Monday, May 30
DEFY GRAVITY: HEALING BEYOND THE BOUNDS OF REASON
The Fifth Truth: Defy Gravity and Learn to Reason Like a Mystic
Both the Buddha and Bodhidharma, the Indian patriarch associated with establishing Zen Buddhism in China, are said to have remarked: “I am but a finger pointing to the moon. Don’t look at me; look at the moon.” The implication of this often-repeated saying is that the wise master was aware that his followers would look upon him as the ultimate manifestation of truth, and he cautioned them to bypass him for the more authentic target of their own inner enlightenment. Jesus told his followers, who were captivated by his miracles, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these” (John 14:12). Jesus knew that his healings appeared to be miracles to the unenlightened observer, but in fact they were a natural by-product of his many graces and the way he understood the intimate workings of the Divine, as expressed within the mystical laws of the universe that naturally empowered a fully awakened soul.
As human beings, Buddha and Jesus each underwent a complete transformation, a transfiguration in which the power of their souls became dominant over the temporal power of the body. Buddha attained enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree. Jesus came into his authority through his baptism by John the Baptist and later through his transfiguration on Mount Tabor before three disciples. Although full enlightenment or divine realization can be difficult to define, one way to imagine this level of consciousness is to consider that it embodies the precise harmony of the laws of the universe: energy precedes the creation of matter and cause precedes effect. Attaining this perfected harmony of soul and matter, truth free from illusion and love without limits, transformed the souls of Buddha and Jesus into fully awakened cosmic forces that could defy gravity. They resided in physical form and were certainly subject to the vulnerabilities of the physical world, yet their enlightened souls also knew how to draw on the higher governing laws that commanded their interior reality. And so, when Jesus declared, “Be healed,” a physical disease yielded to his command and the individual was immediately cured. Time was not a factor, nor was the critical condition of the patient. Jesus was able to heal lepers and cripples, release demons from the possessed, and even raise Lazarus from the dead, because illness and fear and death were no match for the force of his consciousness, which was not anchored in the acquisition of earthly power.
Yes, such reports appeared to be miracles then, as they still are now, but not to someone who has had the slightest experience of the inner power that Jesus and Buddha fully embodied. Their life mission, ironically, was not to perform miracles but to disprove the need for them by demonstrating that you could become a source for miracles in this world, if you understood the true nature of your soul and how to open fully to that power.
Obviously, Jesus and Buddha are the ultimate templates for the cosmic healer and the enlightened soul. But they did not incarnate to razzle-dazzle people with their capacity to walk on water and meditate for months without sustenance. Their task was to introduce new archetypal paradigms of consciousness, like unraveling the next wave of human potential, and to defy gravity—that is, to align physical life with spiritual nature. The magnificence of Jesus and Buddha is seen again and again in their capacity to illustrate that the soul is naturally in harmony with a domain of truth that transcends the limitations of the physical world. As challenging as it is to comprehend this mystical truth, it is true nonetheless. Through practicing a truth, you eventually embody or become that truth. As you become a truth, its power animates or transforms your soul into a vessel of that truth. This is how Jesus could command the forces of nature to do his bidding, though he could not command the will of another person. Jesus and Buddha became the truths they were teaching; they became fully congruent cosmic forces embodied as fully human beings. Jesus didn’t merely teach love; he was love. Buddha didn’t just teach about enlightenment; he embodied it.
As models for unconditional love, Jesus and Buddha set the bar rigorously high for the ordinary mortal. I suspect, however, that their message was not so much “Look what I can do,” but “Look what you can do if you absorb the truth I represent.” Few people will ever achieve full enlightenment or become saints capable of manifesting unconditional love. Yet for most of us it may be enough of an interior awakening to be able to defy gravity even in small ways, perhaps during a healing crisis or a period of deep personal transformation. Ironically, most of us have little awareness that every time we pray, we are attempting to defy gravity by asking for some form of divine intervention, or that any time we rely on our intuition for guidance, we are defying gravity by reaching for information from the energetic domain—said another way, information that is “weightless” in that it has a predictive or directive quality as opposed to a historic one.
Learning to defy gravity requires more than just the occasional intuitive hit, however. You must ascend to a refined realm of spiritual consciousness in which you learn to work in harmony with the laws that govern the subtle, silent nature of your soul. Mystical laws do not exist as independent rules that order the structure of our external life. Instead, these are the laws that influence our interior or spiritual life, like a parallel universe that contains all the same information, except that it lacks the influence of time, weight, space, and gravity. The next part of this journey introduces you to laws that, like the physical laws of nature, form an integrated system of truths. Whereas the physical laws govern that which has come into physical creation, these laws govern the dynamics of creation itself. The two sets of laws operate in tandem with each other, as energy flows into matter and matter, in turn, influences the flow of energy.
When a system of life lacks knowledge of one of these realms of law, that system automatically falls into patterns of dysfunction. The failure to realize that your attitudes influence your behavior, for instance, has a direct effect on the quality of your relationships, which in turn affects the quality of your life. To repair damaged relationships, you have to begin at the root cause, which takes you to the energetic influences of your own patterns of fear or woundedness. Consciously living these truths is no easy task, but neither is healing or rebuilding a life after a devastating crisis. Renewal of who you are is not something that occurs within the mind. Healing is far too great an enterprise for the mind alone to handle. Renewal of your life, your health, or your very being is a mystical undertaking, and you have to be willing to work with truths of cosmic proportion to accomplish such a profound transformation.
THE REALM OF MYSTICAL LAW
An examination of the lives of Buddha and Jesus illustrates that three sets of laws govern human existence: physical laws, social and religious laws, and mystical laws.
Our physical lives are governed by the laws of gravity, time and space, cause and effect, and magnetic attraction, among others. We see these laws in action and can test their authenticity. And, so, what we consider to be “real” derives from the consistency that the physical laws of the universe provide. It is incomprehensible that one day they would function and the next day they would not. They are as they are—period.
Societal and religious laws, such as the Ten Commandments or the Sharia of Islam, structure social order. These laws represent another type of order entirely from the domain of the physical laws that govern all humanity without our having any choice in the matter. While these laws are presented as religious absolutes given to human beings by God, in practice they turn out to be laws that we either choose to observe, as in not stealing or murdering, or risk punishment by breaking.
As we know all too well, many people do break certain social or religious laws without getting caught and pay no material price. But existing in a parallel universe are mystical laws that operate within the same essential harmony, yet outside the equation of time, space, and matter, and outside social and religious convention. We are born with a resonance to this realm of truth. Our innermost self does not learn these truths but awakens to them, meaning that we come into an awareness of that which we have always known.
The truest meaning of the spiritual path is to come home to these truths, to awaken again to what is already within you: the knowledge of the mystical realm. To embody one mystical law is to embody them all. Each truth enhances the others without conflict. You may choose to break the laws, but if you do you, some part of you immediately knows you have violated something deep and profound within yourself. You may not be able to give a name to that violation, but you can feel it through an immediate sense of disempowerment and self-betrayal.
Most people can remember the first time they told a lie. We all remember that first lie because it represents a dark cosmic ritual of sorts, crossing over a line we knew we should not cross. If your conscience was functioning, all systems would have alerted you to the violation of a deep code of honor within yourself. You betrayed your relationship with your own conscience, a voice you could hear loud and clear. And in telling that first lie, you were also given the awareness that if you continued to lie, your capacity to hear that clear voice of your conscience would diminish. A ferocious sense of guilt washes over you during that dark ritual of the first lie, as the soul fights to keep the voice of the conscience louder than the instincts of fear and the other dark passions.
You remember that moment precisely because it was a moment of cosmic transition—the first time you tampered with that precious, delicate connection between your conscience, your consciousness, and the voice of your soul. And you remember whether or not you set things right after that first lie. Either you compromised your integrity through that first momentous lie or honesty became a personal creed. That mystical laws already govern the nature of your soul is a given; what you must develop is your capacity to consciously draw on their power, and this is the definition of learning how to reason, think, perceive, and act with awareness within the physical world. This is the definition of your highest potential in the most spiritually evolved sense of that concept. The soul seeks to be in harmony with the mystical laws because creating in harmony with mystical consciousness results in a life that is governed by love and not fear, one in which your life’s work reflects your strengths and talents rather than your limitations. If you are in harmony with truth, there is nothing about yourself that you need to hide.
You need not be deeply involved in a spiritual tradition in order to have a strong mystical connection with your soul. Most historical mystics who belonged to specific spiritual traditions, such as Rumi or Hafiz, Swami Yogananda or Bede Griffiths, placed God and the soul at the center of their quest by choice. Yet such a choice is not necessary to attain a sense of awareness, and today, in fact, most mystics emerge from the ranks of ordinary life. Among those who have been mystics outside monastic settings are Emily Dickinson, Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, and Helen Keller. Mystical consciousness means finding your route to seeing truth clearly in your world, transcending the limitations and burdens of conventional fears, superstitions, and social beliefs. The great American poet Emily Dickinson found nature to be the expression of God, and she celebrated it in hundreds of short poems that can be read with both secular and spiritual overtones. Einstein found his transcendent consciousness at the end of the universe that he discovered had no end. His quest for truth took him to higher and greater questions, as it does every pilgrim who continues to pursue the nature of truth. First, you are compelled to ask what is true about your own life, and that inevitably leads you to ask, “What is true about life?” Eventually all mystics, regardless of what motivated their search for truth, meet on the same cosmic ground.
You do not learn the mystical laws for only one specific purpose, such as the need to heal, because that assumes that once your goal is met, all the discipline and learning poured into your healing can be discarded. That is the same mentality shared by people who go on a diet to lose weight, only to regain it all because they reward themselves at the end of their achievement by releasing their discipline and knowledge of good nutrition, returning to their old eating habits. You learn these laws because they represent a higher level of consciousness that redefines your core relationship to power, and in particular to your power of choice.
At some point, the goal of healing, for example, is replaced by the search for truth. You’ll know you have made a profound shift in consciousness when a crisis is no longer required to motivate change, but instead an attraction to truth is enough to draw you toward the next stage of life.
For example, a woman I know named Janis approached her 60th birthday with an admitted sense of trepidation. Those “0” birthdays are significant crossroads in our lives, and the 60th is one that signals the beginning of the last third of your life. Janis could sense a potential psychological crisis on the horizon as she approached this turning point, and so rather than allow the despair of aging to overwhelm her, she chose the creative option. She happened at the same time to be reevaluating her career, and she was not afraid to reinvent herself or take her work in a new direction, even if such a decision introduced financial risk into her life. So prior to her 60th birthday, Janis did what is not typical for most people, but very typical for her—she thought about what she should do as opposed to what she would like to do. She decided that she should face the truth that she was frightened about aging and about what turning 60 represented. In response to that, she enrolled in a class on clowning as her birthday present to herself, because clowning would help her confront her fears of self-expression and dissolve her masks. Janis gave herself the gift of a truth, and from that gift, different and more dynamic doors of self-realization opened up in her life. In fact, Janis gave herself drenched herself in the graces of Revelation, Counsel, and Knowledge as a part of her gift to herself for having journeyed 60years on this Earth.
Truth always brings some form of liberation into your life. Sometimes discovering a personal truth may liberate you from a dismal relationship or occupation, although that realization may shatter your familiar world in the process. Yet few will say that their lives are anything but more enriched for having gone through the shattering of personal illusions so that they might come to know who they truly are. We fear truth not just because it shatters our illusions, but also because from the shattering comes change. Truth and change go hand in hand. One benefit of choosing to become more conscious is the power of forward thinking. We are far more accustomed to using the tool of conscious thought for repairs, analyzing what went wrong in our lives in the past. With that knowledge we attempt to create a field of gravity around us in the present that includes commitments not to repeat the same mistakes and to heal the old wounds. While that kind of rearview assessment is natural to our way of thinking, introducing a forward-looking view that evaluates what we need to do to meet the exigencies of the road ahead represents the essence of intuitive wisdom. Mothers who anticipate the empty-nest syndrome are intuitively responding to emotional signals that they are in for a tumble unless they find something to fill the gap once all their children are gone. You should think of the subtle voice of your intuition that alerts you to prepare for the coming life changes as a sort of mystical experience: your soul is directing your conscious mind to what will soon manifest in your physical world.
FROM ENERGY TO MYSTICAL CONSCIOUSNESS
Energy is the first way we identify power in the mystical realm. Thoughts and intentions are expressions of energy that move at the speed of light. Physicists crossed over into this dimension of energy consciousness once they penetrated the field of quantum physics, gradually revealing the relationship between thought and its influence on particles of light. But from a mystical perspective, this light or energy that is the counterpart of matter is not just “conscious energy,” but also an expression of the sacred itself. It is the manifestation of a divine life force that enlivens all of creation.
The transcendent state is often described as lacking the physical limitations of time and space. Some mystics have spoken of experiencing a sense of timelessness during a mystical experience, perhaps in a moment of spiritual quietude in which they receive the grace of comfort at a time of great difficulty. So many people tell of “being taken over by a sense of knowing” that immediately leaves them calm and filled with inner strength. This is not a rare mystical experience but a common one. What is rare is recognizing it as a genuine mystical occurrence. Although it might last but a moment, your consciousness fully enters a timeless realm in which all the ingredients of your life suddenly, almost magically, look better.
You are no stranger to mystical experiences. The mystical incident visits everyone in various ways. Simply defined, it is an event that takes you beyond the limitations of your five senses, heightening the intensity with which you are able to relate to the profound beauty or significance of something. Often, in this moment of heightened sensitivity, you feel an oneness with whichever “other” you are in relationship with at the moment. Such a union could take place between you and nature, or between one person and another—such as a mother and her newborn—or between an individual and God. Sometimes an original idea can lift you into the mystical realms, as the power of a fresh perception has the voltage to reorder your entire reality in an instant. It flushes out all that you thought was dark and unsolvable and leaves you with a profound sense of optimism and hope. To be lifted beyond the limitations of ordinary thought, beyond the boundaries of logic and reason, and into the cosmic fresh air, where you feel suspended in the weightlessness created by a temporary absence of fear—these are the signatures of a mystical experience. These are also mystical experiences that blend easily into everyday life. Everyone has had at least one of these precious occurrences, whose potency never fades.
Mystics such as Teresa of Ávila and saints from the Eastern spiritual traditions deliberately chose a path of spiritual illumination. Their experiences were of a highly refined spiritual nature; Teresa in particular was known for her many and extraordinary mystical encounters with Jesus. She shared many of her experiences in The Interior Castle, often noting that the particulars of mystical experience cannot be described precisely, because the level on which the soul travels is beyond the comprehension of human reason. For this reason, William James wrote that genuine mystical experiences are both “ineffable”—more like states of feeling than of intellect, shaded with nuances that are difficult to convey in language—and “noetic,” that is, partaking of knowledge, insight, and illumination beyond the grasp of the rational mind. So precise was Teresa in her intimate knowledge of the fine lines between the psyche and the imagination, or between the imagination and the soul, that she noted that while the imagination is capable of constructing a vision so far as a mental image is concerned, the imagination cannot force or produce a true mystical state. The mystical experience is one that “comes upon you spontaneously,” to use her phrase, and is recognized by the soul rather than through the mind. In a profoundly mystical state, the mind is left completely baffled by an encounter with transcendent consciousness.
THE FIVE MYSTICAL LAWS
St.Teresa of Avila was certainly not the only mystic known to levitate. I had read about a meditation master who not only could levitate but could also dry sheets dipped in ice-cold water or melt snow from the force of his meditations. I had the opportunity to ask a Tibetan Rinpoche about this particular master and he giggled all through our conversation at the innocence—or foolishness— of my questions. “Of course he can do those things,” he said, “but do you know why they happen?” I said that I did not and he giggled some more, never answering. What stayed with me, however, was that he asked me if I knew why the master experienced levitation and not how. Why did he levitate and melt snow? Why implied that it was the natural consequence of something, whereas how implied that it was the result of something he himself was initiating. Mystical actions follow their own logic, a logic dictated by forces that we are unable to comprehend and that seems irrational to us—beyond the bounds of our ordinary consciousness. And yet what is extraordinary about such events is not it’s not that the mystics to whom they happen are living in another, more ethereal world, but that they are so firmly rooted in the realities of this world, of the here and now, undistracted by anything that doesn’t absolutely matter.
The First Mystical Law: There Is Only Now
The heart of so many mystical disciplines is “Stay fully present.” Learn to keep your spirit fully in focus, so that you know where all of you is at all times. Such a profound truth is one that the mind simply cannot grasp, because the intellect cannot get to this place called “now.” Only the soul can travel there. I never forgot my conversation with the Tibetan lama, and as I pursued healing in the mystical realm, the why began to reveal itself to me. My own experiences doing countless medical intuitive readings gave me a better understanding of the human energy system. In doing a reading, I could determine energetically where and why a person had lost so much energy to a past crisis, or why he or she was currently losing energy to a specific situation— losses of energy that, in turn, influenced the health of the physical body. The simple formula, obviously, was to identify and detach from whatever historic pattern was causing the energetic hemorrhage and move forward with positive choices. Simple enough on paper, as they say, but brutally difficult for most people to do in real life. As I’ve already pointed out, the need for an explanation or someone to blame, far from bringing release, locks most people into their histories. And when you are feeling weak and broken in spirit, it’s difficult to get on with the emotional and psychic demands that healing requires. So while it may sound easy to say, “Just detach and get on with your life,” there is nothing easy about it. Yet, like it or not, we are left with only two choices at the end of any crisis: We can either get better or become bitter. No one stays in neutral. We all choose one of those two paths when we are faced with difficult changes.
Quite a few years ago, I realized that the need to settle our unfinished business with the past was far more than just a psychological or emotional healing ritual; it was also a deep need of the soul that affected our ability to heal. Simply put, holding on to the bitter parts of your past— recent or distant—is like carrying credit-card debt that incurs an ever-increasing interest rate. Eventually all the energetic currency you need to run your present-day life gets redirected toward maintaining the interest on your mounting emotional debt. Finally, when you can’t afford to pay your present-day “energy bills,” you fall into “emotional bankruptcy”; that is, you become ill, because too much history is colliding with the energy of the present moment. As I’ve noted previously, the result is that you can move neither forward nor backward with life decisions, because you lack the energy to think clearly, much less make a decision and follow through on it. Because you are in debt, your energy is fragmented across the psychic decades of your life, focused neither in the present nor in any one place where you can find it. You can’t heal, because you are still more in the past than in the present; in effect, the past is more emotionally and psychically real to you than the now.
Contemporary spiritual masters such as Ram Dass and Pema Chödrön, who have become rich sources of wisdom, love, and healing, frequently speak of the power of living in the present moment, suggesting that such an achievement represents winning a great battle against the illusion of what you think of as “the power of your past.” Yet it takes great stamina of soul to master living fully in the present moment, and the reasons are worth understanding. It is not a state of consciousness that can be attained by simply repeating “I am fully present” a dozen times a day. Instead, holding your consciousness in present time is the equivalent of entering a different but parallel dimension of reality. The present moment continually renews the creative possibilities of your life.
It is not that you forget your past. You can hardly forget your past. But being in the present more fully than in your past represents where you position your creative power and your primary identity. The wounded are anchored in their past—that is their primary identity. A time that has come and gone continues to overshadow the present moment. Another choice is to accept the initiatory awakening of wounds, release your resentment toward those who played their roles in wounding you, and nurture the wisdom and compassion that wounding represents. That is, from the broken heart comes a heart that can recognize and identify with the pain of others. A wound such as that must not be wasted or buried in self pity, but brought into the light and examined, reflected upon, and used as a lens through which the lives of others are better understood. Such a choice liberates you from the gravity field of a wounded past, which can hold you hostage to unresolved memories and traumas for decades. The consciousness of present time allows you to keep your memories, but they can no longer hold you hostage, and so they can no longer drain you of your energy, which inevitably drains you of your health.
I’ve lectured about the power of living in the present moment, and, not surprisingly, nearly everyone asks me, “But how? How do I let go of the past?” It’s simple, really, but not easy, and though I’ve already commented on this point, it is worth yet another go-around with a different approach, because the subject of “letting go” is so difficult. You have to give up the need to punish the people who hurt you. The desire to get even with the people who have humiliated or hurt you is a dark truth; though we rarely admit to it, underneath all the other reasons why we find forgiveness difficult is only this one: the desire for vengeance. This one dark need can keep you tied to your past more tightly than any other trauma you have had, because there is something in human nature that needs to even the score. You may not like to admit it, but admit it you must. And more than admit it, you must get past it and ascend to a higher truth that allows you to focus on what you are meant to learn about yourself through each crisis.
Beyond overcoming the need to get even, you have to be willing to give up being hurt or traumatized as a primary power identity. The “suffering self” can be a powerful social mask that comes with a peculiar type of privilege in our therapeutic culture; being able to say “I’m done with suffering” is not as easy as you may think. Yet it is essential if you are to release the control mechanisms that you’ve attached to your healing via the suffering motif. The desire to hurt another because you are hurting, for example, is a very difficult power play to give up. The need to let others know you feel entitled to attention because of your pain and suffering is very seductive and releasing the entitlement of the suffering self is more a battle with the shadow of your own pride than it is with anyone else. Yet I repeat with great compassion: None of this is easy, but neither is living in the past, which is the equivalent of living in a psychic cemetery where you confer with problematic corpses on a regular basis.
Although none of this is easy, sometimes a transformation can happen in an instant. I’ve observed a miraculous healing as a result of an instantaneous shift from living in the past to living in present time. Sharon was battling cancer in her back, which caused her constant, relentless pain. By Sunday morning of one of my healing workshops, she realized that her pain level had been reduced by half, which was extraordinary for her. She e-mailed me three weeks later to tell me that by the following Tuesday she had been pain-free, which made her want to see her physician. He ran several tests, including an MRI on her back, and found that all signs of her cancer were gone. “I said the prayer, ‘Now, God. I release the whole of my life to you,’” Sharon explained to me. “I felt as if I went into free fall, as if I owned nothing. I felt as if I had no past and nothing to lose. I had only life to gain. I fell asleep after that prayer and when I woke up, half my pain was gone and my healing had begun.”
Sharon believed that the catalyst for her healing was that she had completely abandoned any attachment to what healing would require of her or how she would have to change her life. With that one prayer, she relinquished any attachment to the familiar. Previously she had paced her healing so as not be overwhelmed. Now she could see that she was overwhelmed already and more of the same wouldn’t matter, because what could be more overwhelming than dying? Sharon’s prayer opened her to the healing power of grace, which before she had experienced only in small doses because of her need to heal in a way that kept her familiar world intact. Sharon’s prayer of “Now, God” worked like a cosmic release valve, opening her to an intensity of grace that heals outside the boundaries of time and space, renewing her life force.
Falling into Harmony with the “Here and Now”
How do you accomplish being fully present in the “now” of your life? Do you have to wait for a desperate life-or-death situation before you can shatter the blockade of reason that holds you back from ascending to that interior place of surrender? No, not at all. Here’s one simple method to help you stay in the present: Change your vocabulary. Specifically, give up the use of the following terms and all that they imply: blame, deserve, guilt, fair, fault. If you cut those five words from your vocabulary, both in your private thoughts and in your communication with others, you will notice almost immediately that it is far more difficult to fall into negative emotional patterns. You will also discover how habitual those patterns had become. In addition to that simple suggestion, the teachings of the great spiritual masters contain all the wisdom and guidance you need—teachings so simple that they should be easy to follow. But in keeping with the paradoxical nature of the Divine, in their simplicity is hidden the arduous nature of the journey. Mystical laws interact with each other like a flowing, energetic mandala of truth. One law or truth supports another. Living in the present moment is accomplished through creating a spiritual practice as well as a life based on mystical truths and wisdom. You learn, for example, that to live in the present, the practice of forgiveness is essential. Without forgiveness, you remain anchored in your past, forever in emotional debt.
The Second Mystical Law: The Necessity of Forgiveness
I have already discussed the role of forgiveness as a factor in consciousness and as a required stage for healing. But forgiveness is also a mystical law. Unlike the other mystical laws, it has made its way into the meat and potatoes of human life, thanks to Jesus, from whom we received the mystical command to forgive, and also because forgiveness is now recognized within the holistic health field as having a practical application in terms of healing. Though other mystical laws have not so far had a measurable influence on decreasing stress or supporting one’s healing, scientists, physicians, and psychologists who have researched the relationship between stress and illness have concluded that the ability or inability to forgive affects the outcome of serious illness. People who have a forgiving nature increase their chances of recovery. Above all I want to emphasize that forgiveness is a mystical, not a logical, command. It makes no sense to the reasoning mind, because the reasoning mind is incapable of forgiveness.
Genuine forgiveness is a self-initiated mystical act that requires the assistance of grace to release you from the compulsive and often self-righteous chatter of the ego, which continually enforces a position of entitled anger or hurt. In terms of the financial metaphor I’ve been using, a genuine act of forgiveness clears your credit-card debt completely, releasing your soul from debtor’s prison. Forgiveness is not the act of releasing the aggressor, though it is usually interpreted this way. Nor is it a way of telling others that what they have done is “okay” with you and “all is forgiven now.” Neither of those interpretations even comes close to the mystical essence of forgiveness, which is fundamentally between you and God. A genuine act of forgiveness takes place in the inner landscape where your disappointed, hurt, abused, or angry ego confronts your soul, which holds to a cosmic template of justice.
The ego wants to hold another person responsible for why certain events in your life turned out as they did or for why you were hurt or treated unfairly. We always want justice to serve us and not the “other,” which, of course, means we always want to be right. Another way to translate this is that we want our version of God always to support our side, as noted by the creeds of all world religions: God is on our side. All these issues come down to the belief that if you don’t get what you want, fate has not treated you as you deserve. Ultimately, forgiveness is a battle between the righteousness of your ego and your capacity to transcend whatever situation you’ve experienced that has shattered these myths that maintain suffering is deserving of recognition, reward, or righteous vengeance:
- God is on your side and only your side.
- Justice should be logical and reasonable and always serve your side of the story.
- God follows the code of human law—if you do only good things, bad things will never happen to you, and, of course, you never do bad things.
-You are entitled to have all things work out in your favor, after all.
We can’t forgive others when these myths fail us, and they do fail us through the relationships and events that make up the tapestry of our lives. Understanding the essence of forgiveness is one of the most deeply healing and liberating gifts you can give to yourself. Among the many ways you can approach it is as a showdown between you and the forces governing your own destiny. For example, often you cannot forgive another person because you believe that he or she has ruined your life. I frequently hear people speak about their parents in this way, noting that if they had had more supportive parents, they would have gone to college and fulfilled their dreams of becoming entrepreneurs or artists or scholars. Much of the pain in people’s lives is rooted in the truth that they are unable to make even one personal and empowering choice lest it cost them their marriage or job. They project their resentment at being silenced onto the people who had or have influence over them—their “captors,” so to speak— when in fact it’s their own fears that cause them again and again to betray themselves. Who, then, is responsible for the choice of remaining in captivity, and who should really be the object of forgiveness in these situations? Whether you think of those forces as Fate or God or just the luck of the draw in the game of life, your arguments that certain things in your life should have happened differently are matters of cosmic proportion. Nothing is as simple or obvious as it appears. You can lock your sights on another person and believe with all your might that this one person destroyed your life, but from a cosmic perspective your life is far more complex than you can measure by the influence of one or two relationships.
(...)I believe that our planet has been host to many great souls, but that Buddha and Jesus are among the greatest. I consider Buddha to be the cosmic architect and archetype of Compassion, a man more fully human than perhaps any who came before him. Buddha saw the dark side of human consciousness as if it were a freshly cleaned window on a sunny day. He saw how and why people could—and indeed would—so easily find illusions of power more attractive and seductive than their own innermost nature.
And I consider Jesus the cosmic architect and archetype of Forgiveness, a man whose divinity is beyond our capacity to comprehend. Jesus incarnated to unveil the inner power of the human spirit—the power to heal, to love beyond the boundaries of one’s own tribe, to create peace, and to know God directly and intimately. This power comes at a price, however, and that price is the test that positions the power of the ego against the power of the soul. In order to illustrate the test, the teacher Jesus had to incarnate the entire archetypal journey that culminated with the story of his arrest, trial, crucifixion, and resurrection. The core of this drama was Jesus’s message to us to embody a level of consciousness that transcended human reason: There is a higher law that rules the spirit, a mystical law that holds no allegiance to the laws of religion. If you are able to embody this law, you can heal the sick, feed the hungry, cast out demons (or madness of the mind), and even raise the dead. But the way to this sacred consciousness requires that you release your belief that a self-serving system of justice can be attained on earth. Believing in any system of human justice is the same as believing in righteous vengeance, because the tribe that loses will always feel abused and want to seek revenge. From the ego’s perspective, nothing about life on this earth is entirely just or fair, because the ego is fundamentally self-serving. Anything that doesn’t materially benefit us is perceived by the ego as grossly unjust. It’s not only that good people suffer and bad people seem to have it all, but that I suffer and I don’t have it all. Yet Jesus insisted that the presence of Abba, as he called the father-God in his native Aramaic, is a force of love so powerful it allows you to trust that beyond whatever you may endure lie greater cosmic reasons for your experiences. Reach deep into your soul to surrender to that which your ego cannot comprehend, he said, in terms that even today are difficult for the mind to comprehend, let alone the ego: “I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also” (Matthew 5:39). The greatest challenge is to forgive those whom you could so easily justify retaliating against, for when is your mind so clear of illusions that you truly grasp why events happen as they do? Having given this lesson, Jesus lives it to the fullest. He prays to God while in the Garden of Gethsemane not to have to suffer the fate that he foresees for himself, to have “this cup taken from me.” But there is no response from God. Jesus receives no guidance whatsoever as to why he has to endure the nightmare that is about to unfold; he must surrender in blind faith. Indeed, he is abandoned and betrayed by his friends; he is put on trial for bogus crimes, he is tortured and humiliated. Finally, as he hangs on the cross, Jesus asks, “Father, why have you abandoned me?” But in the next breath, he says, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do,” as if his entire crucifixion would have been for naught had that one detail been omitted. In going through each of those tests of abandonment, betrayal, accusation, humiliation, and torture, Jesus endured every act that a person can “righteously” claim as justification for vengeance. His death embodied the ultimate shattering of the power of the ego against the illusions of the physical world. In responding with forgiveness, he was birthing a new template of consciousness that would show us all how to release ourselves from the hell of the illusion that some cosmic injustice has befallen us. The mystical truth is that forgiveness has nothing whatever to do with the person you are forgiving; it is a self-initiated act of transformation in which you release yourself from a level of consciousness that binds you to the illusion that you are safe and protected in a world of chaos and that your God is the only God of justice and fairness for all humanity. For if any one people were truly to have such a relationship with the Divine, imagine how relentless they/we would be? The fairness of the Divine is in the equality of chaos and in our capacity to do evil to each other, as well as in our capacity to release each other from hell. Forgiveness is an act so powerful that a resurrection of the inner self does indeed occur, because you are retrieving your spirit from the dead zone of past traumas and unfinished business. Falling into Harmony with Forgiveness: No amount of logical chatter can ever motivate us to forgive. I’m not sure how useful talk therapy is in this process, except that it serves to help us release the frustration of not being able to forgive. Ultimately, you have to turn to the power of grace to break through the boundaries of your reason, which can be ruthless in producing justification and hurt pride. Pray for the grace to forgive, and be ready to act on that grace. Let it melt through traumatic memories and do your best not to fight the meltdown, because it will happen. And in keeping with the nature of mystical laws, refer to the power and wisdom of other laws for support, particularly the one that follows.
The Third Mystical Law: All Is Illusion
I often think of Jesus as the soul who opened the cosmic heart for humanity and of Buddha as the soul who opened the cosmic mind, introducing the mystical path of the Four Noble Truths. If followed with devotion, these truths can lead to spiritual enlightenment. Centered on the rich mystical truth “All is illusion,”
the Four Noble Truths are these:
The First Truth: Suffering— Buddha says that birth is suffering, aging and illness are suffering, and death is suffering. Facing a person you hate is suffering, as surely as being separated from someone you love. Not getting what you want is suffering.
The Second Truth: The Cause of Suffering —Buddha says that the cause of human suffering is undoubtedly found in the thirsts of the physical and mental body and in its perceived illusions. Traced to their source, these thirsts and illusions are rooted in intense craving. And craving, which is motivated by a will to live, seeks only what is sensed as being desirable. The Third Truth: The Ending of Suffering —If instinctual craving or desire could be removed, then passion would die out and all human suffering would end.
The Fourth Truth: The Noble Path to the Ending of Suffering— The way leading to a cessation of desire and suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path: Right Ideas, Right Resolution, Right Speech, Right Behavior, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, Right Concentration. Buddha says that enlightenment can be gained only by the discipline of the Noble Path, and that living without the understanding of the Noble Path sets our life on an endless labyrinth of illusions, motivated by fears and physical desires. All is illusion in life except the Noble Path. Only truth is real.
All is illusion. This is one of the more baffling mystical truths, because every one of your five senses will tell you otherwise. Imagine this scenario: I step on your shoe. It’s not an illusion that your foot is now hurting or that your shoe is now slightly marked. But we enter illusion when we start asking why. Why did I step on your shoe? Was it because I didn’t like your shoe? Or was it because I was trying to stop you from leaving the room? Or maybe it was because I just don’t like you. Maybe I wanted that pair of shoes and you got to them first. Or maybe, just maybe, I didn’t see you standing there and it was simply an accident. What we do know is that, left to your own imagination, you will more than likely reach into the vast resources of your memory archives and fill in the void of why I stepped on your shoe with some negative association from your past or a negative projection about me in the present. It’s not personal, as the Godfather might say, just business. It’s what we do. We tend to fill voids with something negative, a fear or insecurity. It would never occur to you that my accidentally stepping on your shoe was part of an even bigger plan to delay your departure from the building, which in turn made you a few minutes later in reaching a certain intersection on your way home. And maybe that two-minute difference saved your life, because a driver was going to run a red light at that intersection and would have hit you. Is it impossible to believe such a micro-drama could be enacted just to save your life? These micro-dramas occur continually through traffic jams, dishes that slip out of hands in the morning, and last-minute phone calls that keep us from running out the door at a certain time. How do you know why things happen as they do? You don’t. You have no idea and you never will. Much less are you capable of knowing what must take place today in order that certain events unfold one or two years or a decade from now. Perhaps a car accident is necessary, or you have to get fired so that you can end up in another position, because that is where you will meet someone you will end up cherishing the rest of your life.
Why events happen as they do in your life, from the grandest or most devastating to the most seemingly insignificant, is beyond your ability to know. You can no more distinguish what is significant from what is insignificant, if such a thing as insignificant exists at all. Whether something brings you pain or pleasure, happiness or sadness, is not the best arbiter of what really matters, which most of us should have learned by now. Those feelings are just temporary responses to your experiences, and even your responses are illusions. You are happy one day, sad the next, melancholy on the third day, bored on the fourth, ecstatic on the fifth, exhausted on the sixth, and on the seventh day you’re confused about the whole of your life. The deeper truth is that there is not one reason why a particular thing happens as it does. Every event is the result of the compilation of hundreds, if not thousands or millions, of events that have been in motion for an unknowable length of time. You are alive because of your parents, and your parents’ parents, and so on back into the mists of history. So where did your gene pool begin, exactly? You have no idea and you never will. It’s an illusion that you know where you came from or the origin of the psychic DNA that you are carrying within you and around you. And if this is the case, there really is no reason why any of us should expend our energy searching for reasons why certain experiences or events happened as they did. That is a cosmic quest, not an earthly one. But as Buddha noted more than 2,500 years ago, if you want to suffer, then follow an illusion, such as the path of your humiliated ego and its passion to get even with the people who have hurt or abandoned you. You will discover that such a path leads only to more illusions. I’ve heard my share of stories about people who went into therapy as adults, for example, to heal the memories of an abusive childhood. Part of the therapy included reconciliation with the abusing parents. I know of three cases in which, after all the therapeutic prep work and anticipation of finally confronting the surviving parent, the response was almost as devastating as the original wounds, because the parents denied ever abusing these people as children. In their own ways, the parents were telling their adult children that their memories were illusions, when in all likelihood the memories of these abusive parents were illusory, based on the lies they had to tell themselves. Only one thing was certain: the memories of the parents had nothing whatever in common with those of the returning adults who were so intent on finally extricating themselves from their emotional dungeons. Falling into Harmony with Illusion: The power of all mystical truths finds its way into our lives in some fashion, even disguised in the form of common social wisdom, such as “One never knows what goes on behind closed doors.” The deeper implication of that well-known adage is, of course, that what you see and hear in the world around you is nothing but an illusion. You know that to be the case in your own life as well, which is where the practice of the Third Mystical Law begins. The practice of the Third Mystical Law (not to be confused with the Buddha’s Third Noble Truth, the Ending of Suffering) is greatly enhanced by the teachings of Buddhism. One way of discerning the power of illusion is through self-examination of your actions and agendas regarding the people with whom you feel you are on an unequal footing. These are the individuals with whom you negotiate your power and who make you vulnerable to behaviors that draw from your dark passions. In seeking their approval, you will adjust your behavior to please them more than you realize. You will morph yourself, your opinions, or your creativity, and you might even negotiate your honor or integrity, just to remain on good terms with these people. No matter what rationale you give yourself for your actions, negotiating your power for the sake of personal acceptance is a form of self-betrayal that results in a loss of selfrespect. Such actions always result in toxic resentment (is there any other kind?), because in negotiating your power you automatically expect some type of reward or recognition, even though you may not acknowledge it consciously. When none is forthcoming, resentment increases and you feel disempowered. Emotional, mental, and psychic disempowerment over prolonged periods of time inevitably turns into cycles of depression, despair, and ultimately chronic illness with elements of fatigue and physical pain. At the root of all this is a desire for empowerment through the recognition of others, which is a path of illusion. The truth is that no one can empower another person. Instead, you need to turn to the higher truths, reminding yourself: “No one has done anything to hurt or reject me. That is an illusion. It can look and feel that way, because of my own personal needs, but I am in charge of my needs. So, I forgive all these people who I believed had deliberately hurt or rejected me. That, too, was an illusion. They never plotted to reject or hurt me. I projected expectations onto them based on my own desires and they failed to live up to my imagined plans for them.” Mystical truths help you to see clearly, because they provide order when you may be tempted to fear there is only chaos in your life. Although you may experience great pain from losing a job, from health crises, or from going through a divorce, you can also find extraordinary comfort in the mystical truth “Change is constant.” To believe that anything can remain perfect, successful, or healthy forever is always just a wishful illusion. We may not be able to know the truth about any one situation, but we can know truth itself, which is often found wrapped in paradox.
The Fourth Mystical Law: Trust in Divine Paradox, Irony, and Synchronicity.
A paradox is an apparent contradiction that nonetheless contains the truth. The power of a paradox, by its very nature, cannot be captured in a single definition. Paradoxical dynamics are currents that animate the wild cards of our lives, sometimes with such dramatic force that they give us pause to consider, “Who could possibly have masterminded such an event?” These are the experiences that open our imaginations to take seriously a truth that mystics have long known: Paradox is one of the languages of the Divine. Unlike many of us, who long for a Supreme Being who communicates in logical celestial codes, mystics see in paradoxical events and situations a “divine irony” that tends to be more in keeping with the nature of divine expression. Paradoxical dynamics are somehow perfectly suited to the eternal tug-of-war between the ego and the soul, and we can learn a great deal by training ourselves to recognize the truth within divine paradox. Consider the birth of Jesus in a manger, symbolic of an ever-present theme in spiritual life— that divine power always enters your life through the humblest door. In contrast, Siddhartha Gautama, as Buddha was known before his enlightenment, was born into opulence and protected by his father, a king of sorts, from the unpleasant sights of life, such as aging, sickness, and death. But young Siddhartha managed to sneak out of his perfect world, only to collide with imperfection—by seeing an old man and a funeral procession—and that collision shattered his consciousness wide open. The paradox: Buddha needed absolute wealth to understand that no amount of material security could preserve him from the human fate of suffering. From that collision of opposites, he began his search for truth. The energetic threads that manipulate ironic events, too, reveal the handiwork of the Divine in our lives.
I heard about a woman, for instance, whose husband died on the day that their lottery ticket won the jackpot. He had always bought a ticket for her, and she checked out that last lottery ticket purely for sentimental reasons. It turned out to be the winning ticket. In an interview, she said, with tears in her eyes, “He always said he’d provide for me.” Ironic events along with paradoxical ones stand out in our lives, calling us to notice them. They come together with rare, once-in-a-lifetime ingredients that may never coalesce again. These facts alone beckon us to take notice that unusual forces have consciously gathered around us to make that one event happen. How we interpret it, of course, depends on the sophistication of our interior skills.
I am one, for example, who does not make a big cosmic deal out of finding a parking spot on a crowded shopping afternoon. I’m just relieved. On the other hand, I do make note of receiving a letter from someone I hadn’t thought of in years, only to realize I had come across a photo of him the day before and left it on my desk all afternoon, just for the pleasure of remembering times gone by. While experiences such as these can appear to be random, the element of paradox invites us to consider the possibility that they are not random at all, but reveal yet another mechanism of cause and effect that is governed by the sacred. Whereas the mechanism of paradox is similar in function to Jung’s concept of synchronicity—that is, an impersonal function of the collective consciousness—divine paradox is conscious and personal. How often has something happened to us that in the moment we think is devastating, only to discover six months or a year later that it was the proverbial “blessing in disguise”? There is nothing at all impersonal about such events, and those of you who have had the experience of a blessing in disguise know that’s true. Sometimes the blessing is simply that these events draw us out of our ordinary “sleeping” state; that is, they cause us to wonder about the greater cosmic map, and that’s purpose enough. But the element of divine paradox is present in how change occurs in our lives, what it looks like, and what it is meant to stimulate in us. The ego is always frightened and cannot discern a blessing from a tragedy, because its only compass is its own survival. As a result, it bases every decision on either what it already knows and is familiar with or what it views as safe, all of which Buddha identified as pure illusion. Times of change are about exactly that—a need to change. But changes of circumstance are the illusion, not the intent. You are always the object of change, never your situation. When life presents you with a crossroads and you are not sure what to do, the ego will always fall back on what it has already done. The ego pulls out its resume, which is, paradoxically, exactly the wrong thing to do. Change arrives because you need to move forward, not retreat to the past. So often people say, “But I don’t know what to do” or “I don’t know where to begin.” More and more that is the case as our familiar world is in meltdown and we must now rely on our creative instincts to build a new global community. People who look to their past will not do well, because the past is no longer relevant. We can only go forward and toward the fact—and it is a fact—that learning to rely on divine paradox and wisdom will become a great survival grace.
Falling into Harmony with Divine Paradox: What is big is really small; what is small is really big. What is frightening is really the safe path; what looks safe is your fear talking. What looks like chaos is actually a future blessing in disguise. Your greatest power is humility; your greatest weakness is humiliation. The mustard seed (one clear soul) has more power than the mountain (a group of people in chaos). The power of prayer and grace—knowing how to work in harmony with the cosmos— influences the whole of life, whereas trying to dominate one person destroys you. Your ego—and not someone else’s—is your most ruthless adversary.
Live these truths. Take them into your life and act on them. Look for paradoxical forces in your life and note that these energies are not accidental but represent dynamics that are cause for a conscious response. And always return to your graces as a way of reminding yourself that your highest potential is worth all this effort.
The Fifth Mystical Law: Maintain Spiritual Congruency
Whether you strike out on the path of consciousness in order to heal yourself or to engage more profoundly in matters of the spirit, one way of describing your goal is to say that you want to become a congruent human being. Congruency can take many forms, but in essence you are congruent when your beliefs match up with your everyday actions and your spiritual practice. Say what you believe and believe what you say; act on your beliefs and follow through on guidance that comes from inner reflection. In this way, body, mind, and soul finally come into an alignment that allows for the harmony of the graces to flow through you as naturally as your breath. You maintain congruence by honoring the spiritual truths that you have consciously made a part of your interior life. Only you know what you believe to be true about the Divine. Only you know what you believe to be true about your purpose in life and what qualifies as real or illusion for you. Once you make those choices, compromising them is an act of self-betrayal, because you are violating your personal truth. And truth is its own monitoring device; that is, you can never lie to yourself about compromising a truth. Further, your biology itself will show signs of the stress when you become incongruent with a truth. Truth is such a powerful force that many people dance around making commitments to what they believe to be true, as if they are shopping for political philosophies. In workshops I ask people, “What do you believe?” The majority of them respond, “I’m not sure,” or “I don’t know,” fearing, superstitiously, that God will hold them accountable for their answers. And there’s an element of truth in that, because part of us realizes that an acknowledgement of a belief—whether private or public—stands as an official commitment to it, if only before our own conscience. So we often avoid making such acknowledgements, as the acknowledgement may demand a response of congruent action that could be life-transforming. It is safer to remain in a fog about what finally qualifies as a truth worthy of commitment; yet a consciousness left in a fog is incapable of creating any clear path in life, much less of healing anything. Falling into Harmony with Congruence: There is nothing easy about living a conscious life, but it’s even more treacherous to live an unconscious one. I’d like to say “a fully conscious life,” but that might seem idealistic to the point of impossibility. Simply being as conscious as you can be at each moment is a full-time job, because becoming a conscious person is all about realizing the full potential of the power of choice. And of all the choices that you can make, none is as empowering as the decision to live in a spiritually congruent way. Each of the mystical laws I’ve described is in its own way supportive of all the other laws. But perhaps the most helpful practice for maintaining a congruent life is referring to Buddhism’s Four Noble Truths outlined earlier in this chapter. The wisdom of those teachings will help you to identify illusions in your life that are draining you of your energy and stamina. It’s always important to return to inner balance before you engage in any action. In addition to the Four Noble Truths, you can enhance the practice of spiritual congruence by following this advice: • • Say only what you believe and believe what you say. Power originates behind your eyes, not in front of your eyes. Once power becomes visible, it evaporates. True power is invisible. Thought precedes the creation of matter. Therefore, your thoughts are instruments of creation as much as your words, deeds, and finances. Become conscious about the quality of your thoughts, because each one sets patterns of cause and effect into motion. Every thought is a tool. Every thought is a prayer.
Judgment anchors you to the person or thing you judge, making you its servant. Judge others too harshly and you become their prisoner.
LIFE WITHOUT GRAVITY
Every day we will slip in our efforts to live a congruent, conscious life. So what? Get up, try again, slip some more. Imagine life without being controlled by the illusions of fear—fear of not having enough, fear of rejection, and fear of failure. Imagine your fears as having less influence over you. A completely fearless life may be unrealistic, but a life in which you keep your fears at a distance is an achievable goal. Mystics did not set about learning the nature of God or the higher mystical laws so that they could literally defy gravity—that is, so that they could levitate while they meditated, heal others spontaneously and at a distance, bilocate, or develop telepathic abilities. The great mystics of India warned that such remarkable powers—or siddhis, as they are known in their tradition— could be a great distraction on one’s spiritual path. Those capabilities they viewed instead as fruits that fell from the single tree in their garden, which was their passionate love for all things divine. The mystical approach to life is not to see life from without, but to perceive it from within, to sense your energetic field before you allow your body to move into action. Sense the many currents of information that are electrically charged in the atmosphere and interpret that information. Respond to that information, run it through your spiritual senses, and then let that data enter your ordinary mind. Learn to utilize all of your spiritual senses as naturally as you breathe, and always within the consciousness that you are living in a field of grace.
WORTHY OF REFLECTION
Ask yourself, “What psychic, emotional, or mental weight am I carrying that is unnecessary to my journey? Why am I carrying this?” Be tough with yourself. Don’t carry extra emotional baggage. It doesn’t serve you or anyone else. Seek the truth in all aspects of your life. Ask the constant question “What is the truth in this situation?” Search for wisdom, for understanding, for insight at every opportunity. Learn to endure. Remember that no plan unfolds in an afternoon. Have no expectations of anything. Let everything be a surprise. Give up the need to know why things happen as they do. How do you know what success or failure is? You’ve never had a scale that can measure either one of those two ends of the spectrum. Everything is just experience. Reflect on whether experience empowers or disempowers you—that is all. Does each experience make you more aware, more honest, more grateful, kinder, more generous, more compassionate? That’s where you should focus your attention. Act on your guidance without constantly saying that you’re frightened and require proof that you will be safe. You will never get that proof. Every choice in life is an act of faith. Stop letting fear be the one constant voice you listen to with unremitting faith. Be outrageously bold in your belief that you will be guided but do not have expectations of how that guidance will unfold. Keep your attention in present time—always in present time.
Develop a truly devoted prayer life. Go inward. Find a way into your soul that serves who you are at this stage in your life, but wean yourself of just speaking your surface thoughts to the Divine in a conversational way and discover your interior graces.
These are times of change, and among the most crucial changes is the need for people who would not ordinarily seek mystical teachings to turn to them now with a soul-felt passion. We are past the point when just reading about healing and human consciousness is of any value. All sojourners must awaken and cease the search for who they are in this world. What answer do you need other than “I am a soul in search of truth”? Your soul knows it can defy gravity. And you know that you can learn the mystical laws. The question is whether you can transcend the boundaries of ordinary reason: that is the great challenge in this human life that binds us all.
*this excerpt is taken from the book "Defy Gravity", by Caroline Myss. It is published by Hay House (October 2009)