Saint Teresa of Avila once said (and I'm paraphrasing), that her ecstasies, wonderful as they were, moved her not one inch forward on the spiritual path. It was from her dark nights of the soul that she learned and grew.
I had my share of dark nights when I was much younger; I would call them "bleak depressions." More recently, my spiritual growth has been speeded along by unintentionally self-induced, traumatic experiences played out in the 3-D world that leave me utterly demoralized. Fortunately, anything that doesn't kill you makes you stronger, as they say.
That's why I haven't posted anything for over two years. In March 2011, I had my heart ripped open by a bulldozer. It was the most intense emotional trauma I have ever experienced. The blog became irrelevant to me.
After a year or so I tried posting on the blog, but the posts always left me unsatisfied, so I deleted them. The time wasn't ripe. Evidently I had to live through 2013 first, which started for me on Dec. 29, 2012, when the Universe blindsided me with an utterly unprecedented situation which I managed to shortcircuit almost immediately. This set the tone for the next nine months.
Barbara Mary Muhl, Laura's spiritual teacher, used to speak about "God's flashlight." Any bit of spiritual awakening is followed by God shining his flashlight into all the hidden nooks and crannies of one's psyche, and more often than not what is revealed can be very disconcerting.
For me, God's flashlight has mercilessly revealed all kinds of inner failings: negativity, willfulness, destructive habits, the list is long. But all this stuff has to be expunged before one is purified enough to actually surrender to Spirit and live a consecrated life. (As opposed to merely thinking about surrendering to Spirit and living a consecrated life.)
I don't know if meditation is the one and only way out of the human dilemma, but at this stage of my life it sure seems like it.
Meditation is sometimes called a spiritual practice, but it is actually a psychological practice. It's a deliberate act of being aware, of watching one's breathing (or watching nothing at all), and letting the thoughts and emotions pass on through without holding on to them or allowing them to take you over. It's a deliberate calming of the mind so that the deeper layers (which are always there), are no longer overwhelmed by the surface thoughts and emotions. I like the analogy of the bird (the spirit) singing in a tree next to a freeway full of trucks roaring past (the world). What do you hear? The trucks, of course. In order to hear the bird, you need to find a quieter place.
What do these deeper layers of the psyche consist of? Nothing, really. It's simply the Void from which all things become manifest. Some people call it God, or Spirit, or simply, Presence. I like Presence because it is definitely a tangible presence to me. I have found, to my delight, that whenever I experience the Presence, it no longer matters if I am thinking or not. (I used to think that meditation was about stopping my thinking.) The thinking circuits in my brain can still be firing away, nattering along, and it doesn't matter. In fact, the quality of my thinking vastly improves whenever the Presence is there. Sometimes, valuable insights will emerge. Usually, my thinking (and this is true for most people, I'm sure) is mostly a waste of time -- worry, speculation, fantasizing, thinking about the past or future, on and on. I find meditation to be an excellent way to cut the crap and get down to Reality.
Of course, the best meditations are when the thinking and emotionalizing subside entirely. I love the elegance of this: there's nothing to do, nothing to understand, no doctrine to follow. Just dwell in the silence whenever possible, and one will be changed radically for the better. The more I marinate myself in Spirit, the better my life becomes.
My Inner Scientist still tries to figure all this out. It seems to be a harmless hobby, and keeps my mind exercised. It's amazing to me that I've been living on a monastery for the past 40 years. (In the 70s, Judy was the Abbot and I was the Costello.) I have definitely showed a remarkable talent for worldliness and distraction, that's for sure.
It's easy to play the mental game of "what if" and "if only," but looking back at the reality of my life, it's obvious that I could not have performed a single action one second earlier than I actually did. Things were as they were. But this is not to say that things can't be different in the future; in fact, they already are different. My life is gradually shifting onto a new and higher trajectory, and the monastery is poised to do... something.
In a future post I want to talk about morphic fields, intentional manifestation, synchronicities, and other phenomena. Life gets more fascinating the older I get.
I always welcome your feedback. Please feel free to email me at soarbird (at) wildblue (dot) net.
I just posted "In Search of the Extra Buzz" on the overflow blog. Even though I wrote it several years ago, I never got around to posting it until now. It's the next step beyond the "My Spin on Spirituality" post located in the New Earth Times archives.