The Holy Grail of Spiritual Practice
I went for a walk with a good friend recently. We took a trail in a deep canopy, surrounded by my favorite trees - Oak, Bay, Buckeye and a few Sycamores scattered here and there. Surprisingly, there was still water in the creek, rare for small creeks in July in California. The trail was cool, the canopy dense with shards of filtered light sneaking through, and the scents intoxicating. These landscapes are heaven to me and a place where I find peace. Sharing it with a good friend and participating in a deep conversation with her made for a nurturing, thought-provoking experience. As we walked, we discussed many things, including methods for connecting with the greater whole.
The discussion of connection came up because we paused to see what the trees had to share with us and this required being in a receptive state. We stopped by a beautiful Live Oak whose presence dominated the area. My friend laid her hands against the trunk while I prompted, “What do you sense? Do you see colors or anything in your inner vision? What do you feel? Do you hear anything?” I followed, placing my hands on the truck and was immediately drawn into the bark in my inner vision and saw an aura of golden light. At the same time, my gut solidified as I sensed the strength of this tree. I dropped in deep, enveloped by a sense of safety and love. Some trees are emanate love and safety and this particular oak spread that liberally around her arena. Later, after our tree connection experiment, my friend and I took up walking again and began to debrief the experience, which led into a discussion of the mechanics of letting go and becoming more present.
I shared with her information I learned from Lujan Matus’ audio book, Whisperings of the Dragon. I find his teachings compelling. In this particular book he shares a different angle on my meditation process which I learned from Peter Kingsley. His teaching helped confirm some of my insights about my experience, deepening my trust in my practice. The awareness meditation (which Peter learned through his mentors Empedocles and Parmenides, see his book, Reality) begins with letting go to become present to all your senses – using your senses fully rather than the other way around. For me, opening my awareness to the soundscape is the most effective method for moving deeper inward, even if that appears to be a bit of a paradox. As I open my hearing to all sounds, subtle to not so subtle, I “shift” internally and become more aware of the stillness at the core of my being. In Whisperings of the Dragon, Lujan Matus recommends externalizing your hearing one hundred percent, which is essentially what I am doing when I surrender to the soundscape. His next step is to focus vision internally ninety-eight percent, leaving only two percent for cursory glances at the external world around you. He says our vision is meant to be used primarily inward. Once I shared this with my friend, she agreed that starting there would have made our connection with the tree much stronger. We decided these practices are very effective at pushing our busy monkey-minds to the background and out of the way.
Start here to develop presence awareness. I have added Lujan Matus’s suggestion around vision to my practice. In my experience, the following methods work quite powerfully:
Externalize your hearing 100%.
This totally cuts out the inner dialogue which plagues modern humans since Descartes pronouncement, I think therefore I am. When you really open up and listen for all the sounds present in the moment, there is no room for that inner “thinking” dialogue. This is the most effective way I have ever encountered to shut those voices down and I have been practicing it for years. It has changed my life. Without the distraction of “thinking,” our awareness expands naturally and our ego recedes to the background. Inner dialogue is all about the ego because the focus tends to be on evaluating self and others. I see the ego as our social fear system, forever preoccupied with our status. Our ego never allows us to just BE. It wants us to keep “working” on something to make us better, make us good enough! The rub is, we will never be good enough. It will always find something wrong. It leads us into constant doing. We modern humans are presently doing ourselves into oblivion, consistently moving in the wrong direction, away from BEING and mucking up our home in the process.
Internalize your vision 98%.
It is very common to close our eyes to meditate. I pondered this and decided it is because we are so easily distracted by what we look at when our vision is focused outwardly. My friend and I also decided that so much of what we look at in modern life comes with judgment. We spend an inordinate amount of time looking at things (computer, people, driving), analyzing what we are seeing and making judgments. Reading from left to right trains the brain to be more linear, abstract and left brained (see Leonard Schlain, The Alphabet VS The Goddess). We are trained to see this way, but there is also another way of seeing. A soft focus has an entirely different feel to it. We are taught to totally disregard our internal vision, that there is nothing to see with our eyes closed and the only things worth seeing are outside of us. It takes an adjustment in our beliefs to begin to use the third eye. We can start by being curious and noticing what we see internally, rather than assuming we see nothing because our eyes are closed. Try it and see what happens. Don’t give up right away, it takes time to shift. Ask yourself, do I tend to see this as “just” my imagination? What If I treat it as real?
What is important about being present with our experience in the moment? It pushes aside the constant insertion of inner dialogue and distraction of our attention? Awareness is the Holy Grail of spiritual practice and the root of spiritual attunement. For me, being present, aware in the moment, deflects my ego’s preoccupations and sense of separation and I align myself with that which is greater than me and I experience bliss. Being so aligned, I am in service to the whole and aware of what my self-identified ego self cannot even begin to fathom. I can also navigate my life within the flow of BEING rather than fighting it.
I am a firm believer that everything has a purpose, including our ego. It has a role to play. But so often the ego is so busy looking for the one thing it wants, that it misses everything else. I could write much more on the ego, but that is not the focus of this blog, so I will leave that for another blog, another day. If you desire to go deeper into awareness practice or understanding the ego, check out my courses HERE.
In the meantime, experiment with externalizing your hearing one hundred percent and internalizing your vision and observe what happens.