Wednesday, 5 September 2007

What happens when intuition is ignored....

This morning I woke up to the mobile alarm clock at the usual time to get ready for my group cycling as I always do on a Wednesday morning. Immediately I had a thought that went 'don't go today, it was a late night last night and you're tired'. I turned over and went back to sleep. When I woke up voluntarily a couple of hours later I had the usual disgust at my lack of willpower. I got ready to go to work still berating myself for being so lazy. It is so strange that whenever this happens I never sleep so that I miss getting to work in time. This never seems to happen, I will always wake with enough time to shower and dress and feel bad. I'm amazed at how the personality can be so strong on first waking. It takes up most of the consciousness which is why it is sometimes so difficult to resist it and get up that extra hour early to read, meditate, go to the gym. It's easier to just turn around and go back to sleep.

Feeling angry with myself I set off in the car. I always love the point where I round a corner and see the trees lining the outside of a park, this scene never fails to move me and it did today also. It calmed some of the turbulence that was going on in my mind. I saw that I had a free road and cruised off down it. I came to a roundabout and noticed that there was a car stopped waiting to come out of a side street. I thought 'it's stopped' so I am OK to continue'. To my absolute horror the car started to come out onto my side of the road. I thought 'Oh no, I'm going to hit it'. I swerved to avoid it and in doing so clipped that car. To make matters worse my back bumper hit the front wing of a car that was parked close by.

It was then that my spiritual training kicked in. I remained calm and peaceful. My first thought was to get my car out of the middle of the road so that it wouldn't be an obstruction. I calmly moved the car forward to separate from the parked car I had hit and then reversed back into a parking bay. I called the police because I did not know who the owner of the parked car was that I had hit and I wanted the incident recorded in case he/she reported that someone had hit them and not left any insurance details.

My own reaction to all this was testament to persevering with the spiritual path, to separate the things of life that happen from a story and not to add onto them anymore than what happened. I said to myself 'what has happened here is there has been an accident'. No one has been injured. The only thing I said when I met the woman driver of the car who had pulled back into the side-road she had just been trying to drive out of was 'how did you not see me'. She said 'I don't know and I'm sorry'. After that it was the formalities of the insurance and reporting it. Neither of us were hurt only shocked. In spite of my shock I was grateful to the years of spiritual training which allowed me to keep the situation calm and everyone involved with it calm. It is when the training is tested in a situation like this that I have the faith and confidence to continue. To have calm when external events are far from calm and to be in control of a situation is one huge reason for conciously taking on this path.

However...the truth is that if I had been strong enough not to give into the thought which told me I was tired and got up and gone to my usual cycling class the accident would not have happened. It would not have happened because I wouldn't have been on that road. This has taught me a valuable lesson. Not to be hard on myself and not see it as yet another example of where I have failed would be to indulge the ego and lose the lesson. One fundamental quality for the spiritual path is courage. The courage to take the teaching, learn from it and move on with more humility. The path of spiritual training is all about the development of humility through self-criticism.

I came into work but for the rest of the day I had a kind of shaking which seems to be coming from my stomach. I had been congratulating myself and feeling quite smug about being in the right in terms of responsibility for the accident and legally I am. If a car coming out of a side street hits another car on the main road then the responsibility is with the car coming out from the side street. Sitting at my desk I replayed the accident in my mind. To my shock I realised something that had been hidden from my view. I had seen the car stopped in the side street. But there were also other cars stopped. What I failed to realize then was that those cars had stopped to let the other car out! I hadn't seen this at all. It's not like I saw and thought 'I'm not going to stop to let her out'. I truly didn't cotton onto the fact that the cars had stopped to let her out. When I realised this I felt a sickness in the pit of my stomach and shame that I had been so virtuous in my attitude of being right. Legally, yes I am in the right, but morally the accident was my fault. This was something I came face to face with and you don't know how much I hate writing this. But when I committed to this blog I committed to ruthless self-honesty.

For someone who is not conscious that the spiritual is a path with its own milestones, just like the physical, social, and intellectual paths have milestones as they evolve, this thinking is difficult to understand. In Evelyn Underhill's book on Mysticism, an entire chapter is dedicated to this process of purification. In it she quotes something that St Catherine of Sienna said was the 'voice of God'. I quote from page 206 'This is the way' said the voice of God to St Catherine of Siena in ecstasy 'If thou wilt arrive at a perfect knowledge and enjoyment of me, the Eternal Truth thou shouldst never go outside the knowledge of thyself; and by humbling thyself in the valley of humility thou wilt know Me and thyself, from which knowledge thou wilt draw all that is necessary. In self-knowledge, then, thou wilt humble thyself; seeing that, in thyself, thou dost not even exist'. In these few lines it is possible to see how humility and experiencing the transcendent go hand in hand. One does not seem to be possible without the other. I can vouch for this in that it seems to be after episodes of hard self-criticism that I feel closeness to a Presence.

The beauty and frustration of the spiritual path is that it runs counter to normal human behaviour. To succeed on this path, in every situation, one has to think 'what way would I normally react' and then do the opposite. This constant vigilance and monitoring is a strain and meets with resistance because the personality does not like to have reins. But each time we think before acting or speaking the influence of the personality via the ego gets weaker and the pull of the Soul stronger. This is my experience of this path over many years....

I have often expressed in blog entries how difficult I find it to write about this path. The words are clear in my head but lose something when I see them in black and white on a screen. In the opening chapter of An Interrupted Life: The Diaries and Letters of Etty Hillesum 1941 - 43, she says something similar 'The thoughts in my head are sometimes so clear and so sharp and my feelings so deep, but writing about them comes hard. The main difficulty, I think, is a sense of shame. So many inhibitions, so much fear of letting go, of allowing things to pour out of me, and yet that is what I must do if I am ever to give my life a reasonable and satisfactory purpose'. This sums up exactly the way I feel and conveys the resistance which is there each time I sit down to write this blog. But I push through this and write...and write...and hope that something of what is written will come across as authentic and honest enough for people to know that the spiritual is a definite path with definite milestones which take the form of initiations. What are all the initations leading up expanded state of consciousness.

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