All through my life I have believed that I belong a group of souls – a swarm, a flock – destined to change the spiritual culture of our planet. For many years I felt we were doing well, but today I also have doubts. These doubts were recently triggered into clarity when I came across the provocative statement of the social activist, Frantz Fanon, who wrote:
Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfil it, or betray it.
That is a powerful assertion and it is healthy to ask ourselves the questions. How, my friends, are we doing? Are we fulfilling our mission or are we betraying it?
I want to share some thoughts and feelings around all this.
First, I want to emphasise how powerfully I feel this sense of a shared destiny â€“ to birth a new spirituality. I also want to assert how proud I am of what has been achieved. In the midst of so many global challenges, it is worth celebrating the spectacular success of the spiritual and cultural transformation thus far.
We need only to remember what it was like a few decades ago all across the planet. Look at the old culture into which we were all born. Fifty years ago the dominant and normal elements included:
The Old Culture
- The repression in general of all women.
- Respect for men regardless of whether it was merited.
- Suspicion and repression of anything metaphysical and occult.
- Respect for age and seniority regardless of whether it was merited.
- Respect for social status regardless of whether it was merited.
- Racism, sexism and homophobia taken for granted.
- The savaging of natural environments with no awareness of the consequences.
- Respect for traditional faiths and their representatives, usually ignoring most of their deviant behaviour.
As a group we then incarnated with a total inability to tolerate those elements. Everything about us rejected those repressive and unjust structures.
The revolution of the 1960s and 1970s was peaceful but powerful. Feminism, the ecological movement, flower power, rock music, gay liberation, movies and the new age movement shattered the old hierarchies. A new, liberated and egalitarian culture landed all across the world in democratised and industrialised states. Conservatives may bemoan the loss of values in the 1960s, but they ignore the quantum leap forward in basic freedoms.
We did well! In the language of Star Wars, the Force was with us.
All of this was not just the result of inevitable social and cultural politics. It is also, many of us believe, the manifestation of great spiritual changes. The zeitgeist, God’s great plan, Gaia’s next emergence, the cosmic rays of liberation, the astrological shifts, the impulse of unconditional love to incarnate more deeply – whatever you call it – is playing through us.
We are surfers, elements, on a cosmic wave.
And so many people have joined in!
The rigorously researched statistics are astounding. The World Values Survey is the most thorough academic research work of social trends. It shows that the majority of people – the majority! – in the West have moved away from traditional religion and traditional authority structures. They have adopted a more general and open-hearted spirituality and a more relaxed approach to cultural controls.
The transformation has become a mass movement and is embedded in modern global culture. In the UK, for example, every national newspaper now carries a large and regular section on holistic health and spiritual development. A recent poll showed that over half the country believes in angels. The richest woman in the US, Oprah Winfrey, has made her bucks and fame from taking an open-hearted, emotionally intelligent, holistic spiritual approach. Holism has recently been given state recognition as a faith community in Norway.
Everything we believe in – everything that was considered so marginal only a few years ago – has become mainstream. Eileen Caddy’s medal from the Queen, for example, is also evidence of this.
But in the middle of this substantial cultural change I believe there are several worrying problems that we need to address. And I mean us – not anyone else. We have to look carefully at them because I believe that we are the leaders of this movement and that it is absolutely necessary for us to deal with the challenges, or there is a risk of the movement ultimately failing. By failure I mean the usual historical pattern of religious impulse: a wonderful spiritual inspiration, pure and radiant with integrity, becomes corrupt.
Let me identify some of the problems I see, trusting, as in good therapy, that naming the shadow elements is in itself a useful and redemptive act. And, of course, I have to acknowledge that I am fully involved in all these difficulties and that I claim no innocence, but I trust that my story here is shared. So here are a few of the symptoms that require some tender loving care.
Remember those precious insights and objects that we cherished and freely shared the rocks from special places, the religious ornaments, tribal musical instruments, the insights about new tools for spiritual transformation, the companionship of spiritual advice freely given and received, the pilgrimages and retreats, the herbs and compounds?
Commercial forces and globalisation are, to a degree, taking them over. Spiritual insights, tools and support have become cash commodities. They compete in today’s marketplace and are frequently valued according to how popular they are and how much cash they generate. Practitioners and sharers of these great things, therefore, may be seduced by the glamour of success, lose touch with the free source of their inspiration and become hijacked by materialistic self-valuing.
Without wise guidance and encouragement in our new spiritual environment, many people adopt the new spirituality and think that it is only about achieving happiness, health and success, and fulfilling their personal development and personal needs. They do not appreciate that spirituality is about expanding consciousness, redeeming suffering and manifesting love.
At its most vulgar, meditation, prayer, compassion, renunciation, sacrifice and self-reflection may have lower spiritual status than a well-decorated home, the ability to use quick-fix strategies, organic clothes, flat stomachs and lovely skin.
Another more subtle problem is the continuation of spiritual elitism, cultism and prejudice, whilst pretending to be part of a universal and all-including spiritual movement.
We can see this in the behaviour, for example, of some people who belong to particular schools of therapy, meditation, shamanism, esoterics, meditation, mysticism, philosophy and are unable happily to welcome criticism of their particular method and belief. They often also are snobs and actively exclude or excommunicate other approaches, usually with the traditional passive-aggressive smile of pained superiority and pretended compassion common to most adherents to a belief hierarchy.
There is this tendency, then, amongst some of us to enjoy the community of the new spirituality and use it for emotional sustenance which is good but we may then betray it with our lack of that authentic open-mindedness and open-heartedness that releases all fixed beliefs to the universal ocean of mystery. We may protect our corner and pretend to be engaged and modern.
Then there is the hazard of self-engrossment. The important growth of psychological literacy and the therapeutic movement has led many people into being so interested in their own private stories that they forget the collective suffering and the collective endeavour.
And when they do relate to the communal problems, their attitude is often just to appropriate the drama, project into it their own sense of victimisation and simply complain, criticise or target. Have we stopped transforming our culture and become caught up with only transforming ourselves? And just as bad are some of us making a living out of training people to train people to be self-engrossed, thinking that we are benefiting the collective but actually colluding with narcissism and alienated individualism?
There is also some fatigue and laziness. The revolutionaries and idealists of the past may now be now more concerned with the value of their homes and where their slippers are. We may have achieved some comfort or status – and we do not want to lose them. We think and feel that we have paid our dues, as if age and seniority give us some licence to disengage from the noble struggle.
There is also some fear and collective anxiety due to past-life or archetypal memories of religious persecution. This may lead us to being over-sensitive to criticism and cultural pressures, endlessly seeking consensus or approval, when perhaps we should be asserting our truth and our utopianism more publicly. At worst, it may freeze us into inertia.
All of the above are totally understandable. They are part to the human condition and, writ large or small, in all of us. They are just part of the territory.
My sense now however is that it is time to unstick ourselves from all that stuff and to mobilise for another sustained and dynamic out-breath.
Whilst writing this piece I did an interview for the main BBC radio religious programme about my new book and the new spirituality, which many of us are calling Holism. (It’s an appropriate word.) A patronising and dismissive bishop preceded the interview, describing us as well meaning seekers who might possibly at some point find the truth. The interviewer himself was also patronising and aggressive.
I managed the situation because I have done many of these interviews and confrontations, but I was given pause for thought because the producer of the programme had agreed in advance not to set up the usual polarity and argument, but to have a more appreciative enquiry. Despite the agreement, there was the usual ambush.
Why had they done this, I wondered. Why, when so many people are into this new spirituality, had they been snobbish and aggressive? One of my conclusions is that they could not see the value in our movement. They could not see the wood for the trees. All they could see was the shallow supermarket spirituality, the interior dÃ©cor, the escapism and self-concern, the crystals and all the rest of it.
In terms of popular culture I am certain that Holism â€“ the new spirituality by whatever name it is known â€“ has landed and claimed its space. But where are its leaders? Where are its values being clearly communicated? Where can people go to understand how crucially all of this affects our global community? Where is the moral guidance and the confident articulation of the ethics and conscience?
This, I believe, is the next step of our mission confidently to articulate and manifest in local and global citizenship the values and essence of a universal and multifaceted spirituality. There is a mass movement emerging out of Gaia and humanity, and it requires clear voices to assert its meaningfulness, relevance and value.
I believe that with careful self-reflection, with psychological sensitivity and with a clear appreciation of social and ecological realities, we need to be proudly radiating and expressing our messages. We will all have different ways of explaining and understanding it, but its essence for all of us is clear. This new spirituality is the expression of wonderful values concerned with Love, Connection and the Sacred nature of all life. It is do with community-building in families, with neighbours, in our towns, countries and the globe towards a local and planetary society of justice, peace and the creative fulfilment of all beings.
On a new turn of the spiral, we need to engage with the music of the zeitgeist playing through every cell of our beings. We need to turn the volume up on our idealism, up our brilliant desire to create heaven on earth.
In supermarket queues, bars and cafes. At work, at home, at leisure and in voluntary organisations. With strangers, with friends and with relatives. On school and hospital boards, in local and national politics. Wherever and whenever we are. Within ourselves to anxious or lazy aspects of our own psyches. We need to feel, incarnate and assert that we live in an inclusive, powerful and benevolent cosmos of unconditional love, that everything is sacred and precious, and that the purpose of our lives is to build a global community of harmony, justice and abundance for all.
If we do not assert this message and create the changes, who will?
It is we who must do this because there are new generations coming up behind us. They are not the same group of souls as we are. They have a different mission. It is our job, not theirs, to complete what we began and to provide the space for their next steps. Are we leaving behind a legacy of which we can be proud? Are we laying the foundations that will serve our grandchildren and generations to come?
To repeat Frantz Fanon’s question: Are we fulfilling our mission?
The word enthusiasm, as many of us know, comes from en-theos, to be filled with the divine within. So there we are. I am ready for more enthusiasm. For more engagement. For more confidence and divine wilfulness. For more alignment. For more understanding of whom we are and what we are meant to be doing. It may be risky. We may make mistakes. But what a great feeling – to fulfil the mission!
EACH BREATH, NEW PATTERNS
Life within me
Teach me now the force of growth
Wisdom of love
Intelligence of being
Let me find my self-respect in the
Service of liberation
Let my inner life be proved in the strength of silent action
As each breath creates new patterns
Give me rhythm to embrace unfoldment
May I know beauty in every difference
Welcome change in every crisis
And give compassion to every cry
Consciousness joins all in life
Earth to cosmos
Soil to stardust
Human to divinity
Let love flame within
Freedom is with all
I wrote this poem/prayer when I was 30
There is an idea that I love.
People emerge out of theÂ Earth in the same way that leaves emerge from trees.
I like to view the great spiritual teachers in this way. They were not transported in from some other star system or dimension, but also emerged from Earth. Christ and Buddha, Mary and Kuan Yin, emerged as examples of humanity’s fulfilled potential for compassion and consciousness.
One of the most common and recurring religious themes is that humanity will be saved and brought to its next stage of evolution through the appearance of a yet another great prophet or world teacher. In Christianity, Christ will come again. In Buddhism, the Maitreya Buddha will incarnate. In Judaism, the Messiah. In Islam, the Imam Mahdi. And across the new age movement, there are all kinds of prophesies about new gurus, avatars and interventions.
I am open to all these ideas – I always welcome help! -Â but to be honest I am also suspicious of them. These prophecies suggest that humanity is dependent on outside intervention and that we cannot make it by ourselves. Maybe so, but I have another experience. I know the world is full of selfishness and suffering, but over and over again I see people growing and transforming. Especially in crises and challenges I see people developing. I therefore have faith in our species to achieve spiritual maturity and fulfilment based in our own efforts.
So I prefer another idea and prophesy, which is that humanity as a whole is the new saviour and that collectively we are the new Messiah. Or to put it in another language, the Christ consciousness, the Buddha consciousness, the Gaia consciousness, will not be manifest through just one single person, but will manifest through many of us. It will be a group event.
This collective event is sometimes described with words like ‘higher vibrations’ and ‘ascension’. It is also sometimes described as an event that will be restricted to a small elite and that the rest of humanity will perish. I remember once hearing a spiritual teacher suggest, drawing on the symbolism of the New Testament, that we should all welcome a nuclear third world war because it would result in 144,000 special irradiated people who would pioneer a new humanity on a new earth in a new dimension. Scary.
But that is only one example of the many melodramatic prophesies about humanity’s future. As my readers will know, I am happy to contradict any prophesies which suggest some kind of global disaster. I may be wrong, but I am suspicious of any kind of spirituality that is communicated with threats. More than that, the history of religion is very sobering. It shows that decade-by-decade, almost year-by-year, there has always been some group warning that the end of the world is nigh.Â The end is nigh! Prepare to meet thy doom!?Â This has been the source of many wonderful cartoons.
There is another way of understanding a collective change in humanity, which many other teachers, such as Alice Bailey and the Orbs, describe.
Some of you may be familiar with the classic meditation exercise called the Master in the Heart. In some spiritual schools, this is the very first technique that is taught. In it we slowly and calmly build up a picture and sense of a perfect being. We then place and develop this being in our hearts, allowing it to radiate to influence us and the world around us.
Done every day over a period of time, this is a powerful exercise. Gradually the practitioner absorbs the vibration of the exercise and integrates its influence. It becomes increasingly real. The individual indeed develops an open and radiating heart.
An open and radiating heart! Now that, for me, is a real change in vibration and in consciousness. Watch anyone, including you, opening their heart. The atmosphere immediately becomes more caring and compassionate. Our consciousness expands and there is instinctive generosity.
Opening our hearts is perhaps the single most important thing that any of us can do.
It is not noisy behaviour. It does not glitter and it does not seek attention. The higher vibrations of the heart are not, in my opinion, intense or electric. They are softer, deeper, more considerate and caring. And powerful.
I began this piece by saying that I liked the idea that the Earth births us in the same way that a tree births leaves. To follow this metaphor, when a heart opens it is like a bud opening on a tree. In fact, esoteric anatomy describes the heart chakra as being like a flower with several petals that open and then begin to spin, radiating heart energy. Each petal of the heart chakra represents a different aspect of love: compassion, care, attention to detail, service, self-sacrifice, courage and so on.
When all the petals in our heart chakra are spinning, when our hearts are fully open, then we are not only channels for compassion and love, we ourselves are actually generators of compassion, power stations of goodwill.
This is like a tree blossoming in Spring. One new leaf, one new bud, is a miracle of nature. But it is the destiny, the essential nature of the tree, to be full with blossom, a whole canopy of tiny flowers creating a single image of beauty. Deep roots, a powerful trunk and a celebration of radiance.
This too is surely the destiny for the whole of humanity. Not just the occasional visiting messiah. Not just the occasional emergence of a saviour -Â but the collective opening of our hearts.
Like a tree in full Spring blossom.
The Heart of Christian Mysticism
Over Easter this year I was lucky enough to go to the Christ Consciousness Conference at the Findhorn Foundation in Scotland. There were many interesting talks but Philip Roderick, the founder of the Quiet Garden Movement and Contemplative Fire, particularly touched me. During his talk, he said in a very relaxed way that he had a deep intuition that the events of Jesus’ life had cosmic significance for the evolution of humanity.
I liked his tone. He was not asking us to believe or worship anything. He was just sharing an intuitive truth for himself and inviting people to contemplate it too. I also liked his comment because it reflected my own sense. Brought up in an atheistic home in central London filled with scepticism about religion, as a teenager I too had the same feeling about Jesus. Something happened in Palestine two thousand years ago that was a cosmic shift for the whole of humanity.
But what exactly does that mean?
Many mystics have explored the cosmic meaning of the Gospel story and they tend always towards the same conclusion, which will probably not surprise you at all. In a mysterious way that we do not fully understand, the events of Jesus’ life channelled a cosmic energy into the whole of humanity, blessing us with the potential to be more loving, compassionate and conscious.
This, for many, is the heart of mystic Christianity. The Gospel story is not just about Jesus but suggests the extraordinary idea that Love is an active cosmic agent transforming and manifesting in everything including everyone of us. Isn’t this one of the most profound and precious aspects of spirituality? Surely everyone who has ever given or received healing or been touched by the sheer beauty of existence knows about this Love.
From this perspective the real message of the crucifixion is not about suffering and sacrifice, but is about a Love that is fully earthed into the physicality of our lives. In the Gospel story we can see that this is not a disembodied concept, but is fully incarnate in flesh and blood. This is a crucial, isn’t it? Our spiritual purpose is not to escape away into the bliss fields and heaven, but to bring Love fully down into all people and Earth, creating a harmonious and beautiful human society.
Some readers will be familiar with the symbol of a rose at the centre of a cross, representing how love, the rose, is incarnate into matter, the cross. This powerful spiritual idea that Love must incarnate fully into humanity is also reflected in the Bodhisattva vows of Mahayana Buddhism in which monks and nuns affirm that they will not seek awakening and liberation purely for themselves, but will strive until all sentient beings have achieved the bliss of Nirvana, until Love is universally present.
This great mystic vision, we might feel, is all very well for monks and nuns but as we go about the daily rhythm of our normal lives — pay the rent, clean the house, help with homework — it might seem a bit beyond us.
But there is another crucial spiritual insight that we need to hold in our awareness and in our hearts, which is that the cosmic incarnation of Love is at the core of all of us. Â It is the very essence of our soul’s journey.
Suppose that I ask you, Why do souls incarnate at all? Why is your soul on this journey of incarnation?
You might reply in a very personal way about how you, as a soul, are developing love, compassion and consciousness. Or you might expand your perspective and reply: My soul, like all souls, is part of the cosmic breath incarnating Love into form.
The rose on the cross and Jesus on the cross symbolically teach us that every soul is an agent of Love incarnating into matter. There are also many other spiritual paths that convey the same truth. Over and over again in esoteric and pagan traditions we find teachings about angels, gods and goddesses who fall from heaven but rise again. In some of the ancient mystery schools these great myths were acted out in sacred theatre and ritual, and in all of them the core message was that your soul is the same as these angels and gods. We are all fallen angels and deities, bringing Love into incarnation and manifestation.
And here and now on a practical level, cleaning the kitchen, supporting our family and friends, what can we take from all of this that is practically useful and inspiring?
For me there are at least two crucial elements. The first is that we need to trust that Love is not just something out there, some ideal that we will realise in the future, but that it is already fully within us, part of our very fabric as human beings, souls with bodies. Sometimes I visualise this as being like characters in a Christmas pantomime. There we are on the stage looking for Love — and the audience is shouting: It’s inside you!
The second thing that is crucial for me — perhaps for you too — is for us to remember that our own personal struggle to grow and transform is never isolated. We are part of a cosmic process bringing Love into manifestation and often the easiest way to cooperate is just to relax, stop fighting, drop resistance and yield to it. This is not always easy I know — we can be obstinate creatures — but what a relief it is when we just surrender to Love.
I have a problem with people who spout about spirituality but do not actually do it. My first taste of this was at school where the head teacher and his wife preached a gospel of kindness but behaved like bullies. You probably all have your own stories.
SNAKE OIL SALESMEN
For forty years now I have been involved in the new spirituality that is emerging in our culture. I love it. We can call it new age, or holistic, or contemporary. Like all spiritualities, it has its beauty and it has its shadow sides. One of its shadows and not a new one is the promise of a quick fix. John Diamond, the journalist who died of cancer, once likened new age teachers to snake oil salesmen.
Another problem is the way in which people get fascinated by the promises, the glamours, the reassurances and the entertainment. And then don’t do the actual spiritual work. If you think Im too opinionated, remember that I have tasted more spiritual paths than some people have had hot breakfasts. (Is that a boast or a confession? Should you pity or envy me?) For ten years I co-directed the Alternatives Programme at St. James’s Church, Piccadilly, and experienced the cream of the worlds spiritual teachers. I have personally put on 600 or so lectures plus several conferences.
You name it. I have heard it. There were many inspiring jewels and also some weird ones. I especially remember a Feng Shui teacher who advised audience members to put small pieces of aluminum foil on their shoulders to bring them power and success. My favourite bizarre folk were the Course in Miracles teachers from the southern states of the USA who threatened us with hell if we did not surrender to Gods all embracing forgiveness. That was an interesting mixed message.
THREE CRUCIAL QUESTIONS
One of the beauties of contemporary spirituality is its diversity. We are the first generation ever that is able to look at all the worlds spiritual traditions. This gives us a unique opportunity to see the core practices that they share. Despite all their differences for example, from meditation to ecstatic dance there are great similarities. It is like sport. No matter which particular sport you practice golf, swimming, tennis you still need to practice certain core skills such as fitness, muscle tone and stamina. Spirituality also has its core skills. Let me ask you three simple questions that illustrate this. The answers to these questions will show whether you have the basis of Spiritual Practice.
(But why, you may ask, would you want to do spiritual practice? Because, like piano or yoga or football, you want to get better at it! To become more awake and conscious. To be more connected. To soak in the beauty and wonder.)
Anyway have a look at these three questions and answer Yes or No:
1. Spiritual Connection: Do you connect with the pure wonder of existence?
2. Reflection: Do you reflect on your development and consciousness and seek to guide them?
3. Service: Do you try to live a life is of benefit to others?
If you answer Yes to those three questions then, according to most traditions, you already understand and observe the three core skills of Spiritual Practice. Do them regularly and with consciousness and you actually have an ongoing and grounded rhythm.
So the next important question to ask yourself is this: At least once a day, do you do them? Do you connect with the wonder of life and soak in spirit? Do you pause and reflect? Do you benefit others?
You can do all this in whatever way works best for you. There are so many different strategies and styles contemplative, shamanic, traditional, dance, chant, landscape, healing, psychological and so on. All you need is to take responsibility for yourself and guide yourself into a rhythm of daily practice, so that ultimately it all becomes one ongoing flow of awareness and experience. This requires a great mix of spiritual maturity and continual innocence at the newness of each moment.
Whether you develop your Spiritual Practice in one of my courses or elsewhere, let me share with you what I believe a consistent practice will give you. If you regularly soak in your experience of spirit, and consistently guide the growth of your consciousness and of your usefulness, then you will receive what most people really want:
- A sense of personal integrity, not dependent on material success or the opinion of others
- Inner strength
- Love and compassion
- Deepening connection with the pure wonder of existence
- Long-term vision
- A stable foundation for personal and career development
- A clear sense of morality and ethics
- Improved health
- Friends and family will enjoy your company more
- Quiet leadership qualities
- Character improvement
- The necessary foundation for exploring energy work, the inner worlds and altered states of consciousness
- Keeps you alert and intelligent
- A sense of being in the driving seat of your life
- Genuine enjoyment of life whilst being solidly present to the challenges and suffering
- Consistent spiritual growth
Although it can be challenging to maintain a daily practice, look at those benefits! They are the best. Nothing else compares
I feel like ranting and being flip about serious stuff. This is a protest to the Great Joker who set up the cosmos and created a particularly weird outpost for these peculiar little creatures we call humans, us.
Oh yes, I know that we are all supposed to have some level of choice about who and where we are, but I don’t remember ever being asked whether I wanted to exist in the first place. I don’t remember ever being presented with a simple tick-box question. Yes or No. Would you like to enter the time/space dimension? Would you like to become a conscious being? Would you like to be caught in the long suck of time, perpetually drawing you forward into change? Would you like to be a soul that can make choices?
That last question is of course very tricky, because at some point presumably I could not make choices so I could never have chosen to be able to make choices, could I!
But here, for me, is the biggest paradox. It is totally bizarre that as a human being (who was given no choice in having choice) I am able simultaneously to be both a primal self-interested reptilian creature and a soul with cosmic consciousness. Arghhh.
Now I know full well that some of my readers may be squeaky clean and only focus on the Light, always wear freshly ironed clothes and never fart, but sometimes, you know, you just have to let rip! Don’t you? Don’t you ever just go mad and need to scream and rant? (Whats that, missus? You’re nicely controlled and never do that kind of thing? Well, loosen up, sister, loosen up.)
Botticelli: Dante’s Inferno
ONE GOOD MEDITATION
Why all this explosive communication? Because over the last six months I have had the greatest expansions of consciousness and sensations of Love that I have ever experienced and it has shaken me up! They have happened mainly in meditation.
Since my early twenties I have had a daily meditation practice which I love. Most importantly, it gives me the space and time to relax and centre into myself and then let my heart, mind and body, my full consciousness and psyche, be aware of what exists be aware of the rain cloud of knowable things. There is no greater pleasure than to sit like a great radar disk, open, receptive, allowing impressions, sensing the wave fields, beings and dimensions that permeate this wondrous, multidimensional cosmos. As Sogyal Rinpoche once said about meditation, If you don’t come out of it feeling better than when you went in, you’re doing something wrong.
In a good meditation, I can pass through dozens of different states. First, there are all the changes to my feelings and energy field, as I slow down, centre and breathe through my various levels of agitation. Second, there are all the impressions and sensations that belong to my relationships, social life and work. Then I just breathe and witness the flow of the infinite field. No wonder Yogananda in his classic biography stated, One good meditation is worth a years living.
And sometimes what happens in meditation is startling and dramatic. On my website journal in August last year I began to describe a new consciousness I was experiencing, but then I couldn’t write anymore about it. It was too complex, challenging and intense.
On one side, I was ecstatic. I was finally passing through a threshold that I had first felt some twenty-five years ago. I knew this new state of consciousness was there, but I had not been able to expand into it. Trying to achieve it only made it more distant. At last I was calm, soft and open enough that my psyche was able to melt and stretch into a new form of awareness, witnessing the witness, and connecting with new fields of benevolent bliss in dimensions I hardly understand.
This was and is a huge and profound blessing that I am still integrating. But I don’t want to sound as if Im boasting: Look at how expanded my consciousness is! Admire my shiny new awareness and deeper connection!
THE CHALLENGES OF THE CYCLES
I cant boast about it because there is another rougher side to all this, which all of us experience in the cycles of spiritual growth.
When we open, sense and receive new impressions and fields, there are wonderful sensations, expansions, enlightenments and illuminations. But, at the same time, our nervous systems and psyches are more vulnerable. As we open, we also become more raw. New energy floods into us. It is benevolent but it is also powerful and we can become over-stimulated. At the same time too, our usual everyday sense of self may be shaken up, transformed and fragmented and our reptilian survival psychology may become agitated, anxious and taut.
Already vulnerable, the new energy fuels and vitalises every aspect of ourselves. Everything we are is amplified. Not only are love, wisdom and goodwill greater than before, but so too are all our negative patterns of insecurity, defensiveness and aggression. Our soul consciousness is expanded but so also is our primal unconscious. Stuff lurking in our psyches underworld slithers out of the dark recesses of our shadow self to experience light and transformation.
This is the normal rhythm of spiritual growth, initiation and expansion. More energy, more connection, more consciousness will all stimulate challenges.
So here I am, folks. In a new state of connection and awareness and also in a new state of challenge. Luckily, gracefully, I am almost through the turbulence of that piece of growth and I can feel the solid base of integration. Thankfully I have been here before many times and I know this cycle of expansion and challenge. It is normal and healthy. I even teach about it and try to help others with it.
So here’s the gist, brothers and sisters. Be prepared. When spiritual growth surges, new energy flows in and it will vitalise and shake up everything within you. And right now it would be completely inauthentic of me to write about all that in a sweet, poetic prose style. Mystics are also intrepid explorers, aren’t we?
I look forward to the next test on the journey, because it is always worth it. I’ll meet you there, on the next swerve.
THESE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPHS WERE ADDED A COUPLE OF WEEKS LATER
In the above article I wrote about a new dimension of consciousness that I had been trying to enter for over two decades – and how sublime and wonderful I found it. What I do not want to do is set up a hierarchy of consciousness in which my new consciousness is particularly special. It is special – but only to me. It is happening only and 100% in my private, internal reality. It may be, for example, that this new mind-heart zone I have finally entered is one that other meditators comfortably inhabit all the time and take for granted.
I write this partly because one person wrote to me and asked whether she too was about to achieve that level of consciousness as if there were something elevated about it. I did not feel comfortable about that. A long time ago I jokingly commented that meditation was for remedial students. We meditators were just trying to catch up with people who were already naturally nice and had good karma. Sometimes I think that what I said is true. But elsewhere Ken Wilber quotes one of his colleagues as having done some research which showed that if people between the age of 25 and 50 did not meditate, they experienced no spiritual development at all! Ta Ra! Ta Ra! One of the gifts of human beings is to be opinionated and entertaining.