Inspirational Coach

An enormous universe awaits within

We’ve all had those moments. Suddenly, you are totally absorbed in a thing of great beauty – an incredible golden sunset on a beach, a piece of heart soaring music that moves you to tears. The rest of the world disappears. There’s only this wonderful experience, filling you, thrilling you. Anything you were doing pauses. Anything you were thinking melts away. You are transported into vivid aliveness and feel like you are standing in the centre of the universe.
 
This aliveness is your natural state. It is waiting beneath and below all the complicated layers of your life ready to greet you. All you have to do is remember to drop in from time to time – visit the oasis, refresh yourself – and you can take that aliveness back into your everyday life. Somehow, then, your troubles aren’t quite so troubling. You feel like your emotional batteries are charged up. You can see more clearly how to deal with things.
 
 The deliberate practice of dropping in to your inner experience like this is called meditation. It’s so easy to forget your natural, alive state that you need to do something routinely to remind yourself. So, you build reminder time into our daily pattern – get up, brush your teeth, have a cup of tea, and meditate – and that way you don’t forget to remember! As little as ten minutes spent like this every day can invite the aliveness back into your life.
 
 Relaxing your body, calming your mind and opening your heart is wonderful enough, however, it can be just the beginning of your inner journey. Pretty soon you will discover that your inner world gets bigger and bigger and bigger until a whole vast universe reveals itself inside us, and it’s just as big as the one outside!
 
But is it the mind or is it the heart?
 
The ancient Indian language of Sanskrit has a lovely word – citta (pronounced chitta) meaning heart / mind. I sometimes wish we had an equivalent word in English. The philosophy is that heart and mind operate as one and both need to be touched and transformed by spiritual practice. If anything, our heart is more dominant than our mind because it’s our emotions that usually prompt the direction of our thinking. We habitually form opinions that justify what we are feeling and protect our insecurities from being challenged.
We think that we are being logical and impartial, but if we stand back and observe, we’ll see that there’s nearly always an emotional charge driving the logic that runs through our mind. The stronger the emotional undercurrent, the more rigid and attached we are to the opinions that support our argument. Even very intellectual and scientific people do this – it’s just that they are particularly skilled in dressing up less conscious emotions and presenting them as compelling logical, empirical arguments.

The Buddha taught that, when you are sufficiently self aware, you no longer have any emotional attachment to your intellectual opinions. You still have opinions and can possess a searing intellect and have good debates, but you don’t take challenges personally or need to cling on to your views in order to save face.

Not long after I was ordained, a controversial book was published by one of our senior Order Members. I was unconvinced by the book’s arguments and thought the topic important enough to merit a direct challenge. So, I wrote a long letter to my teacher and requested a meeting with him.

I was quite charged up when we met, but we talked about my letter and I expanded my views in more detail. My teacher received what I had to say with genuine interest and calm intelligence. After we’d talked for a while, he accepted my point of view and agreed that we’d had very different life experience to draw our conclusions from. Furthermore, he indicated that he was always open to being persuaded to other conclusions should he be presented with convincing enough arguments.

Then I realised that I was seeing something I had rarely seen before – as well as being highly intelligent and forthright in his opinions, this man was absolutely not attached to his views whatsoever! It is quite hard to describe being in the presence of this kind of non-attachment. There was just no personality, no ego, sticking onto the conversation at all. He had no personal investment in anything being this way or that, no axe to grind, no point to prove. None! So, the upshot was, whatever the rights and wrongs of his views, I left that meeting thoroughly impressed. This was why he was my teacher!

Who’s in charge?

I studied psychology at university and loved what I was learning about the human psyche. But even so, I got frustrated with all the clever word games and the academic obsession for establishing scientific proof for everything. It seemed that for every theory, there was another proving the exact opposite, and the most interesting things you just couldn’t prove either way. There were some ideas I found intellectually thrilling, but even with those I felt like I had gone as far as my thinking brain could take me.

However, there was one mystery that I just couldn’t stop wondering about. Are us humans in charge of our selves and our destiny, or are we just robots mindlessly acting out whatever we are brainwashed with? The philosophers call it the ‘free will versus determinism’ debate and theories about it are at the core of much of our belief systems. Fortunately, while I was still a student, I made a new discovery that was going to give me whole new way of understanding what we are all about and what we are capable of – meditation.

I was just knocked out. So THIS is how you can go beyond intellectual thinking! A whole new dimension of experience was opening up before me. I loved it. I loved how good meditation made me feel and how clear and calm my mind was and how open my heart became. That year’s university exams flowed effortlessly. It was incredible! And as for Buddhism, well, I didn’t know the first thing about it, but the more I found out the more fascinated I became.

Best of all, Buddhism provided me with an answer to my question about whether us humans have free will or whether we just act out blindly from our conditioning. The typical Zen-like answer was – both are true! Hah! My new Buddhist teacher called it ‘Mind Reactive and Mind Creative’. The premise is quite simple – the less aware we are, the more subject we are to conditioning influences (mind reactive). On the other hand, the more self-awareness we possess, the more free will we possess (mind creative).

In other words, if our minds and hearts are very dull and asleep, we don’t know what we are doing or why and go about our lives in automatic pilot. If, however, we wake up our hearts and minds with something like meditation, we breathe awareness and therefore choice into our life. We have enough inner space and where-with-all to recognise our options and make a considered decision. Meditation creates awareness, which creates choice, which creates free will.

Where is the wisdom coming from?
 
When our meditation deepens we can experience a mystical state where we feel we are part of something much bigger than our selves. We have access to a higher consciousness that can be experienced as coming from outside of our self, or as something deep within. Either way, we have access to another dimension of wisdom and guidance. In this mode, we are able to find mysterious answers to all our questions and problems.
So, is this wisdom and guidance literally coming from an outside intelligence, or coming from our own inner intelligence? My Buddhist teacher said it could be seen either way as it transcended inner and outer distinctions, but that it was probably more useful to think of it as coming from outside of our selves. However, it may depend on your personal orientation.

Some people are ‘faith types’ and are more heart and devotion orientated. Faith types may respond more to the idea that spiritual wisdom comes from outside and allow themselves to be receptive to those ‘external’ forces. On the other hand, ‘wisdom types’ are more head and thought orientated. Wisdom types may be more resonant with the idea that they are mastering their own inner powers rather than opening up to external forces.

I’ve come to understand and experience the act of downloading spiritual wisdom as a co-creation between both inner and outer dimensions. Spiritual intelligence does come from both inside us and outside us at the same time. If we stay rigidly within our everyday limited awareness, we cannot access deeper wisdom. However if we fail to recognise our own spiritual depths and only honour external powers, we do not claim our full potential.

To ignite the spark of spiritual download, we need to do something both active and receptive. We first ‘put the request out there’ by posing the question to the universe and in doing so open ourselves to a greater, limitless consciousness. Secondly, being prepared to receive an answer means we are being receptive and this allows us to drop deeper inside our selves. In this way, we participate in a co-operation between both inner and outer dimensions. In truth, inner and outer universes are all one.

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