When a person has a passion for something such as teaching or selling or assisting others or laying bricks, etc. and is good at it, we say this person has found his or her calling in life—which is an extraordinary thing. In essence, a person who has found his or her calling has found a way to spend large chunks of their time meaningfully.
Besides focusing time on one’s main calling, there are other powerful ways to spend one’s time. Among them are loving and caring for one’s family, being there for friends, slowly drinking in a sunrise, exercising, and doing good deeds without wanting or expecting anything in return. And not at the bottom of a long list is finding a likely way to become spiritually fulfilled and then pursuing it. An active spiritual life permeates life’s activities.
Our spiritual life is like the weather. It exists whether we acknowledge it or not. We all ask at one time or another the two questions Who am I? and Why am I here? These seemingly very tough questions can be answered easily. For example, a person might simply say, I’m a bundle of DNA and I’m here to propagate. True, but there’s a lot left unsaid.
I’m inclined to think besides wanting to propagate, one’s answer to the Why am I here? question could include, among other things, participating in the most profound human experience: the uncovering or remembering one’s original being or nature. And to do that, we need to first get a definitive answer to the Who am I? question. What turns up when we apply the questions, Who? What? When? Where? and How? to ourselves?
Here’s one take: I’m (your name). I’m a male (or female) member of the human species. I was born on (day and year). I now live in (city, state, country). My parents had sex.
Here’s another take: I’m a single bloom of creativity and awareness: one among the billions of human beings who live and will die on the cool crust of a huge spinning molten ball of rock and iron which circles its life-giving star which is located in the outskirts of an average spiral galaxy in this vast universe. I’m an individual of a species which has developed languages and identities. Language and identity occupy almost every second of my existence except for non-dreaming sleep. My species has a substantiated theory of how life evolved, but nothing is known for sure of how life began.
Here’s a third set of answers: I’m an identity or what some call an ego. I’m a special dream of the human being. I don’t exist physically and most likely will cease to exist the minute my host cannot or does not support me. My host created me as a useful tool during the early part of its life, and since my host is my source, I’m permanently fixed to it, but this has worked out well because I’m in charge. I boot up automatically upon my being’s waking, and it looks like I’ll have no problem staying in control of my host until it dies.
So, Who am I? I’m the third set of answers. I’m the identity, the ego. I’m the “I” in the first set of answers. So who or what is represented by the second set of answers? It’s my steed and creator: the human being. Now, What is my purpose?
Finding religion in the traditional sense is a common occurrence here on earth but finding the deepest meaning of life is still rare. And if this is so, why? As children we will believe almost anything an adult tells us. We are told about the God by religious leaders while we are young and so we believe them. An example: “The deepest joys and fulfillment are waiting for us in our afterlife.”
When we look at this promise closely, we notice it a very little probably of being true since there are almost as many different versions of heaven or paradise as there are religions, and all of the versions are based on magical ideas.
There’s no credible evidence for an afterlife, and in my estimation the odds are almost 100% no paradise or punishment awaits any of us identities. Why? When we are young, it’s easy to fool us. When we grow up, we usually stop believing in magic, but many find it advantageous to keep these beliefs and the beliefs become a social benefit. And the promise of everlasting bliss with our friends is motivational enough. Why wonder? It’s a beautiful dream and very comforting.
Yet, this one lifetime is all we can logically expect. We might ask, Have we explored all of the possibilities? Are there opportunities for growth and maturity outside of the major religions or on their fringes?
Down through the centuries and up to the present, sages and mystics have been living examples of personal fulfillment and have taught seekers the process of remembering and experiencing the pure awareness of one’s own being as the ultimate adventure and the greatest of all life-changing events.
The sages emphasize this amazing event of remembering and experiencing one’s pure awareness is possible for anyone, but it’s not probable because of the identity—the me or ego in each of us.
So, what does this me do? The sages say as part of a natural process, the identity covers over the pure awareness we experienced as infants.
It’s possible later on for one’s ego to adventure and eventually step aside so its being can experience fully its awareness and its total connectedness to the universe.
In short, finding a way to dissolve of the identity and then using it is the key part of a spiritual practice.
Fulfillment has nothing to do with holiness or morality and very little to do with organized religions but has everything to do with experiencing one’s complete connectedness to the universe. Does our notion of becoming spiritually enlightened seem so difficult we feel seeking it is only practical for monks who can work on it over a lifetime in their special surroundings?
The sages tell us there’s no special lifestyle necessary to go on this adventure. So, why not take a look at fulfillment? Why not adventure?
Summing up the adventure in sequential order: we’ll be the ones responsible for fostering a desire for the adventure and allotting the time and then supplying insight and courage.
If motivated and armed with the proper attitude and information, the average person can have the desire to adventure (the easiest part). However, keeping a daily meditation practice is hard to do. Why? Because there’s opposition and you and I are it: each person’s identity will usually find ways to retain its position of power.
There’s fear all along the path to fulfillment. There’s our ego’s fear of no longer being needed by the being, and the ego’s fear of no longer existing.
Only being partially prepared for the breath-taking hugeness of the mystery is the most we can hope for. One must be ready to experience fear and have the courage to not run back to language at a crucial moment.
The question is how does one arrive at this moment.
Knowledge of the human dilemma and its cure are ancient and are now widely available, and here in a small package is what the sages and mystics have said about it.
Each of us naturally develops an identity with the help of family and society, and each of us adopts the wonderful and powerful tool of language with the same help. Our preoccupation with identity and language naturally filters and dilutes the pure awareness we experienced as infants. The process of remembering and experiencing our original awareness requires finding a way to tap into our native awareness.
This involves weakening over time the influence of one’s identity and language habit which will allow an awareness which isn’t diluted or filtered to begin to come forth.
As this growing awareness is noticed, one integrates it with whatever is happening and begins to notice and appreciate the wonders present in common everyday events, sights, and relationships and begins to feel a lack of separation from others and the universe. And then when full awareness blossoms, it does so very quickly.
The key insight is to accept and understand the world and everything in it is perfect as it is.
To get to the budding stage of awareness, one must train, and the sages say, to train properly, one must establish a daily meditation practice. A daily practice is needed because the sages and mystics agree the benefits of a meditation practice only become cumulative when practiced daily.
A daily practice can serve as a spiritual practice or as part of an already existing spiritual journey or can be secular and scientific in nature.
Making one’s practice a habit is key to keeping it a daily practice. Since a totally relaxed ego creates the proper setting to experience being (unfiltered awareness), a daily practice will involve the surrendering of one’s language habit for one or two periods each day.
Because of its fear of loosing its position of power and its natural fear of no longer existing, the identity can be expected to use all of its cunning in resisting a practice which is habitual or on its way to becoming habitual. Its everyday tool of resistance is its ability to invent ways to avoid or postpone the building of a daily practice.
The identity keeps inventing reasons (which we accept because we created them) to postpone practicing daily until we we go along with the postponing and the habit is broken. Just after the beginning stage of establishing a practice is the time when we will experience resistance from our identity.
Even if the identity agrees it’s not such a bad thing to seek out one’s roots in existence, it will go along only so far with what it will consider a dangerous adventure, and will, time after time, insert itself and successfully put an end to any progress toward the remembrance of our native awareness.
Its defense is strong because the identity creates the belief its death or demotion will occur if it ever willingly surrenders and gives up its captain’s chair of control.
So the greatest obstacle to experiencing our pure being and completing the greatest possible adventure is our own identity: the expert saboteur. Knowing this interference is a natural occurrence is the first major educational experience on the adventure and gives us an insight to our nature. It’s a contest with our own self.
Our being (the human animal with all of its talents) isn’t part of the battle; it’s the battle field. The being keeps noticing, feeling, hearing, tasting, smelling, digesting, respirating, pumping blood, etc.
The sages say the best approach is to gently persist—no matter what—in establishing a practice. In other words, don’t get into a fight with yourself. Don’t offer resistance. Find a way to go around or over or under whatever obstacle you encounter. The key attitude is not feeling you have to rush.
Over time, when one gently persists again and again without harboring guilt or regret about any lapses along the way, the identity is put into a place where it might convince itself to step out of the way of its infinitely patient being to which it owes everything and give itself up freely and accept completely whatever may be the result of its surrender to silence. It’s not easy. The Buddha’s way was desiring fulfillment to the utmost.
The result may be the identity’s winking out of existence forever, but probably not for such a handy creation.
Our daily voluntary surrender to silence (meditation) will be, according to the sages and mystics, the beginning of more openness, joy, peace, and possibly the inexpressible experience of remembrance.
However, when dealing with the mystery, there are no promises or guarantees. There is no language, period. Every adventurer into the unknown is a gambler. Expectation is dropped, surrender is complete, and one trusts the universe to do the right thing. This is the ultimate game which the sages and mystics consider to be the authentic religious adventure.
What’s the purpose of this adventure into the mystery? To see and feel our oneness with everything and to reclaim what was lost: undiluted awareness.
So, how to do we start and then advance along this challenging path? To start, we have to desire change. We usually begin by questioning the status quo by asking questions like—Is this all there is? Why am I here?
Can one’s highest purpose and the true meaning of life actually be discovered or are they just pipe dreams? Is there really another level of consciousness to be experienced? We don’t stop our search. We keep going.
We look for and find answers which we feel are correct and then plot a course of action which has the possibility of delivering results and then follow through.
To begin, we can ask What is our present situation? Each of us has natural intelligence, awareness, and wisdom which the identity takes credit for and believes are its own attributes.
This belief is natural because it comes about via the identity’s continual use of the being’s intelligence and abilities which includes language.
The sages and mystics point out human language is a blessing and a curse. Its blessing is it gives us the ability to communicate with great dexterity. Its curse is it’s so powerful it’s addictive, and so we naturally become trapped in it, and being trapped feels normal because we can’t recall the situation being any other way.
A key point is language (thoughts, ideas, concepts) and fear are the only tools of the identity. So what we have, metaphorically, is a prison situation with language and fear as the structure and the identity as the warden.
Now we can ask Is escape possible? and if so, How can it be accomplished? Since language and fear are the tools of the identity, the sages say the best escape plan is to dissolve the prison structure via meditation and the warden will dissolve along with it.
Over the centuries, sages and mystics have developed and taught various techniques which can help the mind’s constant chatter to slow down and peter out, allowing the mind to eventually become silent. As mentioned, the sages say experiencing silence via meditation is the best path to follow.
Various spiritual traditions are found in many of the primitive religions of the world as well as the major religions. Judaism has the Cabala, Buddhism has its tradition of Zen meditation, Christianity has its mystics, Islam has its Sufis.
These traditions have practices which assist in silencing the mind which go from using drugs (from native plants) to dancing (physical spinning) to wordless adoration (worship) to gazing at a bright object (the flame of a candle in a darkened room) to contemplating seemingly impossible-to-answer questions (“What is the sound of one hand clapping?”) to meditating (relaxing while sitting with the eyes closed with one’s attention focused on one’s breath or a mantra).
The most recommended of the techniques is meditation. Here, we are defining meditation as a process one can use to experience silence and silence as the state of surrender.
Silence places us next to our purpose. Our purpose is to recall and experience the pureness of our essential nature—which is simply to be. Silence does not guarantee the experience of being; it only helps us to arrive at the edge of being.
We can’t order the mystery around nor can we order our identity to get out of the way. The sages say the natural course is to surrender (achieve silence) many times and if we are lucky, one day the universe may reveal itself.
What can keep us practicing when silence doesn’t happen, or when it does, the mystery doesn’t begin to reveal itself? The sages say all meditation is good meditation even if silence is not achieved. Scientists have found this to be true.
As perks from a daily practice, we will receive all of the health and attitudinal benefits of daily meditation. So, when we adventure, the quality of our lives will improve whether we reach fulfillment or not. Meditation is health food for the brain.
It’s good to know during meditation we can accomplish two requisites: the dropping of desire and expectation. This opens the way to fulfillment. It’s almost impossible to drop desire and expectation when we are trying to do so. However, while our mind is repeating a mantra or concentrating on our breath or our mind is silent, desire and expectation disappear automatically.
What mantra should one repeat? The classical manta Om is hard to beat: Ommmmmmmm… or you may prefer the word one: Wnnnnnnnnnnn… which has been proven to work well. Almost any simple nonsensical word or sounds ending with an m or an n sound will work. A mantra is usually repeated silently in one’s mind and not rapidly. Let the m or n sounds stretch out before repeating them.
The result is when one is relaxed and sitting with eyes closed and meditating, the mind eventually becomes silent for periods of time. One’s identity—void of language—disappears and the meditator becomes spiritual bait for the cosmos, the mystery, the isness.
In other words when we meditate, we are fishing for fulfillment. If we aren’t swallowed by the big fish, we will still have the beneficial and satisfying experience which going fishing brings.
What is considered a practice? Meditating daily. Having one or two twenty-to-thirty minute periods of daily meditation is recommended. When we miss a day or two there’s no problem or blame because this is a natural occurrence and is bound to happen. When this happens, keep on persisting gently daily by getting back on track knowing there’s no rush. Language will appear again and again while meditating. When it’s noticed, gently return again to meditating.
Thinking about and desiring fulfillment while not meditating is not a problem, it’s natural and motivational—it’s hard to get over having to wait for fulfillment to happen. Be satisfied with less stress, a more natural and positive outlook, and the fact you’re out on a spiritual ledge adventuring. Be patient and be ready and be willing to surrender to the universe.
If the universe could speak human language and wanted to communicate, what would it say to us?
It might say something comparable to…
You are supported by me like everything else.
Even though you may feel you are separate—you are not.
You’re my dream.
Relax your mind regularly and be patient and brave.
These actions and attitudes give your being a chance to reveal itself.
The following are a few observations, experiences, words of advice, and questions which may assist you to establish a daily practice.
Since no one can predict how many times the mystery may come calling in a lifetime of meditation, it’s smart to be as prepared as possible from the start.
Here’s some crucial advice. Rehearse not running away in fear when the universe shows up because there may not be a second time or a possible second time may happen a very long way down the road.
Unfortunately, I speak from experience. I’m torn between sharing and not sharing the experience. I’m hesitant because I don’t want to share an experience which is so personal and which to some might seem to be bragging, but I’ve decided to do so anyway because I wish someone would have done the same for me. Here it is.
Down the road a ways after a few months of meditating almost every day and not feeling overly religious or extra spiritual and with no spiritual goals or growth in mind, I was simply enjoying the peace which came when my thoughts were no more.
During a period of meditation, the m sound of the mantra I was repeating silently in my mind started to lengthen. The vibration of the final letter m of the mantra began to become physical and after a while my body started to feel the vibration.
My body seemed to resonate on a subtle and dull vibrating note. It was my tone, my note, and the vibration eventually petered out. For no particular reason I didn’t repeat the mantra again, and there was a period of silence.
Normally, my monologue would have started filling up the silence immediately with one thought after another “Is it going to turn colder? I’ve got to change those filters.” and language would continue on and on until I realized I was on automatic again and once more I would come with the mantra again and again without feeling bad or worrying about having been sidetracked. Being sidetracked by language is part of meditation.
After this very unusual bit of silence, my normal monologue started up again, and after a while I noticed the stream of language and took a long slow breath to relax and started repeating the mantra again, and after a while, the vibration began again and spread again. And again no thoughts jumped in when it petered out. I was relaxed not thinking or remembering to say the mantra.
Here sheathed in silence came a slight feeling of a sweetness. All I can say about it is I didn’t taste it with my tongue but tasted it with my body. Then I thought about the sweetness which ended the feeling, and I went back to the mantra to let it peter out on its own again and again and then silence. During the days following, the silence happened occasionally, but not very often came the sweetness. I thought of it as the blessing.
It was hard to wait for the time I had set aside for meditation. I was excited by the thought of the relaxation and excitement I had felt previously. Perhaps, I would experience again the blessing, the sweetness, but I knew it wasn’t for certain. Silence was my goal because only there could I feel the sweetness.
Weeks later, after the excitement had worn off and during a period of silence something scary happened. The top of my head seemed to open up and I seemed to be expanding in all directions. It seemed it would take only a second or two to sense all of space.
An icy fear overwhelmed me and I recoiled into my normal tiny self, and I opened my eyes with the fright still building and ringing in my insides as if I had just barely missed a head-on collision with a large truck on a rainy two lane. Breathing hard I vowed to tread less often. I thought “What in the world almost happened to me?” But it was over and I was safe and in familiar territory and thanking my lucky stars. I stopped meditating. It was a few days before I began to realize my fear and panic had probably stopped my being from remembering and experiencing again (since babyhood) the unspeakable. To put it bluntly, I had been unprepared to take advantage of beginner’s luck.
I (my identity) had won. Because of fear, my meditation habit had been set aside, and I settled back into the regular comforts of family and friends and newspapers and cable TV and work—hardly ever wondering what was missed.
But later, I wondered a lot. I wondered why it was so hard to begin the process of stepping outside of language again. Why did I resist it for so many years? Did I fear the total loss of control, or did I fear I would be unprepared again, so why become involved? The thing which keeps bringing me back to establish a practice again and again is the memory of the sweetness. I feel branded in a sense.
Finding one’s way out of one’s own normal language corral can’t be done by just asking. All spiritual paths are individual even if they appear to be similar. Every seeker, in the end, becomes his or her own spiritual guru.
Maybe the greatest heroic act might be the identity giving up itself on behalf of the being. Is this the adventure many choose when they realize or suspect there’s more than money, good works, power, fame, or satisfaction in life?
Can a limitless world be discovered through a tear in the tent of language? Is finding time to relax the mind and actually relaxing it an art or is it warfare or is it both?
Do I have to check regularly on what I believe and own up to my many mistakes and be physically fit and so forth and so on? Or can I not take myself so seriously and just focus on finding a way to make silence happen and then practice it daily. Are high morals what one should have but still miss the point? Is silence the only door to the greatest adventure?
The sages say seeking is the same as missing, and they also add seeking (desire) gets us into the ball park (the understanding there’s more to life and it’s inside of us and available) and getting into the ball park eventually allows us to get onto the playing field (a daily practice) where we have the chance to get into the game (silence).
About the Writer
Marvin Morrison graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary in 1966, and was a protestant evangelical missionary from 1966 until 1970. During his missionary service, he began to suspect his religious beliefs came from what he was taught as a child.
He’s now in his late seventies. He says he is not enlightened but has found his particular path. This essay summarizes what he’s found out over the past forty-five years and believes it might be of assistance to others.
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