Being at peace, and learning to live with quiet confidence — even as the world spins wildly around us — begins as we realize within us the presence and power of an interior stillness that neither needs, nor searches for, anything outside of itself in order to quietly know itself.
Almost every day I receive a letter, an e-mail, or phone call from an aspirant who wants to know, essentially, the following: “What must I do to succeed spiritually?” Or, in a slight variation on that theme: “What’s the right way to do what I must in order to awaken?”
There’s little doubt as to the sincerity of these questions; but the problem is this: true spirituality is not something that can be attained through “doing” whatever one imagines; there is no “right way” to follow if one wants real freedom. It’s important you see these truths for yourself. If it is authentic newness of heart that one longs for — an uncorrupted, uncompromised mind that responds effortlessly to the demands of the moment — then all images of such a life must be thrown away, died to, as clearly they belong to “what was.” To model oneself after anything, or anyone, is to imitate; but if nothing else is clear, this should be:
The Divine Life — as it expresses itself in the presence moment — is inimitable. Which means we are either present to that Life — being moment-to-moment what we are given to be (and see about life) through that Light — or…we have the all-too familiar alternative: the endless questions about “What one must do in order to be (free)?”Asking ourselves “What must we do in order to be?”… is not unlike the eye asking what must it do to be able to see! And though somewhat unavoidable for many years along the path, such questions must eventually be outgrown. This gradual spiritual maturity is something that happens quite naturally as we awaken to see (in the present moment) that all of these pressing questions of ours (about what is the right thing to do or be) are secretly double-edged swords: one side is the endless hope of becoming someone special through the pursuit of an imagined ideal; the other side is the growing realization that comparing ourselves to any spiritual ideal doesn’t liberate us; rather it imprisons us in the painful illusion that a comparative mind can transcend its own captivity.
Again, the true spiritual life is incomparable; nothing comes before now, nothing follows it.
Dare to be and see just what you are; give yourself to that task wholeheartedly… and for your willing entrance into the whole estate of yourself, you will realize the unattainable life you seek.
Question: What is prayer and what’s the most effective way to pray? Should I be really be asking God for specific things?
Answer: Take time, at least twice a day — though preferably as often as you possibly can — to simply, deliberately become aware of what you are connected to, and then drop it in favor of your wish to have God’s Life. Prayer is not about asking for things from God, but first to be with Him, then in Him. This is the essence of prayer. It has nothing to do with gifts. It has to do with awakening to that Being that isn’t in time. This is the Gift of all gifts.
Question: How can I practice ceaseless prayer?
Answer: Consciously placing a short prayer within your own thoughts, and working to keep it there, helps to keep you from seeing only the content of your usual thoughts. This short, repeated supplication works like a message within a message — only when you see it there, within your own thoughts, its presence reawakens you to remember that you want to remember something Higher. Begin today, this moment, to use your whole life — every moment of it — to be for something that is in reality for you. So that when you’re eating, walking, talking, doing whatever you’re doing, you have your small unceasing prayer before you. Even if life starts to run away with you, keep your prayer running through you. Keep it right there on the mirror of your mind so that in the middle of any conversation or event you can look up and let it remind you of your wish to be for something Higher.
Things go wrong in life. They just do. And sometimes downturns feel like they’ll never get back to right-side up. Life is like that. So what! What we have been given is not what makes us who we are: the true measure of our soul’s success is what we make with what we are given.
The difference between learning to consciously suffer a negative state — versus unconsciously succumbing to its darkness — is the difference between learning how to saddle a stubborn mule to carry you where you wish — or — having to carry that mule on your back wherever you may go!
Evil transforms suffering into unconscious acts of blame, bitterness, and self-pity — harmful forces that punish everyone; while the Good transforms these same dark states into conscious suffering — creating humility that heals whomever it touches.