When your mind and heart are truly open abundance will flow to you effortlessly and easily.
Excerpted from my book Spiritual Solutions: Answers to Life’s Greatest Challenges
Self- awareness isn’t the same as praying, believing in miracles, or seeking God’s favor. The vision I’ve sketched in is spiritual because of the third level of awareness, which I’ve labeled pure awareness.
This is the level that religious believers know as the soul or spirit. When you base your life on the reality of the soul, you hold spiritual beliefs. When you go further and take the level of the soul to be the basis of life— the very ground of existence— then spirituality becomes an active principle. The soul is awakened. In reality the soul never sleeps, because pure awareness infuses every thought, feeling, and action. We may disguise this fact from ourselves. One symptom of contracted awareness, in fact, is a complete denial of “higher” reality. This denial is based not on willful blindness but on the absence of experience. A mind blocked by fear, anxiety, anger, resentment, or suffering of any kind isn’t able to experience expanded awareness, much less pure awareness.
If the mind worked like a machine, it wouldn’t be able to recover from the state of suffering. Like gears worn down by friction, our thoughts would get worse and worse until the day arrived when suffering was completely victorious.
For countless people life feels just like that. But the potential to heal is never worn away completely; change and transformation are your birthright, guaranteed not by God, faith, or salvation, but by the indestructible basis of life, which is pure awareness. To be alive is to be caught up in constant change. When we feel stuck, our cells are still processing the basic materials of life continually.
Feelings of numbness and depression can make life seem to stop. So can sudden loss and failure. Yet no matter how severe the shock or how stubborn the obstacle, the ground state of existence isn’t affected, much less damaged.
In the following pages you will encounter people who feel stuck, numb, frustrated, and stymied. Their stories seem to be unique, as viewed by each of them, but the way forward isn’t unique. It consists of addressing their state of awareness. What refuses to move must be shown how to move. That’s another reason why the solutions being offered are spiritual: they first involve seeing, waking up, becoming open to new perceptions. The most practical way to reach a solution is spiritually, because you can only change what you first are able to see. No enemy is more insidious than the one you are blind to.
We live in a secular age, and so the view of life I’ve just outlined is far from the norm. In fact, it’s almost the opposite, because although everyone would agree that buildings must have blueprints, life doesn’t. Life is viewed as a series of unpredictable events that we struggle to control. Who will be foreclosed on or lose their job? Which house hold will be struck with accidents, addiction, divorce? There is seemingly no rationale behind these events. Stuff happens. Obstacles arise of their own accord, or simply by accident. Each of us justifies our contracted awareness by accepting such beliefs, and they run deep. Human nature, we tell ourselves, is filled with negative drives, such as selfishness, aggression, and jealousy. At best we are in partial control of these drives as they rise up inside us. We have no control at all over the negativity in others, and so each day presents us with a struggle against random chance and against people who are out to get what they want, no matter that it causes problems, or even loss, for us. As a beginning to expanded awareness, you need to challenge this worldview even if it is the social norm. Normal isn’t the same as true.
The truth is that each of us is entangled in the world we call real. Mind isn’t a ghost. It is embedded in the whole situation you find yourself in. To see how that works, first abolish the separation between a thought, the brain cells the thought stimulates, the body’s reaction as it receives messages from the brain, and the activity you decide to pursue. All are part of the same continuous process. Even among geneticists, who for decades preached that genes determined almost every aspect of life, there is a new catchphrase: genes are not nouns, they are verbs. Dynamism is universal.
You aren’t floating in a mindless environment, either. Your surroundings are being affected by what you say and do. The words “I love you” have an entirely different effect on others than the words “I hate you.” An entire society is galvanized by the words “the enemy is attacking.” At the most expanded level, the whole planet is influenced by the global exchange of information; you are participating in the global mind by sending an e-mail or joining a social network. What you eat on the run in a fast- food restaurant has implications for the whole biosphere, as environmentalists are at pains to show us.
Spirituality has always begun with wholeness. Lost in a world of specifics, we forget that isolation is a myth. Your life at this moment is an entangled process that involves thoughts, feelings, brain chemicals, the body’s responses, information, social interactions, relationships, and the ecology. So when you speak and act, you are causing a ripple that is felt in the flow of life. Yet spirituality goes beyond describing you; it also prescribes the most beneficial way to affect the flow of life.
Because pure awareness lies at the basis of everything, the most powerful way to change your life is to begin with your awareness. When your consciousness changes, your situation will change. Every situation is both visible and invisible. The visible part is what most people fight against, because it’s “out there,” accessible to the five senses. They are loath to confront the invisible aspect of their situation, because it is “in here” where unseen dangers and fears lurk. In the spiritual vision of life, “in here” and “out there” are entangled with countless threads; the fabric of existence is woven from them.
Two starkly contrasting visions are competing, then, one based on materialism, randomness, and externals; the other based on consciousness, purpose, and the union of inner and outer. Before you can find a solution to the challenge that faces you today, right this minute, you must choose at a deeper level which vision of life you are following. The spiritual view leads to spiritual solutions. The nonspiritual view leads to a host of other solutions. Clearly this is a critical choice because, whether you realize it or not, your life is unfolding according to the choices you have made unconsciously, dictated by your level of awareness.
This sketch of what a spiritual solution can achieve will sound very foreign to many people, however. Most of us avoid confronting ourselves; we are unable to define a vision. Instead, we meet life as it comes, coping as best we can, relying on mistakes from the past, advice from friends and family, and hope. We wind up giving in when we must and clutching at what we think we want. So what would it take to adopt a spiritual vision of your own life? In this book we won’t be following the path of conventional religion. Prayer and faith, while not central to the vision that needs to unfold, aren’t excluded, however. If you are religious and find comfort and help by turning to God, you are entitled to your version of a spiritual life. But here we will be consulting a much vaster tradition than any of the world’s religions, a tradition that embodies the practical wisdom of sages and seers, in both East and West, who have looked deeply at the human condition.
If there is one piece of practical wisdom that the following chapters are about, it is this: Life is constantly recycling itself and evolving at the same time. This must be true of your own life, then. When you can see that all your struggles and frustrations have kept you from joining the flow of evolution, you have the best reason to stop struggling. I am inspired by a famous Indian sage who taught that life is like a river fl owing between the two banks of pain and suffering. Everything runs perfectly when we stay in the river, but we insist on grasping at pain and suffering as we pass them, as if the banks offer us safety and shelter.
Life flows from within itself, and seizing on any kind of rigid or fixed position is contrary to life. The more you let go, the more your true self can express its desire to evolve. Once the process is under way, everything changes. Inner and outer worlds reflect each other without confusion or conflict. Because solutions now arise from the level of the soul, they meet no resistance. All your desires lead to the result that is best for you and your surroundings. In the end, happiness is based on reality, and nothing is more real than change and evolution. It is with the hope that everyone can find a way to leap into the river that this book was written.
Every problem is open to a spiritual solution. The solution is found by expanding your awareness, moving beyond the limited vision of the problem. The process begins by recognizing what kind of awareness you are working from, because for every challenge in life there are three levels of awareness.
Level 1: Contracted awareness
This is the level of problems, obstacles, and struggle. Answers are limited. Fear contributes to a sense of confusion and conflict. Efforts to reach a solution meet with frustration. You keep doing more of what didn’t work in the first place. If you remain at this level, you will be frustrated and exhausted.
Level 2: Expanded awareness
This is the level where solutions begin to appear. There is less struggle. Obstacles are easier to overcome. Your vision extends beyond the conflict, giving you more clarity. Negative energies are confronted realistically. With greater expansion, unseen forces come to your aid. You move forward according to what you desire from your life.
Level 3: Pure awareness
This is the level where no problems exist. Every challenge is a creative opportunity. You feel completely aligned with the forces of nature. Inner and outer worlds reflect each other without confusion or conflict. Because solutions arise from the level of the true self, they meet no resistance. All your desires lead to the result that is best for you and your surroundings. As you move from Level 1 to Level 3, life’s challenges become what they are meant to be: a step closer to your true self.