WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
Your Practice and the World
In our course on energy-active meditation, I have tried to give you a taste of practices that teach you the inner art of allowing your energy system to draw you into a deeper connection with yourself. If you have been doing these exercises and homework assignments regularly for the past seven weeks, it means you have been doing a lot of energy practice and a lot of reflection.
How does this feel? I ask because these practices activate the vital interface between your energy field and your body, between your conscious and subconscious mind. As a result, you have been actively stirring up your psycho-spiritual process.
Because this is a vast subject, we can’t pretend to have covered all the bases. Energy practices like the ones you have gotten to know over the past weeks are like a doorway into the ever-renewing world of your inner life, and then back out into the world. They are like a doorway with thresholds, doors, safety latches, keys, and knobs. And that’s just the doorway . . .
Getting Back to the Big Picture
In this, the final lesson of our course, we will go back to the bigger picture of the inner pilgrimage of energywork and your spiritual practice in general. By now, you have become familiar with a number of important recurring themes that come into play whenever you consciously engage your energy system. Your belief structures, holism, grounding, centering and expression all have a role to play. Their make their own demands as you grow and develop. They are not ends in themselves, however, but rather parts of the bigger picture of your spiritual process. Likewise, your practice is about more than just your individual self. As with any other living thing, the effect of your practice sooner or later turns outward and touches the world.
The Three-Fold Spiritual Path: A Universal Pattern
Before we go into our final exercise for this course, I would like to talk briefly about a universal pattern that you can find in practices like the ones we have been using. This is the pattern of the pilgrimage, which some writers, like Lauren Artress, call the “three-fold spiritual path.” This is the path of 1.) leaving your familiar world; 2.) going into sacred space and 3.) returning, changed, to your familiar world again. You enter the universal pattern of the three-fold spiritual path each time you sit to meditate, go on a retreat, give or get a bodywork session, to name a few examples. The Zen Budddists speak to this return to the world after having entered sacred space in the saying, “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”
Think about it: Your spiritual practice delivers a changed person to the world and, in its small way, changes the world. These little journeys have the potential to carry you out of your everyday world, if only for a moment at a time, into encounters with the numinous background of life. There, you might find an opening to ecstatic, ineffable states, unfiltered by anything institutional, undefined by psychology or religion or social values. At times, new perceptions come cracking through—you sit bolt upright and shout, “Eureka!” and rush out to rearrange the world. Other days, less bombastically, an internal practice might draw you with gentle magnets into deep stillness, after which you calmly re-enter your world with renewed clarity and purpose. You go forward on faith and the occasional unnamable tingle. You cultivate an eye for the unseen ways that your work in the world of energy and consciousness silently sifts into the world of everyday.
Much is made in spiritual circles about the best ways to transcend the body, find heaven within, enter bliss or nirvana, but as long as we are in this life, this is only two-thirds of the path. The three-fold spiritual path also involves coming back into the world we inhabit, the ordinary world of washing the dishes, earning a living, visiting Uncle Harold and Aunt Gladys on Sunday, bearing the qualities of our transcendent, ecstatic moments. Your task as an inner traveler now becomes one of integration, which means learning to live one life.
Exercise: Your Inner Advisory Board
The idea behind the following practice is to introduce a question into one or more of your energy centers and then adopt an attitude of listening to what comes back. You might think of this as a way to allow your intuition to speak to you.
Bear in mind that what comes into your awareness will be in the language of your inner world, the language of your soul, the same language spoken in your dreams and in other non-ordinary states of consciousness. Sure, you might get a message that tells you in so many words to “Take the job,” or “Throw the bum out!” You are much more likely, however, to find symbols, sensations, images, memories and impressions of various kinds coming into your awareness in response to your question.
Sit comfortably, so you can breathe easily.
TIP: Formulate a question about something you currently need some insight on (preferably fortune telling questions about stock market tips or which horse is going to win in the third race!). The simplest formulations are the best. Your non-conscious mind already knows the core question behind any subject you might bring up, so just use key words.
If you are in some uncertainty about a work-related decision, your career, your vocation or calling, or a life decision of some kind, just a couple of key words are enough to tickle that core question into activity. It can be enough, for example, to simply use the words, “My work as a ______,” as a way to activate your deep psyche around the question that is in you.
Even if it makes no sense to you in a logical way, at the end of the process you will likely have a collage of words, images, feelings and other impressions that came forward into your consciousness when you introduced the question into your energy centers. This composite message might be immediately obvious to you. Just as likely, however, you might need to let it simmer before you see the direction in which your inner wisdom is trying to point you.
This is an example of differentiated meditation work in which you are opening the way for communication with your inner being. As you develop this tool, you will have this “inner advisory board” or council of elders as an ally.
Energy-Active Positions used in this Exercise:
As always, these are suggestions of effective starting points for connecting your awareness with the movement of energy in these centers. And as always, the idea is to first make a feeling connection, relax your attention and allow the energy center to do the work of drawing your awareness into itself.
Perineal Center: Your perineum, located between your genitals and anus;
Sacral Center: Middle of your sacrum;
Hara Center: Three finger-breadths below your navel;
Solar Plexus Center: Three finger-breadths above your navel;
Heart Center: middle of your upper chest;
Throat Center: Just below your Adam’s Apple on the front of your throat, slightly off the skin surface;
Pineal Center: Three finger-breadths above the top of your nose on your forehead. This position is the “Pineal Extension Point,” a good place to rest your attention in order to “hitch a ride” on the energy movement of your Pineal Center;
Crown Center: Slightly forward from the very top of your head, slightly off the skin surface, up in your hair (if you have hair).
Homework: Reflection on Your Spiritual Process—a writing exercise
Here’s a challenge that yields all kinds of insights if you rise to it. For some people, this kind of project turns into something like a spiritual autobiography. It goes like this: While it’s relatively easy to see where you have been in your life, it’s not so simple to recognize what it is that has moved you. It takes reflection. Enter this project with curiosity about the river that has carried you from one station of your life to the next, and see if you can discover the grace working behind the scenes.
Jump in. Give it caché and a snazzy title, maybe The Secret Spiritual History of Pilgrim X; or My Spiritual Autobiography and the Story of my Unfoldment as a Healer, Teacher, Artist, Leader, etc. In it include:
Events and experiences which have lead me to my belief system concerning the spiritual dimension of life;
When have I become aware of my particular spiritual gifts?
What have been the elements of my growth as a healer, teacher, artist, leader, etc.?
When have I been introduced to tools having to do with conscious development—for example meditation, prayer or healing exercise?
Create a section called “My Secret Training.” Look at the circumstances and predicaments in my life, especially the times of crisis. What have the turns in my life forced me to learn?
What is it that has pushed, or pulled, me into new phases of my life?
What themes, challenges and lessons recur, what patterns emerge?
A Final Word
I’m sure it took some dedication to make it through this course. Thank you for that. As a teacher, I couldn’t ask for more. As I tried to make clear in this final lesson, the inner work you do affects the world you live in. Each pebble you toss into the pool of your inner life has its ripples into the world at large.
If these practices have spoken to you, I have a request of you. Keep them to yourself and let these practices and exercises ripen in you for a time and a season. We have too many people running around teaching practices that they learned in the sugar high of a weekend workshop without any deepening. It takes time.
If you run into questions, contact me.
I sincerely hope this course has served you. It has been a privilege to share these practices with you and I hope our paths might someday cross.
Until then, thank you.
(Graphic copyright by Aimee Eldridge. Used with permission.)
"The modern pilgrim seeks a passionate connection to his or her individual gifts, and the grace to use them to better humankind."
Click here for the "Inner Advisory Board" Exercise:
Click here for the "Final Word"
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