To The Zoo Fence: I regret that you have decided to discontinue offering The Zoo Fence in hard copy. Receiving it once a quarter was very helpful, sort of an unexpected reminder to “get back on track”! Much as I enjoyed it for lots of other reasons, that’s the part I’ll miss most, because I need being reminded.
Des Moines, Iowa
Editor’s Comment: We ALL need to be reminded! In fact, that may be the only reason for the spiritual process, and the only necessary function of a Teacher: To get us to Remember to Remember. Eventually, of course, we no longer need to be reminded, because we never again forget. That’s what Self-Realization is: we Realize or Remember our already True Self, and in doing so, we assume that Position, and stay There. Thus, it is not that we Become Something, but rather that we Remember what we Already Are. In the meantime, a good practice is to consider the entirety of our lives as a manifestation of the Self, which ultimately is God. Then, whenever we need a reminder of what we are in Truth, we do not have to go anywhere special, or have access to anything in particular – we have only to look around us. There, wherever we turn, manifesting as our lives, we will see the One, our very Self, staring us in the face, like an image in a mirror! That way, if we remain alert, all of our daily activities become a spiritual event, part of our practice. The teller at a bank, a clerk in the hardware store, or an attendant at a parking garage, all become reminders – going to work, shopping at the supermarket, visiting a dentist, all become spiritual events. There is no shortage of reminders, if only we will use them rightly.
To The Zoo Fence: You mentioned the value of “seeking holy company” – that is, being in the presence of other people who are also trying to live a spiritual life, or better yet, of a Teacher. But such people are hard to find.
Editor’s Comment: Make your yearning known to the Universe – in your prayers and meditation, and by the evidence of your daily activities – and the Teacher will find you. But try not to predetermine what he or she will look like or sound like, otherwise you will likely miss the first couple of passes. In fact, you may have already done so! We all do. While you are waiting, bring some Teachers into your home in the form, say, of books by or about them, such as: JESUS THE SON OF MAN by Kahlil Gibran, AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A YOGI by Swami Yogananda, FRANCIS OF ASSISI by C. K. Chesterton, KRISHNAMURTI by Pupul Jayakar, or THE GOSPEL OF SRI RAMAKRISHNA edited by Swami Nikhilananda. Having those folks as house guests will surely lift your spirit. And keep alert for activities at local churches and other, similar organizations. Don’t worry too much about the form those take. Instead, listen for a heartbeat. (You will find some of these books described and for sale at TZF’s Bookstore.)
To The Zoo Fence: Your response to the [preceding] letter about “holy company” sounds like you’re saying the Teacher any of us finds must be a living human being. Why do you exclude Teachers who have died? Like Ramana Maharshi, or even Jesus?
Editor’s Comment: There is no such thing as a dead Teacher, and both Jesus and Ramana Maharshi (among many others) make that point day after day. No Teacher is the body he or she may seem to be inhabiting, anymore than you and I are. When the body dies (as does everything which is born, death being the opposite of birth, not of life, which has no opposite), the Teacher seems to us to die, too. But that is only because we perceive everything through the body’s physical senses which detect only physical activity. So, we make a fuss over the event, but in Truth, nothing has happened. Ultimately, of course, there is only one Teacher, which is God, who, being infinite, is everything there is. God may appear to us as many Teachers, and we may refer to the Teacher as many (Christ, Buddha, the Prophet, Moses, Krishna, your Guru, my Roshi, etc.) but that is because everything appears to us as many. Indeed, that’s the function of the Teacher, to correct that optical illusion! As the Teachers themselves tell us, reality appeared to them that way too, until they remembered the Truth of their Nature, which is Identity with God (as in, “I and the Father are One” John 10:30). Their apparently separate body then became to them what this morning’s reflection of our body in the mirror ought to be to you and me: Interesting, sometimes useful, even perhaps amusing, but not really significant, and never determining or defining. And so, when TZF says things like “Look for the Teacher,” we do not mean with the physical eyes alone. The Teacher already and always resides within us. Therefore, we do not actually have to look any further than there. But for those of us who are unable to see anything there yet, the Teacher will appear to us otherwise, in a guise more easily recognized by the senses we take so seriously. Fortunately, knowing each of us intimately, God knows the best way to reach everyone of us. In sum, if any of us thinks we have not yet seen or heard or smelled or dreamed or in some other way encountered the Teacher, we should think again. The Teacher is here, wherever we are, right now, this very instant. So, whatever else you may be doing, anywhere, any time, learn to be still within, and there to listen very carefully, constantly alert to the Presence around you. As a practice, that’s a fine, readily available meditation. And, as your physician will tell you, it’s good for your body. Not to mention, it’ll do wonders for your day. But, best of all, it will reveal the Teacher, in whatever form (or formlessness) is right for you at that moment, after which you will almost certainly realize the Teacher was there all along.
Editor’s Comment: First, in response to your question, there is no substitute for visiting a physician. If you are lucky, and you are acquainted with one who is not just a technician but truly a healer, then that one stop should be enough to do the trick. (Our experience over more than a few decades on several continents suggests that it is universally true that ten percent of every profession – whether they are auto mechanics, pastry chefs, bankers, priests, or doctors – are artists, and therefore can truly alter your reality. The rest just move stuff around.) Also, it will help if we can remember (and it is especially hard to do so when we are sick) that if God is Infinite, as surely God must be, then God is illness, too. We may not like that thought, but if we can accept it, we will see illness not as an enemy but as a Teacher. Our question then will be not “How do I get rid of this dreaded condition?” but “What can I learn from this circumstance?” Observe how dramatically that changes the climate. Then, absent our resistance to what seems to be happening, our discomfort will dissipate, perhaps even disappear. It may even be replaced by a sense of harmony. There’s no telling what might happen next. (See also TZF’s Integral Health)
To The Zoo Fence: The picture you paint of God and the purpose of human beings is almost identical to that painted in the “Conversations with God” books [by Neale Donald Walsch (Putnam’s)]. Did they influence you?
Editor’s Comment: As it happens, we have not read those books, but we have heard wonderful things about them. All the same, it should not surprise you that you find a similarity of views. That will occur more and more often. Remember, there is only one Source in the Universe working through all of us, regardless of who or where we are, or what we are doing. So, as the spiritual practices each of us is following “take effect,” and clarify our vision, we are going to find that, more and more, things look the same, even things which used to appear to us as very different.
Consider a “house of mirrors” at a carnival. There is a huge room with dozens of mirrors in assorted shapes and sizes and colors. The customer walks in, and, because the mirrors are all different, the reflections are all different. In some, the customer looks tall, in others short, in another fat, still another skinny, and on and on. But despite all the apparent differences, the source of all the reflections is the very same person. So it is with us and everything going on in our lives. We, and everyone and everything else, including every word ever written or spoken by anyone anywhere about anything, are all a reflection of the very Same One.
At the carnival, we find this effect amusing and fun – we even pay good money to experience it – and that’s because we remember what is going on. Just so, whenever we find that we “are not amused” by our lives, the answer is to Remember What Is Going On!
To The Zoo Fence: I really like your virtual prayer hall [The Quiet Room]. But, all the same, I ask and ask, and nothing seems to happen. Any suggestions?
Editor’s Comment: Yours is a common complaint among seekers, for there is not a one of us who has not spent some time where you are now. In fact, if the ground beneath you feels a little soggy, it is undoubtedly from the tears of the multitudes of us who have knelt there beside you!
From what little you wrote, it is impossible to speak to your specific situation. However, we can make a few general observations on the subject of asking prayer; hopefully, one or another will strike home. (By “asking prayer” we mean prayer that begins, in effect, “I want … ”)
First, you do not know that nothing is happening. All of the important work in the spiritual process is done on the inner, out of sight of the body’s eyes. To be sure, transformations effected there manifest on the outer as changes in your life, but often we do not recognize them, at least not initially. Partly, that is because we are too distracted to notice a little more light here or a happier sound there. We are interested only in the big stuff, and the bigger the better. But growth is an incremental process, occurring bit by bit. So, what we ask for may come, but over time, not all at once.
In this context, remember that what each of us calls “my life” is simply, and literally, a reflection of our sense of ourself, and that is what the spiritual process alters. So, as your sense of yourself improves (enlightens), and your life reflects that, the manifested changes may seem “normal” and “natural” to you, because that is then who and what you think you are, and so you hardly take notice of them. In a word, you no longer consider yourself to be the you who would have noticed the difference!
Second, if you have truly committed yourself to the spiritual path – that is, said to yourself and to God, in these or other words of your own choosing, “Above all else, I want to know my True Nature,” and meant it, then the process is underway, and that commitment preempts everything else. What that means is that if you now ask for something which clashes with that commitment, it will probably not happen. That is, working for you, the Function which we call the Teacher intercepts inappropriate requests, and either erases them or rewrites them for us. Thus, our experience has been, ultimately to our great delight, but at times to our temporary regret, that in God’s Eyes, the words “Above all else” sincerely delivered, actually do mean “above all else.”
Third, in asking prayer, we have found that the best course is to leave the details to God. None of us can see beyond the horizons of our daily lives, and so we do not know what is best for ourselves or for others. Thus, what we are asking for may be totally inappropriate. Even our prayers to intercept apparently “bad things” may be out of place. Consider how often you have heard another say, “Disastrous as it was at the time, in retrospect that was the best thing that ever happened to me.” In which case, good thing none of our prayers to avert it were heeded! Perhaps the most we can do in prayer is call God’s Attention to what we think needs it, and leave it at that; then, visit the need we perceive, and shower it with our love.
Fourth, and of all the rest, this one may be the most important, asking prayer, like all relationships, is a two way street. In order to receive, we must give. An essential part of the process of asking for something is giving something. Indeed, in a very real sense, giving-and-receiving is one word, and our failure to recognize that, and to act accordingly, dooms our attempts. Consider that the texts of virtually all spiritual traditions teach, and tell stories which teach, this point: It is those who give something of value to them who are the most likely to receive what they ask; while those who give nothing, or nothing of value to them, receive nothing. Here, it is not that God is greedy, and wants our stuff. Rather it is that our sincere giving opens our heart, thereby allowing entry to God and to God’s Solutions. So, if you really do not seem to be receiving, it might be time to ask yourself whether, and what, you are giving.
In the final analysis, asking prayer reflects our misunderstanding about Who and What we Are. We believe ourselves to be in need because we do not know Who We Are. Address that question – Ask for Help in addressing that Question – and your prayers will surely be Answered.
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