Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Living in the World

In the past, if you were called to explore the spiritual, it may have been necessary to have joined a monastery, convent or the priesthood of whichever religion you belonged to. Of course, that is also an option today. We must all find the way of living that is right for us, given our own individual circumstances and inclinations. But we probably have more options today.

Do we want to live in the world, earn a living, raise a family, have relationships and so on, or do we wish to live a more reclusive existence, have few responsibilities and be cut off from society at large? Our answer may be different at different stages of our life. We may also prefer to live in the world and take occasional retreats. But, whatever we do, it is important to understand our real needs at a deep level.

Whilst at the deepest level we all share an essential Oneness, nevertheless, we do also live temporarily in the world of duality and do have different skills, talents and creative abilities to express and share. However, the task before us is how to live and function physically in the world of duality whilst also residing psychologically and at a feeling-level in the non-dual.

Living in the world, it is not always easy to stay consciously in our true nature without getting caught up in all the activity, the emotional pulls, the ties and responsibilities. Sometimes we may feel like just getting out and escaping to the middle of nowhere. At other times, we may get completely involved in what is going on. Whatever happens, living in the world, our senses are continuously battered by all the activity, all the business of modern life.

Television, radio, newspapers and the internet are all bombarding us every day with news, information, advertising, lifestyle programming and the like. Our senses are filled to the brim with this constant flow of information and influence on our lives. If we have children, it is hard to know how to protect their innocence in a world of mass education and mass conditioning. Then the so called experts tell us we should be living like this or living like that, eating this and not eating that, believing this and complaining about that.

All of this is taking us further and further away from our true nature, further and further away from feeling life at a deep level, and more and more into trivial thoughts and emotions. This is the consumerist society, where we consume all that is offered to us, where society consumes us and then spits us out at the end of our useful life. As long as we throw ourselves into this way of living we will never find happiness, we will never be at peace within ourselves.

We need to stand back from all that is going on in the world, enter that timeless part of ourselves and learn to feel what it is to be alive. Then we can live in the world if we wish, but not be a product of it. Whatever society is today, it will change. All cultures and civilizations have a limited life span and what is fashionable at one time is unfashionable at another. But underlying all that goes on in the world, our true nature is always there, underlying our sense of who we are.

We are never apart from our true nature, except psychologically, whilst we believe in the play that is being enacted in the world, whilst we identify with it and immerse ourselves in it. But we always have, if we are aware of it, the option of standing back and going into the silent emptiness of our true nature. If we don’t take this option, then we get swallowed up by the world and all the meaningless activity, and thus miss the plot entirely.

It is a real challenge to live in the world, especially today. Modern communication and information resources mean that we can very easily and quickly gain access to vast amounts of information and knowledge about absolutely everything, including spiritual teachings. The information available to us is so vast that we could easily become confused by what is on offer. But are we information machines? What is the sense of having all this information if we do not know ourselves, if we are not deeply in touch with the core of our being?

The positive side of living in the world is that, if we have at all been awakened spiritually, we are constantly challenged by daily living, by the attitudes of those around us who are completely oblivious to the spiritual dimension. We are continuously challenged to re-think and re-explore our own attitudes - our anger, fear, desire, self-pity, resentment, greed and so on. We are bombarded with so much information and so many emotionally charged situations, which come at us at such a fast rate, that we make mistakes more frequently and more quickly than would be the case were we living in isolation from the world. But we also have more opportunity to observe these mistakes and move on more quickly - if we are fortunate enough to not be completely pulled in by the world and all the activity.

There are many obstacles to spiritual unfoldment in the modern world, but there is also an intensification of any awakening that begins to take place, because the chasm between what is going on in the world and the spiritual perspective is so vast that everything becomes clear and obvious.

When we live from the silent emptiness of our true nature, all the activity in the world cannot dislodge us from that reality. All the armies of Mara cannot force us from under the Bodhi Tree, when we live in the light of our true nature. We may sometimes face the anger and aggression of people we work with, or even members of our own family, but we stay in the feeling, not resisting - listening, receiving, but not discarding, not pushing away, not fearing. We stay in the silent emptiness of our true nature.

Everything that happens, that confronts us in the world, is a part of the great cosmic play of life. Resting in the silent emptiness of our true nature, we watch it flow, neither pushing it away nor pulling it near. People may say that we lack feeling, that we give no response, but what they are really saying is that we do not get emotionally involved, which is what they want us to become.

People use emotion in order to avoid really going deeply into the feeling. It is much easier and safer for the ego to play around with emotion, manipulating other people through emotional blackmail, but never really going to the root of the problem, never seeing beneath the surface of life. But this is what living in the world is all about - facing the challenges, exploring the relationship between the real and the unreal, standing back and diving deep into the bliss of one’s true nature and laughing in the face of the world.

From the Book "The Texture of Being"


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