“The sight of someone eating will not appease your hunger. The spiritual experiences of others cannot satisfy your yearning.” — Traditional
I received this question: “Daily, I pray, regularly give to charity, do good works and always try to be a good person, yet spiritual experience eludes me. O I am so frustrated. Please, how do I go about having spiritual experiences? Additionally, I feel unless I have these, I will remain incomplete. O how I yearn to draw closer to God. I thought by following my birth religion and the Path, spiritual experience would be natural outcomes?”
The answer to this question, like so many others on the spiritual path, cannot be thought out or answered by ordinary reasoning (ego). The answers must be experienced or perceived through another mode of consciousness; intuition or Higher Knowledge must provide a personal answer. The Secret Protects Itself.
In this situation, mind questions so the heart might respond. Or stated another way by Rumi: “Imagination blocks you like a bolt on a door, Burn that bar.” Substitute for the word imagination these: expectations, ordinary thoughts, emotions and comparison with others.
The task of the spiritual traveler is to learn to ask the question in one mode of thought, and listen too or experience the answer in another. It’s like pre-setting the stations on your radio. Station 1 presents the inquiry: Where are my spiritual experiences? Click to Station 2 on spiritual awareness, which answers the question: spiritual experiences are natural outgrowths of a higher state of consciousness. They present at their own time. This higher state of consciousness is Love of God and a heart that is empty of all else. Again, The Secret Protects Itself.
Remember while the everyday consciousness (ego) may be filled with all kinds of concerns, the traveler must learn to still them, for a time, so the heart — that burns for God — might come forward.
In this example, presetting the device for spiritual awareness, often with the help of a teacher, facilitates the change of station.
You must learn to listen to the quiet whisperings of your heart to perceive these answers and have these experiences. Often this training is supplied through right study, with right people, and in the right place. It usually involves freeing oneself of expectations and strong emotions.
Second, seeking spiritual experience is different than seeking God. Our teacher used to say: “When you come to me, come to me about God. Do not come here for anything else.” Often this deception about outcome, in the spiritual search, is buried so deep that it requires continual work to offset its effect. The Secret Protects Itself.
Expectations & emotions
Each spiritual traveler is born into a world of expectation. Daily behaviors and societal standards are presented by family, friends, co-workers, country, religion and self.
Over time, these expectations form our operating system and world view. We want to go and do based upon what we have been taught and what we desire for self and others; expectations set standards for behavior that have attached to them a whole series of emotions. For example, we experience joy at accomplishing our goal or sadness as we fail.
This set of personal expectation or goals, in time, can entrap and bind — yet, it serves an essential function for society as a whole, and it is often the basis for our daily behaviors.
For the spiritual traveler, these are the chains that must be temporarily broken for the Higher Consciousness to work. Cognitively and emotionally, they are a door that blocks the inner awareness.
As indicated above, attached to expectations are emotions; both enrich our lives and help make us human. However, in a spiritual quest, they fill our consciousness and must be stilled temporarily so the Higher Impulse can be perceived and heard. Emotions and expectations are “a noise” in our consciousness that block other things from happening.
Many times, spiritual travelers are unaware, because these expectations are hidden, that it is precisely these subconscious thoughts, along with their emotional attachments, that are blocking spiritual progress:
- I have been meditating for five years and surely something should have happened by now. Or I cannot meditate for more than 2 minutes and surely this inability must be holding me back.
- Everyone knows, “We have been given enough for the journey,” therefore, I can pick and choose what I like from different paths. This technique has worked for me in so many areas of my life (i.e., picking a vocation, car and companion).
- When performing spiritual exercises, praying or doing good works, we all have an expectation about how we will be rewarded. For example, this activity will make me a good person, I will gain in good works and I feel good helping others. When the spiritual traveler has these hidden feelings often, these feelings become their reward and they do not travel further. This mind set is a form of “spiritual greed” and must be disarmed by a neutral mental posture.
- When I reach a high level of spirituality, my life will be perfect and complete. Spiritual knowledge is one aspect of a healthy life; spiritual awareness serves as a catalyst to enable other things to happen.
- I love to meditate and pray; it makes me feel so peaceful and I am one with everything. Or I feel so good when I work at the soup kitchen, helping the homeless. Think about the emotional attachment.
To maximize spiritual potential, the traveler must learn to recognize when their expectation set is operating. Also the traveler must learn to differentiate between an emotional and a spiritual experience. While expectations and emotions are an important part of healthy living, for many — because they have not been disarmed — both become an obstacle to spiritual experience. The Secret Protects Itself.