Week 7 – Embracing

This is a course in spiritual awakening which is based on simplicity. Fundamentally spirituality should be simple because spiritual truth is already within us. We are seeking to find something that we not only already have, but it is our essential nature. Yet spiritual growth does not always seem simple. We find it difficult because of the we life has taught us to see the world. If we are to follow a simple path, then an essential part of that is to change our perception of the world. This part of the course is about changing that perception.

We are all human, we all have human faults and foibles. We tend to be more focussed on our weaknesses and our limitations than on our strength and perfection. With spirituality we are trying to change that. We are trying to become more aware of our spiritual nature, but our current way of thinking, our perception of the world and of ourselves gets in the way. So we are trying to see the world in a different way, if we can then spirituality may become simple. We are trying to see the world, not as a fearful, negative place that imposes it and one which we have to defend ourselves from. Instead we are trying to see it as one which assists us to grow. We are trying to turn our perception of the world on is head.

If we see the world as a learning tool, which reflects back what we project then we can start to use the world to help us grow. We can work with the world to recognise how we feel and to change the way we feel. Instead of the world imposing on us we can become responsible for our feelings and our actions. Taking responsibility is very empowering.

Even our weaknesses become tools that are there to assist us. The are not there to limit us but to provide the obstacles that true learning needs. We cannot learn to trust unless we have doubt. We cannot learn what love is unless we know hatred.

This is an important lesson. If we want to enjoy the simplicity of spiritual growth we need to understand the way in which the world can be used to support us. If the world remains a difficult, fearful place, then spirituality may also be difficult and fearful.

All life becomes our learning tool. There is nothing wrong with feelings, we become aware of them and we change. Everything is as it should be, the world provides us with the tools we need to grow. This part of the course is the transition of how we perceive the world. The tools of transformation let go of old perception and encourage new, problems become blessings, enemies become teachers, life becomes learning.

Transformation through Meditation
We can experience the positive effects of the flow of chi through us when we are in a quiet connected state of mind and we have an open heart. In this state we can feel the interaction of energy with others in a positive loving, joyful way. We can reach this state in meditation and through meditation we can extend the feeling of positivity to others. Effectively breaking down barriers of perception of ourselves as only being physical entity. It is very effective when meditating in a group to feel this positivity from each other. It gives us a basis for understanding the potential of a positive connected approach to others.

While we become more aware of what is possible from a feeling of positivity, this is not always the situation that we encounter in every day activity. Either we feel unable ourselves to be centred and we respond with our natural in-built responses or we encounter negative, difficult or aggressive behaviour in others. These situations are common place in our lives. They represent circumstances which make us feel uncomfortable, angry, frustrated, annoyed, guilty etc. These are not necessarily major problems in our lives but minor irritations.

We can accept these as the way things are and continue to deal with them as and when they occur. Or if we choose to we can start to look at the way in which we can transform them into much more positive responses. This can then become a process of change, allowing us to incrementally change the way we react and respond to negative situations and increasingly living in a more positive way.

What we are trying to do here is not to try to change the way others behave, but to change our reaction and response, to take ownership and change the way we feel and respond to situations.

The tools for this transformation vary but are based on coming to a connected place with an open heart. Initially it is beneficial to do this away from the situation itself so that you have the time and space to find the state of mind necessary. So meditation becomes a tool, not only for finding that centred state, but also for changing our response to negative mind-sets. Eventually as this centred place becomes more familiar it will be possible to access it much more immediately. This transformational process builds on the self awareness. As we become more aware of ourselves and how we feel we can apply the transformational techniques, if we choose to.

This is not a process of self analysis. This is a process of self awareness and change. We do not necessarily have to understand why we feel or respond in the way we do. We only need to be aware of how we react and that this is a situation that we want to change. This is most effective when we find ourselves repeatedly reacting and responding to external stimuli, as though someone is pressing our buttons. It is possible that through the meditative process we will gain insight into why we react the way we do, but this is not necessary for the process to work.

The main features are to increase our awareness of how we feel, to acknowledge and own those feelings, to choose those which we want to change, to find a quiet centred positive place as an alternative, to practice to transformation process until we are comfortable with our response. This may take place over a period of time and we may find that what we are comfortable with will also change.

With practice we can also start to apply this positive state to every day life. Once the meditative state becomes more familiar to us we can start to bring that feeling, of being connected with an open heart, to situations that arise as we feel appropriate

Ignore the Imperfections By Kristine Carlson writing in Good Housekeeping
Sometimes we enjoy criticising other people as if it’s a cheap form of entertainment. We call a friend to delight in how a colleague made a show of herself in a meeting. We pass on gossip. We have a dig at people for not fitting our perfect images. We look down on those who are over weight or have other physical problems and, on top of that, we constantly have a go at ourselves for not matching our ideal. In fact, we wear our perfectionist badges with honour. We don’t often hear people praising each other, nor do we see many front page stories about love. Love , it seems, is in pretty poor supply at the moment.

It horrifies me when I’m looking at the perfect features of a newborn baby and the mother points out that he has a rash. Magnifying the flaws is nothing more than a negative mental habit. And unfortunately its one that’s also very contagious. We need to learn to be aware of when we’re being critical and looking at things too closely. As we become less judgmental and nit-picking and accept that everything is how it’s meant to be, we become happier.

I recently overheard two women gossiping about a friend and saying how she’d let her appearance go downhill after she’d married. It was the consummate example of how we have a tendency to compare others to a measuring stick of perfection, while at the same time magnifying their flaws. When we make comments and observations of this nature it speaks more of how we feel about ourselves and our lack of self esteem, rather than how we see others.

The same can be true when you are overly critical of yourself. I have always been my own harshest critic and can see all too clearly the areas I need to improve. Instead of focussing on my great family of achievements, I often catch myself reflecting on my flaws. But now I’ve learned that this kind of thinking just gets me down. By stopping myself from having these kind of thoughts, I can bring my attention back to all that I do instead of focussing on everything that I don’t do.

Guilt is a familiar emotion to a perfectionist. Stop concentrating on what you perceive as your failings and you can say goodbye to unwarranted guilt. You’ll find great freedom in becoming a reformed perfectionist and realising perfection just doesn’t exist.

Doubt From Answers part 1 by Mother Meera
Doubt is useful. It keeps you honest Sometimes people say how much they love me and love God, but I know what is in their hearts. It is better when someone say ‘I love you’, knowing all the hatred and doubt that is still within them. Then it means something. Then love can grow. Whatever doubts come, however frightening they are, know they are the creation of your mind. Only the light is real. It is difficult for the ego to accept this.

But do not be ashamed of doubt. You are human and these things come to the human being. Use every energy to change yourself. There is only one energy and when one knows that, you can turn every impulse towards me, offer everything up, however bad you think it is, to be transformed.

Exercise – Its Your Funeral (Stephen Covey – 7 Habits of Highly Effective People)
Find a quiet place where you can be alone and uninterrupted. Clear Your mind of everything, except this exercise. Don’t worry about your schedule, your business, your family or your friends. Just focus on this one activity. In your mind’s eye, see yourself going to a funeral of a loved one. Picture yourself driving to the funeral parlour or chapel, parking the car and getting out. As you walk in the building you notice the flowers, the soft organ music. You see the faces of friends and family you pass along the way. You feel the shared sorrow of losing, the joy of having known, that radiates from the hearts of the people there. As you walk down to the front of the room and look inside the casket, you suddenly come face to face with yourself. This is your funeral, three years from today. All these people have come to honour you, to express feelings of love and appreciation for your life.

As you take a seat and wait for the services to begin, you look at the program in your hand. There are to be four speakers. The first is from your family, immediate and also extended, who have come from all over the country to attend. The second speaker is one of your friends, someone who can give a sense of what you were as a person. The third speaker is from your work or profession. And the fourth is from your church or some community organization where you’ve been involved in some service.

Now think deeply. What would you like each of these speakers to say about you and your life? What kind of husband, wife, father or mother would you like their words to reflect? What kind of son, or daughter or cousin? What kind of friend? What kind of work associate? What character would you like them to have seen in you? What contributions , what achievements would you want them to remember? Look carefully at the people around you. What difference would you like to have made in their lives?

Spend time contemplating and then take a few minutes to write down your impressions.

Its incredibly easy to get caught up in an activity trap, in the busy-ness of life, to work harder and harder at climbing the ladder of success only to discover its leaning against the wrong wall. It is possible to be busy, very busy, without being effective. People often find themselves achieving victories that are empty, successes that have come at the expense of things they suddenly realise were far more valuable to them. People from every walk of life often struggle to achieve a higher income, more recognition or a certain degree of professional competence, only to find that their drive to achieve their goal blinded them to the things that really mattered most and now are gone. How different our lives are when really know what is deeply important to us, and keeping that picture in mind, we manage ourselves each day to be and to do what really matters most. If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster. We may be very busy, we may be very efficient, but we will also be truly effective only when we begin with the end in mind.

If you carefully consider what you wanted to be said of you in the funeral experience, you will find your definition of success. It may be very different from the definition you thought you had in mind. Perhaps fame, achievement, money, or some of the other things we strive for are not even part of the right wall.
When you begin with the end in mind, you gain a different perspective. One man asked another on the death of a mutual friend “How much did he leave?” His friend responded “He left it all.”

Meditation – Embracing

Make yourself comfortable and check your physical posture. Relax. Establish the breath.
Opening Open as in a normal meditation. Put the arms to the side to form a triangle. Raise your hands up to the light above your crown. Bring the light down to each chakra in turn, breathing in the light at each chakra, breathing out as you come down to the next chakra. After the base chakra, once again bring your hands to your side, forming a triangle. See yourself in a pyramid of golden light and ask for protection from whoever or whatever you believe in. Imagine yourself sitting on a lotus flower.
Bring your mind to the Tan Tien and breathe in and out through the chakra. Continue at the Tan Tien until you feel the need to move on. For guidance this should be at least 9 breaths.
Repeat the breathing at the Solar Plexus. If you have been experiencing any negative emotions that you want to work on, then stay at the solar plexus. Feel the emotion, allow yourself to remember the feeling. Go into it as deeply as possible, so that you fully experience it. If the mind wanders into the story, bring it back to the emotion. When you have fully experienced it move on to the heart.
Repeat the breathing at the Heart. Once you have breathed in at the heart nine times then give thanks to Spirit, and to all those involved, for the experience. Give thanks that you do not need to have that experience again. Continue at the heart, feeling love, peace or joy at the heart or any other positive emotion. Stay with this positive aspect of yourself for as long as you feel comfortable with it.
When ready return you mind to the Tan Tien and start to breathe more deeply. Try to hold onto the positive feeling and bring it back with you as you come back from your meditation. Form a triangle and then raise the hands up to the crown. Breathing out and repeating the opening process but this time with the intent of closing. At the heart, bow to give thanks.

As an alternative way of releasing use the bow and arrow exercise from the Eight Silk Brocade.
1. Stand in horse riding stance and draw the arms in towards the heart.
2. Draw the bow and arrow, sinking down and breathing in, up to the point of tension. Hold at that position breathing naturally, feeling the tension in the body and thinking of what it is you want to let go.
3. When you are ready, release the position, extend the arms are then breathe in drawing the arms in towards the heart. Feel that you are drawing in love to your heart. Hold the hands at the heart feeling the love at the heart, breathing naturally.
4. Repeat several times, until you feel that you have fully released it. Always fnish with the love at the heart.