To The Zoo Fence: You talk a lot about seeing God in your life. I wish I could do that, but however much I try, I can’t.
Editor’s Comment: Yes, you can!
In fact, you already are seeing God in your life, all the time. The only problem is, you don’t realize you are, so you think you are not. We all do that. The problem is our sense of who and what we are. It clouds our vision, and thoroughly confuses our understanding. That’s neither a sin nor a failure, just the way it is.
Consider someone who has never seen a reflection of themselves. Suppose they were to stand before a mirror; what would they think about what they saw? And if you or I were to tell them, “That’s you in the glass,” how might they respond?
All of the difference between the great spiritual Teachers and the rest of us is in our perception of ourselves and, from there, our perception of everyone and everything else. We think of our lives as being “out there” when in Truth they are within us. We think that we are “in the world”, when in Truth, the world is in us. We think of ourselves as being different and separate from everyone and everything else (”I am me, and you aren’t”), when in Truth there is only One, the One.
Our lives are a reflection of ourselves, and we are a reflection of the One. There’s no trick to seeing It. We are all doing that all of the time, for there isn’t any Thing else to see. Take comfort in that. As you live your life, doing this, observing that, think about the fact that it is all God. Make it your practice to attach to every thought, to every word, to every action, a silent reminder “This too is God.” Make a firm commitment to yourself to do this, and then do it. Do it consistently, joyfully, and with enthusiasm. In time, you won’t need the reminder.
To The Zoo Fence: (This is part of a message we received from a friend of TZF, followed by excerpts from our reply.) There remains one question, and it plays upon my mind continuously. Had I danced along with God from the outset, instead of struggling against what seemed to be happening, would I still be faced with the situation as it is now? And if not, does that mean that I am to blame for everything that has happened, not only to me but to others?
Editor’s Comment: Forget guilt! There is no blame. Life is a classroom, not a courtroom. Learn to think of God as your Teacher, not your Judge. Self-guilt is a form of self-pity, and therefore, however normal and understandable it may be, it is a waste of time and energy. Don’t go there anymore. And don’t ask “What if ...” There’s nothing of interest down that road, either.
No person and no thing in your life belongs to you, and none of it is your responsibility. God alone owns our lives and everyone and everything in them. We cannot control our lives, and neither should we try; for again, they are not ours. Our sole responsibility and our only ability is to learn about ourselves from our lives, and to live accordingly, with enthusiasm and cheerfulness and confidence in God.
Likewise, it is presumptuous of us to think that anything we might do or might not do would convince God to give others an unhappy life. What kind of a God do we think God is that He would punish others for our mistakes? Besides, God doesn’t punish; God teaches. So, don’t go there either.
Remember, it is not the purpose of life to be healthy or to be beautiful or to be comfortable or to have fun. It is the purpose of life to understand what the purpose of life is, and the only way to do that is to reach for self-awareness. However you consider anything in your life, you will always come back to this: First, find out who you are; then, see if any questions remain. You cannot do it the other way around. So, keep your focus there.
Editor’s Comment: For each of us, the world (what appears “out there”) is a perfect reflection or manifestation of our current perception of who and what we think we are. What each of us believes to be the Truth of our Nature shapes everything. Everything. (Please note that here the word belief is intended in its most profound sense; that is, less like “I believe I’ll go shopping today”, and more as in “I believe God is All There Is.”)
The violence each of us perceives in our lives is a reflection of our own inner disquiet, which in turn is a reflection of our confusion about our Nature. As long as we base our sense of identity on the fundamental error “I am me, and you aren’t,” we are bound to live in the midst of conflict. Being conflicted, we project conflict, and our lives reflect it.
To live in peace without, we must discover peace within. And the way to do that is to discover Who and What we are in Truth. By remembering our True Nature, we eliminate the cause of conflict, and we no longer perceive it. However much this may seem like pie-in-the-sky stuff, or worse, silly avoidism or shameless escapism, it is the basis of all the great spiritual traditions (at least, as we understand them).
So, our advice would be, work on the outer as your individual conscience dictates, but all the while remember that the real work, the telling work, must be done within. Recognize and embrace the need, joyfully commit yourself to it, confidently call for Help in doing so, and the rest will surely follow.
To The Zoo Fence: I looked for the words “astrology” and “horoscope” using your Search page, and was surprised to find you do not mention either. Does that mean you don’t believe that we can read our destiny by astrology?
Editor’s Comment: The Universe is all One and the Same Thing. Every bit of it. Everything there is, ever was, ever will be; everything here, there, everywhere, anywhere. It is all One, it is all the Same.
Can we read our destiny in the stars? Yes, we can. We can read it in the heavens, we can read it in tea leaves, in yarrow sticks, in turtle shells, in playing cards, and in the patterns of an eagle’s flight. We can read it in the grains of sand upon a beach and among the cars in a parking garage. In an Infinite Universe composed of only the Infinite One, every apparent part or aspect is itself the Whole, and tells the Whole Story.
Thus, the question is not what we read, but the clarity with which we read it. For all of those, and all the rest, must perfectly reflect the Infinite One, which is what each of us is right now.
Therefore, if we would truly know our destiny,
we should seek without prejudice and with boundless enthusiasm to know our
True Nature, Who and What we are now, always were, always will be. Then,
we will know all there is to know. Then, we will know our Self to be the
Source of all the knowledge contained in the stars; we will know our Self
to be the stars themselves.
Finally, of course, the question arises, Whose destiny? Astrology asks when and where the body was born, and from there maps the body’s tendencies and potential. Surely, we make best use of that information when we remember Who We Are.
Editor’s Comment: There is not the slightest doubt in our mind on that subject. God hears prayers, and responds to them, whatever they are and for whomever they are uttered.
Remember, God lives in a seeker’s heart. So, every word we say is heard, every thought we entertain is recognized. It is impossible for us to say or think or do or feel anything without God’s being aware of it.
As regards prayer generally, consider this. God knows our needs long before, and far more clearly than we do. Thus, the function of prayer is not so much to bring our needs to God’s Attention, but rather to bring to our attention God’s Fundamental Place in (as) ourselves and our lives. So, as seekers, we do well to let prayer teach us to turn to God – first, foremost, and only. Not because God is jealous, but because God alone is Real.
Specifically as regards praying for others, this question arises: Do we know what is best for anyone else? Come to that, do we know what is best for ourselves?
If we do not, then perhaps our best course is to describe the need as we perceive it, then ask God to teach us how to address it. “Dearest God and most precious Teacher, I am concerned about this situation, and I need Your guidance in dealing with it. If there is something I can do, teach me how. If there is a time to do it, show me when. And if there is nothing I should do, teach me to accept that.”
Ultimately, prayer, like the spiritual process itself, is about surrender. “Thy Will be done” not “Here’s what I want You to do, and now’s when I want You to do it”. That’s the hard part.
In the end, however you pray, remember that action taken out of love is always effective.
To The Zoo Fence: After reading the essay about Sai Baba on Open Space (which, incidentally, is a great idea!), I read more about him, and now I am wondering whether he can really do such things. [Editor’s Note: Sai Baba is a Teacher credited with healing powers and various other “paranormal” abilities. Please see the item about him on our Definition’s page.]
Editor’s Comment: If you are asking whether Sai Baba actually performs such feats, we cannot say any more certainly than you, for our sources, like yours, are essentially secondhand. However, we have no reason to doubt the reports.
On the other hand, if you are asking the larger question; that is, “Are such feats actually possible?” our answer is a resounding Yes! In an Infinite Universe, there is literally no limit to the possibilities.
That said, consider this. The feats performed by Sai Baba and others like him are peanuts compared to what you are doing this very instant. Sai Baba may be able to manifest a little of this and some of that, but you are manifesting Sai Baba himself! Not only that, you are manifesting the universe you and Sai Baba inhabit. Now, that’s power.
Here, the question arises: Why, if we ourselves have such power, do we project it onto others, like Sai Baba. And, of course, the answer is, So long as we identify with the separative egoic mind and its accompanying mortal body, we cannot believe that such power resides within us, and so we push it “out there” onto someone else. That is, we manifest Sai Baba and others like him to serve as repositories of our own “supernatural self”. That way, we can be awed, even nourished, but our fundamentally flawed belief structure (“I am me, and you aren’t” or, in this context, “You have the power, and I do not”) remains intact. Thus, we suppose Sai Baba’s answer to this question might be, “I perform these feats not to show off who I am, but to remind you who you are”.
In a word, the function of miracles is not to heal the world but to heal our perception of the world (and, by extension, of ourselves).
(PS Thank you for the applause for Open Space. We accept it on behalf of those whose contributions make it what it is.)
Just so, the Teachers tell us, God’s Presence
is immediately and constantly apparent, proof itself of itself. But to realize
it, we must awaken.
Kansas City, Missouri
Editor’s Comment: The first word that leaps to mind is determination. In our experience, the spiritual path is littered with unfulfilled intentions, including more than a few of our own. Let’s face it, the distractions along the way are numerous. All are well disguised, many are legitimate, making it difficult, sometimes impossible, for a seeker to keep his or her eyes on the prize.
Whether we are simply slipping and sliding, or unavoidably called away, it is determination that repeatedly gets us back onto the path. So, if you’re asking a desert island question (”If you were about to be exiled to a desert island, and could take only one personality trait with you, which would it be?”), our immediate response would be determination.
And yet, a seeker cannot survive without discernment. If determination keeps us moving along the path, discernment enables us to recognize the path, and keeps us headed in the right direction. Discernment reveals the inevitable distractions as what they are, however convincing their disguise. Determination empowers us to step over the distractions, but it’s discernment that points them out. However determined, a seeker might not survive without discernment.
This is getting tough. Tougher still, because on further consideration of your question, we come up with yet another choice: Cheerfulness.
Ultimately, the spiritual process is about releasing self-absorption in all its forms. Cheerfulness is an essential ingredient in that effort. Consider that it is virtually impossible to be simultaneously cheerful and self-absorbed, self-centered, self-satisfied, self-pitying, self-indulgent, self-recriminating, self-nearly-anything.
Cheerfulness is naturally inclusive, accepting, nonjudgmental, considerate, patient, confident, and loving. Cheerfulness opens all the doors and windows the ego slams shut. Somehow, cheerfulness allows us to be vulnerable, which in turn makes it possible for us to give and to receive, without which we wither. Cheerfulness is an antidote to the relentless whining and sulking which are the hallmarks of the separative ego (”I am me, and you aren’t – so there!”). Cheerfulness makes it possible for us to laugh at ourselves, without which we are dead. Cheerfulness animates us. Cheerfulness invigorates a seeker’s environment. Cheerfulness engenders faith, for it comes from a confidence in the Universe. Cheerfulness disarms failure, disappointment, and even despair. Cheerfulness recognizes that “my life” reflects “me” (what I think about myself), and not vice-versa, and thereby gives us control of our destiny. Cheerfulness is empowering.
Cheerfulness is probably diagnostic of a Teacher. Certainly, every Teacher we have ever encountered is cheerful. Undoubtedly, God is Cheerful. That desert island, wherever it is, is cheerful – the sand, the crabs, the palm trees, all are cheerful. (“Consider the lilies, and how they grow … cheerfully.”) Clearly, cheerfulness is the Natural State.
So, in the end, if we had to pick just one, it would be cheerfulness, confident that determination and discernment and all the rest would naturally follow.
Editor’s Comment: The distinction between the way a Realized Teacher sees and the way others see arises in all of the traditions we know of. Thus, Jesus says to his disciples, “Blessed are your eyes, for they see” (Matthew 13:16 and others). More specifically, the Gita, at chapter eleven, teaches that where the seeker Arjuna (you and we) perceives many, the divine Krishna sees One (for more about that, please see here).
Generally speaking, it seems the difference between a Teacher and the rest of us is not where (or what) the Teacher is but how the Teacher sees where (or what) he or she is. Consider the autostereogram, an image which, looked at as we look at everything else is just an ordinary two-dimensional picture, but looked at another way is seen to be a three-dimensional picture. This extraordinary effect is achieved without any special instrument, but simply by altering the way one looks at the image. The spiritual process may be like that. The world seems “two-dimensional” to us, but when we see it properly, we realize its True three-dimensionality (even multi-dimensionality).
In our book TAKE OFF YOUR SHOES, we talk about what we call the prism effect. If you hold an ordinary prism up to a white light, and view the white light through the glass, what happens? What was one – a single white light, is now perceived as many – purple, blue, green, yellow, orange, and red. But notice that the white light has not become purple, blue, green, yellow, orange, and red (as we might be inclined to say). Rather, the white light is still white light, but the instrument changes our perception of it. We continue to see the white light, but we see it differently, even one might say separatively.
Our thoughts, memories, and expectations, through which all of us view our world all of the time, are the prism. They are the instrument that creates the fundamental egoic illusion that “I am me, and you aren’t”, and from which evolves the entire separate, separated, and separative structure we all believe we live in (or as). By looking at the Universe (ultimately, ourselves) through the prism, you and we see many where there is actually only One. It is Realization that enables a Teacher to set aside the prism, and to look at the white light and see only white light.
So, for us, the spiritual process is about removing or transcending the prism – or, as we say on TZF’s front page, silencing our thoughts, discarding our memories, and releasing our expectations. By doing so, we too will see as the Teachers see, one where there is, has always been, and will always be, only One.
Finally, please recognize that by using the word “see” in this context we are not referring to vision associated with the physical eyes. The physical senses – vision, hearing, touch, and so on – are part of the egoic body/mind structure, and as such are aspects of the separative environment. The vision associated with Realization is beyond the physical senses, indeed beyond the physical entirely.