Let's start by talking about the premise of your new book.
I wrote "God and The Evolving Universe" with Michael Murphy and Sylvia Timbers. Michael is famous for having founded the Esalen Institute in California, the largest and oldest human potential growth center in the U.S. Sylvia is a documentary filmmaker.
The three of us came together with the idea for a comprehensive book on spirituality, which would cross all religions, and focus on the spiritual experience itself--as opposed to dogmas or beliefs.
It's our argument that the interest in spirituality now, especially as it is focused on personal experience, represents a new step in evolution, and that we are cultivating a new set of spiritual abilities, such as intuitive knowing.
We try to show how humans can participate in evolution if they practice, if they find their own way--prayer, meditation, or other methods--to cultivate this blossoming spirituality in their own lives.
What's the difference between a spiritual capability and a paranormal ability?
We argue that since the evolution of the world is a spiritual process, then all human development is a spiritual process. So the fact that we acknowledge intuitive capabilities now is a step toward the fulfillment of this spiritual potential that we all have, both individually and collectively.
So you're saying inherently, as part of the definition, everything is spiritual.
Yes. We're trying to make the case for that.
I believe that these experiences are self-evidently spiritual. In other words, this talent to be an intuitive is part of an overall experience of the world as a non-material place in which we can remember and start to have correspondence with other dimensions.
When we cultivate mystical awareness or transcendent identity--which is a natural outgrowth of meditation and other practices--what happens is that we begin to take a witness position on our own lives, and that includes our minds. We break the illusion that we think our own thoughts, which is not always the case. Some ideas just arrive in our heads.
Now, of those, some are about ego needs: a need for recognition, a thought of, "Oh! That's what I should have said when I was arguing with that co-worker." But there are some thoughts that arrive with a kind of numinosity. They have a tinge of inspiration, and they're always thoughts that are about doing something: Talk to that stranger, pick up the phone and call an old friend, or make a particular career move. What those thoughts usually give us is an image of ourselves doing something in the future. I believe that those are intuitive thoughts that, if we follow them, a synchronicity will occur: A door will open, an opportunity will present itself.
Now, those [doors] aren't always immediately recognizable. Sometimes you just make a contact, and it feels right, but you don't know why. But down the road, something will happen that will make it clear why that connection had to be made at the point it was made.
But people are marvels at self-deception. Where's the reality check?
One of my teachers once said that the way you know you're on the right path is that it works. Now, that doesn't mean you don't run into blocks and brick walls, but it does mean that you can find a way around them or find a way to change yourself or your project in order to find the flow again and have it work. Most intuitive ideas have to be clarified, so there is a trial and error process.
One of the key practices we recommend is a witness meditation, a simple meditation based on using a mantra to move first into a listening position, where if thoughts come you just let them go until that's the posture you have on all thought. At some point, you don't have the illusion that you're thinking at all.