What is this? What is actually true? What is the point of this world? How do all the puzzle pieces fit together? What is this feeling inside me? And “is any of this even real? . . . or not?”
These are some of the questions that drive and fuel philosophical and spiritual quests. These are the kind of questions that live us. They live us, lead us to new frontiers, new questions, and less answers, perhaps, than we began with.
This post is a synthesis of much “spiritual research” done by the author, concerning inquiries of enlightenment and transcendent human experiences, which have the best chance of furnishing answers to our deepest questions.
Spiritual Teachers: Do you believe them?
If you do research in academia, you can check if your sources are credible by checking their credentials (level of degree, associated institutions, past publications and acclamations), and you can assess their arguments and claims against your own knowledge, logic, and primary sources. In academia, experts are people who have spent a lot of time reading and writing.
In spirituality the situation is quite different. Since the “goal” (if it can be said to exist) is not definite knowledge but exploration of states of consciousness, everything is much more subjective. The “experts,” here, are spiritual teachers and–good heavens!–they may not even have Doctorates!
The spiritual journey is marked by, sparked by, inner feelings and inner knowings. Also, one’s relationship with Life, and with spiritual teachers, must come to be based in trust. But not all teachers are trustworthy, and not all offer the same caliber of teaching and presence to their students.
How do you determine, in this context, who is a “credible source”? Contrary to common assumptions, there are some things we can look at:
- Inclusion of information you already know. Does a teacher say things that you already know to be true in your own experience? Can you be sure that at least some of the things that are being said are true? If you can, then you have a reason to listen to the things that are being said that you do not yet understand. It is possible that those things lie, at present, beyond your scope of judgment (to borrow a term from philosopher Michael McGhee); but your scope may very well expand, as life goes on.
- Attentional capacity and “Way of Engaging.” An increased ability to concentrate and be present are marks of higher states of consciousness. Having experience with presence yourself helps you to pick up on the degree of presence in a teacher. Their “way of engaging” is also telling. Beings in whom the egoic state of consciousness (ego) has diminished will be less reactive to other people and more focussed on listening and responding compassionately.
- Expressions of Emotion and Energy. Another mark of higher states of consciousness is the presence of peace, joy, and love—positive emotions. Conversely, “negative” emotional expressions would be a tip-off that perhaps this person doesn’t have much to teach. (The exception here is where expressions like anger and “wrath” are used in service of teaching, as in the case of masters G.I. Gurdjieff and Chogyam Trungpa. These exceptions call for holistic evaluations of a teacher.) Relatedly, presentation of teachings are sometimes called “transmissions” because of the communication that happens on the energetic level rather than just the intellectual level. Many people, it seems, have positive and profound experiences on the receiving end of transmitters such as Matt Kahn and “channels” of spiritual beings not physically present on Earth.
These are some of the most important criteria we can use to establish credibility vis-a-vis spiritual teachers and teachings. It involves a combination of intellect, intuition and open-heartedness that functions to dissolve doubt and listen more deeply.
Results of Research
Listening, watching, reading and compiling information from many different sources shows that the fundamental shift within the “spiritual journey” is the same for everyone. For humans at this time, the spiritual journey centers on evolving from ego to heart. It’s about letting go of the egoic state of consciousness—which can be described from many different angles; in terms of attachments, mind-chatter, resistance to life, psychological time, fear-based expression, contracted consciousness, etc.—and “falling” into a way of being, and new expression of consciousness, characterized by compassion and understanding. It’s less noisy, more quiet.
On parallel lines, the Enlightened State has been described by many teachers as egoless perception. Eckhart Tolle calls it the “egoless state.” Adyashanti says “enlightenment is not seeing life through the lens of the egoic mind.” Ramana Maharishi, too, said that “Reality is simply the loss of the ego.”
(Now of course this can easily turn into the ego reacting to itself: “I’m going to get rid of ‘my’ ego!” If we just saw that it’s merely reacting to an idea, then there’s no identification with it, and no problem… This is a tangential point.)
Everyone must come to see, in their own experience, what lies beyond the ego. The only way to know is to experience it for yourself. Yet this can lead to a kind of dogmatism in which inquiry stops, with respect to why practices work, and restricts itself to what to practice–“how to get there.” How do we get there, and why does that work?
Basically, the way to “get there,” no matter who you talk to, involves “being conscious;” that is, accepting or not resisting what is and expressing love. Universally, the recommended practices are mindful, meditative, and/or heart-centered. With the exception of the ancient Western philosophical schools, the practices are not intellectual or head-centered. As Sara Beak once said, “[the journey] can’t come out of the head.” So if it can’t come out of the head, it has to come from something else.
In a way, there are not many more options: body? heart? awareness itself? All of these are significantly involved, but the most important one is the heart. For it is from the heart that love, acceptance and forgiveness flow; from the heart that the longing for Unity is born; from the heart that our true knowing arises. Reggie Ray, a modern master in the tradition of Tibetan meditation, calls the heart the “first expression of our basic natural unborn awareness.” (We will circle back to discussing the heart soon.)
Now the spiritual practices have the same core elements of letting go and expressing love, even as there are variations in their presentation and the forms they might take between teachers and teachings. So these core elements are the keys, if you will, in terms of what to do to transform consciousness, manifest enlightenment and go the journey. But here again, focussing on what to do, or “how to get there,” to the exclusion of why we are practicing what we are practicing, is a little bit like a dog following its trainer around without knowing where it’s going or for what purpose.
The good news is that there’s at least one good explanation uniting the themes of the journey from ego to heart, enlightenment, and the recommended practices. But it requires that we put the puzzle pieces together. First, these pieces:
“Everything in the universe is made of energy that vibrates, and everything that vibrates imparts or impacts information. The amplitude and frequency of energy is what determines how (in what form) that energy will express itself. We call this a ‘vibration.'” – Teal Swan
“If you understand that everything is energy, you can also understand that everything you think, believe and feel consists of energy. Your attitude–or focus–vibrates, and those vibrations affect the quantum fields that underly, constitute and determine the outcome of physical matter.” – Bentinho Massaro
“…it is helpful to know that everything in the Universe is energy vibrating at a certain frequency. Every person, animal, plant, object, word, thought, feeling, belief (whether conscious or subconscious), and action has its own unique vibration” – Robert Schwartz, Your Soul’s Gift
Without going into too much detail, these three sources pass the tests for credibility (at least in my view). Although The Secret, the 2006 movie, may have turned people off of the Law of Attraction and its underlying metaphysics (“everything is energy”), there’s still a truth to be acknowledged in this which doesn’t have to be presented in the sort of self-centering, manipulative way it was in the movie. There is a reality not only to ‘everything being energy’ but to the Law of Attraction, as well, and that this knowledge can be used in a heartful, rather than self-centered, way.
The perspective of everything being energy, which we are taking here, redefines our experience in terms of vibration and frequencies, and relates those vibrations to the expansion or contraction of our consciousness, through what we are believing and focussing on. Naturally, we have the same kind of experiences as before, but now we have a sense of the consequences of our attitudes, beliefs, and emotional expressions in terms of vibration, and, thus, consciousness contraction/expansion. The great David Hawkins correlated emotional expressions to an arbitrary, numerical scale of consciousness levels. If we expect that higher consciousness equates to more positive emotional expressions (love, joy, peace), then the map confirms our expectations:
The total picture becomes more concrete. We go from “Everything is energy” to “Energy vibrates at different frequencies” to “Positive emotional expressions vibrate at higher frequencies.” But how does this relate to the spiritual journey “from ego to heart”? The final piece of the puzzle comes from material channeled by Pamela Kribbe—another source that satisfies the criteria of credibility, especially in light of the quality of the channeled information. The channeled spirit, Jeshua, identifies the third stage of the evolution from ego to heart as such:
Letting the old ego-based energies inside you die, throwing off the cocoon, becoming your new self: the end of the end.
This helps put everything together. If it makes sense that enlightenment is a shift of consciousness ‘out of ego,’ as it has been described many-a-time, and we add Jeshua’s description that it is also an energetic shift (how could it not be, if everything is energy?), then we have an explanation for what is happening within us, on the level of energy, and why the recommended practices are so widely recommended: the release of ego-based energies and growth of heart-based energies transforms consciousness.
Really, the language of “energy” is a metaphor to describe what is real. So another, simplified way of describing what is happening is: some real things are diminishing or vanishing (ego-based energies) and some other real things are growing or multiplying (heart-based energies) within us, which has the effect of changing consciousness and, thus, our experience.
A related point about meditation. As teacher Teal Swan describes in this video, feeling and expressing love raises our vibration such that we are able to understand and comprehend the universe more; we get more insight. David Hawkins also writes in his book “Letting Go” that the technique of surrender (the central technique described in the book) breaks our old habit patterns, which frees up our ability to concentrate easily and enter samadhi, or a state of focussed concentration. Therefore, the technique of surrender supports and nurtures “good” meditation. So love and letting go foster the same results we would hope to get from meditation (insight and samadhi). From this point of view, it makes less sense to try and attain enlightenment merely through meditative practice. It also makes less sense to have a meditative practice but make no effort to let go of ego-based energies and live from the heart, if the goal is, still, higher consciousness and greater well-being. From an energetic point of view, it would be wiser to balance meditation with heart-centeredness and letting go. This approach is easier and kinder to oneself than a more austere spiritual path based heavily or exclusively on meditation.
So, where does this leave us? –better yet, where does this lead us? Not to more spiritual knowledge and teachings, but to a more profound experience of our own hearts. To quote Eli Jaxon-Bear, when he was remarking on spiritual teachings, “It’s all a trap… And you know it. I’m just confirming what you already know in your heart…. There are lots of things you can understand… but you can’t grasp Love…. [The teaching] is only for your heart.”
In the end, the journey doesn’t come out of the head. Instead, we are being invited to surrender to the heart. For heart knows the way Home.
- Link to “sequel” post: Loving the Ego
- Suggestions about how to improve the presentation of this information are gratefully welcomed. (I am often blind to how things are coming across–haha.)