1. Role of music in heart opening
2. Other ways of tuning in
4. Attunement to inner guidance
6. Spiritual practice
Materials needed: Journal, drum or drumming tape, chanting tape and/or mantra tape, recording of a Mass (optional)
* Living from the heart
Chanting: Discovering Spirit in sound
* Sufism: Transformation of the heart
If today you hear God’s voice
Prayers of the cosmos
Soul making **
* Like a thousand suns
* The path to love
Exercises and Practices:
The air element
Heart opening with song
Ritual and Remembrance
* You will already have these books
** This one will be used in the next book also
The element in the fourth chakra is air, vayu in Sanskrit. This suggests a lightness and flexibility, fleetness when coupled with the antelope. You will have noticed that, as we have moved up the chakra sequence, the elements have been getting less and less dense. This fits with the idea of refinement we have been discussing. Air also suggests breathing which carries prana into our systems. You will remember that the breath is linked to the mind, so that control over the breath goes a long way toward control over the mind. This is essential, you will recall, in order to make connection with the Beloved because the mind must be quiet in order for us to hear Its quiet voice within the heart. These vibrations are so subtle that they can easily be missed in the raucous meleé of our everyday living. At the fourth chakra level, we are just beginning to notice the vibrations of unseen activity in the subtle body. So it is important to pay attention to them when they do come because if we honor them they will tend to become more stable.
In this unit, we will be looking at various ways to tune in to Spirit and learning how to establish a reliable connection with our inner guidance.
Exercise: The air element
In Living from the heart, read chapters 10 and 14. Chapter 10 explains how the four elements are related to breathing and the four dimensions of the heart. Chapter 14 shows how the heart may be expanded by the use of the breath. It will also provide some exercises to help you free your consciousness and thinking. There will be an opportunity to work on developing intuition and detachment. The heart expansion practice will lead you into your own heart and thus into love. It may change your view of the world. As you work with these practices, think about the similarities to tong len.
The Role of Music in Heart Opening
Last summer I sang Mozart’s "Coronation Mass" and Rutter’s "Requiem" with a choral group. For me, this was a staggering accomplishment because I have gone through most of my life thinking I could not sing. Mainly this has been because I have been trying to sing soprano parts and I am a contralto. Probably I should have guessed since my grandmother was a contralto and enjoyed accompanying herself on the piano. It appears I have a gift from her that is only now being discovered. The essence of that gift is the joy it is giving me. It has opened my heart, and I am finally full of song. I now belong to two choirs, one at church and the other is regional. They let me sing with the tenors.
Angeles Arrien (1991, Personal communication at ITP Intensive, Boulder, CO.) asked, “When in your life did you stop singing? When in your life did you stop dancing? When in your life did you stop being enchanted with stories? When in your life did you stop being comfortable with the sweet territory of silence? The answers to these questions will tell you when you experienced soul loss. Singing connects the heart and mind. Heidigger says that a person is an opening through which the Absolute can manifest. This means we are a channel for Divine Love, so we need to have the channel open. If the channel is closed down from lack of love, I can neither sing nor bring forth my voice. And this leads to profound sadness and dispiritedness. All my creativity is bottled up inside fermenting and going sour.
Music can open the flood gates. In the quiet of my own home with a beautiful piece of music playing, I can let go of my defenses and get in touch with the woundedness within. I can cry. I can allow healing visions to arise in my imagination. I can travel to distant lands both natural and spiritual. I can release my victimization and my sorrow. Then I can face a new day with renewed hope and curiosity.
Exercise: Heart opening with song
Read chapters 1 and 2 in Chanting and do the Listening exercise
on page 27. You may want to go outside for this if you can find a
place that is given to nature. As you read, think about how what
Gass says applies to you and your life. In what kind of environment
do you spend most of your time? What sounds impact you there?
Are you aware of them or do you screen them out? Even if you screen
them out, they may still impact you on an unconscious level.
Gass (1999) defines chant as “. . the worship and celebration of the sacred through melodically simple vocalization” (p. 12). Notice that it need not have a tune nor a particular rhythm. It is the fact of vocalization that seems to be most important. We make sounds that connect us with others and with the universe, with Spirit. Often chants are repetitive, and this has the effect of tuning our bodyminds. It is almost as if the sounds realign the energies of our bodies bringing them into greater harmony and equilibrium. The cavities of our bodies resonate with the notes of the chant, so we become part of the music. Then its qualities can work on us. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the kind of music to which we spend our time listening. Whether we think of it or not, we may choose the kind of music we need to hear. It follows, then, that if we wish to change our moods we can choose appropriate music to engineer that transition. All of us know how to do that. So what does all this have to do with the spiritual journey?
Attunement means tuning in, rather like you would tune in your radio to find a compatible station. You punch the button or turn the dial until the reception is clear and distinct. Similarly, in the spiritual realm, music seeks and finds the compatible resonance within you. At Easter, we sing joyful hymns, on Good Friday a dirge is more suitable. If we need help removing obstacles, we chant Om namah Sivaya. If we seek the Beloved within, we chant Om mani padme hum or Ishk Allah mahbud lillah. Repetition deepens the attunement because it puts the mind out of business. The result is an almost trancelike, altered state of consciousness. In some cases it may be a true trance. There is some evidence that chanting changes the brain waves in a manner somewhat similar to meditation. It is probably a form of entrainment in which the body’s energies line up in resonance with the frequencies of the chant.
Read chapters 3 and 5 in Chanting. Then find a tape of either Gregorian chant or the chanting of Taize. Hindu bhajans, Judaic or Buddhist chant is also acceptable. Hold off on mantras for the next section. Your local music store should have or can order any of these for you. If possible ask them to play it for you first, so you know you are getting one that is pleasant for you. You may already have such a tape. When you are ready, play the tape and chant with it for 15-30 minutes or longer. Watch what happens to your body as you do this. There may be some profound changes from the time you begin until you really get into it. What happens to your voice? Is it easy or do you have trouble getting started? Are you vocally impoverished? Did you think you could not sing?
Everyone can sing. If you do not enjoy the sound of your
own voice, focus your attention on the sound of the tape and see if things
change as you practice. Do it in the shower or the garage or the
kitchen. Play the tape in the background while you do your work.
Wear earphones if necessary. Keep some notes over the course of a
week or so to notice what changes occur.
Mantra comes from the Sanskrit root word man – to think. Mantra is a word or phrase of power used for spiritual realization. It carries a spiritual truth and has the creative power to light the spiritual fire within. It is said that the mantra “. . coordinates with universal basic principles that build and unfold all manifesting things. . . [and reveals] the song that was sounded in space when the world sprang into being” (Tyberg, 1970, p. 16). Sanskrit is a language that was deliberately constructed to harmonize with the truth of existence as revealed to the ancient seers. Sacred mantras originated in the natural sounds of nature and then were perfected by the ancient seers so that their powers could be wielded consciously.
Mantra is based on sabda, a subtle and vibrant sense sound that arises in the indivisible godhead. Because it is part of the initial creative vibration, it stimulates a resonant inner vibration, so that the power within responds and illuminates. Sabda-Brahman (sound of Brahman, the creator) is the power that is inherent in it. So we are talking here about the creative power of the Ultimate Reality. That is how mantra is different from other music and chants.
Mantra is a special kind of chant because it also has a long history of use. Thousands of years ago, these chants were practiced, and the ones that had special, beneficial effects survived. It is said, in India, that the old mantras have accumulated the good vibrations from all who have chanted them, and that a new practitioner can receive the benefits of all this if his/her practice is steady and reliable.
Mantra has all the characteristics of chant plus it opens the soul and heart. Whereas bhajans are rather like the hymns sung in Christian churches, mantra is more like prayer or meditation. In fact, it often precedes meditation and prepares the bodymind for it. It has rare attunement qualities.
If you do serious practice with a mantra over long periods of time, the mantra eventually begins to run itself in the back of your mind. Once that is established, it never leaves you. It not only quiets the mind, but it protects you.
Swami Radha brought back several mantras from India and has given them to us. She made two tapes about mantra that can be ordered from Timeless Books, P. O. Box 3543 NU, Spokane, WA 99220-3543 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Their phone number is 800-251-9273. One of the tapes is called “Power of Mantras” and explains what mantra is and how it has evolved. The other is called “Mantras: Songs of Yoga” and is her chanting of six mantras. You can also buy mantra tapes of each one singly. The ones I have are recorded on both sides of an audio cassette and repeat the mantra over and over usually for an hour. They are suitable for meditation, chanting or to play in the background while you are going through your day. I am sure they are now available in CDs as well.
Another good source for mantra tapes is the Shree Muktananda Ashram in South Fallsburg, NY. These tapes are recorded by Swami Chidvalasananda otherwise known as Gurumayi. These mantras build to a climax unlike Swami Radha’s which tend to have a consistent tempo throughout. You might want to sample each. Gurumayi’s tapes can be ordered from SYDA Foundation, 371 Brickman Rd., P.O. Box 600, South Fallsburg, NY 12779.
1. Read chapter 4 in Chanting.
2. Secure a mantra tape and begin to work with it. If you
are looking for a teacher, Om Krishna Guru from Swami Radha’s collection
is a call for the guru. Om namah Sivaya is asking for help
in removing obstacles. Hari Om is a healing mantra.
Decide how you wish to use the tape: meditation, attunement, chanting or
background. Practice with the tape on a daily basis for several weeks.
Keep a record of how you respond to it. Stay with the same tape for
quite a while to give it time to have its effect. Traditionally,
a guru gives the disciple a personal mantra at the mantra initiation which
is the first initiation on the path. The person, then keeps that
mantra indefinitely practicing with it daily often for hours at a time.
It can even be taken into retreats for longer sessions.
Singing covers a wide range of vocalizations. We sing in the bathtub, the car, the garden, the kitchen, at worship, at parties, at concerts, etc. It is a way of expressing ourselves and how we feel at the moment. We sing to children to put them to sleep, to entertain them and to educate them. We sing to relieve our emotions, fears and worries. Most of all we sing to celebrate our union with the Divine One.
Think about when you sing and when you do not. Is there a clear dividing line between the two sets? And what do you sing? Answers to this question can be very enlightening. Very often we will catch ourselves singing a song we haven’t thought of for years. In such cases, pay attention to the words, and I think you will discover that they express something that needs to come into consciousness. “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen,” “Smile the while you bid a sad adieu,” are two I remember from the past. More recently I encountered “Shine, Jesus, Shine” and it took me instantly nearly sixty years back into the past to southern revival meetings I used to attend.
Singing in a group or choir or chorus can be very rewarding. Not only do you get to sing on a regular basis, but you can enjoy the company of others who also like music. There is probably not a society on earth that does not engage in group singing as a form of worship or ritual. We are empowered by the presence of others doing the same thing. And nowhere is this more true than in singing. Dancing maybe. Playing instrumental music certainly.
1. Read chapter 6 in Chanting.
2. If you can, join a choir. If you feel you really cannot
sing, consider taking voice lessons. More often than not, the feeling
that you cannot sing goes back to some traumatic event in childhood where
someone else said you could not sing. And it probably was not true
but rather that you did not meet someone else’s standards or idea of what
was wanted. More children than we realize have been traumatized in
this way. Or it may be that you are uptight and under a great deal
of stress. If so, then you really should learn to sing for
relief if nothing else. Music is a marvelous way to discharge
Drums are elemental and go back to prehistory. They mimic and stimulate the heartbeat, so they can change your body rhythms dramatically. Shamans use drums to help them enter altered states and other realms of existence. Drumming is used to induce trance states and for healing. Recently, modern shamans are creating workshops in which participants can take a shamanic journey into the other worlds. You may have had a chance to experience one of these. If not, tapes are available that will introduce you to the rhythms.
Drumming enables us to tune in to other states of being, to our totem animals, to the inner worlds of imagination and creativity. You find drums and other percussion instruments in nearly every religion especially those that are still close to nature. Hinduism and Buddhism use drums to accompany their chanting and prayer dances. Native Americans use drums to accompany their dances. Nearly every form of dance uses drumming. In addition to mimicking the heartbeat, drums pick up the rhythms of life, the pulse, the flow, the vibration.
It would be most beneficial for you to acquire or borrow a drum if you
do not have one and do your own drumming. Find a time when you won’t
disturb anyone and sit with your drum. Put yourself in a reverential
mood and begin to drum. If you can now sense your own heartbeat,
drum in time with it. Allow 10 -15 minutes and see what happens.
If you have no drum, maybe you can find a drumming tape. Your local
library may loan them out. You might want to find one that has a
specific meditative goal. You could try making your own drum by soaking
and stretching a piece of leather over a large coffee tin or a pot from
your kitchen. Alternatively, watch for sales or search the flea markets
Dance frees the body and the spirit. It brings our souls into harmony with the music and enables us to let go of tensions we are carrying. It would be especially good for those who are character armored. Consider the various forms of dance. There is rock and roll with its unmistakable sexuality, the waltz with its grace and beauty, jazz with its elemental messages, modern dance in its self-expression, ballet with its classical plies, sundance, disco, authentic movement. The list is endless. Here rhythm is of the essence. Most often a drum or drums carry the beat to which all other instruments and people conform.
Circle dances go way back in history. It is said that Jesus did circle dances with his disciples (Mead, 1973). Folk dances are often done in circular form. The Universal Dances of Peace are circle dances. A circle encloses and defines a group. Symbolically a circle offers protection. It symbolizes wholeness and integrity. When people hold hands to dance they are connected by touch. So we can tune in to a group by dancing together in this way.
In India people do prayer dances that are a form of worship in which some epic may be enacted such as the love affair between Radha and Krishna that symbolizes the love affair between the soul and the Beloved. Or the dance may be a simple prayer such as the Divine Mother Prayer dance that moves to the Divine Mother Prayer we met in Unit 4. These dances are highly stylized with classic hand and foot movements (mudras) and costumes. Authentic movement can be thought of as prayer dance because it emerges out of the inner spirit.
If you have an opportunity, attend a Universal Peace dance. There is an organization that promotes these dances and trains the leaders. They have a website at www.dancesofuniversalpeace.org. where you might be able to find a local group.
If you cannot find a group to dance with, you can dance alone. Put on some music that appeals to you. Either pick a piece that has a mood you would like to move into or choose one that reflects the mood you are in and want to explore. If you have a large enough space, move with your eyes closed at first. First, just sway until your feet feel inspired to move. Then allow the music to take you and respond to it. Be sure to engage all of your body and explore new dimensions of space that you do not ordinarily move into. Experiment with levels such as lying down, kneeling, sitting, all fours, etc. Play with the timing. Use the music to integrate what you are dancing. When you are finished, take a few moments to rest and review what you experienced. Repeat another time with different music and see how your experience changes.
There is a new book out on sacred dance by Iris J. Stewart called Sacred woman, sacred dance: Awakening spirituality through movement and ritual. It may be available at www.OneSpirit.com or call 717-918-2665. Amazon.com probably has it too.
Other Ways of Tuning In
Music is not the only way to tune in to the Divine One. Almost anything that will focus and quiet the mind will do it.
Dhikr (pronounced zik-er) is one of the Sufi forms of attunement. It involves repeating a sacred word or phrase over and over allowing your attention to sink into the heart center. As you let yourself become lost in the word or phrase, your heart opens and you are able to meet the Beloved and Its qualities within. If you can synchronize dhikr practice with your breathwork, it will enhance the effects.
Our personalities both hide and serve as a vehicle to reveal the Beloved. Identification with personality or the false self limits our ways of revealing God in the world. So we try to free ourselves from our conditioning, lift the veils, so the Beloved can manifest in the world. The names of God in the dhikr stand for the divine qualities in us that can be called forth and along with them the Divine One who longs to become known. Because we re-create ourselves in each moment, there is always another chance to get in touch with what our souls most want to feel. Sufis say it is the power of searching for the divine qualities in life that does the work. We can find these qualities in others as well as in ourselves because we are all One. Therefore, we can look everywhere for clues of Divine Beingness. If we always try to see things from the Divine point of view, gradually we can transform the world. Invoking the qualities through dhikr helps to lift the veil of personality and brings them into manifestation. Glorification [the Ya ] arouses those qualities in ourselves that are being selected. Khabir means awareness. So if I used the zhikr Ya Khabir, I would be invoking awareness. With Ya Rahim I would be trying to develop compassion, a good one to use when angry. The a’s are usually pronounced “ah” and the “i” is pronounced “ee.”
1. Review pages 86-92 in Chanting to get the flavor of Sufi chant.
2. The zhikr Ya Batin, Ya Wajid means I am seeking the Beloved who is hidden within me. Batin means the “hidden or veiled One” and Wajid means “buried within” or “the hidden treasure.” Ya means praise and is used rather like Om in Hindu mantras. So what this is saying is that the Beloved One is the hidden treasure that wishes to be known, and It is hidden within our own hearts, i.e., go deeper within to find It.
To practice zhikr you close your eyes and quiet your mind. Then begin whispering the phrases. Using the breath, whisper Ya Batin on the inhalation and Ya Wajid on the exhalation. Do this slowly visualizing the Beloved on Ya Batin and seeing It in your heart on the Ya Wajid. If this visualization does not work for you, allow it to manifest by itself. The Beloved is alive in there and is certainly powerful enough to govern Its own dhikr. My suggestion is only to help you get started. It may be that you will feel the Beloved’s presence rather than see It. Or you may hear It. Usually the preferred outer modality is different from the inner one. So if you are strongly visual in your everyday life in the world, the inner modality may be kinesthetic or hearing. Relax and let it happen the way it wants to. If you wish, you may hold your breath for a few seconds after inhaling. A held breath signifies unity. The exhalation represents the unfoldment of perfection in life toward the One. You can see where this is going.
There is a little book called Asma'ul-Husna: The 99 beautiful names
of Allah by M. R. Bawa Muhaiyaddeen that has the meanings of 99 names
of Allah as well as some explanations of zhikr, some more phrases
and a glossary of Arabic terms. Allah is the Sufi name for God or
the Beloved. The different names represent different qualities of
the Divine One that we might want to cultivate or meditate upon.
The book is not necessary for this practice, but, if the Sufi way appeals
to you, you may want to buy it. This should be available at
Wisdom’s Child bookstore at The Abode of the Message, 5 Abode Rd., New
Lebanon, NY 12125 or you might try to find it online. The Bawa Muhaiyaddeen
Fellowship can be reached at: email email@example.com. With
this book as a reference, you could put together all kinds of zhikr so
you can meditate on something specific. However, like mantra, zhikr
is best practiced over a longish period of time to give it a chance
to have its effect.
Buddhist chant is most often done on a single note though there are some that have a melodic line. You may have heard about the overtone chanting done by Gyuto monks. It enhances the frequencies of the chant by using the various resonant cavities in the throat and head. However, that is not for beginners as it requires extraordinary self-control and can take years to develop. For our purposes, we can use something simpler.
Buddhist chant is intended to awaken consciousness and help us to get in touch with our true nature [Buddha nature or bodhicitta]. It helps us to transcend our egomind and false self and go beyond the senses into the realm of emptiness [sunyata]. Since Buddhists do not acknowledge a deity, what they hope to achieve is to become more fully human, to become fully conscious in the present.
Practice: Buddhist chant
1. Review pages 80-85 in Chanting for a sense of Buddhist chant.
2. On pages 127-128 in Chanting, you will find the Great Mantra or Heart Sutra: Gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate, bodhi svaha which means “Gone, Gone, Gone beyond, Gone beyond the beyond. Hail to the one who awakens” or svaha sometimes means “so let it be.”
Following Gass’ instructions, intone this chant daily for several weeks
and see what effect it has on you. You can practice it as you go
about your daily tasks as well. It can have a very balancing and
stabilizing effect on your life as it reminds you to put things in perspective.
This is a very simple practice and can be a lot of fun if done with a group of people. You lie down on the floor with closed eyes and make prolonged sounds. You can experiment with pitches, volume, timing, rhythm and resonance. Relax into the sound and just enjoy it. Start with Ahhhh. . . and see where it goes. Ah is the most elemental sound that is made with an open mouth and completely relaxed throat and mouth, so it is the easiest if you are shy.
A variation on this theme is chanting OM. This can be done the same way singly or in a group. In a group, you may find some lovely harmonies as you go along. See pages 126-127 in Chanting for more on OM.
So’ Ham, Ham’ Sa
Here we have a combination of sound and breathwork. You will remember from the first unit that Hamsa is the flame of pure consciousness or pure Spirit that supports life. That it is found in the very center of the chakra signifies its importance. We can think of it as representing the Beloved within. So this is another practice to invoke the God within our hearts.
Ham comes from the word Aham which means “I am.” So or Sa comes from the word Sah which means Spirit, Purusa, Isa, Isvara, the Universal Person or Cosmic Lord (Tyberg, 1970, p. 105). Therefore, Ham’Sa means “I am He” and So’Ham means “He I am.” If you listen to your breathing, you may feel that Ham sounds more like the inbreath and So like the outbreath or the reverse. You can play with that. Hamsa also means the “swan” which is a symbol of the Universal and the individual Spirit. So either of these words means “I am the Universal Spirit,” a statement of our unity with the One along with the purity and whiteness of the Spirit and its migratory nature embodied in progressive incarnations. The swan is also a symbol of the soul as it soars like a bird toward the Divine One who is reaching down for union. This practice will help tune you into the rhythms of the life force.
Practice: So’ Ham, Ham’Sa
Here we do not have a chant, but a breathing practice. Seat yourself
as if for meditation and allow your breathing to settle down and your mind
to quieten. Then begin the practice. Breathe through your mouth.
On the inhalation, mentally think “Ham.” On the exhalation,
mentally think “Sa.” Continue to repeat this as you breathe
keeping your attention on the breath. It is a good practice to help
you keep your mind quiet.
Prayer is no longer mere words said, but life lived from the depths. – Raymond Gunzel
There are probably as many definitions of prayer as there are people since it is usually a very private affair, when practiced alone at least. I tend to make a distinction between prayer and meditation. Meditation, for me, is an opening out, quieting the mind so I can be receptive. On the other hand, prayer seems to me to be a dialogue. I am talking to the Divine One. And that requires a different kind of receptivity. However, in this exercise, we will be looking at prayer from a Christian point of view.
Gunzel (1992) says prayer “. . is a lifting of the mind and heart to God. . . an opening of our deepest self to a God who listens to the cry of our heart. There is an expectation that we will be attended to.” (p. 1) Gunzel talks to us about coming into relationship with God, a God of compassion and loving kindness. It is a surrender to intimacy and into the “deepest truth of our human nature” (p. 32). His descriptions of this relationship echo the Sufi and Yogic descriptions of the Beloved within. He also deals with some of the problems of loss of the essentials of spirituality in modern religion. We will read the first part of Gunzel’s book now and the rest in Unit 8.
Read chapters 1-6 and 9 in If today you hear God’s voice. Make some notes to yourself as you go along. What does the author see as the current crisis we are in? Notice how he treats sin. Is his idea more compatible to you than what you were brought up with? What are the three qualities or “mutually-interacting realities” (p. xi) of the Christian mythic tradition? How does he distinguish between them? What does he mean by “If today you hear God’s voice?” What does he see as the purpose of the human struggle throughout history? Why do we close down our hearts and what is the remedy? What is the symbolism of the virgin birth? What is the ongoing kenosis of God’s self-emptying love? What are the essential elements of authentic prayer? What does it mean to bring God’s word into the world? (be careful with this one, it is not what you are accustomed to hearing) What is sin? What are Jesus’ three temptations and how do they relate to your life? What does it mean to be possessed by the Word? What is the Word? What is true prayer? Who is the enemy? How is Jesus like the warrior of Tibetan Buddhism? If you think of Jesus as a symbol of something in you, what was crucified? Why were we created in the Divine image? In chapter 9, what is the purpose of contemplation? And what is Gunzel’s idea about obedience?
2. Read Prayers of the cosmos. Rewrite the Lord’s Prayer for yourself selecting one of each of the meanings offered for each line. Pick the meaning that has most impact for you.
3. Now take another familiar prayer and rewrite it in your own words to reflect your understanding of what each line means.
4. Go to a formal worship service of your choice and think about the symbolism in the Scriptures when they are read. See if you can decode them into words that have more meaning for you. Think about how they might refer to you personally in terms of your journey toward enlightenment. For instance, consider the characters in the Scriptures as referring to the makeup of your personality, e.g., ego, soul, Higher Self, spirit, critic, etc. and the relationships between them. Also reflect on the relationship with the Divine One that is offered with this kind of interpretation. For example, think of Jesus as representing your soul and God as representing the Divine One. What then would a story about Jesus mean about your relationship with the One? Since Jesus was both god and a man, does he represent both ego and soul? or ego and the Beloved? What would his life say about those relationships, if so? Are you both God and a human being?
If you are drawn to Sufism, there is a beautiful book of Sufi prayers
called The illuminated prayer: The five-times prayer of the Sufis
by Coleman Barks and Michael Green (2000) that you might enjoy.
Silence is not the absence of noise, but the presence of the source of speech. These are moments of grace. – Friedemann Schwarzkopf (1995)
All of the practices and directions we have been discussing are oriented toward developing silence in the mind. You need quiet in order to hear the inner voice. Silence is essential. Talking is often used as a defense, so should be avoided during attempts to tune in. This means silence before and after meditation if you are meditating with a group. If you rush directly from meditation into a socializing, refreshment scene, it disperses the beneficial vibrations you have just been creating. So save your socializing for later and guard your meditative privacy.
Many people try to meditate with music playing in the background. This is not a good idea either as it is a crutch for those who cannot bear silence. Since what you are working toward is silence in the mind, it goes without saying that you should create a surrounding environment that is also quiet. If you cannot bear silence, then you need to do more basic work in the area of self-investigation. However, if you have been working right along, you will probably not have this problem here.
Going on silence means not talking to anyone under any circumstances.
One variation on that theme is not talking except the briefest communications
job that are essential. You may have to choose the latter if your job consumes most of your time. However, most people can free up a day or part of a day to practice. Retreats are ideal to practice silence and, in fact, many of them require it.
Why would we want to go on silence? We go on silence to cultivate a listening attitude. To learn how to be comfortable without talking. To enable us to hear the voice within. To attain equanimity. To slow down our lives. To discover how frenetic our lives really are. To listen to the mind and learn how to discipline it. When you do not talk, it changes all your interactions with others. You get to see how you manipulate others and how you use speech as a defense. You may feel like you are invisible because others often will ignore you when you stop talking. You hear things you have formerly screened out. You find peace of mind – ultimately. Silence is a multifaceted practice. See for yourself.
Exercise and Practice: Silence
1. Read chapters 7 and 8 in If today you hear God’s voice and chapter 3 in Soul making.
2. Go on silence for a day. It is a good idea to make a
small sign to wear saying “On silence” so people won’t think you are being
rude or sulky. You should give some advance warning to people you
live with or see every day, so they are prepared. If you plan to
practice while at work, notify your boss and ask permission. Do what
Mind-watching. If your practice involves mind-watching, you need silence for that. Vipassana meditation is essentially mind-watching or breath-watching. The two go together since, as you watch your breath, the mind presents you with its concerns. It may, at times, seems like an endless struggle, but persistence pays off. Eventually the mind will run out of material and settle down when you require it to. It is, no doubt, easier to master the mind the earlier in life you begin. If you hav 50 or 60 years of habitual mind chatter, the task is enormous. Yet it can be done. It just takes longer. One step at a time. One minute at a time. If you feel swamped by your mind or uneasy about what may happen, it might help to do a meditation retreat where distractions are held to a minimum and there is someone to question about what comes up for you or any problems you may have. In such a protected environment, it is easier to just let go of all your current issues too.
Practice: Mind watching
1. If you can get hold of Parabola Magazine, read “Your cell will teach you everything” in the Fall, 2000 issue, Vol. 25 (3)
2. Either go on silence for a week or attend a meditation retreat for a minimum of three days.
3. Consciously refrain from gossip and journal your progress daily.
Noise. Our cities, industries and workplaces in general are very noisy and frenetic. The accelerating change we have all heard about brings more noise with it as we all scramble to be places on time. Noise is not always audible. The stress we experience is also noise – in the nervous system. If you live in a big city, you may be unaware of the noise surrounding you since you have become accustomed to it and have screened it out of your conscious attention. However, even if you do not attend to it, it is still there and it affects your system negatively. Human beings were not built to be constantly assaulted with artificial noise particularly that which is damaging to the ear’s sensitive membranes. Furthermore, noise vibrates throughout the entire body which resonates to it and eventually gives up in fatigue. Volume levels in a subway, in traffic, in airplanes, in factories and in orchestras and bands are often high enough to cause deafness with something less than prolonged exposure. Rock concerts are especially detrimental to the ears and nervous sytems. One can even be assaulted by the volume of someone else’s CD or car radio. I have to sit in the back row at concerts and musicals as a matter of course, and I carry ear plugs with me everywhere. We need to protest to protect our health. The well-known Desiderata gives us this advice. “Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. . . Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.”
Decide on a noise source that invades your life and give it up for a week. It might be a cell phone, call waiting, rock music, whatever assaults you on a daily basis. If you find something over which you have no control, consider whether you do, in fact, not have control over it. Is there a different route to work? Can you get a transfer to a quieter zone? See how creative you can be. You only have one body, and it needs your protection if it is to serve you well.
Attunement to Inner Guidance
All that I have been saying is about tuning in to the Spirit within. However, to receive guidance, we must then learn to listen to that Spirit. Listening is not always easy as can be seen by observing any casual conversation. The human tendency is to impatiently await a lull, so I can get my word in. This is why meditation is so valuable. It helps to quiet the mind and, by extension, speech. When the mind is still, the voice of the heart can be heard in the recesses of our being. That is the source of guidance we are looking for.
In the process of meditation, the frequencies of the bodymind and chakras are raised to new levels, so it is important to prepare oneself for that. Otherwise, the system may become overloaded with consequent pain and/or illness. Many of the practices you have been learning are designed to do just that. Please recall the eight rungs of Yoga: yamas, niyamas, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, concentration, meditation and contemplation. If we work our way systematically through these practices, the chakras are cleared and the bodymind prepared for higher levels of consciousness and energy. This is what Yoga is all about: preparation. If you will look at pages 9-18 of Like a thousand suns, you will see another program designed to do the same thing. Easwaran’s eight-step program for spiritual living is very similar to the eight rungs of Yoga, and his disciples have had good results with it. Similarly, in Sufism: The transformation of the heart, pages 79-126 deal with the process of individuation, how to work with the shadow and the use of dreamwork to access inner realms. But the pièce de resistance is Patanjali’s Sutras (Taimni, 1975; Vivekananda, 1976)) which are the basis of Raja Yoga, the path of meditation. In a concise set of verses, Patanjali outlines the entire yogic program.
Patanjali lived about 2,200 years ago in India. He codified the entire Yoga system in just 196 sutras (verses). The first three verses cover the whole subject, and the rest are elaboration and explanation. We have these verses from Taimni (1975):
Transformation means to move across or beyond form. The form is created by the mind say the eastern traditions. That is the illusion: that all of what we perceive has some sort of stable beingness. It is not so. Everything is in flux, and it is only because our sensory organs are tuned in to certain frequencies that we sense and perceive anything at all. Modern psychology and physiology have shown us how all the sensory organs work: they receive and register frequencies of stimulation by energies that are coming towards us. It is the mind that decodes these signals and perceives that something is “out there.” Yoga says that the senses are the arms of the mind. Same thing. Now, we are not dealing with whether things are really out there or not, but whether our perceptions are accurate. And there is no doubt that perceptions are selective because they involve filters. So we must accept that what we perceive is what we have learned to perceive (there is documentation for that too), and that there is a grave possibility that there is a great deal more than we can imagine that is also out there and is not perceived. So we needn’t become arrogant about what we “know.”
Exercise: Raja Yoga
1. Read chapter 9 in Like a thousand suns. What is the root cause of violence and how could spiritual practice help to attenuate it? What is maya? How can we take our evolution into our own hands? What is a one-pointed mind? Would you want one? How can we deal with difficulties and obstacles on the path? What is the relationship between desire and self-will? Under what circumstances will God provide for all your needs? What offerings does the Lord want? How can we earn forgiveness for past mistakes?
2. Read pages 89-94 in The path to love.
What we are studying in the spiritual domain is how to access some of the previously unperceived reality. We do this by putting the filters [read “mind”] aside. This is accomplished by a sustained meditation practice. You can ask anyone who has meditated for many years for documentation of this fact. The methods we have just been discussing are some tools for quieting the mind. In the following section, we will take another step to actively seek a presence in the newly experienced space. To this end, we will be examining the last two steps in the eight rungs of Yoga: meditation and contemplation.
Meditation has been the central theme in all of these books because it is the primary practice to get beyond mental activity. The discussion on pages 65-78 of Sufism: The transformation of the heart shows us that meditation is the tool of choice in western practices as well as eastern. Please read these pages if you haven’t already. Meditation is also found in Christian mysticism although it may have a slightly different orientation there.
Centering prayer. This form of meditation comes from the Christian tradition. Father Thomas Keating, a Christian monk, was responsible for introducing the Centering Prayer as a vehicle for the Christian spiritual journey. He called it the path of inner transformation.
Although it is called prayer, centering prayer is basically meditation. And it is meditation in the same sense as meditation in Yoga or Buddhism. One gets quiet and allows the mind to present the contents of the unconscious which, over time, clears the mind and allows it to open up to the inner teacher. This is a process of psychospiritual purification.
There are some differences in the technique although the results are similar. Instead of beginning with concentration and the focusing of attention, this form of meditation starts with the intention to “rest in the presence of God beyond all thought and emotion” (Bourgeault, 1995, p. 42). A sacred word is used as a reminder to release stray thoughts to which one might become attracted. However, this word is not used like a mantra. The purification that occurs is not intended to be a preparation for relationship but is the relationship itself, and that dismantles the false self. It is rather like the Sufi merging with the Beloved or the Buddhist losing the self in emptiness. Interestingly, Keating equates the false self with original sin which echoes our separation theme. So, Centering Prayer is a catalyst for purification of the false self. Does this pattern sound familiar?
There is another interesting facet of this practice. It represents a “descent” into the unconscious. This recalls Washburn’s Dynamic Ground, Campbell’s hero’s journey, Jonah in the whale, Persephone’s descent into Hades, Christ’s descent into hell, Inanna’s descent, purgatory, the Shamanic journey, the Dark Night of the Soul and the self-examination or mid-life crisis characteristic of middle age. All of these refer to the release and cleansing of the personal unconscious and a re-integration of the personal soul with the Source of all Beingness of which we are also unconscious and which may, in fact, be the unconscious. So, while we tend to think of the spiritual journey as an ascent into the divine realms up above, the journey may actually be one into the depths of the dark unknown.
The guidelines for Centering Prayer, from which I am going to excerpt below, come from a pamphlet called “The method of Centering Prayer” by Thomas Keating that was published by Food for the Poor, 550 SW 12th Ave., Bldg. 4, Deerbeach, FL 33442, 305–4227-2222. Quotations are taken from that source. I am sure you can find a website online that will expand on it.
Practice: Centering Prayer
1. Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within.
2. Sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, settle briefly and
silently introduce the sacred word as the symbol of your consent to God’s
presence and action within.
3. When you become aware of thoughts, return ever-so-gently to the sacred word.
4. At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for 2 or 3 minutes.
1. The sacred word is chosen prayerfully and not changed during the session.
2. The back is kept straight as in any other meditation. Right after a meal and just before bedtime are not recommended times to do this practice.
3. “Thoughts” means every perception including sense perceptions, memories, images, reflections and commentaries. They are a normal part of the practice and should be released as in other forms of meditation. Gentleness is key.
4. When you find it necessary to return to the sacred word, it is done very, very gently with no recriminations. This is the only activity you initiate during the session. The attitude is one of resting in the heart of God. Do not worry if the sacred word becomes vague or disappears.
5. The rest time at the end is for readjustment to the external senses and to enable you to bring the silence into daily life.
6. The minimum time is 20-30 minutes and two periods/day are recommended. If you use a timer arrange for it to be gentle, so it does not jar you.
Lectio Divina is recommended as a conceptual background for the practice and consists of listening to the texts of Scripture as if you were in conversation with the Divine One.
Practice in a group helps to maintain motivation and enables sharing.
The brochure refers you to Open mind, open heart by Thomas Keating (1994) for further information and support.
I would add that, if you experience a high level of anxiety around this practice, that you should consult a therapist or your spiritual mentor. Since you will be accessing the unconscious, the ego may become alarmed, in which case the practice should be stopped or the times spent adjusted to more comfortable levels. The aim is to get the ego to surrender to the Divine One, not to go to war. A full scale rebellion on the part of ego would be counterproductive.
One further caution: there are some people whose egos are not
strong enough to deal with unconscious material. So, if you feel
you are becoming lost in chaos or you experience a kind of existential
dread, you should not do this practice unless you have professional supervision.
Ritual and Remembrance
I grew up attending the Southern Baptist Church, and one of my first, most vivid memories of its rituals is baptism. Now, the Baptist Church does not usually baptize babies when they are born. Instead they wait until a person is old enough to understand what it means. At least that was true in my day. So I was nine years old when I decided to become baptized. My decision was stimulated by watching adults take communion. In my church, bread cubes were passed around followed by tiny little glasses of grape juice which were placed in holders on the back of the pews in front of us. I wanted to take communion so badly and get to drink out of the tiny glasses. So I questioned and discovered that only those who were baptized could take communion. Therefore, I deduced, it was time to take the plunge. In the Baptist Church, that is literally what happens in baptism. The minister leads you into a large tank full of water behind the altar, in my case up to my neck, holds a cloth over your eyes and nose and dunks you completely. Then you move up some stairs where a kind lady wraps you in a towel and helps you change clothes. Now I am grown up!
Baptism is only one of many rituals that are observed in religions the world over. Aside from helping to focus our attention, rituals create remembrance of the cultural history and tradition out of which the particular religion grew. They etch significant experiences of the ancient peoples and their saints ever more deeply into memory, so that they become a tapestry of myths that inform the heart. Hence, when we engage in an historical ritual, we remember events that are deeply significant to our spiritual journey.
There is one problem with this continual repetition. That is that we tend to habituate to the words, language and gestures they require, and, before we know it, we have lost any direct connection to their meanings. We move through the liturgies as if we were asleep. It takes constant vigilance to renew the meanings with every repetition. One way to do this is to think about the symbolism of the practices as we go and try to put the meanings into our own words as a way of refreshing the ceremonies.
The cross is an interesting case in point. It was not only the tree upon which Jesus was crucified, which has meaning in itself, but if you look at the human body with its arms outstretched you may also see a cross. And at the intersection of the arms of this cross is the heart center. You could think of the vertical dimension of the human being as a channel for God’s love coming down into your body, and the horizontal dimension as the means for that same love to go out into the world through your arms that can reach out to embrace others. If you recall this every time you see a cross, that is remembrance. It is critical that you supply your own meaning for religious symbols, or else they eventually will fade for you.
We begin as children learning the myths and stories of the human experience with divine mysteries. Then, as thinking adults who have gradually had our own mystical experiences in the course of growing up, we take personal ownership by finding the important connections between the myths and our own lives. Finally, we celebrate and remember them with gratitude during the rituals our traditions provide for us. Perhaps part of our great interest in eastern traditions lies in the fact that these are fresh and new to us. That helps to re-energize our commitments to a divine life because they offer another dimension to old, familiar ceremonies. However, we need not throw out the baby with the bath water. It is eminently possible to weave together myths and rituals from every tradition into one perfect whole. They do, you know, all address the same Divine One. I am aware that most priests and ministers would argue this point, but you can see for yourself if you study all of them. Seek to know rather than just to believe.
Exercise: Ritual and Remembrance
1. Read chapter 10 in If today you hear God’s voice. See what you think about the four pillars or principles of contemplative listening. Do you agree with the role of the body presented here? If you are not a Christian, what in the tradition with which you are familiar is similar to what Gunzel calls remembrance? How does it memorialize the history of its mysteries?
2. After some self-reflection write the story of your life as a short myth. Then do honor to it by typing it up or putting it into some form to which you can give due respect. Your personal myth is part of the larger cultural one because it is the story of how God has manifested in your particular life. Consider what the Beloved has learned through your experience during your life on earth. You may want to draw a symbol of your life to go with the story. If you do that, put it up in your prayer space, so you can live with its meaning for a time.
3. The purpose of this exercise is to study a ritual to see how it can take you deeper into your heart center. It may also give you a better understanding of the connection between ritual and remembrance.
a. Read chapter 7-8 in Chanting. Chapter 7 will help you design your rituals.
b. Attend church or a service of your choice for a month and take part in its rituals. Prepare for this first by studying the rituals, so you can identify with them on a meaningful level. Make notes on the stages of development of the ritual to see where it is designed to take you. Then, after you have experienced it, try to develop your own ritual following the same sequences.
Or, alternatively, you may wish to study a Christian Mass. If so, secure a CD of one you like or buy the music to it and either play or sing it. In any case, study the forms it takes and notice the progression of events in it that are designed to take you deeper into the communion it represents. Can you generate your own ritual that takes note of all these stages?
Or, you may take the Metta Sutra as a practice and work with it for the same length of time. If you lean toward the eastern traditions, you may find this more compatible. Notice in this, too, that there is a progression into unity.
Or, you may wish to set up a mantra practice so you can chant.
If you are audio-oriented, this would be a perfect spiritual practice for
you. If you can, arrange to chant with a group. If there is
not one locally, perhaps you could form one. If you need some support,
select a mantra tape to accompany your chanting.
The heart center is that deep place where eternity and time, divinity and humanity, the known and the unknowable, light and dark, sin and grace, meet and blend in our fleshed experience. – Raymond Gunzel
This word has multiple meanings depending upon with whom you are discussing it. Contemplation in Yoga is samadhi a state of being in which the mind is completely still, and there is awareness of that which is beyond matter. In Christianity, the word may mean absorption into God’s presence. In Sufism, it may mean union with the Beloved. In Buddhism, it would mean resting in the emptiness of the void or sunyata. In Zen Buddhism, it is satori. In all cases the mind and ego are silent, and the soul is enabled to go beyond daily life and concerns into a realm of unconditional love. There seems to be pretty good consensus that the energy experienced in this space is love.
Contemplation is the condition in which we are aware that we are nestled in the heart of God. It is not quite unity because in a state of unity, there would be no separate consciousness to know we were there. To lead a contemplative life means that we are living in the world in full awareness of our identity with the Beloved. Yet we can go about our business with competence. This is a giant step beyond achieving awareness while sitting on a meditation cushion. We generally call a person who can do this a saint because it is extraordinarily difficult for most of us to comprehend. However, we know from the models we have before us that it is possible to achieve this blessed state within a lifetime. St. Francis, the Buddha and Milarepa come to mind as examples of people who started their lives immersed in worldly pursuits, but who were able to transcend their old positions to become world-renowned contemplatives.
Contemplation is the goal of most spiritual practice. It takes a tremendous amount of self-discipline and time to attain. However, young children seem to exist in this state naturally until they are trained out of it. Hopefully, we all have treasured memories of being free in nature and feeling one with all that is. This is contemplation in its most innocent form. It is the reason cities build parks in the center of traffic. The natural beauty of undisturbed earth can bring us all Home. We seek it in the lure of the seashore and the mountains both of which have the ionic vibrations to help us achieve this end. For this reason alone, the desecration of the earth is such an horrendous tragedy. We need the earth’s summoning potential for our heart’s ease.
1. Read chapter 11 in If today you hear God’s voice. How does Christ-consciousness relate to contemplation? What does Gunzel mean by “dying into life?” How can that cause an awakening? Is awakening contemplation? Does your church, synagogue or temple speak to your heart?
Channeling is a process “. . in which information, ideas, creative works, and personal guidance come to our minds from a source outside our own selves” (Hastings, 1990, p. xi). It differs from mediumship in that the channeler does not lose consciousness nor go into a trance. Nor is it a form of possession which is involuntary. It is not automatic writing nor any other form of control by another force or personality. Cases where there is an invasion by a foreign, unwelcome or unknown entity are usually seen as pathological. A course in miracles is one notable exception. Most often the source or entity must await an invitation to come through. So there is a certain comfort zone on the part of the channeler that must be observed.
My experience of channeling is that of a gentle presence from whom information, ideas, stories and guidance come into my mind. Sometimes it comes as words. Just as often it does not, but comes as pure information that I must code into language in order to transmit it. Sometimes it takes the form of a dialogue in which I ask questions and receive teachings.
Usually I must sit in meditation for several hours first. If I do not, it is not always clear whether it is stuff from my own mind or a genuine transmission. However, if I allow the material to rest for a week or so and come back to it, I can usually tell whether it is reliable or not. It is very important to have a clear and quiet mind else the material is tainted with my own mind and or ego agendas. I think this is the point at which channelers often falter. If you follow the history of some of the more recent channelers, you may be able to see where, in some, the process broke down and became forced rather than spontaneous. I think this is most likely to happen where the channeler is selling the material and panics when the source appears to dry up. The material in the SpiritSong Newsletter is fairly reliable. It comes largely from Spirit though occasionally I post some words from Michael who is my spirit guide or guardian angel.
For me, there is a clear distinction between Spirit and Michael. Spirit has never been embodied and has neither personality nor gender. It is pure spirit. Its messages sound much like those of Jesus, so I believe It is what Christians would call The Holy Spirit or Sufis would call the Beloved. Michael, on the other hand and according to him, has been embodied but is not so now. He is male and has a definite personality which includes a sly sense of humor. Their messages differ accordingly. Spirit’s information has a ring of ultimate truth to it whereas Michael helps me deal more with my own personal problems. Both of them teach me and give me information about how things are. Spirit’s focus is on the One’s unconditional Love and how that One needs us as much as or more than we need It. I am not sure, but it feels to me like Spirit is some kind of intermediary between me and the Absolute. We have dialogues and I can ask It questions. I believe it is the same source that came to Helen Schucman who channeled The course in miracles. This entity probably also channeled Emmanuel’s books, the Seth books and the Bartholomew books. All of these vary to some degree in sophistication, but the messages are very similar in intent and content. It is as if the time has come for us to pay attention to the fact that we are only part of a much larger community of divine beings. And there is a great need for the messages to come through.
I am not going into the history of channeling because others have already done that for me. Arthur Hastings (1990) did a fine job of summarizing the information about channeling in With the tongues of men and angels. If you wish to pursue the topic further, I recommend his book as a starter. He has an excellent reference section and offers resources for further study.
Spiritual guides are quite numerous and many are still embodied. It is not unusual to think of angels as spiritual guides, and there is plenty of literature on that subject too. However, a new discipline is emerging called spiritual guidance which makes training available to people who wish to assist others on the spiritual juorney. Traditionally this role has been reserved for priests, gurus, sheiks, shamans and ministers in the various religions. However, in the modern world, the boundaries between religious traditions are beginning to blur. Also, people who have no religious affiliation are beginning to seek spiritual development without reference to the customary institutions provided by their cultures. In addition, new disciplines such as transpersonal psychology are emerging in the educational world. These are not god-centered, but they do study spirituality as it relates to their particular field of study. So the time is ripe for spiritual guides to speak to the needs of these new travelers on the path.
An embodied spiritual guide is trained to help open and keep open a space for the inner guide or teacher to come forth. S/he is more like a companion than a teacher, albeit one who may be slightly ahead of the guidee perhaps. But even this is not essential. When you become more aware of the interactive forces that propel us on the journey, you will discover that anyone or anything can be a potential teacher. And you will learn how to tell which are authentic. All that is required to find them is an open mind and receptivity along with a large dollop of discernment and common sense – not to forget the common sense. Discrimination is essential, of course, so that you do not find yourself in the hands of a cult.
There are some new books coming out on the topic of spiritual guidance. The names of some good ones follow:
The gentle art of spiritual guidance by John Yungblut (1995)
Jewish spiritual guidance by Carol Ochs and Kerry Olitzky (1997)
Celebrating soul: Preparing for the new religion by Lawrence Jaffe (1999)
The ethics of caring: Honoring the web of life in our professional healing relationships by Kylea Taylor (1995) offers guidelines for the guide/guidee relationship.
Paths beyond ego: The transpersonal vision by Roger Walsh and Frances Vaughn (1993) which is not about guidance, per se, but is an excellent source book on the new movements in this arena.
I recommend you sample one or two of these if you are thinking of joining forces with a self-advertised guide. Monetary gain should not be a major factor in the relationship though some guides will charge a fee if they are engaged in the process as a way of making a living. However, many spiritual guides will not charge you at all but shepherd you as an act of selfless service. You must expect to take responsibility for yourself in these relationships. If you are in psychotherapy, it might be wise to wait until that is completed before engaging a spiritual guide. If you are lucky, your therapist will have had training in spiritual guidance. Look for a transpersonal psychotherapist if you are considering therapy. The Association of Transpersonal Psychology publishes a list of practicing ones by states.
Read pages 251-260 in The path to love and do the exercises he
offers. These may be of some help to you in making your discriminations.
As you have no doubt gathered, spiritual practice is essential on the path. It helps you gain control over your mind, ego and personality. And, as you do that, you are enabled to tune in. So it is important to sample a number of practices first giving ample time to each for a fair trial, and then you should decide on a few and stick to them over the long haul. You might want to do an annual evaluation to see how well they are serving you and make alterations then if necessary. But once you find the right ones, you will probably not need to change them.
Reflection. It is very helpful to take time to check out your progress with a little self-reflection periodically. Swami Radha used to recommend that we set up short-term goals in addition to long-term ones for ourselves, record them in our journals and then periodically review how well we are doing. Similarly, we can take a few minutes before bedtime every night to review the day and see how awake we have become, looking at both the awarenesses and the trancelike states we often fall into. What do we need to work on next?
The transformation we all seek is gradually taking place, but so imperceptibly that we may feel like we are not making any headway. However, if you have been keeping a journal right along, spend a day re-reading it; and I think you will see significant progress.
If I understand it correctly, recollection in the Christian tradition is a similar exercise. We re-collect ourselves, a bringing back together and remembrance of what we are about. This might take the form of reading some Scripture or prayer to assess what we are doing. It is good to develop the habit of watching oneself because it is so easy to regress into the old ways of doing things before new habits are firmly established.
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Barks, C. & Green, M. (2000). The illuminated prayer: The five-times prayer of the Sufis as revealed by Jellaludin Rumi & Bawa Muhaiyaddeen. New York: Ballantine Wellspring.
Bourgeault, C. (1995). From woundedness to union. Gnosis Magazine, 45, 41-45. [Permission granted. © C. Bourgeault + Gnosis Magazine, P. O. Box 14820, San Francisco, CA 94114, www.gnosismagazine.com]
Chopra, D. (1997). The path to love: Renewing the power of spirit in your life. New York: Harmony Books.
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Easwaran, E. (1979). Like a thousand suns: The Bhagavad Gita for daily living, Volume 2. Petaluma, CA: Nilgiri Press.
Gass, R. (1999). Chanting: Discovering Spirit in sound. New York: Broadway Books.
Gunzel, R. J. (1992). If today you hear God’s voice: Biblical images of prayer for modern men and women. Kansas City: Sheed & Ward.
Hastings, A. (1990). With the tongues of men and angels: A study of channeling. San Francisco: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
Jaffe, L. W. (1999). Celebrating soul: Preparing for the new religion. Toronto: Inner City Books.
Jones, A. (1985). Soul making: The desert way of spirituality. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco.
Keating, T. The method of Centering Prayer. Deerfield Beach, FL: Food for the Poor.
Keating, T. (1994). Open mind, open heart: The contemplative dimension of the Gospel. San Francisco: HarperCollins.
Mead, G. R. S. (transl.) (1973). The hymn of Jesus: Echoes from the Gnosis. Wheaton, IL: The Theosophical Publishing House.
Morrissey, Father D. (2000). Your cell will teach you everything. Parabola: Myth, Tradition and the Search for Meaning, 25(3), 33-38.
Muhaiyaddeen, M. R. B. (1997). Asma’ul-Husna: The 99 beautiful names of Allah. Philadelphia: The Fellowship Press.
Ochs, C. & Olitzky, K. M. (1997). Jewish spiritual guidance: Finding our way to God. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
Parabola: Myth, Tradition, and the Search for Meaning: “The Teacher,” 25(3), (2000). 6-19, 27, 60-64, 100-105.
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Taylor, K. (1995). The ethics of caring: Honoring the web of life in our professional healing relationships. Santa Cruz, CA: Hanford Mead Publishers.
Taimni, I. K. (1975). The science of Yoga: The Yoga-sutras of Patanjali in Sanskrit with transliteration in Roman, translation in English and commentary. wheaton, Ill: The Theosophical Publishing House.
Tyberg, J. M. (1970). The language of the gods: Sanskrit keys to India’s wisdom. Los Angeles: East-West Cultural Center.
Vaughan-Lee, L. (1995). Sufism: The transformation of the heart. Inverness, CA: The Golden Sufi Center.
Vivekananda, Swami (1976). Raja-Yoga or conquering the internal nature. Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama. [Probably also available online]
Walsh, R. & Vaughn, F. (Eds.) (1993). Paths beyond ego: The transpersonal vision. Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Perigee.
Yungblut, J. R. (1995). The gentle art of spiritual guidance. New York: Continuum.
We have looked at a number of different ways to tune in to the Ultimate
Source. Hopefully, you will have discovered one or two that resonate
to your own needs and that work for you. In Unit
VII. Solitude, we will go still deeper, into solitude, and
examine what it means to be “in the world, but not of it.”
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