There is a light that shines beyond all things on earth, beyond the highest, the very highest heavens. It is the light that shines within our hearts’, says the Bagavad Gita. The whole point of spiritual opening is to liberate that essential light within our innermost core, and let it outpour as blessing so that the radiance of God can be known and lived on earth.
I have come to see that being the light of the world in a deep and real way asks us for two things:
Firstly, to directly realize who we truly are: to drop beyond concepts and imaginings to really experience ourselves as eternal unalterable light. Not to start from a ground that assumes deficiency, or reach for some idealized image of what God, light or our true essence looks like, but from deep willingness to just open and let what always is reveal itself organically.
Secondly, being the light asks us to actualize the light we are. This involves the shifting of our inner centre of gravity from a ground of ego identification to our true ground within the Absolute. This is the work of undoing – of loosening the egoic structures. Any true spiritual path addresses both dimensions simultaneously. Both require deep trust, so that the ego can get out of the way.
The work of Direct Realization
My last three years of mystical journeying have shown me that this dimension of spiritual awakening is much simpler than we have thought, but it requires profound courage. Tasting our essence as light Itself essentially boils down to the universal invitation to surrender all that we know: to step aside from the self we have created, and to tolerate the unknown: to meet the void or emptiness. When we loosen the learned images and ideas of who we think we are, deeper reality has space to emerge.
Anything that genuinely quietens the mind, loosens the grip of sensory appearances, and supports a deep dive into inner space, coupled with an openness not to grasp for anything in particular, will work. There is a zen saying that ‘if you sit still, shut up and face a wall for long enough, something will happen’. I have found it that whilst these mystical tastes of essence happen when they happen, diving in regularly with sincerity and non-grasping helps a great deal.
There are countless meditation practices available that support us penetrating through the veils of mind to land in the deeper ground of boundless love and stillness that is God – that is our own foundation. The psycho-spiritual teaching of A Course in Miracles even reminds us that ‘your soul knows the way’, hinting that the work of directly tasting our essence is an in-built mechanism. The universal directive of direct realization really comes down to this simple invitation:
Quieten, soften, open. allow.
This is much more than just a stilling of the body – although periods of physical quietening are usually very helpful at first. To be still is to stop our usual activity of grasping for particular circumstances and happenings, and stop rejecting what is here for a moment. When we just stop trying to get anything, stop trying to push anything away, stop interfering with our experience, we naturally land in present peace. It is inevitable because there is nothing else. Grace is the inherent ground of all being.
Accepting the light – opening deeper than mind
Once we begin to soften into inherent beingness, then we are asked to accept this as deeper reality. We are invited us to profoundly accept our oneness with God – the source of our light. This is distinct from affirming oneness. As we stop the mechanism of grasping and rejecting and learn instead to directly indwell in beingness, we say a deep YES. We love what is being revealed, we give our heart’s allegiance to it. Through our love, it grows.
Without the fostering of direct realization a spiritual path is just an intellectual one. The whole point of soul work is to open deeper than mind. Who we are is so much bigger than any thought or concept can even hint of. In opening beyond reality as we know it, the boundless realms of God – the light , love, and infinite spaciousness open up from within us. The more we can indwell in these realities, the states of God Itself can teach us. Whatever you leave vacant, Spirit will fill. I experience sitting in deep silence, inner surrender often as a sense of being ‘down-loaded’, shown and taught directly by realms of reality. I have found that the deeper I can let go of what I think I know, who I think I am, what I think should or should not be happening, the more of God opens up from within, and I learn inwardly the ways of truth. We all can.
Beware of ‘the holy ego’
Diving into direct experience is the sexy glamorous part of the spiritual path. We all want more of the juicy expansive stuff – at least until it begins to dis-assemble our entire reality as we know it! It is wise to be mindful of not using tastes of truth to affirm your ego, which just leads to special-ness and grandiosity. Be awake to the ego’s temptations to grasp for particular states. The ego is like a hungry ghost, a state of consciousness that is lack itself. It therefore always wants more love, affirmation, sense of importance, and of course more expanded states. The ego will always try to integrate higher states of consciousness into its own framework. This is a form of spiritual materialism: trying to ‘get more’ for egoic purposes rather than opening to Reality for love of Reality. It helps to remember that the ego cannot get enlightened. In reality it does not even exist. Direct openings of our true nature can emerge as the ego softens and allows space for that which is deeper to be tasted. Mystical experience wants to open us beyond belief.
The work of ACTUALIZATION
It is vital to hold direct realization in its rightful context: that tasting God is a vital dimension of the awakening process, but enlightened states do not an enlightened being make. Being the light of the world asks us to let the grace we open to and accept inwardly integrate through all the dimensions of our being, translating as deeper maturity, wisdom and love in the way we walk through the world. This dimension of awakening requires deep dedication and persistence, so that our core centre of gravity – the consciousness from which we instinctively operate, shifts away from fear to a greater embodiment of love.
Mostly, actualization involves the difficult work of identifying and dis-mantling our defences.
These are the psychological, instinctual and physical structures that wrap around our deepest fears, our mis-identifications and self-images based on separation and deficiency.
Often, so much of our defensiveness is unconscious, one of the reasons why relationship with a good teacher or guide, together with a solid teaching, or at the very least a group of dedicated like-minded friends with whom there is a context of both love of Truth and honest feedback, is so helpful. It is in relationship that we get to see our defensive habits most clearly, as everything we come into contact with, and our peaceful or not so peaceful reactions, shows us how integrated we really are.
Actualizing the light asks us to be spiritual warriors. This begins by being profoundly honest with ourselves about the places we get caught, and then learning how to be with ourselves with non-judgment. From a ground of compassionate self-honesty, we are asked to courageously open through our fears, our sense of shame, our sense of lack, our pride etc, whether we see that as inside ourselves of projected onto another, and rest un-defended. In defenceless meeting of what we usually deny and project, the unreality of our fears begins to expose itself, and therefore the defensive structures around those fears naturally release. The result is more space within our psyche – less obstruction. We become clearer and more transparent. The light that is our true nature is freer to shine and radiate from the reality of God.
Diving into the Wave
As a child I grew up on the endless miles of white sandy beaches on the west coast of Australia. On a hot summer’s day the cool water of the Indian ocean was the only real relief. Yet in order to get in to really swim it was often necessary to deal with big dumping waves. Having been taken under by these kinds of waves too many times, rolled around and spat up on the shore heaving for air, I had become fearful and had trouble getting out into the water to swim. One day my elder sister taught me the key: dive into the wave.
I thought she must be raving mad, but she coached me through it: She taught me to hold my nerve whilst a mass of powerful water build up right in front of me, then dive through the centre of it. All my instincts wanted to run as fast as I could back to shore – a sure fire way of getting dumped! I discovered for myself that in diving into what I feared, not only was it actually fine, but that it gave me a kind of gentle massage, after which, I found myself naturally on the other side – in deeper and gentler water.
This analogy is exactly what the spiritual work of actualization asks of us: to identify, face and non-defensively dive into what we have been avoiding with a spirit of trust and openness, so as to penetrate to the depths of our existence. In this way, spiritual awakening asks us move with ourselves in a way that is counter-instinctive to our survival mechanisms. However, we discover through practice that it is OK to look directly at what you are afraid of. Only the anticipation is frightening.
Trust and True Desire
Deep trust is the necessary foundation for the work of genuine spiritual awakening to occur. Without a sense of trust that we are held, it is very difficult to dive inwards through and beyond who you think you are, and your known sense of reality. Without trust that love is present, it is too terrifying to meet your fears and mis-identifications and open into the void when all your instincts scream to run the other way. Without trust in something deeper and move encompassing than your ego, getting out of the way is virtually impossible. Developing ever deeper trust is a major key in how to be the light.
In tandem with trust is true desire. In order to genuinely wake up spiritually, we must really want truth, value truth and love truth above all else. We must love and value it more than we value certain things, circumstances or people. Yet to be human is to be attached to particular outcomes, so most of us hover between wanting truth and wanting our ego desires to be gratified. This just exposes how identified we are with our ego consciousness. We need not berate ourselves for this fact, but just be honest about it. From there we can begin to explore what we truly want and value, and look closely toward what is capable of delivering on its promise. Learning to love and value what is timeless, changeless and always present supports our capacity to trust opening into unknown territory.
Trust is the foundation on which a spiritual aspirant’s capacity to surrender rests. At a certain point down the road of waking up, the soul’s assemblage point seems to want to shift to, allow more light to live through it. To the ego this feels like a kind of death. All that is really happening are some threads of ego identification loosening. At such points, there are often big and unexpected changes in life circumstances, which on a human level we often find very frightening. These times when the ground seems to fall out from under us feel distressing until we see and accept that the circumstances of the past are simply no longer valuable for the soul’s evolution. We are asked to develop deep trust that there is an intelligence deeper than our conscious awareness at work. It is the same intelligence that pulses at the core of everything in manifestation, that causes our lungs to know how to breathe and our heart to know how to beat. Trust in the optimizing pulse of the Absolute flowing at the center of all life, that It is inherently beneficent and interested in our liberation.
Leaning into Trust Via Devotion
Developing the trust necessary for egoic loosening rests mostly in learning to lean into something deeper than your ego. Deep within us all, there lies an inner teacher, a mystical bridge to reality, an echo of Boundless reality, which contains the memory of our holiness. Calling upon help from any aspect of awakened consciousness is a way of activating this memory – and any aspect that we personally relate to will work in this regard…….whether this for us is the Buddha, Jesus, Tara, Ramana Maharshi, a teacher or guide in whose presence we experience something of God. In truth, there is no separation, and so these beings, these manifestations of boundless awareness are not bound by time, form or space; thus we are not actually separate from them. The ground of their being is the very same ground as our own.
When we open the heart in reverence to the Truth that these beings manifested, we open into something deeper than our ego identification. This is probably why some aspect of devotional practice shows up in every spiritual tradition. Chanting, Bhajan and Prayer are all beautiful ways of fostering this devotion. Calling on aspects of awakened consciousness is a beautiful and heart-full way of leaning into greater trust, with which to dive into new depths of awareness.
When in an ego state, the principle here is to learn to call upon the Holiness within us; letting our willingness activate the grace and power of the Absolute to become dynamic within our being. Why try to fly with the tiny wings of a sparrow when the mighty wings of an eagle have been given. The more we call forth this resource deeper and stronger than our known ego, we discover deeper courage with which to look upon the present with openness. More trust begins to build that there actually is something more dependable, more stable, more real than our small self.
Then we can learn to just lean into Truth, even when it asks us to face the sense of personal insignificance, which along with death is the primary egoic fear. We can learn to rest in God, not as a passive withdrawing from life, but as an inner reminder to sense, open and receive the optimizing force that is always here. I have been working for a while now on a very simple but effective practice of restful indwelling:
‘Just sense that which your body is resting upon right now – the chair or bed. Put your attention on letting your body relax and receive the holding of the structure. Then notice how you do not have to do anything or try to be supported by that which your body rests upon. It holds you and your body trusts that. In the same way, sense into a similarly dependable presence of love and spaciousness that is boundless, and just holds your heart and soul as though wrapping around you like a soft embrace from behind. Sense this as a dynamic presence that infuses the air your breathe not only with life giving oxygen but with light. If you relate to a particular manifestation of the Absolute, give your love to That and sense that as here holding you. Just rest in That. Breathe in That. Be breathed and rested by That. Let go in That. Stretch out in That. Be still in That. Open deeper than mind, body and idea in That. Just be in that, and allow everything to be exactly the way it is. Don’t try to get to any particular state. Don’t try to push anything away. Just indwell in the Presence, and open right here right now.’
In receiving the love and support of the unseen realms of deeper reality, our soul has a safe container to begin unwinding itself. Just as your body is homeostatic – always inherently working towards balance and health, so is your soul homeostatic. It is geared towards liberating the dreamer and radiating as Itself. To be the light of the world is to be yourself. All power in earth and heaven is given you towards that end.