Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Course Note #157: Practice is the Key to Freedom

This week I have more to say on the topic of spiritual practice, and when I refer to “spiritual practice” I am referring to whatever practice I am guided to in any given moment that enables me to turn attention away from world of the false to that which is true.
For fun I googled “spiritual practice” and found this definition from The Spiritual Science Research Foundation, and it fits perfectly with what I desire to say about the topic.

            “SSRF defines spiritual practice as honest and sincere efforts done consistently on a daily basis to develop Divine qualities and achieve everlasting happiness or Bliss.  Spiritual practice is our personal journey of going inward beyond our five senses, mind and intellect to experience the Soul (God) within each one of us.  One of the qualities of God is perpetual Bliss and so by tapping into the Soul, we too experience Bliss.”

            Highlighted here for me is this: Honest and sincere efforts done consistently on a daily basis…  This is key because it doesn’t matter what the form of the practice may be, but how consistently we practice.
            There is the spiritual practice of prayer, meditation, journaling, contemplation and such that we may do at a certain time each day, and then there is the practice of going throughout the day with a practice that enables one to shift from ego to Self.  For me this practice has never been static but fluid in that, my inner guidance changes to meet the situation or thought in a current moment.  Currently prayer, the mantra practice, remembering what I really want and shifting attention from ‘out there’ to within have been most helpful.

            Lately however, while feeling that I was not making more progress, I was reminded of all the subtle and not so subtle ways that things have changed.  One is that I used to have an overall sense of frustration and struggle in regard to life, and through many years of, yes, spiritual practice through my work with A Course in Miracles I no longer felt this in an overall sense, but certainly still in a couple areas of my life.  In those areas I had not Let go and Let God, but was still trying to fix myself by myself.  Recently I realized that I no longer feel frustration and struggle as I go about my life.
            Lack and limitation is something I used to identify with as well, especially in regard to working in the world. While I can still fall into that sort of thinking because it was such a long-held habit, I quickly see it and can easily shift from that. 

            If you have been reading my blog or listening to my audios then you know that in the last few years I have been guided to material and teachings that have come through Regina Dawn Akers.  More than one person has told me that I am “following” her or that I have made her into a guru, or that I am seeing her as more enlightened than me rather than as equal to me.   But for me, my “teacher” is the Inner Teacher and I let this teacher guide me to what I am to read or listen to.
            Recently a friend and I were chatting about spirituality and she said that the Holy Spirit is the director of continuing education.  I love it! When I look back on my journey from this vantage point, I see that I am constantly guided forward and deeper by the inner teacher, and as I look at the fruits of this guidance, I know that I have been guided truly.  I let this teacher guide me to anything I am to read or listen to in the world.

            As to listening to teachers, I look at this way: Recently I started playing the piano again after 12 years of not playing.  I have pretty much forgotten everything and so I contacted a piano teacher who I went to back when.  So I am not going to go to this piano teacher thinking that I am following him or not equal to him, I’m going to him because he knows a lot more about the piano than I do, and the reason he knows a lot more is because he has been consistently practicing for 40 years!
            The same goes with the spiritual teachers that I am guided to.  I am guided to the ones that obviously and consistently practice.  I am guided to those that are a step ahead of me and who can be instructive in regard to what my Inner teacher is guiding me to see.      The interesting thing for me to observe is that most of the “teachers” I have been guided to, I/sheryl would not have chosen.  And yet, I am blown away by how much deeper we can go through the willingness to be led from within. 

            I’ve noticed that the people I observe on the internet who say that you don’t have to practice, you just have to be, prance around the internet like egos run amok.  Okay great, but how do I just “be”?  Based on experience, I have learned how to be in the present moment through a lot of practice!

            Spiritual practice is not about fixing yourself or your life.  Instead, it is a process of uncovering the obstacles to the remembrance that you are Love – here and now, awake and complete.  We live in a culture that wants things fast and easy and we want our spiritual understanding to occur that way as well, but it doesn’t happen like that.

            How could we think that we don’t have to practice when we are so hypnotized by the world and all that goes on in it; we are mesmerized by the thought-stories that go on in our mind, and this is why it takes vigilant and diligent practice to know the Truth of who we are. 
            It’s easy to act spiritual on the internet because we all know the lingo by now.  Maybe you have reactions or thought-stories about posts or news you read, but you don’t write about this because it’s not spiritual.  I can all too easily become ensnared by politics, which I mostly do with ego, and so I look at that.  The thing is, when we pretend we are someplace that we are not on the spiritual path, we may fool people on the internet, but we are not fooling ourselves.

            A large part of spiritual practice is self-honesty.  A favorite teaching from A Course in Miracles says that the secret of salvation is this: You are doing this to Yourself. 
            This isn’t about beating up on ourselves.  When we read something like this with the ego we can quickly go into: “OMG! I’ve been doing this work for decades and I am still ensnared by politics!  OMG!  I am so bad.”  No, just look at it with the Inner Teacher.  Holy Spirit, how would you have me see this?  Everything can be used for healing if that is the purpose we give it.

            Spiritual practice is not about acting a certain way, it’s about having the willingness to look at the ego that is alive and well in you and in me, practically every moment of the day if we are not vigilant.  Even so, the Inner Guru, the True Self is guiding us Home to Itself, even now.

            So all that said (Ha!), I’m excited about some things I’ve been guided to see regarding practice this week.  Last week I wrote a blog about spiritual practice as guided through Nisargadatta Maharaj.  I was guided to more this week that aligns beautifully with teachings from the Course.

            In an article called: “Ceasing to pretend”, Nisargadatta says this:

            “Whatever happened, I would turn my attention away from it and remain with a sense ‘I am’, it may look too simple, even crude.  Turn away from all that occupies the mind.  Nothing stops you but preoccupation with the outer which prevents you from focusing on the inner.  It cannot be helped, you cannot skip your spiritual practice.  You have to turn away from the world and go within.  As long as you are engrossed in the world, you are unable to know yourself: to know yourself, turn your attention away from the world and turn within.” 

See how well this goes with this teaching from the Course:

“Every special relationship that you have made has, as its fundamental purpose, the aim of occupying your mind so completely that you will not hear the call of truth.”

I now see “special relationships” as a relationship with the false self, a relationship with the ego; a relationship with ‘out there’. 

What has your mind been completely occupied with lately?  What news, body or relationship stories are you focused on?  We cannot hear the call of Love, of Truth while preoccupied with the outer.

There is a practice in A Course in Miracles that has been very helpful over the years that I was drawn back to in recent weeks: paraphrase:

The Holy Spirit asks only this little help of you.  Whenever your thoughts wander to a special relationship that still attracts you, enter with Love into a holy instant and there, be released.  Out of your recognition of your unwillingness for your release, Holy Spirit’s perfect willingness is given you.  Call upon Spirit Within for Heaven is at its call.  Let Love call on Heaven for you.

I was prompted to remember this on a recent morning walk when I was aware that at least on a certain level, I was unwilling for release from ego, even though I was willing enough to call on Love.

When your thoughts wander to that mind preoccupation, all that is required is a little willingness to choose again.  And then, be prompted from within to a spiritual practice that enables choosing again.  On that day, and many days since I was prompted to this prayer from the Course:

This holy instant would I give to You.
Be You in charge.
For I would follow You,
Certain that Your directions gives me peace.

I am that I am. 
I am.


This audio was recorded on 8/26/12 and is 58 min.
In the audio much more was shared in regard to spiritual practice
than was shared in this blog. 


    MP3 File

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Course Note #156: Practice is key to Progress

Hi friends,
Practice, patience and perseverance has been key for me this week.
One day last week while in the gym on the elliptical machine, I was reading from my 7steps journal and I read this personal guidance that arose from contemplation of quote #96: 

Instead of trying not to think, simply observe the thoughts in the 
mind and remember what you really want. When I keep my focus on true desire ~ know thy Self ~ I am in the flow with all of life. When I listen to the thought-stories in my mind it’s like I have hit a dam!

Soon after I read this I started thinking grievance thoughts about someone in regard to a conversation this person had with another friend. I was thinking about what I would like to say to her, and then I remembered: what is it that you truly want? 

                                               I want to know the peace of God
                                                         I want to know the freedom-self
                                                                         I want to wake up from dreams

…immediately upon this remembering, the grievance thoughts faded away, and peace reigned. ;)

           A few days later...
My favorite liberated sage in the 7steps book is Nisargadatta Maharaj because he just says it like it is. I woke up with this quote on my mind:

#81: “You want immediate results! We do not dispense magic here. Everybody does the same m
istake: refusing the means, but wanting the ends.”

Then I received guidance along these lines, and it almost sounded like Nisargadatta! Lol!:

Lately you have felt that you are making no progress. You say you want to know the peace of God. You say you want to know the Freedom-Self. You say you want to wake up from dreams (misperceptions of self and world). But…you are not consistently practicing what you know to practice.

Well, uh…can anyone say: BUSTED!

Then I went to the gym. I love taking my 7steps journal with me because it’s like I get exercise and spiritual practice instructions/inspiration at the same time. So while there this morning I was prompted to this quote, also by Nisargadatta:

#99: “Mere listening, even memorizing, is not enough. If you do not struggle hard [be devoted] to apply every word of it in your daily life, don’t complain that you made no progress.”

Ah…more guidance on the same topic. As my thoughts began to stray to the things of this world, I turned within:

                                  This holy instant would I give to You.
                                            Be You in charge. For I would follow You,
                                                     certain that Your direction gives me peace.

                                                                  I am that I am. I am.
                                                                              What am I to do now?

And just yesterday I was prompted here in my 7steps journal: 

7steps:  I cannot solve your problem by mere words.  You have to act on what I told you and persevere.  It is not right advice that liberates, but the action [practice] based on it.

SV:      A. Practice of what I am learning, or more accurately, what I am remembering through this 7steps work, as well as the practice of the mantra, is key.  I can read the quotes hundreds of times, but if I continue to keep my focus on words-thoughts-words, I remain imprisoned.

            B.  I am reminded of a favorite passage in NTI Matthew, Chapter 7 (v6):

            “Do not take My words lightly without practice.  For to listen and to agree, but not to practice, is not to have heard.  And one who will not hear cannot be healed.”

~ Thank You ~

And if you like headier fare: this past week I was also prompted to read some articles by James Swartz.  I don't know much about Adviata and Vedanta but I found the articles that I was prompted to, to be helpful and resonating with the direction I am being moved in from within.

I'll share a link to an excellent article I read last evening. Here's an excerpt that speaks so fully to and resonating with my own inner guidance.  Both articles affirm the need for practice.

"Because Self Inquiry defines enlightenment differently, however, it insists that a person be discriminating, dispassionate, calm of mind and endowed with a burning desire for liberation along with secondary qualifications like devotion, faith and perseverance. In other words, it requires a mature adult with a one-pointed desire to know the self. The reason for these qualifications, which were discussed in chapter four, is the fact that enlightenment is a hard and fast recognition by the mind of its non-separation from everything; only a very rare individual will let go of his or her sense of individuality to gain another, albeit greater, identity. The mind must be capable of inquiring into, grasping and retaining the knowledge ‘I am limitless Awareness and not this body mind.’ To accomplish this, its extroverted tendency must be checked and attention directed to the self. To put forth the required effort, the individual needs to have the settled conviction that nothing in the world can bring lasting satisfaction. This conviction is what Self Inquiry calls maturity. To my knowledge no Neo-Advaita teacher espouses this view. The reason is obvious: he or she would have no one to teach."

"Another essential component of any valid spiritual path is devotion to God, as explained in chapter nine. Ramana gave devotion to God, meaning glad acceptance of the fruits of action equal status with Self Inquiry as a spiritual path because devotion to God exhausts vasanas and breaks down the concept of doership. ‘Not my will, but Thine.’ It also teaches that God, not the ego, is the dispenser of the fruits of one’s actions. But Neo-Advaita sees devotion as ‘duality’ and has nothing to do with it. In fact, devotion works just as well as the idea of non-duality to prepare the mind for self realization, because the self functions through the chosen symbol or practice to bring the necessary qualities for Self Inquiry into full flower."

****************** and these excerpts from this article: http://www.shiningworld.com/top/images/stories/pub-pdfs/Articles/%288%29%20The%20Horse%27s%20Mouth.pdf

"Ignorance…the belief that one is separate from everything…is hard wired. It does not go away because you deny it. The logical conclusion is that you need to get rid of this belief. But this is precisely the point at which the teachings of no doer, no work, no guru, etc. float off into fantasy land because getting rid of it is very hard work. Denial is much easier; you just tell yourself that you are ‘awakened’ or ‘cooked’ and you avoid noticing that you are still the same old fool. Or you explain your foolishness away with some clever non-dual tidbit like “I’m not chasing things in this world, I’m playing in Consciousness.” Or ‘nothing ever happened’ or ‘I’m not really here’ or ‘what I’m teaching is crazy wisdom.’ Or “Ramana got it without doing anything so that means I don’t have to do anything.’ Or, “How can I do sadhana, I’m not a doer.”

"...Yes, it would be wonderful if life was that easy. But it isn’t. We do not choose to be here…New Agey theories to the contrary not withstanding. We appear here, the result of vast complex of factors that nobody understands. Life somehow wants us here…it needs us. And one of life’s nasty inconvenient little truths is that there are no free lunches. You have to pay all the way. It provides a lovely world and a beautiful body and mind with which to enjoy it. But it also requires you to play your part. If you don’t, you suffer. Why? Because along with the good stuff it infects you with a completely debilitating disease, the beginningless disease of ignorance. This disease will not go away because you want it to.

               "You have to take your medicine. You have to admit that you are a human being and do the work. Neo-Advaita fails because it is basically dishonest. It wants the fantasy, not the truth, because the truth is a hard sell. A successful teaching is not content to merely preach non-duality from its ivory tower. It comes downinto the dream of duality and shows the way out…from within the dream. This is why traditional Vedanta has survived for thousands of years and Neo-Advaita will rate little more than a footnote in modern spiritual history. It humbly accepts you where you are at, shows you the goal and supplies the tools you need to succeed: the karma yoga attitude, discrimination, the hugely effective three guna model, devotion and many others. It is sophisticated enough to understand the human tendency toward self delusion, its desire to cut corners and take the easy way out. So it supplies the logic that cuts through age old spiritual myths."