In a discussion group, someone was asking how to have a relationship with God without the experience. In our western culture, we don’t have the common devotional examples they have in the east. In traditional India, one chooses one’s favoured form of (personal) God early on with a guru’s guidance and Jyotish (astrology). They also cultured devotion to teacher and mate. This made devotion much easier if there was such an inclination. Experience came later on a natural foundation.
In the West, many churches speak more to the mind, telling us what we should believe and how we should live a good life. While there is good there to be had, some of it has devolved into simplistic storytelling. It’s not a surprise many of my generation fell away from church. As a friend said, the stories about God made about as much sense as Santa Claus. Only God had a bad temper. Well – Santa Claus was pretty strict with that list…
The truth about the origin of life is there in all of the worlds great faiths. But it’s also common to all spiritual teachings that a few hundred years after the originating teacher or revivalist passes on, the original means of experience becomes lost in some way. The teachers then fail to become grounded in spirit and enlightened. Without direct experience to support it, the teaching becomes rote and degrades into dogma and belief. Rules of conduct replace visions of divinity. Sometimes, it even becomes politicized. The truth of God degrades into an excuse for war and hate.
One may well ask why something so important is so easily lost. This is simply because the difference between correct practice that brings you the direct experience of your spiritual nature and incorrect practice that brings you a headache is very small and subjective. Descriptions are easily misunderstood when not based on experience. One only has to look at the many meditations taught today that tell you to still the mind with the mind, overcome the ego with the ego, and so forth.
As Einstein wisely observed, “you can’t solve a problem on the level of the problem.”
For many, God has become a bad word; even the media declared God dead. But stories about God is NOT what I mean by God here. I’m speaking of something much deeper that can be directly experienced. And I’m not asking you to believe anything. I’ll even mention Ruiz here: “Don’t believe yourself, and don’t believe anyone else.” (the Fifth Agreement)
What I am suggesting is having an open mind and taking another, deeper look. Find out for yourself. There’s a reason God is held high the world over, throughout history.
In India, they speak of the paths or “yogas” (means of union) with God. All those people in yoga class are unintentionally practicing one traditional way to come to experience God, hatha yoga, purification of the body. The devotional path of prayer and song (Kirtan) is a heart-based yoga. The intellectual path is mind-based but requires close discrimination of experience, not believed concepts. And so forth. But in all these cases, the paths included the means; techniques to give direct experience. The teacher would point the way but expect the student to find out for themselves. As you might guess, today’s yoga classes include little to none of that.
If you want to come to know spirit, you need the direct experience of spirit. The peace of spirit will calm the mind all by itself. No headaches required.
Pure transcendent spirit or pure consciousness is what might be called the surface of God. The experience of spirit is thus the beginning of the experience of God. That may not be obvious at first though. Some further purification may be required to experience more clearly. And the best way to purify? Pure spirit. It is the way and the means.
To understand God and the experience of God requires a little bigger picture. God is far more than just this universe. We could accurately say our universe is a pearl on the necklace of one of God’s employees.
We have 2 modes of experience by which we might experience divinity. These modes are often called Personal and Impersonal.
The Impersonal mode is the way of the intellect, of science. We see the world as laws of nature and forces that interact to create what we experience. The world has a profound underlying order and intelligence that is inherently knowable. This has led many of our greatest scientists to believe in an impersonal God of profound intelligence. Our initial direct experience of the impersonal, formless God is the experience of pure silent spirit, as described above. The Holy Spirit. Deep peace.
The Personal mode is not as well understood in the more mind-driven West. Some see it as the path for the weak-minded who need beliefs. But this is actually the path of the heart and is no less than the mind. It requires the purification of the heart and emotions and the refinement of perception, much as the scientist must train his intellect. In the Personal mode, God is seen in form as the highest ideals we can experience. Love as flowing spirit and the bliss of contact with spirit are the beginning of the direct experience of God in this mode.
As we continue to have experiences of pure spirit, our connection deepens and the purity of body, mind and emotions progresses. Whether we favour an impersonal or personal journey, both options are available to us. As Jesus said, the kingdom of heaven is within. Magically, once we find it within, we begin to find it in the world too. It then becomes a fully lived reality.
Due to prior life development or grace, a few people have experiences of God early on. Some people have occasional flashes but for many, reliable direct perception doesn’t take place until after Self Realization (CC). With CC, it’s like we’re meditating 24-7 so progress can accelerate, subtler and subtler aspects unfolding to awareness. The mechanics of the universe, then creation become known. Deeper still and we come to the abode of God. This is the unfolding of God Consciousness.
God, however we choose to come there, becomes an unmistakable reality. Not a belief but a direct experience. As that develops we reach a place known as God Realization, where we choose our relationship to God. Do we merge in Oneness with the divine? Or maintain a slight duality to continue the relationship? This is a profoundly personal and intimate choice.
In the meantime, we may feel a long ways away, like God is some vague cloud over the horizon. But just consider there is nothing that is not God. Everything, even pain, arises within the love of God and is known by God. As Denise Hagan so beautifully sings “Every tear you cried, I wiped from my own eyes.”
We are never apart from God. We are none other than that. We are always in the arms of Mother Divine. But yes, devotion doesn’t come naturally to many westerners. Especially if they have more intellectual leanings. Happily it doesn’t matter if you believe in God. Reality remains, whatever you believe.
The first step for communing with God is that pure inner silence, that point of inner peace. This gives us a beginning reference point of experience, beyond belief.
From there, we can culture our attention in ways that bring us home. Prayer, for example. If you balk at the word prayer, try attention. Give your open attention to what raises you up. Pray or give to whatever feels good for you to give to – dance, the trees, a candle (light), acts of giving, a pet, uplifting music, a symbol, your children. It really doesn’t matter – the key is the feeling effect. That’s what cultures and connects. Anything that lightens the emotions, purifies the heart and brings us a little more clarity, a little closer to the divine.
More subtly, consider praying to that inner peace. Or directly with feelings. Feel your prayer rather than think it. The feelings are a profound doorway to divine love. Culture gratitude or enliven love or happiness or the memory of them. Like you’re trying to create a Patronus charm.
If you can directly, culturing love is a direct personal means to know God, be it through loving God, teacher or mate. There is no doorway closed.
You cannot know anything of the value of something outside of your experience, but I can say that a relationship with the divine is beyond your ability to imagine. It is the fulfillment of all of your deepest desires. It is what we have lost that we’ve been seeking for so long.
“If you could see what I see, you’d never lose that smile…” – Denise Hagan
I explore The Personal a bit more here.