Lesson 8 – Audio Assignment
The lesson is about what is necessary to achieve success in spiritual life including the behavior and characters the aspirant needs to develop while on the path of spirituality.
A) Yoga system and spiritual life
The evolution of the soul is characterized by expansion of awareness of itself in regards to the rest of creation, spanning from duality or separation to cosmic unity. There is the first and most common level of consciousness characterized by ignorance of the true nature of the soul and the attachment to the idea that the realities presented by the senses are abiding. That stage is manifested through what is called a non-spiritual life, based on a reactionary type of living whereby the individual behaves in a manner to only react to events in time and space with no self-control whatsoever. The senses are driving behaviors and the person in that state of mind acts like automate, without the ability nor desire to question why he or she is doing things in a certain way. Usually, within that mindset, the individual is responding unconsciously through the directives of the social order which in practical terms, is designed to shape his or her understanding. One can enumerate several characteristics that are particular to that state. There is first the lack of self-control with a pure egoistic vision of life manifested very often through the philosophy of retribution (you hit me, I will hit you too). Also, it is characterized by a state of non-contentment with sources of happiness derived essentially from sensual pleasures incapable of fulfilling endless cycles of non-satisfaction. A third aspect concerns the absence of inquiry about the deeper meaning of life related to what goes beyond the visible aspect of it. At last, individuals leading that type of life are entangled in wrong association reinforcing their ignorance about the true identity of the Soul. In essence, that level of consciousness relates to a life characterized by an endless pursuit of happiness based on using the external to fulfill the internal which leads to suffering of the soul. After cycles of failure to find happiness, the soul eventually awakens to the illusory aspect of the physical life to bring fulfillment and resolves to turn away from it in order to seek for truth, hence paving the way to the entry to the next level of awareness.
A spiritual life is reflective and meditative instead of being reactive and follows usually long term of suffering in lower level of awareness. The dynamic of a spiritual life consists essentially in reconditioning the mind with the purpose of strengthening the individual from the inside in order for him or her to acquire self-control, contentment, develop deep inquiry about true nature of the soul and the desire to be in company with Sages or more advanced people that can help one’s development. In the process, there is a gradual surrendering to the idea we are not the body, the desires and thoughts but proceed from a higher reality which we need to strive to manifest in time and space. Moreover, there is that gradual realization that not only ourselves but whole creation is also an expression of that higher reality that we call Neberdjer, hence paving the way for the soul to realize the cosmic unity. In all and all, the spiritual life is a life of remembering for the soul about its true identity and the return to home, a transformation of the mind to awareness of light called self-realization. The support system for that transformation is called Yoga ordinarily and Sema Twi in ancient Egyptian philosophy.
A life practicing yoga with the deeper meaning prevents entanglement in negative situations, and purifies the mind of the practitioner from situations that may have happened in the past by releasing associated emotions and vices allowing him or her to transcend them. It also leads the practitioner to gradual understanding that the person who behave that way is not the real you and through deep inquiries arrive at the source of egoism for dissolution to finally find the source of bliss.
B) Use of yoga systems
As stated earlier, the purpose of the Yoga system is to purify all aspects of ourselves in order to help dissolving our ignorance of our true reality to lead to awareness ot our transcendental unity with the rest of creation. From a relative standpoint, there are several aspects of the purification.
First, one can relate about the purification of feelings. The teaching informs us that the source of our suffering relates to our actions that are an-Maat meaning not aligned to the cosmic order, leading us to have the firm belief that the objects of our experience are an abiding reality as well as our body, mind, and all perceptions derived from the physical senses. In that context, we become affected by negative feelings including, anger, greed, lust and in general all similar afflictions which are manifestations of our ignorance. The purification process gradually transforms our feelings from egocentrism, to the divine reality that is the essence of all that manifests. The purpose is to help us to have self-control in relation to the management of our emotions and more importantly to arrive at the state of self-contentment. The battle against Set is within us and not outside of us. The outside is only a manifestation or our state of mind resulting on the combining effects of the Arius. Bringing the battle of Set externally as if the causes of our afflictions is outside is a result of our ignorance and will entertain further our delusion. By turning inside to resolve the battle, the aspirant is paving the way toward strengthening his inner self and character that would lead the aspirant to the stage of self-control.
The second aspect of purification relates to the mind with the purpose to arrive at the right understanding meaning being able to distinguish what is real and what is not, what is abiding and what is not. The mind in ordinary perception is deluded by the reality as presented by the senses and takes the sense perception as abiding. Wrong understanding leads to egotism and reinforces the sense of I am as an independent entity. The Yoga system will allow the mind through inquiry about true nature of the Soul, developing new understanding about the perceived reality. That type of inquiry will gradually lead to turning away from illusion and to be on the path of enlightenment. Through a method in three steps including the listening to the teaching, the reflection and meditation, the mind’s perception is gradually transformed to lead to the conviction that the reality of the senses is not real and not abiding. That purification aspect will attempt to dissolve egoism and leads to control of the mind.
Another aspect of the purification concerns our actions which are usually done in an egoistic way, reinforcing awareness of separation. The process will lead to gradual understanding that we do not need to focus on reward of our actions on a personal basis and to perform them to the best of our ability regardless of the outcome.
The last point of purification affects our will leading to final transcendence. Practicing yoga at a certain level will certainly improve the life of the practitioner but, the attainment of the last level of mysticism requires meditation leading to transcendence of the physical reality and even the teaching itself until final realization of the Self, a state called Nehast, spiritual enlightenment.
C) Misconceptions in spiritual life
There are misconceptions that can block the mind to advance in the process of self-transformation and one of them relates to our perception of truth. Ordinarily, one thinks about truth in an egoistic way and ignores its relative aspect. When taken in that way, everyone seems to abide to his or her own truth with strong willingness to defend it. That only reinforces egoism and does not promote mind flexibility and openness to other considerations. Another aspect is related to the notion that the preceptor only needs to speak the truth or perhaps the truth as we see it, without consideration of the fact that since the preceptor is aware of higher realities therefore, his or her appreciations will not be similar to common folks. Thus, we need to reflect on the relative aspect of truth and understand how to speak about it in a manner that brings a better good and not as a way to humiliate people. One needs to be prudent and pays attention not to generate negative Arius in the manner we tell the truth which should be used in a way that brings a better good. All things done egoistically affect negatively the mind and, what we do out of egoism leads us potentially to issues with people. Bringing higher good never serves the ego: in that sense, we need to focus on our action and not on the results of them. In a higher sense, we can think about doing things to help humanity without expectations of compensation understanding we are not the doer but, instead it is God acting through us.
More often, aspirants mistakenly believe when they are on the path, they can play hero by being in any type of environment. One needs to be careful as until we reach Nehast, we are still bound to the influences of past Arius and negative environment. Good association is very important in our quest for advancement in the spiritual path and the aspirant should strive as much as possible to seek the company of Sages and more advanced people in the path. The benefits one can derive from proper association is incommensurable and may serve as a leap in our path. We need to keep a distance as much as possible from environment that does not foster our spiritual growth and not try to underestimate the effects of such environment and people on us.
Other misconception the aspirant needs to avoid relates to the regularity of the practice. One may try to rationalize by saying that if one practices regularly for a certain time, one may be able to relax or I am traveling this week and therefore, will not have a place to practice so it will be a full week long without practice and then, one can get away with it. One may be surprised about the degree of falling back without a few days of non-practice. Aspirant needs to consider spiritual practices regularly on a daily basis and more importantly not doing it in a fanatical way if one needs to advance in a higher way. An important aspect of the practice relates to what we do in our practical life. One may fall in the trap of saying I can do whatever I want during the day and then, once I go back to meditation the following morning, I should be fine. The informal practice affects the way we practice formally and as matter of fact, they are closely related. If we have an agitated mind during the day in our practical life and do an-Maat actions, our meditation and devotional practices will be impacted negatively as we will not be able to reach the calmness and state of mind required for a deep practice. Therefore, equal considerations need to be given to both formal and informal practices so that one aspect be able to support the other and sustain at the end, the aspirant evolution. In other words, the teaching must be constantly with us all the time so that it can penetrate us fully: one may listen to tapes and avoid fooling ourselves in the path.
In case of transgression or fallings, aspirant should not feel discouraged and consequently develops sense of incapacity to succeed in the path. There should be intensification of the level of study so that we can continue hanging on and dissolve the effects of past Arius. One needs to keep the spiritual focus, avoid distraction and mind agitation. One important thing to remember is to avoid procrastination and hypocrisy while on the path.
Patience and determination are important knowing any positive vibration will sustain our progress and help us to move in the right direction. No matter how we fall, the minute we catch ourselves in the negative feelings, strive to let it go. Avoid playing being human and rationalize to accept occasional failures to relax on the path: we need to be like the child who resolves to continue in his quest to learn how to walk no matter how often he falls. If we stick with our self-effort earnestly, we will reach the tipping point where the practice becomes part of us as we have generated enough Arius to overcome the past ones and the reward will come for sure not as temporary success in time and space but, as extreme confidence about our possibility to advance in the path until we reach the ultimate goal of becoming like a Neter.
D) Practice of the Shedy
In the course of spiritual life and, as the intensity of the practices increases, the aspirant goes through levels of realizations that support his or her progress toward the ultimate goal. From that standpoint, a spiritual life is a life of gradual realizations that lead towards the final one, our unity with the Universe. I used to ask the question as how to know or measure degree of our progress in the path. I come to the realization that we will not be able to measure it as per the common mean but, it is more based on intuitional realization: in other words, we will know when we progress and that is usually manifested through higher understanding. While one may not be able to predict the exact moment progress will occur, the realization of it penetrates us and we just know it when it happens.
In regards to the Shedy disciplines as it relates to my experience, it has been like a march of overcoming difficulties and transformation of awareness. The practices I was not able to sustain in the beginning have been like challenges as I used to force myself into doing them, leading to cycles of failures and restarts. I realize then what we do with force may work for a while but, will not be sustainable until the Arius permit it. Then it becomes clear to me that it is better to create Arius that will allow the development or the integration of new practices. For practices that are difficult for me, I usually go through the same process of listening, reflecting and meditation. First, start to read repetitively on the practices, what it is all about and then reflecting on how to practice it and what are the obstacles that block me. More importantly, I express internally a deep desire to practice and ask for guidance without forcing anything. Then I start to elaborate minimum practice time that would be suitable in the meantime even if not integrating the full meaning of the practice. And from there, I just listen to that internal guide and it is interesting to see how the mind gradually surrenders and there comes a point where the desire for practice becomes unconscious. Even if you tend to forget consciously but at some point, there is that sudden awakening that you need to do the practice. So in reality, there are no practices I have said consciously I would not do: it is more being aware of the difficulties that I am facing and develop a plan for it to happen.
In regards to the fetters of Seth as it pertains to anger, depression, etc., I usually go to a cycle of fallings and restarting. For example, in regards to anger, it was a matter of counting the time between one outburst and the other to measure success. From that standpoint, there has been some levels of awareness with situations that are better controlled in a sense that I was able to feel the anger coming and then, have the choice to express it or not. In that sense, it became a conscious expression. But, what about the stressful situations where we lost control of ourselves generally, when we are out of our comfort zone then, we do not even feel it coming for example. We just catch it after the fact and even, we can resolve not to continue but, it is an example of how Arius can get the best of us. How can we catch that moment of non-control and be able to exercise our will is the key? There is another realization I came through in reflecting on these things is that we need to own our feelings fully as opposed to say that someone else makes us angry or makes us sad. Whatever it is, it is because Arius of anger or depression exist within us that we are able to be affected by events that vibrate at that level and respond to them. There is rationalization often used when people say at the end, we are only human and that it is normal that we are out control. In that sense, we are not fully human if we can’t control what we express or not. Owning such impulsions represent, I humbly think, a first step and reflecting on them to understand why they are present may ultimately help us developing additional understanding on ourselves and help us realizing self-control. One thing I can see is that it seems that the same types of situation happen over and over to make us feel anger or be sad. Is it then a lesson we need to learn? By having this mindset helps me avoid to say for example such and such made me angry but to turn inside to understand the source of it and develop actions to dissolve it and catch the moment to generate new impressions on the mind. It is a new understanding that the battle with Seth is really internal and not to be raged outside of us in projections to people, situation, etc.… which will only sustain the Arius in that sense. So, whenever anger is felt or depression, one must try as much as possible to own it and reflect on it to understand and asks for the guide of the Neterus to dissolve it. If there is a feeling one should express towards the rest of creation, it is only a feeling of unconditional love otherwise, we are only perhaps reinforcing Arius that sustain our egoism. We may not be able to always do it completely even with our good disposition because of our Arius but, we should strive for it. To the extent that is possible is only an expression of our level in the path but not the measure of the truth.
As it relates to practice of MAAT or righteous actions, it is the most difficult task for the aspirant particularly when it comes to align the actions to the teaching’s philosophy due to effect of past Arius and the impatience perhaps he or her can go through because of lack of apparent progress. Acting with no expectations of results can be misunderstood in a social context where people can get advantage of us when we consider also professional life. While the most difficult, the aspirant must know there is no other way of progressing but to manifest what we are actually learning from the teaching. Based on preconceptions and assumptions, how can we manifest selfless love for people who made us wrong or who from a political standpoint are oppressing our country and things of that nature? It is the ultimate sacrifice for the aspirant to let go of these things knowing he or she is not the mind, the thoughts and desires that come to him. Relying on the notion that there is an order in the Universe and that we just need to align ourselves to it and not pretend we are going to save the world how bad we think it may be, is something that I have worked a lot on and still unable to grasp fully at this point. However, the resentment or similar feelings leaves us with a heavy heart which makes us realize the only path is selflessness, striving to realize we are not the doers but really the channels for the expression of a higher reality. Until we arrive at that awareness, we will switch back and forth between moments of selfless love and desire to resent. But, we need to hang in there in the path towards self-love as in my case, having bad sentiments is more painful that the pain we felt when seeing oppression and things of that nature. Maat is our ultimate guide in the path for us no matter how hard it can be understanding that the effects of past Arius will pass or eventually dissolve as we continue our practice with perseverance and patience.
I have the ultimate conviction it we continue to practice our Shedy earnestly, there will be an unconscious aspect whereby, one realizes it is not us, the ego who are really practicing and therefore, the need of surrendering to the soul and let it find its way on the path. Then the practice itself becomes one of surrendering, listening to the subtle guidance of our higher self in the path. One may say let me be your channel of experience, guide my steps so that they are no longer mine but yours and bestow me with the divine grace of devotion and surrendering: let me bow to you…