An important spiritual analogy is waking up, as opposed to being asleep. We find this distinction, of course, in everyday life. A middle state would be dreaming, and we know that sometimes we daydream in wakefulness much as we dream in sleep. These everyday facts become a spiritual analogy, because along the path of spiritual realization there are various degrees of being awake and various degrees of being asleep (or dreaming). In other words, spiritual realization, the realization of our Divine Being and Its Qualities, can be described as degrees of waking up (from sleep), or degrees of becoming conscious (rather than being unconscious).
We begin the spiritual path asleep, unconscious of our Divine Being. The actual path begins when we first have a moment of spiritual awakening, when God enters our consciousness in some manner. This first awakening can be different for different people, and it may or may not involve a kind of vision); yet people will agree that there is a distinct sense of waking up from a sleep or dream state. After this first awakening, though, there are plenty of times when we are just as asleep as ever, even among the most diligent of spiritual aspirants. We can just as well describe these times as dreaming. And thus, we are often in various states of dreaming (while physically awake). In these times we can say that life is but a dream. This doesn’t mean that actual things and events are dream images, but rather that our experiencing of the world is a kind of dream.
The dream state is when we are lost and engrossed in thinking, worrying, or in emotional attachments or reactions. The key words here are lost and engrossed, whereby the mind (or consciousness) is contracted and constricted in thoughts and emotions, and thereby unconscious of the greater self-beingness. The fullness of self-being is not then consciously present in these moments.
Any moment in which we are not experiencing God, or at least self-beingness, we are asleep or dreaming. This means that many times we are asleep or dreaming. In this state we are running on automatic, so we can call this the automatic state of being. In the automatic state we can usually perform quite well in the world, and the average person will not know that we are simply running on automatic or that we are in a dream state. Most people are in the dream or automatic state, so the very issue does not come into question.
The chattering and rattling of our automatic mind, along with ongoing automatic desires and attachments, as well as distractions from the outside world, keep us in the dream state and keep us from being spiritually awake. We first need to an intention to wake up. Having this intention, or even the prior step of remembering to have this intention, is itself a degree of waking up, but the intention and subsequent effort to wake up makes it possible to wake up further.
Awakening must become our own responsibility. We can acknowledge that God is the Awakener and that we are ultimately awakened by a Greater Power than ourselves. But we should not be simply passive in relation to our awakening or realization of God-Spirit. God awakens us when we are sufficiently receptive to awakening. So we need to at least be self-responsible in becoming consciously and intentionally receptive!
It is true that wakening may come unexpectedly and without conscious intention. But we would be fools to simply wait passively for God to awaken us, since we can intentionally encourage (or promote) our own higher awakening. So at least become consciously receptive. We can actually will ourselves to awaken more, or in other words, use self-will to become more awake and more receptive to God in our self and in the world. Of course though, we could not do this if we are simply asleep in our automatic states. But when we are awake to some degree, we can intentionally awaken to further degrees. Just like our potential power to open, we can intentionally awaken to Divine Being.
So it's not just up to God; it's up to us! It's within my power and choice to more awaken, or to more remain asleep. This power and choice is at every moment of my life. Though realizing this power of choice, in any moment, is itself a waking up.
First, we need to stop the usual habit of automatic mind and emotions. This requires intention, decision, and a special kind of effort, all based on an inner motivation or desire to wake up. Stopping the usual, even if just for a moment, will produce a sudden awakening, at least a bit more. But this requires an act of will. Though even this, of course, requires some degree of already being awake, or conscious.
But the intention to wake up should not include any preconception of what waking up is, because what we will awaken to is at first a mystery - until we actually awaken.
So the needed attitude is openness and receptivity, and a desire to discover what we have previously been unaware of. We want to discover and perceive more of who we are and more of the world around us. But we cannot make any new discoveries, if we are trapped in the automatic habits of mind and emotions. So we need to stop the automatic train. We need to stop the usual self-ruzzleness, and slow down.
We need to come into a state of peacefulness, and into a receptive state of listening and increased awareness to what is present, both inwardly and outwardly. This is how we become awake. We might practice looking very inward, or we maybe looking very outward, or we might just open up our awareness generally to what presents itself.
We might open up and awaken to God within us, or open up and awaken to God around us. We will know the difference between true wakefulness and dreaming, when we actually wake up to our inner self-being, which is essentially waking up to our deeper spiritual intention and also to our breath and the inner qualities of our being. Being conscious of our self-being will develop in us a conscious connection between our spiritual soul and the functions of this body.
Also each conscious moment makes our soul stronger and more developed. Our spiritual soul and our inner self-being are basically different terms with the same meaning. So being awake to self-being is being soul-conscious. And each moment of soul consciousness is developing the soul light, making the soul more radiant and actual in our everyday life. Our soul contains the Potentials of Divine Being, which include the potentials for greater consciousness, intelligence, love, harmony, peacefulness, and all the other Divine Qualities. Yet these potentials are merely latent until realized or until they become conscious. These qualities of the soul are in the dark, or unconscious, until they are brought into the light of consciousness.
Being awake also involves an increased awareness of the world around us. It is not simply a withdrawal from the physical, sensual, and social world. In the awake state we are able to see and hear more of the world around us, not less. The sensuous and aesthetic properties of the world also become more clear and radiant. So the outward awakening is an increased awareness of the physical and social world around us. This may involve being more perceptive to the aesthetic beauty in the natural world, or it may involve being more sensitive and considerate to the people close to us.
For example, we might suddenly wake up to new qualities of people we have known for years, or in other words, seeing the person with clear fresh eyes and ears, instead of seeing them with our old colored glasses of preconceptions or presumptions. Old habits of seeing, of listening, and of understanding become like distortions in the lens of our experience, whereby we tend to perceive the people and places of our everyday lives with a memory view rather than with a fresh view in the present moment. We tend to take for granted the people and places most usual in our lives, and see them with routine preconception. This automatic and habitual mode of perception is really a dream state; it's like sleepwalking through life, whereby we don't actually see anything new anymore but rather see through our previous memory patterns. This happens in our interactions with people and with places.
So, waking up involves breaking through these habits of perception and seeing more carefully what is here. It involves seeing more clearly and freshly in the present moment. If we are not awake to the present moment, vs. being caught up in the automatic memories of the past, then we are not really awake but merely sleepwalking. Also, whenever our awareness is attached, reactive, or constricted in the surrounding world, we are less awake. The awake state is a more fluid and expanded awareness, rather than static or constricted upon particular attachments.
Awakefulness is not just about the physical space around us, but also about the spiritual space all around us. So in the 'awake state' we may also realize and feel the greater Presence of Living Being in the space around us, then feel an appreciation and gratitude for this. In higher states of wakefulness, we actually experience the greater Being of God permeating everything all around us. We might also experience Divine Love permeating the world. The very Qualities or Powers of Divine Being, such as Love, actually enter the world with more energy as we each become conscious of it, because each of us are channels for these higher energies to enter into the world through our individual consciousness.
Consciously open to the Universal Energies now available to the world. In this opening, we are receiving these higher energies and channeling them into the world. This very simple practice of opening to and receiving the Universal Energies from on High has profound effects, for our self and the world.
One of the highest goals of spiritual practice is to enter into the being-state of openness: an openness to the Universe, to Life, to God, to Love, and to Insight. Also important is an openness to what is within, and an allowing of this to come forth into consciousness. Without openness, we are closed off from the Greater Universal Being (God) and also closed off from the Truth deep inside us.
Yet while openness is a goal of spiritual practice, the practice for achieving openness is by our own will and willingness to be open. The practice is to consciously open, to become open and remain open. It is opening the heart and mind to the Greater, within and around us. Openness is an aspect of Love. Love is being open, heart being open. At the same time, this openness is openness to Love Itself.
We can consciously and intentionally open our self to the Greater Universal Being. We can intentionally empty our mind and clear our heart, while opening to the Great Mystery of Being – opening to God or opening to the Universe. This is by an intentional act of will, or willingness. Inwardly it is, "I will open," or "I am willing to be to open."
For it is I who must be willing to open, rather than remain closed.
Consider, for example, the Power of God to open our hearts and minds. We might call this God-the-Opener. There are times in our lives when an opening occurs without any apparent dependence on our conscious will; that is, the opening just occurs suddenly and unexpectedly. Yet this can only occur to the degree that we are receptive, even though we might not be intentionally or consciously receptive; that is, the general state of our being must be receptive to some degree. These are times when we are graced, beyond the power of our own conscious will. Yet we would be silly to merely wait for any further openings, since it is possible for us to consciously and intentionally encourage our own opening. This means taking responsibility for our openings and awakenings.
We may receive Divine Presence and Grace. This can enter us. But it doesn’t usually just naturally happen. Rather, it requires a conscious and intentional opening on our part, as well as a desire and a willingness to receive it. It may sometimes happen without any needed attitude on our part, but this is rare. Then it is a gift of mercy. People do receive such gifts at the very beginning of spiritual awakening. But the further we go along the path to God, the more we are required to consciously and intentionally participate in the incarnation of Divine Presence and Grace, including Love, Wisdom, and all of the Divine Qualities.
The entering of this Grace occurs because of our opening to that which is Transcendental but also needed is the dispelling of those walls between self-consciousness and Divine Being. In other words, the Divine is really meant to pervade our consciousness and being, for this is the true Divine Intention or Will. But the self-consciousness has walls around it, a surrounding boundary to protect its present limited identity. This is the 'ring-pass-not' of our present self-knowing.
Thus, we are like a bubble of limited consciousness, within the Ocean of Divine Consciousness. Yet the boundaries of this bubble can disappear in moments of complete opening, whereby Divine Consciousness presents Itself in fullness. Then a new bubble or boundary of limited self-consciousness soon forms, though the bubble is now greater than before.
This limited self-consciousness can be called the self-ego, though this is not derogatory but rather an inevitable occurrence in the overall process of spiritual realization and incarnation in creation. That is, each limited self is gradually realizing more and more of its complete Divine Self. Each bubble is gradually expanding, until finally there is no bubble because all boundaries have been dispelled and there is only One Ocean realizing Itself.
So the entering of Divine Presence and Grace is like the Ocean entering into the dispelled bubble. If we can let go of our bubble, dispelling our boundaries, then the Divine Ocean enters and flows through us.
Then, in one sense, this Ocean of Presence enters us. It enters from beyond or from within. But this is just one aspect of experience and reality. For in another sense, the Divine Presence and Grace is really already here. It is already present and pervading in and through us; yet we are not fully conscious or realizing of it. It is already intrinsic. So in this sense, the Path is simply to realize what is already here. It is opening consciousness to the Divine Presence that is already here. It is becoming more clear about what is here. And finally it is realizing that the Divine Presence is really one’s True being.
If we see that life is a journey, then one aspect of the journey is what we do in the journey, or what we decide. Yet the other aspect is what is given in the journey, or what is being presented to us. So in the journey we need to balance our own will and decision with being openly receptively present to what is given or to what the world reveals. This is the balance between our active and receptive modes of being.
Generally, the receptive mode should come first, then the active mode. Though receptivity requires some amount of active will, in order to get into that mode. So we might better say that the first step is when the self actively decides (or wills) to be receptive; in other words, when there is an active will to be receptive. Then, in a receptive mode the self openly awakens to what the world around is offering, to the revelation around oneself. Imagine being in a beautiful natural place, or better yet get to a beautiful place; then consciously and willingly open up the mind, the senses and the heart to what is all around.
This is the receptive mode. It is an awakening to what life is revealing. It is easier to intensify this practice in a natural setting, but it can also be done anywhere, in any setting. This mode of being also involves an attitude of simple acceptance, which means that there is no moral or aesthetic judgment about what is given. One is simply accepting and receptively awake to what is given, or to what the world around is revealing. This kind of attitude or mode of experience is like being on a journey, and being very awake to what is being revealed on the journey. It is a sense that life is giving us experiences, which is different from a sense that I have to go out and get experiences or make experiences.
The receptive state must be empty and purely open, and open without any expected preconceptions or any insistence from the self about what is given to it from above. A receptive, open heart and mind, in relation to the divine, is the true state of meditation. The heart is then ready to receive divine qualities from within, and the mind is ready to receive higher vision and wisdom from above. In the deepest state of meditation, all of this happens simultaneously in one unified experience. In the deepest of deepest meditation, Divine Being and Knowing is immediately present, and there is only an experience of the Greater Self, which is God. If these higher states can become stable and sustaining for enough time, the energies of the lower self will be transformed and higher energies of Light will come into the whole world.
The state of receptivity is a relaxed mind, a relaxed being. It is like taking a vacation from the active-ego. A quality of being on a vacation is relaxing and letting go of the usual concerns and activities of the mind. One relaxes into wherever one is, accepting what is there and who is there; just being relaxed and accepting in the place of the present. Yet this relaxation is not a sleep, but rather a relaxed openness of consciousness. It is a relaxing into openness and a surrender into what is.
This is not just a description of how one can be in the outer world; for it also describes a way of being inward and open to the Spirit within, to relax mentally and emotionally and just be with what is. This might simply be described as just being who you are, relaxing into this and accepting this.
So now be in this mode of receptivity and acceptance. And it is good to practice this mode and sustain it for periods of time, which helps develop this important capacity. Yet to always remain in just this mode would be an imbalance. So to balance the receptive mode, there will be times when the active mode needs to kick in. But this does not mean that the receptive mode needs to abandoned; for our greater self development is to blend together the receptive and active modes.
We need to keep sustaining the receptive mode, yet now bring in an active mode – which involves an active response to what is given. This response might simply be a reciprocal response of love or appreciation. Or it might involve a response that actually effects the surrounding world of people or nature. What is important though, is that this active response of oneself is loving and caring and in continual relationship with that which one is responding. In other words, it is optimum that one is actively responding, while simultaneously remaining in the receptive mode.
For then, there is a real connected relationship, and our active will (and action) is not disconnected from that important receptive mode and relationship. If we remain in the receptive mode, while also entering into the active mode, and remaining in conscious relationship with what is immediately around us; then there is a possibility of spontaneous response from Love, or from the higher consciousness of divine unity. If we can actively respond from this consciousness of unity, from this special kind of conscious relationship, then our response will be harmonious in Love and helpful to a greater divine purpose.
There are two kinds of openness: inward openness and outward openness, an inward openness to the Presence and qualities of Spirit, and an outward openness to the lessons and qualities of the manifest world. There are some differences, between these, in how we should open.
Our inward openness to Spirit should be generally unconditional and acceptive to whatever is given. This is the best general attitude to have – being inwardly open to what the Spirit-within brings, or what God brings from within us, or what emerges from our inner psyche.
Yet we should not merely be open to just any psychic impulse, but rather be open to what is emerging from the deeper depths of our being – to the Spirit and Spirit Qualities emerging from deep within being. In other words, we our openness is to what is emerging from the most Deep of our self, from the greatest Depth of our self; not merely from surface levels or from automatic-habit levels of our self.
The Universal Spirit resides at the very core essence of every being. But this usually remains unconscious to our daily awareness, because of all the other stuff that is going on, all the usual thinking and concerns of everyday life. The Universal Spirit (God) lives at the very depth of our being, even though it is usually unknown to our surface awareness.
In fact, the whole ocean of our inner being (the wholeness of our psyche) is a rich emanation of Universal Spirit, with varying levels of purity. The deeper is the emanation of Spirit, the purer it is, and at the very core essence of our limited being is Pure Spirit-Being. This depth of being is experienced as depth of consciousness and depth of heart, as consciousness and heart are the two facets of being.
In our outward openness we must be more cautious and discriminating.
The outward openness to the world is important because the divine often expresses through the outer world, through people, places and events. Openness to the events and circumstances of the outer world is still important in the spiritual path, because often we are given significant experiences and lessons from the outer world. Important lessons and knowledge and wonderful experiences can come from the outer world. But not everything from the world is good and useful; so we need to use wise discrimination in our outward opening.
So, being open does not mean that we should become openly vulnerable to every person or circumstance we meet. The opening should be an opening to Greater Being and Life, but not necessarily opening to every person or circumstance. We can open to the spiritual essence of any person or circumstance, but not always be open to particular manifestations of people or circumstance. This is because some people or circumstances may not be manifesting divine love and truth. We need to look beyond the particular, and open to just the Greater Being of Life. So in the world, we need to balance discrimination with opening. The guiding principle here is to open unconditionally to Greater Being, but exercise discrimination in how we open to particular people and circumstances.
We need to remember that the outer world manifests the truth and goodness of Spirit in varying degrees, such that any particular manifestation, event or expression might be less true or less good, while something else might be more true or more good. The spiritual path calls us to focus on and become involved with the more good, rather than the less good.
Complimentary to this, in our inward life we need to open up to the Good and the True, which is our invocation to the True and Good Spirit within. At the moment when we openly want the Good and True of Spirit to emerge from within, then Spirit (God) will immediately emerge into our experience and being. This is the voluntary and wanting receptivity to Spirit.
Also, the guidance of our inner Spirit will help us to discern what is good from what is not in the outer world. If we can remain inwardly open to Spirit, to spiritual knowing and guidance, then we will be continually enriched by Spirit and also guided by discernment in our openness to the outer world.