Thursday, September 28, 2006

Facing Your Self

There is this very common statement within most of what we call the spiritual community. God is the person standing before you! When I started on this path, way back in the dark ages, this was a very startling statement for me to hear. On the face of it seeing God always before you sounds like a good thing to do. But what if God has bad breath? Or what if God has a very annoying personality, or is just plain nasty?
Maybe I should go back a little bit and define spiritual community. Quite frankly it can be anybody, from any tradition. I believe there is only one requirement and that is the willingness to learn more, to never fall back on a doctrine that no longer works and to always wonder what the truth really is. I guess that is more than one, that is three. But it does not get much more complicated than that. If a person is comfortable with these three precepts then all sorts of spiritual practices will work for them. It does not seem to matter very much what the practices are. What does matter is intent.
In the matter of discovering God standing before you in whatever guise you happen to find Him/Her intent seems to be critical. One of the aspects of spiritual practices that I find most disturbing is sentimentality. Sentimentality in spiritual practice is one of the aspects of what Pir Vilayat used to call Spiritual Bypass. By Spiritual Bypass I believe he meant what happens when a person has a real spiritual experience but then assumes that, as a result of this spiritual experience, all of the ails and problems of their life just disappear. This is when sentimentality can arise. There is nothing that I dislike more then someone coming up to me and telling me how much they love me or how they see the depth of my soul or something like that when it is obvious to me that they do not really mean it or, if they think they mean it, that they do not really understand what they are saying. There is a ring of truth that is unmistakable when a person is, not only totally sincere, but also knows exactly whereof they speak. There is no sentimentality in their voice, just truth. So, if the practice that a person is assigned or that a person decides to work on is seeing God before them in all conditions of life, the very real danger here is assuming that they are doing it.
As I said above, the key is intent. It is very easy to see the face of God in a baby for instance. All one need do is to look into their eyes of total innocence and the existence of angels is obvious, the joy of God in His/Her creation is apparent. But, if it is a cranky old woman who spits vitriol with every breath? That might be a bit harder. We might tell ourselves that we are seeing the being of God before us but our sub conscious will not believe it for a nano-second. So, what to do?
You keep at it. You notice when you fail and try again. The point is not to actually tell yourself you are seeing the being of God in each person who comes before you, but to actually do it. If you are telling yourself you are doing it you are not doing it. When you are doing it you are not aware of doing it, you just are in a state of seeing the being of God before you. There is no effort, just reality. What that means of course is there is no need to tell others of what you are doing. When you are thinking you are doing it the tendency will be to applaud yourself. Now, there is nothing wrong with applauding yourself. I am not one of those who think that proper humility is required in all forms of self expression and that you must never extol your virtues even to yourself; quite the opposite. I believe a lot of damage has been done by telling people they must be humble when what is really needed is to notice when they do something well. But, that does not apply to spiritual practices. For spiritual practices to be really effective the ego, that part of you that wants to reinforce its opinion of itself, must be set aside.
Ordinarily I am not a fan of the phrase, 'must be' but sometimes it is appropriate. Imagine for instance that you truly do see the being of God in the face of someone before you, should you congratulate yourself? Probably not. But it is our tendency to do so. We want to acknowledge that at last we pulled it off, at last we did what we have been demanding of our self. Normal enough. But not good enough.
I realize that the concept I am describing is indescribable but perhaps I have given a few clues. I will be curious to read comments.
Love & Blessings, Musawwir


molly said...

Hi Musawwir,
there is another aspect of this that i have found myself doing - and i suppose it could be an "opposite". Which i might describe as seeing only the "good" part in someone, and denying the other parts. i finally come around to realizing that i have idealized the person or situation (rose colored glasses). my goal has been seeing things in wholeness and accepting that - including myself...with a goal of not forming an opinion. this is a challenge for me.

Za'ida said...

Hello Musawwir,

the danger for people with Christian background is that God is often seen as the dear old man with the long white beard. We tend to fragment God and refuse to see the devine spirit as a whole. It is easy to see somebody as a reflection of God if he/she fits in the scheme but what if as you said it is an old ugly woman spitting poison in your face?! Eastern people, esp. muslims, have an easier access to a God who encompasses ALL attributes.

Dear regards

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Sarala said...

".....people with Christian background see God as the dear old man......[do not] have easy access to God who encompasses ALL attributes."
I was raised Christian and I don't identify with this statement.
I do consciously struggle with seeing God in people who perpetrate violence: terrorists, killers of school girls, or the homeless man who cornered me in the parking lot threatening me if I didn't give him money. I struggle with this and would like to learn how to do this.....

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