Up to now, our evolution has been unconscious, determined by some unseen force of nature. As long as our journey is unconscious it is bound to be fraught and haphazard, with many false starts, wrong turns and missed opportunities. The ferntree or the mollusc doesn’t know that it is evolving: it may be aware of some instinctive desire or motivating force but it cannot know the source of that force or its goal. As long as evolution is unconscious within us, we are its helpless instruments and unwitting servants.
Now that we know we are evolving, we have the opportunity – indeed the responsibility – to become conscious and active partners in our evolution. Once we become conscious of where we are heading, then we can apply all of our energy, effort and aspiration toward expediting our evolution, toward attaining that future glorious goal or state of being as soon as possible.
How to become conscious of where we are heading?
The seed is always to be found within. Just as human tendencies can be seen and felt in the gaze and actions of a chimpanzee – for within it the human consciousness is already being prepared and slowly grows – so a hint of that future being into which we are evolving must also be found within our present consciousness. Meditation reveals hints, whispers and glimpses of that future self. Meditation leads to our conscious participation in our spiritual evolution.
The other more direct way to perceive our goal is to search for someone who has already attained it, and seek direction from them. That is precisely the role on earth of the spiritual Masters. A spiritual Master embodies the goal, reveals it to us and within us, and lovingly guides us there by the shortest possible route.
In school we learn about evolution. We learn about how we humans have evolved from animals, most recently from apes and chimpanzees. We learn about Charles Darwin, his theory of the Evolution of the Species and of Natural Selection. When I was in school I readily accepted and subscribed to these theories as fact.
Yet at the end of the chapter on evolution I was left with a feeling of profound disappointment.
After studying all about where we had come from and what we had once been, I turned the page eager to discover more, only to find a blank space. That was apparently the end of the story. What a let down!
For me, there was only one relevant question, and that question was never even asked in school, let alone answered.
My question was not: “Where have we come from?” As far as I was concerned that was all very fascinating but didn’t really matter, for there was nothing I could do about that now.
My question was, and remains: “Where are we heading?” This seemed the only question worth knowing the answer to.
For if evolution is a thing – and apparently it is – then surely this process is a continuum. The school texts treated the matter as though it were a straight line of progression with an end point, that point being humanity in our present state.
Yet this cannot be. In the process of evolution, we can never be a finished product. Just as we have evolved from something, so must we be evolving into something else, presumably something better, higher, more powerful and illumined.
Here is where it gets exciting: we are now at the singular most crucial point in all of our evolution to date.
They had heard rumours of the elephant, which they were not able to verify since none of them had seen the elephant.
They agreed one of them should find the elephant and report back.
Their first member went and found the elephant, and encountered its leg. Returning, he recounted: “The elephant stands tall, round like a pillar. I can barely reach around it with my arms.”
Not satisfied with this description, the remaining blind men resolved to send another of their members the following day. The second blind man felt the side of the elephant’s belly. “The elephant floats above the ground, is rough to the touch and stretches further than my arms can reach,” was his report.
And so it continued. The third blind man approached the elephant’s tail: “The elephant is long and stringy like a rope.”
The fourth discovered its tusk: “The elephant is curved, smooth and hard to the touch.”
The fifth described the ear, as “Large, thin and flat, shaped like a fan.”
The sixth and final blind man met the trunk: “The elephant writhes like a snake and spouts like a fire hose. It drenched me with water.”
Each blind man had reported faithfully his experience of the elephant. Yet each account was utterly different and wildly contradictory.
Convinced that the others were all lying, the men furiously raged and beat each other to death with their blind man’s sticks.
In this story, the blind men represent the various religions, while the ultimate Truth is the unsuspecting elephant, minding its own business. Each religion has captured an aspect of Truth, yet the ultimate Truth can only be experienced, and never described.
Order reigns even in chaos; within order, chaos lurks.
All outer phenomena bear the signature of hidden forces. If you want to achieve, influence or become anything, go to its source.
We regard the landscape around us as a fixed anchor of our existence. Yet even solid rock is a veneer, a thin crust floating atop a slowly seething sea of molten magma.
An earthquake is an instrument of unseen forces. Slowly but surely, the inner earth has been moving, while the surface sought to maintain its established shape and form. When the forces of inner change and outer so-called permanence confront each other, the inner will always prevail.
As a tree grows from its roots, so the conditions and circumstances of our outer world must always flow from and express our inner consciousness.
Revolutions occur when the inner consciousness of a culture or society has evolved while its outer structures and circumstances have not: like an earthquake, a drastic realignment of outer conditions is necessary to bring the outer into harmony with the inner.
We live in times of rapidly evolving consciousness: we feel within a growing, glowing heart of peace, love, joy and oneness. Yet surrounded by pervading injustice, misunderstanding, division, disharmony and disconnection, many crave a radical transformation of these outer circumstances – a revolution.
Our society and culture are the flowers and fruits of the tree of human consciousness.
How to effect change? One teaspoon of honey sweetens a pot of tea; from one candle, many are lit. Let me be that spoon of honey, that flaming candle to transform our collective consciousness. To do so, I must dive into, discover, become and reveal the sweetness, light, love, wisdom and glory of my own – our own – inner depths.
Lost in your flight, your song and the thrill of freedom, you are now drawn not by what is below, but rather what is above. Tilting your neck upward, a radiant sky beckons as you bend your being up into its heart of infinite blue. The higher you fly, the brighter and fuller the hue until even its blue is dissipated into pure light as the all-real.
The world is now but a tiny speck far, far below, a miniscule memory dissolving in the fullness-embrace of ecstatic liberation. You are no longer conscious of having wings or of the act of flying or of having any physical form whatsoever: so far beyond the physical realm of relativity, speed has become irrelevant as your consciousness immerses into infinitely expanding, all-encompassing light and delight.
You are peace absolute, satisfaction supreme.
There is no passage of time: only an ever-intensifying present moment of fullness-perfection-bliss.
Gradually you become aware of a faint echo of gloom in your universe of light, and realise that your role is not complete until all is utterly illumined and liberated.
Inspired and determined, you focus your consciousness, arrow-like, to locate and expunge this impediment to your perfection: you will reveal the effulgent light hidden within any lurking shadow.
Dauntless, your search draws you to the finite realm. You perceive your light and liberation already within the heart of the world but masked, hidden, encaged. To free the world – and secure your own ultimate perfection – happily you fly back to your windowsill and hop into your cage … for the world can only see and hear our soul-bird singing its perfection-song and dancing its liberation-dance when it is inside the mind-vital-body-world-cage: hence it is here, encaged, where we must attain integral, ultimate freedom…
In a rush of light and air, instinctively your wings engage to keep you aloft. Dazzled, your world spins in a hurtling rush of colours, shapes, scents and sounds.
You are in another realm. Around the garden you fly, drinking in the array of vivid colours and sweet fragrances. Giddy you rise beyond your own backyard to discover more gardens, vibrant and abuzz with the joy and industry of life. Higher over the city you circle, spanning the myriad activities of people, animals, vehicles, streets, parks and buildings. Children play and laugh, while adults – heads bowed – go through their routine motions.
You fly out over the countryside, ranging over farms, rivers, highways and byways. Everything of the drama below fascinates, amazes and captivates you. Further afield you fly, over forests, lakes, cascading waterfalls, mighty mountains. The vast ocean stretches beyond the horizon, a new wonder to behold. Leaving behind the land with its myriad distractions and activities, you are drawn to the expanse of the sea.
Spontaneously you play with various modes of flight: now you soar, now glide, now dart and swoop, you perform aerial acrobatics for fun. Then, apparently from nowhere you are startled by the most beautiful music – sweet, charming, haunting and alluring – above and all around you. After some time soaring, immersed, bathed in song, you come to realise that you are singing: you are the source of this enthralling music. You give yourself utterly to your melody, your whole being and every cell athrill with the song of freedom and freedom as song.
Until now you have been focussed mostly on what is below: firstly the world and all its activities, and later the ocean calling with its vastness, grandeur and power.
Sit in a quiet place, alone, where you will not be disturbed.
Close your eyes and focus on your breathing for a few minutes, carefully regulating your breath to relax your whole body while calming your thoughts and emotions.
When you have reached a poised stillness, imagine you are a bird in a cage. Your cage has black metal bars. The porch where your cage hangs is all the time gloomy, stuffy and musty. The furniture is old and dilapidated. In a dim far corner a sorry, weary pot plant ekes out its existence, smothered in dust. An occasional spider has to be satisfied with the odd blowfly or elderly cockroach.
Once in a while your owner leaves food in your cage, without so much as a ‘hello’. You sit on your perch, occasionally reorienting yourself to face this way or that. Your days, weeks and months extend in monotonous glum numbness.
And so it continues, until…
One day upon delivering food, your owner neglects to secure the latch on your cage door. From your perch, you gaze in numbed wonder as the door of your cage slowly, gradually swings open.
Although you longed for it, you never expected or planned for this moment to actually arrive. After a long while staring at the gaping cage door, eventually you gather your courage and hop off your perch. You pause at the open door, threshold of your known world. Your pulse racing, you leap onto the windowsill and hop to the far end. With pounding heart you lean against the window to gather yourself…
… all of a sudden the creaky window swings open, you lose your footing and topple tumbling into thin air.
Shine a red light on the wall and it appears red. Shine a green light: it appears green.
Like the wall, we perceive the world according to the light of our own consciousness. When we are sad, the world appears ugly: when we are happy, the world is beautiful. We shine our own light on the world, and so the world appears.
Looking at the world, we see ourselves.
Each level of our being – body, vital, mind, heart and soul – has its own consciousness, its own light. Looking from our mind, we see our mind; looking with our heart, we see our heart.
The mind is finite; the heart infinite. Being finite, the mind sees itself as “inside” and the world as “outside.” For the heart, being infinite and all-encompassing, there is only “inside” – there can be no “outside.”
The mind walls itself in, isolates itself from the world. From the inside there will always be fear, doubt, suspicion, misunderstanding, jealousy and even hatred towards what is outside, toward “the other.” The heart however knows no boundaries, no separativity and hence no outside, no “other”. Where there is no “other” there can be no fear, doubt, suspicion, misunderstanding, jealousy or hatred, for all is oneself.
How can the light of the heart replace the light of the mind? The same way the light of the sun replaces the light of the moon and stars – naturally, effortlessly and spontaneously.
We have only to meditate in our hearts to become our heart’s light.
When we enter into and become our heart’s light, we shine our heart’s light on the world and thus see everything in a new light, the heart’s reality-light, the light of love, peace, joy, clarity, oneness and perfection.
Many of the Hindu cosmic gods and goddesses are depicted with multiple arms, each arm performing a different task, revealing a particular capacity or bestowing a gift or boon.
We too can develop multiple arms. We too can become the 10-armed god or goddess.
Our arms represent our capacities, manifest our talents and convey our gifts in the outer world; through our arms we build, create, reveal and offer.
The source of all capacities, talents and gifts, the source of inspiration, aspiration and the power of creation, is the inner world.
Meditation is the exploration and revelation of our inner world.
All capacities, talents and gifts are within us. We have only to unlock the inner doorway to each particular talent, capacity or gift that we seek. Meditation and spiritual practice are necessary to locate and unlock these inner doors. For some, certain doorways are already open, partially or fully: we may be blessed with a musical ear, a kind heart, a green thumb, a charming tongue, an eye for detail or a vivid imagination. Such existing talents, capacities and attributes can be nurtured, developed and heightened through meditation, while new capacities might either appear suddenly or be gradually cultivated.
Everyone who meditates regularly and sincerely will inevitably deepen existing capacities and develop new ones even without specifically trying. The qualities of our heart – love, sympathy, compassion, wisdom – automatically blossom as our consciousness makes good its escape from the narrow confines of the mind into the heart’s open sky. In this sky, the intuitive light of the soul more and more reveals myriad latent capacities of perception, creativity and spontaneous action.
Now we are sleeping gods, our arms tied behind our backs.
Meditate and awaken to realise, release and activate your many beautiful, powerful, brilliant and blessingful arms.
Everything is in constant motion. Nothing ever stands still. Even the so-called laws of the universe are in constant flux.
We are either jumping up, or falling down. We are breathing in, or breathing out; gaining, or losing fitness; growing, or decaying; learning, or forgetting.
So it is with spiritual progress. There is no standing still: we are either moving forward or we are falling backwards.
To ensure we move always forward, there can be no holiday from the spiritual life, for meditation is not about what we do, but who we are. We eat every day to nourish our bodies; we meditate every day to nourish our consciousness. We eat on weekends and holidays, because our bodies are with us: so we must meditate wherever our consciousness accompanies us – everywhere, every day.
There are no straight lines in Nature. Everything is curves, spirals, pulses and waves – even light, time and space. Our spiritual progress never proceeds in a straight line of continuous and even development. It proceeds rather in a spiral. If you follow the spiral groove of a screw from its base to its point, you will notice it goes up on one side, and down again on the other, yet the overall trend is always upward. Each high point on one side is always higher than the previous high points, while each low point on the other side is higher than the previous low points.
So never be disheartened by a dip in the quality of your meditation. Persist. Take it as a temporary lull preparing for a fresh surge of inspiration and aspiration to carry you upwards to a higher, vaster awareness.
No holiday! When we stand still, we drift backwards. Face forward, strive forward and stride forward, ever forward to the goal.
“Peace begins when expectation ends.” – Sri Chinmoy
Expectation hobbles our meditation.
We are used to always expecting some result from any activity we engage in. Otherwise, what’s the point of the activity?
Yet meditation is an activity like no other. Meditation is much more effective when it is practised with no expectation of any result whatsoever.
Expectation comes from the mind: we can therefore only expect whatever is within the mind’s domain of experience. Yet meditation is precisely the exploration of realms beyond the mind: we are inviting the type of experience which the mind – and therefore expectation itself – cannot grasp. Expectation severely restricts our capacity to receive the rewards, richness, depth and fullness of the meditation experience.
Expectation puts blinkers on us. We may be looking for A, B and C, while meditation is offering us the much rarer X, Y and Z – and we miss out because we are so fixed on A, B and C. Expectation only sets us up for disappointment. Tragically, expectation is one of the main causes why people give up their meditation practise before they have really experienced its many benefits – even though they may actually be meditating quite well.
Especially in the beginning, it is best not to even use the term “meditation.” The moment we give an activity a label, it is very difficult to avoid the trap of expectation. Just say to yourself that you are enjoying 10 minutes of peace and quiet every morning, to step back from the world and its stream of stresses. Expect nothing from it … and you will gain everything!
Don’t regard meditation as an activity: it is pure being. Once we can expel expectation and accept whatever our inner being offers during meditation, we open to the ineffable magic of the Beyond.
Your heartbeat is the constant of your life on earth. Whether you are awake or asleep, healthy or unwell, your heart beats within. No matter how you look or what you wear, your heart beats on. No matter what you are thinking or feeling, what you have been, what you are or will become, your heart beats. In happiness and despair, in victory and defeat, in glory and shame alike – your heart beats on regardless.
The following exercise is only for the brave.
Sit alone, somewhere quiet, with your spine straight, yet comfortable. Be fully alert.
Focus on your breathing, slowing its flow till it is smooth, steady and silent. Allow all stress of thoughts, desires, challenges, dreams and aspirations – your very identity – to depart with your outgoing breath, dissipating into nothingness.
You alone are the centre and heart of a silent universe: its motor, your heartbeat. Listen to your heartbeat from within, watch it in wonder, observe, admire and adore it, lose yourself in it, become
only your heart beat.
You have no mind, no thoughts, no feelings, not even any form: you are only your heartbeat. Your heartbeat is the pulse of the universe and of every living being in it. Your heart beats in and through every beating heart, great and miniscule, sustaining the secret life in every thing, from the tiniest particle to the grandest galaxy.
Your heartbeat is your soul’s signature, its sacred gift of life, a gift for you to live, use, enjoy and offer lovingly, wisely, fully, gloriously and unreservedly.
What almighty force impels this marvellous miracle?
To what purpose does your heart beat?
Concentrate yourself utterly inside your heartbeat. Nothing else is. Listen carefully, attentively, exclusively, eagerly and devotedly … you will feel, become and reveal your soul’s purpose.
Meditation transforms us from within. This process is completely natural and normal. If you bring forth divine qualities – peace, light, wisdom, love and compassion – your outer life has to change for the better.
Being a natural process, spiritual growth takes time.
When we are teenagers growing very rapidly, we don’t wake up one morning suddenly a lot taller. From day to day we don’t notice drastic change in ourselves. Yet when we visit our grandmother whom we haven’t seen for 6 months, she exclaims: “My, how you’ve grown!” Many changes in us will be noticed first by others. Our colleagues at work may remark on an air of calm and poise about us. A common question is: “What’s wrong with you? You’re smiling the whole time!”
Because the results of meditation are often subtle, we may not notice them ourselves until sometimes months or even years down the track.
When we live in our minds we are goal-oriented, focused on “success”. Yet when it comes to meditation, the benefits of which are sometimes imperceptible to our conscious awareness, there is no definable criteria for what constitutes success – other than a complete absence of thoughts, which we very rarely achieve. The value of meditation is in its cumulative effects. Each time we meditate we are building on the achievements of all our previous efforts.
We tend to focus on our shortcomings. While aiming at the summit, we see how much further there is yet to climb, neglecting the tremendous distance already covered. Intent on quieting our mind, we are intensely aware of all the thoughts that are still not under control.
Sometimes it’s good to look back down and appreciate how far we have come.
Don’t judge yourself. Enjoy the journey. You will proceed smoother, faster and further.