This is a transcript of a presentation on the importance of regular contemplative practice for the healing of the world. This presentation was given at the Global Peace Initiative of Women Religious and Spiritual Leaders, Geneva, Switzerland, October 6th through 9th, 2002.
What came to me to say, in part, has been said by many beautiful voices over the past few days. However, what came to me is a different way in, a different approach, to what has been spoken before, so I hope it will be helpful.
I am here not as a scholar. I am a program advisor for a small foundation whose mission is to help cultivate a way of living informed through the life of the spirit. What I say this morning is based on my intuition, and on what I have noticed about life over the past years sitting quietly in a Sufi group, and listening to the dreams of many people from different parts of the world.
As I speak, I use the words Absolute Truth, Absolute Reality, God, and even "Higher Self" interchangeably, because we all come from a different orientation to That which is highest, to That Which Cannot Be Named.
I want to speak about the great importance of regular contemplative practice for the healing of world. To start, I want to say that I have learned over time that the inner world is very real. After listening to the nighttime dreams of many people for so long now, it has become clear to me that there are universes within us. I have been over-awed to see time and again the exquisite beauty with which something higher than our conscious minds reveals to us the potentialities of our life--of our human experience and consciousness. I have seen how, for those who are attentive to their own spiritual practice, for those who work on themselves, the Higher Self, or the Divine, through the symbolic language of dreams can weave a golden thread--sometimes from dream to dream--leading them, giving them guidance from the deepest aspects of their inner selves.
I am using dreams as a topic here today only because personally I have learned much from them. We all have different modes of access to our own inner guidance--for some it may be meditation, for others quiet thought, intuition, breathing practices or being in nature. I just use dreams as an entry point in this situation today.
I want to quote the great English mystical painter Cecil Collins, who died in 1989. Cecil was an artist concerned with the life of the soul. He painted landscapes of the soul. In addition to being a visionary artist, Cecil was a prolific writer, and a man of great peace. He said:
We have to contact the center of our being because there we have contact with the center of the universe. Because we are cut off from our center and from the center of the universe we feel, and are, exiles imprisoned in the world of multiplicity and mere existence, longing to awake and journey back to the center which is our heart and our Home. ...the truth is that the secret desire of our heart is for (this) lost paradise. (The Vision of the Fool and Other Writings, page 90)
With this statement, I think Cecil has hit the nail on the head. We have to contact the center of our being because there we have contact with the center of the universe. There is where our heart and Home are. As I have watched inner guidance become revealed to people through their dreams, it has become clear that such dreams are the result of inner energies coming through to the individual from the center of their universe. Most importantly, they come in a language that speaks fully to the uniqueness of who they are.
Here lies another very key learning for me. Over time, again, as I have listened to dreams and followed the thread of the dream's message as it relates to the context of the dreamer's life, it has become clear that the more opened we are to living from our true, unique essence, the more these very helpful inner energies work for and with us in the world. I have seen seemingly intractable outer problems with work or family be cleared up, in a seemingly unrelated way, the day after a dreamer consciously realized and corrected a psychological or spiritual problem as it became revealed through a dream.
As is true for many of us here today, it is apparent to me that Something Higher in us, when we are receptive and actively aspiring for help or to serve, reveals Its presence by whatever means we are capable of perceiving. However, we have to keep the channels open to that deep place within ourselves that is the doorway into the unseen.
Again I quote Cecil Collins:
The future of civilization depends upon the freedom of the individual to develop his personal consciousness: to find and to fulfill that essential self, which is unique to each of us. It can be done by gradually stripping away the impurities, the false ideas and conceptions we have of ourselves. These are a kind of dirt on the inner glass of our outlook. (The Vision of the Fool and Other Writings, page 55)
Through contemplative practices and spiritual aspiration, we can learn to live in closer relationship with this most deep and unique aspect of ourselves, this place where inner guidance can come through when we need it most. The more we meditate with love, and work upon ourselves with compassion, the more our personal impurities, both conscious and unconscious, will gradually leave us and be replaced by the growing energies of real love and understanding.
When we don't take time to strengthen our relationship with the Absolute, or God, when we don't take time for meditation, or contemplation, or are not aware of what our dreams might be telling us, we are allowing a build-up of dust to clog our inner pipeline to what is True and Real for each of us individually. And if we do not have access to our own unique, deepest, God-given energies, we cannot effectively act in the outer world in a way that will truly transform life around us. Instead, our actions contribute to the never-ending cycle of cause and effect, because they originate from a place within ourselves that is closer to the surface, that still has some kind of need or agenda, a place that is not fully surrendered to serve God, unconditionally.
It is only when our inner pipeline to God is clear, when we are surrendered to serve God unconditionally, without thought to our own needs or wants, that the divine energy of life can work through us, can flow though us, into the world and miraculously transform the difficult outer situations.
Through daily spiritual practices we come to know of our own personal higher awareness. Through the remembrance of God throughout the day, we develop an ability to listen with our inner ear to the fleeting hints that our hearts give us, and we develop the volition to act in the outer world with courage and conviction, based on what our hearts know as True. What I have noticed is that as one's consciousness becomes absorbed in the remembrance of God, emptied of its former agendas--and that includes even the agenda to 'do good'--the universe is more apt to give us what we need, when we need it, if we truly need it. Magic happens, doors open, when we live in a state of direct service to God and want nothing for ourselves. And as a bonus, the energy of our remembrance comes to be reflected into the hearts of those around us.
In short, to facilitate a lasting effect, our outer actions must grow from ever-deepening contact with our inner selves. There is a direct relationship between the two.
Over time, I have come to see that we are each of us, as individuals, communities, and nations, engaged in a process of evolution towards ultimate realization of the Absolute Truth. Suffering is the vehicle that eventually brings us, on our knees, in supplication, to the Divine Reality that feeds our existence. But many have largely forgotten that it is God's world. We have instead claimed it as our own and created an existence filled in parts with massive distractions and in other parts with massive suffering. Inwardly there is a starvation of the spirit that is haunting our collective psyche. Outwardly we have a world on the brink of annihilation.
The hint from deep inside is this: when enough of us reach the place of inner readiness, when we as communities and nations collectively surrender to serving That in us which is highest, Ultimate Truth, with all the personal sacrifices that that service entails, then the Divine can enter and, through grace, transform our collective reality.
Our spiritual evolution calls for us now to unite as one behind the only reality we all share, and that is the reality of God. Only from this highest standpoint will a lasting peace be achieved, because we have to focus on what is higher than ourselves in order to unite. Most politics is carried out in the arena of the opposites and therefore engages the endless cycles of cause and effect. Politics, as we know it now, will not serve the leap in consciousness that we are being asked to take.
As more and more of us pray and meditate with the intent to serve Absolute Truth unconditionally, we will create a force of love on the inner planes that will influence the manifestation of outer events. By aligning ourselves, collectively, with That which is highest, we can really contribute to the healing of the world.
And it won't matter what the outward service is. God will take care of that. What will matter the most, I sense, is the individual's volition to live fully from, and in service to, her own deepest essence.
In closing, I quote Cecil Collins one last time. He is here commenting on his art:
There is in my work predominantly the climate of dawn, of something being born, something new, and this dawn, as I sense it, is essentially to do with the unity of mankind. It's obvious that we have reached the point in the world's history when we have to unite or perish. And we have, ironically, the universal instruments of destruction--this is not an accident, this is wisdom. Man has to have fear to prompt him to realize that if he doesn't unite, he's finished. (The Vision of the Fool and Other Writings, page 132)
Note: All Cecil Collins quotes are taken from The Vision of the Fool and Other Writings, ed. Brian Keeble, Ipswich: Golgonooza Press, 1994.
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