book that asks a number of different Masters the exact same questions that Sri Ramana Maharishi had asked. I quickly went through a couple of pages and was struck by how it is all the one Truth that is said and expressed in so many different ways. I was also struck by the eloquence by which the Masters spoke and had a fleeting thought that my spirituality is so much more practical. I was musing on this when I heard a cheery 'I'm ready now'.

We set off down some back streets to where he knew there was a nice coffee bar. On the way there we chatted amiably about the book shop and how busy it was. Once inside the coffee bar he started to speak to me about one day where he had not been feeling well. He had picked up a book from the shop floor which was about a persons experience of having a stroke. It was written by the same person who is also a neuroscientisit so similar to me, he wrote about having an experience while being totally rational and conscious. He said that after reading this he didn't feel that well. He then went out to the shop and on his way back thought that he would lie down. He entered into the shop and immediately a lady asked him about my book. I didn't really understand the point he was making and so I said 'is it something about the power of reading accounts of direct experiences and the power of suggestion that could have resulted in psychosomatic symptoms? He looked thoughtful but didn't answer and I didn't pursue it.

We collected our coffees and then shock..horror.....no seats....potential here for lots of awkwardness and tension. But there was none. We stood patiently at the side and waited for a table to come available which it did after a couple of minutes. We sat down and he then said 'I want to congratulate you for how grounded you are given everything you have been through'. I told him my truth that it was taking on the Witness of watching the strange things that were happening like they were happening to someone else that meant the gradual integration of the experience and the altered state of consciousness into the grounded person I am today. He then went on to tell me about his brother who is currently involved with some Buddhist group and as a result has lost all grip on reality. When he first told me this I experienced some irritation as the thought 'what kind of interview is this' came into my mind. I quickly gave that up and became really present to him and to what he was telling me. The more he spoke about the fragile grip his brother has on reality and the impact in terms of him not pulling his weight within the family the sadder I got that the spiritual path would be used in this way.

The spiritual path is not about isolating or cutting oneself from society to engage in solitary meditation trances. It is about being active and powerful in the world, not an outsider to the world. And sadly this man's brother is not alone. The potential of that first psychic experience is the point of greatest danger on the spiritual path. It is at this point that many take the illusion of the glamour and hallucinatory experiences to be the real deal and they are not. It takes great presence and I assert the awareness of the Witness to remain grounded during and after the first of these experiences. Such experiences are a natural result of an expanded consciousness and are an indication that certain areas of the brain that were dormant have now been awakened. To take these experiences as more than this and to then use desire to have these experiences more and more is to shut the door to the spiritual in favour of the psychic. Once this is done the inner peace, joy, ease and freedom that comes with spiritual enlightenment is denied to the psychic. I don't deny the reality of the psychic. The point I want to make is that it shouldn't be taken as either the end point or the real deal.....

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