To this point, we have touched upon the underlying reasons why man must make this journey within. However, we have dwelt little on the process that leads to awakening of the soul, other than to suggest that it begins inside.
King Arthur searched the land without success to find the Holy Grail, the cup of life. That is because it can never be found in the outer world. No matter where you look, it cannot be seen.
No matter how far you search, it cannot be found. For the key to life can only be found in the inner world of the spirit. Though spirit is manifested in the outer world, it only leaves behind its imprint, and never the foot that made it.
Born to Roam
A man is born
to roam this land
in search far and wide
that which he has inside
and has known all along
We can only glimpse the nature of our soul if we first know ourselves. This is perhaps the most difficult part of the journey, for to know where we are going, we first must know where we start. It requires that we see ourselves as we truly are, without the sweet façade our egos normally paint.
We look at ourselves all the time, yet so little do we see. Even when we look in the mirror we only see what we want, and turn a blind eye to the rest that appears before us. Sometimes we are startled when we fail to recognize the face that looks back at us. It is as if a stranger hides behind our eyes.
These moments are invitations from our souls to venture beyond the shell to find what is hidden inside.
This is the journey we are about to undertake. It is a journey of transformation, for it requires us to practice the master’s teaching, “Know thyself.” But how do we do know ourselves? The mirror reflects only that which we choose to show the world. Those aspects we jealously guard from others are often just as hidden from us as well, and never see the light of day. We must zealously dig them out if we are to meet the soul that awaits us. Self-examination challenges us to look at ourselves critically, and if necessary burst the bubble of our self-deception to see that we are less than perfect. It frees us of the façade behind which we hide to see what we really are, so can we know where our transformation must begin.
I look in the mirror
A deep, dark well,
Is hiding at the bottom
Our journey to the light only begins with this self-examination. Knowing helps us recognize what we are, not what we must become. We still lack any sense of what that is, much less how to get there. As we become more aware of our travel on this spiritual journey, our souls urge us to seek a clearer picture of what our “becoming” will bring, and undertake the effort necessary to bring conform ourselves to that image. It is in response to this call that we begin our inner transformation. However, even knowing what to do is not enough; we must walk the walk as well. This is through cultivation.
Just as the farmer cultivates the soil, preparing it to accept the seed in hope it will grow and nourish him in the days to come, so the spiritual warrior cultivates himself so that his spiritual seed will flourish. Cultivation prepares our inner soil, cutting the roots of the old ways, breaking their attachments to make room for the new seed to sprout and grow. It readies us to receive the light of love, and in turn reflect it to all within reach. Yet cultivation is not just limited to ways of the heart. Cultivation attends equally to the body, emotions, and mind so that no part of us is left behind. Each is carefully prepared to play its role in the process.
Cultivation not only softens the soil to receive the seed; it also casts out the impurities left by countless lifetimes spent blindly wandering in the wilderness. These impurities are more than unwanted characteristics. On an energetic level, action that conflicts with the spiritual laws agitates the vibrations of our auras, clouding them much like a river turns brown from the silt it stirs up below. Cultivation purifies the body’s energy field, and prepares it to receive the tone of the soul.
If you are like most, your ground is hardened and not yet ready for planting. Some ideas you may reject wholeheartedly. Some may seem too hard to even attempt, for you have not prepared the soil where they can grow. Or you may try for a while, but old habits will soon push them aside.
Alas, this is the difficulty of the path. There is no single act that can prepare you to receive the seed of awakening. It encompasses a myriad of activities, many of which dull the imagination. Little of our work will appear to have anything do with traveling the spiritual path. Appearances, though, are as deceiving as the dream we live. Do not discount these ways simply because you do not fully comprehend their significance. Or because you have heard them countless times before. Handed down from generation to generation, they form the bedrock upon which the world’s great religions are built. Here, though, we will delve beneath their foundations to see why and how to make them part of your life. Even if this new perspective conflicts with beliefs you now hold dear, will you not at least test them with your intuition, and allow it to guide you in their application?
Despair not if your ground is still hardened, or if you think you are unsuited to the ways presented here. The completion of your journey is as guaranteed as that of the most advanced along the path if you will but put forth the effort to prepare as is here and elsewhere written. Seek the spirit and you will find it. This is the way. Even so, you have made only a start.
Cultivation focuses attention upon aspects of your being that until now you may have taken for granted. As you do, you may begin to think they hold you back along your journey. Body, emotions, and mind combine to shape the experiences of your life. Too many fail to appreciate their importance and approach their journey as if certain aspects of our selves are enemies to be vanquished.
The body is the vehicle of our action in the tangible world. Its health allows us the opportunity to experience and interact with the world around us. Cultivation acts upon the energetic nature of that body to allow greater use of the energies that flow into it, and to heal the diseases that often hold it back.
Emotions often seem the bane of the chela4 , disturbing the equilibrium and complicating relationships. However, they bring a richness and quality to our experience than cannot be attained through physiological stimulus and mental response alone. Cultivation acknowledges their value, and acts to clip the peaks and valleys encountered along the way.
The mind is also an instrument for cultivation. Some try to squelch the activity of the mind, thinking that its activity is detrimental to one-pointed concentration in meditation as discussed below. Instead, it is a tool to be used and not cast aside. The untrained mind is like a wild stallion that does whatever and whenever it wants. Beautiful to behold, hard to stop, and even harder to tame, it resists all efforts to control it. Mind control is itself a misnomer. It suggests that the mind can be broken and made to do our bidding. While we can break it, if we do, it will never serve the bidding of the awakened soul. Just as the broken stallion may become less than the lowliest plow horse, the mind is useless when forced to give up its ways. Broken, its will to live is gone. It retains its usefulness only if it changes of its own volition. To do that, it must first be convinced to abandon its anarchic world for one of peace and service of its master.
To enlist its help, you must afford it the same patience, love and respect we show the most revered who walk among us. With attentiveness you will grow aware of the thoughts that flit through your mind. With contemplation you will engage its abstract processes. And with loving attention you will encourage it to find the place of silence where the voice of the soul whispers its guidance.
At first you may not hear the voice when you call, and think it does not respond. Remain patient. It answers. It is just that you cannot yet discern it from the clutter of your mind. Even so, it will find a way to speak if you are ready to listen. It may come as a voice, or a thought slightly different than those you have known before. It may come as a feeling, or a sense of knowing that was not there before. Or it may come through the words of another, or an event of coincidence, that speaks to the very question you have asked or lesson at hand. No matter the medium or method of its response, it is up to you to hear it, and heed its call.
You must be willing to act as it guides you. For some, it may say that you are not ready, and to put down this book while its seed waits for another day to sprout. For others, it will suggest that these words have merit, and that you should read on and test them for yourself. No matter. Whatever its guidance, the soul knows what you need at your point of evolution.
When times seem harsh or the way uncertain, find the place of silence within. It will not be the end of your road, but it will be a source of your renewal. It will provide you with a place of solitude where you can rest, and gather strength for the tests ahead. It will bring you peace, and assure you that you are headed in the right direction.
Before you go on, rest a while. Seek the embrace of the silence. Sit quietly and bathe in its warmth. Know that it awaits you with open arms whenever you are in need, and that from its silence the voice will speak what you need to hear. When you are ready, join us. The road rises up ahead to greet you.
We will be waiting.