Week 15 – Discernment

Discernment
The words come slowly, tuning into them, they are always there. Trust in them and believe in them. Spirit is not somewhere else, we do not have to do anything special to hear Spirit, just listen. All our training is needed to give us confidence and trust and belief in the connection to Heaven, but the words are always there, we only have to choose to hear them and to trust in them. We need to differentiate between the words and thoughts in our minds and the words and direction of Spirit.
Spirit communicates with us through our mind, using our mind to interpret the message, so that we can understand the meaning in our own terms. Spirit uses our knowledge to interpret the message into concepts and understanding that we can work with. But because the thoughts and words come through in our own interpretation we can mix it up with our own thoughts. We can differentiate, but it takes practice and time and confidence to tell the difference. So many people long for a clear connection and deny that they have it when it is there for them but they don’t listen or more likely do not believe or trust that the words are not their own.
We differentiate in several ways. Firstly by the feeling, it feels different when we are tuned in and listening. It is different from the ramblings of the ego mind. The ego mind can pretend, but it feels different. It is more like being an observer than being a participant, the mind is quiet and still. The mind is observing, waiting for the words to come out. They may come out as sentences or word by word, they may come out as thoughts, which we can interpret.
It is important that the words are never predicted, it is like an unfoldment, nothing is pre-determined, it all comes out bit by bit. The words flowing out but, observing the moment, not reviewing what has already gone nor anticipating what is to come. Just these words in the context of their own. The observer sits and watches, quietly listening.
When the ego mind is speaking, the thoughts are contiguous and garbled, coherent only in the mind’s view of the problem and the issue that it is addressing. The thoughts are not pure in that they follow and lead illusion. If we can recognise illusion then the thoughts are of the ego mind and not of Spirit. Spirit will not play the game of the ego mind, it will not dwell in illusion. The words are words of truth and they observe truth in all things.
The ego mind will lead us in discussion of its own making, in discussion about itself. The words will be about the I and not about the wider consciousness that is all around us and of which we are part. The words will be about the ego self or condemning others, it will not recognise the greater community except to support the power of the ego within that community, that is to separate the writer or the reader from the community, as separate and apart. To make them feel that they are special and have a special role in leading and teaching others. The ego mind plays all sorts of games to fool us, so we need to be alert and wary.
When we are in doubt quieten the mind again, still the thoughts and observe again the gentle flow that comes from Spirit. Spirit speaks clearly and slowly, there is no need to rush, the words will come out gently and firmly. The ego mind is a torrent of thoughts and words, haphazard, slipping from subject to subject, incoherent, illogical without pausing to face the test of clarity.
We can learn to hear the voice of Spirit, but we need to trust in the words. We can develop this connection. Like most things in life we have to practice to develop the words and the thoughts into our lives so that they become increasingly part of us. Develop the approach so firmly embedded within us that we can access it whenever we want and what we will want is to access it all the time, because as we hear the words of Spirit we also learn that we cannot judge for ourselves in any situation, that we do not know the rights and wrongs of anything without the guidance of Spirit.
Maintaining that connection is difficult because the ego mind is strong. It was made strong so that it could do its work effectively, but we have to be aware continuously to overcome it. The ego will constantly try to bring us back to the state of mind when we are thinking about ourselves, when we get embroiled in the illusions of our lives, where we believe in our own strength of mind to make decisions for ourselves.
The ego mind makes judgements and decisions based on a set of rules, which the ego has developed. These rules are from our parents, our friends, those people who we follow and admire. We develop these rules over many years and embed them inside ourselves. We surround ourselves with others who support our views or accept our views and judgements. This is our illusion. We believe the rules are right. We believe that these rules can tell us the difference between right and wrong, we believe these make us into a god.
How can these rules be truth. We change our rules and we change as we are influenced, as we see the effect of our judgement. One day the rules tell us the difference between right and wrong, good and bad, good and evil, and the next day we throw them away, because we see things in a different light. One day we will condemn somebody as evil and the next we see and understand their action and praise them. How can these rules lead us to truth.
The only truth is the truth of Spirit. Spirit is with us always and guidance is there for us in all situations. It is there for every one of us, none of us is disregarded. We are all given the words and the truth through Spirit, all we need is faith and trust and willingness to listen.
In the stillness we are guided, we have no need to question because truth is truth and it needs no confirmation. We know truth when it is inside us and we know truth when it is spoken to us. Spirit does not need to have our support, Spirit is anyway. We do not need to praise spirit to be blessed by it. As we see the beauty of truth that is inside all of us we are grateful. In this gratitude we feel the beauty that is all around us. We do not need to try to feel gratitude, as we continually live in the flow of Spirit we will be filled with gratitude at the beauty of the World we live in.

Step into the Light
Our Father who art in heaven hallowed by thy name

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on Earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread

In prayer and meditation we raise ourselves up. We come into alignment with All That Is. We feel the underlying presence, the vibration, the word, the name. This is connection.

We bring that connection down to earth. We ground the spiritual experience. We bring it to the heart. The heart is opened by the light of heaven. This is the practical application of the spiritual experience the way in which we learn to apply spirituality into daily activity.

All this is supported by the Earth. Not only feeding the body, but the energetic and emotional stability that the Earth provides.

This connection is the foundation of spiritual practice. It is the basis on which the practical application of spiritual connection is founded. From this basis we can react and respond to the world with an open heart, to bring love, compassion and forgiveness.

The Air Initiation
From The Path of The Soul – By White Eagle

Let us bear in mind this surrender to the divine Mind as we speak of the air initiation. We have said that it brings recognition of and discrimination between the two minds you all possess – the earthly mind and the mind of Christ, which is the higher or heavenly mind. We have dwelt on the testing and the resulting conflict between these two. You know well how the so called reason (the lower mind) can argue against the higher mind. How reasonable those arguments seem which tell us we should never let ourselves become too sentimental or idealistic; that we should always be practical and think first of our own well being! Yet the mind of Christ in us reveals another, a better way of life. As long as the higher mind prevails, when we are in the temple of the spirit, it knows well enough that when we go back to the world to face all the problems of life, our so called reason is likely to overpower us again for the time being. The task in hand is for the soul to become strengthened so that the higher mind rules every detail, and life is controlled and directed not by this so called reason but by inspiration.

You will ask how this may be achieved. The way is by continual meditation; not only in times of quiet but throughout your day. Go about your tasks always conscious of your higher mind (not necessarily with it at the forefront, because your earth mind has to deal with earth things; the higher mind can be imagined operating from the back of your brain). In time the higher mind will feel as though it is always part of you, directing every thought and action so that the mind of earth automatically, instantly, obeys. The secret is to keep very tranquil and control the emotions. This is why the first degree of discipleship entails control of the emotional body – control of the emotions of passion, fear despair and anger.

God is all love. God’s ways are gentle and kind; and if the soul is willing to open to the love of God it will be filled with all blessings. But if it is rebellious and blind, then it inevitably suffers; it bangs its head against the wall. The soul must acquire all the qualities of the Christ mind – meekness, acceptance, humility, peace – but not necessarily by the hard way! It can, if it will, learn much through happiness and joy, beauty and plenty. However, if the lessons are not learnt, then these things are taken away and the soul learns through lack of them.

The Essence Of Zen
From The Essence of Zen by Sangharakshita

Zen is concerned with the experience of the living spirit of Buddhism, and with the transmission of that spirit. For Zen nothing else matters. Nothing must be allowed to stand in the way. This is what makes Zen so ruthless. Zen has no hesitation about burning holy Buddha images or tearing up sacred books if these come in the way. But what is it that comes in the way more than anything else? What is it that most of all prevents us from having a real knowledge of Buddhism, based on our own experience? Surely the greatest obstacle is to think that we know. Until this obstacle has been removed, no progress is possible. Here more than anywhere, is the beginning of wisdom. Such knowledge involves distinguishing between what we know at second hand, from the scriptures, and what we know from experience. This is what Zen means when it urges us not to confuse the two kinds of knowledge. If we do confuse them no spiritual progress is possible.

The Three Connections
“Single Earth, Single Heaven, Single Heart”

It seems to be easy to understand that we are all one. We have read it many times and heard it from many teachers and we believe it to be true, yet to understand and believe it is different from knowing it. To know it comes from the experience of it, it is knowledge with the complete being and not just an intellectual understanding. Sometimes the experience comes to us, we are transported into a state of pure wholeness, of expanded consciousness where we know, directly, that we are not separate. We cannot make this experience happen but we can move towards the experience.
The three connections is a tool to take us towards the experience of wholeness. While it appeals to the intellect, more importantly, it can bring us close to the true experience of oneness.

Earth Connection
We are part of the earth. Our body comes from the earth and returns to the earth when we die. All the bones, the flesh and blood are made up of minerals and elements from the earth. Our body appears to be separate from the earth, but it is in a constant cycle and exchange with the earth, both physically and energetically. We are constantly taking in food from the earth and recycling waste back to the earth. There is a deeper earth connection, an energetic one, through the soles of the feet and the base centre. We can become aware of the energetic connection between the lower abdominal area and the earth. Feeling ourselves rooted into ground and part of the energy of the earth. Our body is part of, not separate from, the earth energy. The earth supports us, it is essential to our very existence. We are part of the earth and it is part of us. If we acknowledge that we are part of the earth, then so too are all human beings. We are all part of the one earth.

Heaven Connection
There is a part of us that is whole and complete. When we strip away all the things that create the image we present to the world, there remains a part of us that is unchanging, the essence of who we are. This is our soul quality. It is born with us and remains when we die. This essence is part of the whole. It is connected to the wholeness of the universe. This connected part of us is associated with the head region of our body. It is this inner quality that we try to touch when we meditate. When we become still and quieten the mind we can touch that inner being and through it the universal life force. We can feel the connection to the universe, through the crown centre, both pulling us up and shining down on us. We feel that we are part of the universal life force and recognise that the same is true for all other human beings.

Heart Connection
The heart is the point of balance between earth and heaven. The heart centre balances and merges the two essential energies that make up our human existence. Through the heart we can experience the essence of humanity, a spiritual being in a physical body. The feeling of a spiritual being in a physical body is called love. It is heart felt love, not mind thought love. It is an experience of unconditional non-judgemental love. Every human being knows this feeling. Through the heart we communicate our spiritual essence. We express our spiritual being through the heart and we experience the true nature of the world through the heart. It is a two way experience of giving and receiving. Everybody knows the all embracing heart feeling that affects the whole of our being. It is experienced and shared by all human beings.

Meditation Exercise – The Three Connections
Sitting quietly, with the feet on the ground, feel the connection to the earth energy. Imagine you are sitting on a lotus flower, the stem of which is deep into the earth. Feel as though there are roots, sinking deep into the earth from the soles of the feet. Imagine the earth energy rising through the ankles, knees and hips up to the abdominal region, around the navel. Feel the strength of the earth energy in this region. Feel the connection of the earth and this region. Feel that they are not connected but a single energy. Acknowledge that your body comes from the earth, belongs to the earth and will return to the earth. Recognise that every body is part of the earth.
Keep the mind still and quiet. Feel a light drawing you up by the top of the head, the crown centre. Imagine the light shining down through the crown into the head and shoulders. Feel the energy inside the head. Feel that you are connected to the universal energy. Feel that it is not a connection but a single energy. Acknowledge the part of you that comes from the light, belongs to the light and will return to the light. Recognise that every one is part of the light.
Bring the attention to the heart. Relax into the heart. Imagine the energy of earth and heaven merging at the heart. There is no need to try to do anything at the heart other than relax. The more we relax into the heart the more the centre opens and expands. Feel the energies merge and relax into the experience sinking deeper and deeper into the heart with every breath. Consciously breathe heaven and earth into the heart and breathe out relaxing and allowing the heart to expand. Acknowledge that there is one experience of the heart, which we all share. Recognise there is only one heart that we all share.
After a few breaths stop breathing consciously, become still and observe. Become aware of the energy flowing through the body, from and to the three connections. Feel at one with the earth, feel that all humanity is one with the earth. Feel at one with heaven, feel that we are all part of the same source. Feel the open heart, expanded and receptive, feel the same experience of love in everybody. We are all one. We are all part of the earth, all part of heaven, and all one heart, single earth, single heaven, single heart.
Practice this exercise individually but it will seem stronger if practised in a group. We can feel the three connections with the group and with all human beings everywhere.

Empathic Listening
From The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

“Seek first to understand” involves a very deep shift in paradigm. We typically seek first to be understood. Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply. They’re either speaking or preparing to speak. They’re filtering everything through their own paradigms, reading their autobiography into other people’s lives.
When another person speaks , we’re usually “listening” at one of four levels. We may be ignoring another person, not really listening at all. We may practice pretending. “Yeah. Uh-huh. Right” We may practice selective listening, hearing only certain parts of the conversation. Or we may even practice attentive listening, paying attention and focussing energy on the words that are being said. But very few of us practice the fifth level, the highest form of listening, empathic listening.
When I say empathic listening, I am not referring to the techniques of active listening or reflective listening, which basically involves mimicking what another person says. These are essentially autobiographical. If you practice those techniques you may not project your auto biography in the actual interaction, but your motive in listening is autobiographical.
When I say empathic listening, I mean listening with intent to understand. I mean seeking first to understand, to really understand. Its an entirely different paradigm. Empathic listening gets inside another person’s frame of reference. You look out through it, you see the world the way they see it, you understand their paradigm, you understand how they feel.
Empathy is not sympathy. Sympathy is a form or agreement, a form of judgement. And it is sometimes the more appropriate emotion and response. But people often feed on sympathy. It makes them dependent. The essence of empathic listening is not that you agree with that person; its that you fully , deeply, understand that person , emotionally as well as intellectually
In empathic listening, you listen with your ears , but you also and more importantly, listen with your eyes and with your heart. You listen for feeling, for meaning. You listen for behaviour. You use your right brain as well as your left. You sense, you intuit, you feel.

Exercise – Empathic Listening
When you are in conversation with someone allow yourself to step back within yourself and to try to feel what they are saying rather than to project yourself onto the conversation. Withdraw your senses, this means that you are still listening to what they are saying, still looking at them, but instead of thinking about what they are saying and thinking about a response, observe yourself. Try to observe the effects of what they are saying on you, try to feel the effect.
Observe in particular the effect on the various energy centres in the body. You may gain some sense of how they are feeling, of the emotions that are involved in what they are saying. It might give you a much deeper understanding of what is behind the words rather than just listening to the words themselves.

If you can try to respond accordingly, try to respond with some sense of understanding of how they feel rather than what they say. They may appear to be angry about something, yet by withdrawing you may get a sense of their fear and insecurity. By sensing those aspects you might therefore respond more sympathetically than if you just listened to their anger.

Try to use this on a daily basis so that your sense of other people increases