In the Big Picture

In the Big Picture

Milky Way from Big Bend by Vincent Lock
Milky Way from Big Bend by Vincent Lock

If we see our lives as small and insignificant, we may be excused for spending it on escape. If we see our efforts at spiritual progress as temporary and with limited benefit, we can be excused for drifting away.

But this is thinking small. I’ve mentioned before how Atman and Sattva, consciousness and clarity, are cumulative through lifetimes. Let’s look at this more closely.

With the right practices and circumstances, we very much have the potential to awaken in this lifetime. Not everyone will shift, perhaps because of karmic backlog. But none of it is a waste.

When the body dies at the end of our human life, the energy pulls up and out of the physiology. The physical body dies, then the emotional body dissipates, then what’s refereed to as the lower mind releases. Our form and identity dissolve to dust.

But all the rest of “you” remains. Consciousness (atman) rests much deeper than what falls away. So does your jiva or soul. We sustain sattva development in the causal and intellect bodies. Thus, the development of atman and sattva are sustained.

We do not lose the degree of presence nor the degree of refinement. We do not waste spiritual practice. In our next life, we pick up where we left off, aside from maturing as a person and dealing with the unresolved karmas we take on. The latter may dominate our experience but this is in the field of what is born and dies.

This is why deeper refinement is more important than a perfect diet or lifestyle. It is useful to eat well and take care of our physiology. But what lasts is deeper.

Another aspect we carry forward is unresolved experiences we had through this body, mind, and emotions. Even though those bodies fade, the larger experiences that have not been digested do not. They’re stored in the deeper structures that carry on. This is why resolving our baggage and healing are worthwhile. We are improving quality of life but also clearing the way long-term.

Your life may be just a chapter in a larger saga but it will influence everything that follows. There are long-term consequences to our choices.

“If, as a human being, you fail to reach God, then you have sold a diamond for the price of spinach.”
โ€” Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, Jagadguru Shankaracharya of Jyotirmath

I do not mean this as a guilt trip but as perspective. If we’ve adopted good practices and live life with minimal strain, we can be confident the benefits will quietly gather until the time comes for the next stage. The path isn’t about instant enlightenment or flashy experiences but living a good life as best we can. That will bear the fruits that last.

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  1. per

    Thank you! That was short and sweet and full of meaning! It is as if I experience a shadow of your reality when I read these words. I’m thinking about a young person today who is too full of himself. Pitta and pride. He is above his station. My (deceased) TM teacher could have put him in his place… and with such force that it would have been earth-shattering for him! Now there is hardly one that has this kind of authority. No correction.
    Ah well, we’ll all have to meet ourselves in the door, as we say in Norway. Life will have to be the teacher.

    1. Hi Per
      Confidence in young people helps them make bold choices. But in the end, life is always our best teacher and brings us to balance. All you can do is warn them. Then it’s up to them to decide and experience the consequences.

      1. Jim

        Thank you David! One thing I’d like to add to your excellent commentary is the underlying impetus for enlightenment and refinement.
        Although we experience it as bettering ourselves and making individual progress, the overall aim of the Cosmos is to mature us into Universal citizens living our full human potential. Moving from patients, to patience. ๐Ÿ™‚
        It is a rigged game with only one outcome, and it behooves us to learn the rules. ๐Ÿ™‚ Fortunately there are those who have temporarily fallen by the wayside, to make our choices clearer for us.

        1. Hi Jim
          Agreed – so often we start on the path for personal gain and seek personal progress when the true aim is our universality.
          And yeah, learning the rules is a good idea lest be the bad example ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Christine

    This is great! Perhaps youโ€™ll touch on some of this in the follow up article but a couple questions come to mind. First, I suppose that Liberation then results in the soul/jiva dissolving completely as all karma is resolved? Thinking also of the Golden Age, would all souls then be Liberated but exist in physical bodies without Karma to resolve? If so then the option for all liberated souls to still take physical form exists? Finally, would the number of souls incarnate on earth and living out karma be reflective of the speed of evolution? More souls working on burning off karma at the same time?

    1. Hi Christine
      No, the soul doesn’t dissolve. To quote Krishna:
      “There never was a time when I was not, nor you, nor these others. Nor will there ever be a time when all of us shall cease to be.” (Bhagavad Gita 2:12)
      Completing our karma does end our need to come back into physical form to complete it. But there are many other places to enjoy.
      Golden ages are interesting – not everyone is liberated but consciousness is high enough that most everyone lives as if liberated. (they also live very differently than now) But then there is no motivation to progress so the age inevitably fades as the liberated ones leave. More difficult ages then turn us back to the path and the ages rise again.
      There is the option for the liberated of taking a physical body without karma. But it’s harder here so people only tend to to take it for a helping role.
      The number of souls incarnate I think is related to being in the sandhi or transition time. They’re coming to witness the change and get a boost. Because consciousness is rising, higher souls are also taking form which is adding to the rise.
      But yeah, there is some serious karma burn taking place these days… ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Jane Killingbeck

    thank you. this is really helpful this morning… i have been going through a time of lack of interest for formal spiritual practice, a shift into a different way of being in the world, of doing less to change any thing or person….let be let be …i know i will go back to a regular spiritual practice but right now it feels more important to just getting sit with my own reflections as they come, to spend time being quiet,

    1. Hi Jane
      It’s natural to go through life cycles. For example, we may be called to be more in the world for a time. Or to focus on health or family. And yes, also a shift away from practices as a way to fix anything and into a natural state of being. That is in itself a “practice” but such things may move away from formal teaching.
      In some ways, it is a more mature form when the practice arises from life itself.

  4. Jeff

    My goal has always been to integrate silence into dynamic activity. Now that it is sustained in waking, dreaming and sleeping, my goal is to enliven silence. The varying shades, flavors, and textures of bliss are closing the gap that the silence has created. Connecting me to the subtler aspects of creation.

    Life is a joy, and it flows like a river. I take in what is useful to my evolution and look past what is not.

    1. You’re welcome, Nicole. The blog was originally called “In2Deep” as some of the content is pretty abstract. I’m sometimes addressing what is still a pretty rarefied crowd. But it’s growing and there is a need to bring it forward to support them.

      1. John

        I’m with Nicole, first in gratitude, and as an aspirant who wants to glean what I can from those who are further down the path than I am. Thank you!
        Could it be said that if one lives in Love and and Devotion to the Highest, returning to it continuously whenever one waivers from that living, one will continue in that Love when the temporary bits dissolve?

        1. Hi John
          Thanks. I don’t write on devotion and the heart as much as I should…

          I would say it depends. Is that devotion arising naturally? Or is it making a mood? Faking it doesn’t work for this. ๐Ÿ™‚
          Is the practice being used to avoid how you feel or to culture Love?
          Is the practice used as a resistance to how life is showing up or just favouring the feeling?
          It’s also worth noting that we don’t have to wait for a transition for Love to be ongoing. It’s a key feature of the post-Self Realization God Consciousness phase. It can be lived as a human.
          Personally, I don’t recommend constant practice all day. This cultures a person trying to control their experience. Rather, when there is a moment here and there, becoming conscious of how you’re feeling and favouring a habit of higher attention. No strain, just favouring.
          I cultured gratitude, for example.

          1. John

            Poor language on my part with regard to the terms. Devotion in this usage, to me, is, in a way, like mantra meditation – when you find yourself not with the mantra, you gently come back to it. Can it not be so with remembrance of God? It needn’t be viewed as a practice with effort, but as a way of living. One goes through life as it unfolds with this in the background. As for Love, there is a sense of sweetness and a kind of choking in the heart in this remembrance that is unlike romantic or familial love. This can also come unbidden in meditation, Satsang or listening to devotional music etc. The question in response to the above text is: if one is steeped in this state, does it color or affect that which continues after the temporary bits drop away?

            1. Hi John
              Not at all. I just answer to the larger audience who may not know the difference.
              Yes, very much all of life can become an effortless flow. A life of devotion.
              Lorne describes a perpetual surrender but this is more about advanced stages of enlightenment.
              But yes, if this becomes the habit it will affect what comes later. Not just in terms of the transition but because Love is very sattvic and purifying. Very evolutionary.
              And I agree, very unlike other forms of love.

  5. Deborah

    I am definitely aware I can only do me.
    This was perfect timing, as I struggle through this phase of allowing held beliefs to surface, be seen, let go… after the other. Watching myself want to self destruct, and knowing there is a battle going on between consciousness and darkness/shutdown. I feel to move it and am working diligently….it’s very tough. As we all know. I thought I had done this a few years back, but, different layers are coming up. Quite tiring. Your reminder when i saw you on retreat in November, that exhaustion is something in the way of awareness, was very crucial….great timing.
    Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom.

  6. Hi Deborah
    Glad I could be a small help.
    One thing it’s useful to understand that I’ll explore in a coming article is that the purpose of learning techniques to heal and let go is to shift the way we respond to life experiences. That can help shift some of the habits that feed problems in life.
    It isn’t to try to heal and resolve every little thing. As the verses tell us, we have mountains of backlog. It would take eons to resolve it all. Thats why we head to source. Source roasts the backlog by correcting our delusions about who we are. Then we just have to shift some of the habits.
    We don’t have to tackle all of it, one at a time. Just enough to learn how to be.

  7. Hi David, I am always surprised when feeling drained from the accumulation of the stresses of daily life there is nevertheless somewhere in amongst it all a refinement of thought and often wonder would that have occurred without having gone through what at the time seems like a cloud of confusion.

    1. Hi Lewis
      There is two things here: what is arising and how we’re responding to it.
      Yes – our day to day experiences very much are polishing the stone/ gem, resolving our burden, and causing growth through learning. As you mention, with the cloud of activity, this can be anything but obvious.
      However, if we’re able to “clear the air” and mellow, there is less of the draining and confusion. We’re not struggling with events so much. This is why I recommend an effortless meditation. It quite helps on that front.

  8. Lorey

    Thank you, David. Devotion here weaves in and out of daily life and arises with attention, but not anything I’m doing. Same with purifications that have been a focus for the past 7 months that came into the flow; again, not my doing just arising. Everything unfolding cyclicly and perfectly to greater clarity.

  9. Deborah

    I read a book…’buddha brats’….written by a homeopath who prescribed treatments for states of mind that block spiritual progress….one treatment stood out for me….a tincture prescribed specifically for reaction to family. (If I remember, next time I see you I will tell you that remedy…it adds humor to that hurdle)…..
    I mention this as it does feel we each have a particular thing, when we narrow it down, after years of watching….that needs to be known, and dropped….this one is big one. (Join the crowd?l
    As you said….how to respond in life’s experiences. Great to know I don’t have to do it all! Phew.

    1. Hi Deborah

      Curious how we discover where there are contractions. I’m not sure I’d say we have one big thing but we tend to tackle one at a time as we go through life phases. Some relate to prior lives, some to ancestral issues. (the latter seem less personal)
      This is not to say we have a lot of big ones. Most people take on a few. We’re also in a time now where for many, old issues will become prominent. A good time for healing but rougher if we’re avoiding. It should be an interesting couple of years… ๐Ÿ™‚

      1. Thank you for this clarification:) So what happens with the structure of gunas, once the mechanism of reincarnation within our current realm is completed? Another question: how about the freedom of projecting a body into a given realm, without actually incarnating into its flow? How does this work? Thank you:) Tomek

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