Free Your Mind Through Discernment
Think of students in the classroom. Those who excel are the ones who really listen to what the professor says. It’s easy to tweak or distort the message, and much harder to work with it until you really know it to be true from within yourself. Commonly, students will read it, “get it,” and then move on, taking with them a distorted version of the information. We can think of this as the “I get it” syndrome.
When we grow up, leave the classroom, and enter the real world, suddenly there are a multitude of diverse opinions pushing and pulling us in all different directions. The natural inclination is to pick and choose what you like from each, while distorting or rejecting what you do not like. This leaves the bulk of your distortions, biases, and limitations of thoughts and emotions perfectly intact.
Now enter the spiritual arena. Real spiritual progress is abstract and takes time, yet the field of spirituality is saturated with leaders offering quick fixes and sugar coated methods. Of course, people cling to superficial things to try to convince themselves they are growing spiritually. But real spiritual growth is something much deeper and far more elusive than a sugar coating! Real spiritual growth is about cultivating the art of discernment.
Discernment is far more than intellect. It involves the fine feeling level that is deeper than thoughts or emotions. Discernment results in the integration of thoughts and emotions with what lies within your deepest Self. If you’re not rooted in the depth of your being, coming from that place of solidity, serenity, and silence within the depth of your own being, then all of your thoughts and how you evaluate things are just tumbling in the wind.
Your worldview is based on the sum total of your life experiences that color your perspective on things. This storehouse of impressions, called chitta, determines how and what we think and feel. What we consider to be truth, wisdom, and divinity are determined by the nature of our chitta. As we walk the spiritual path and cultivate discernment, the quality of our chitta changes. We increasingly have the ability to look beyond our colored glasses to see things from a place of clarity and truth.
Can you let go of your current indoctrinations? It is not so easy. Even when you think you are listening and decide that you “get it,” well, do you…do you really? Even when you think you are listening, even when you think you are being discerning, well, are you…are you really? Is what you are hearing resonating or conflicting with your bias or the truth that lies deep within you? The normal inclination is to believe that your bias is actually truth. But is it…really?
Discernment is not done with just the mind. It is certainly not done with just the emotions. It is not a matter of the mind rallying around the emotions to create a rationalization to justify your reactions. You need to start on steady ground… unbiased, unconditioned, open, refined in feelings, and free, while also solid, balanced, reflective, and rational. In a world so crowded with biases and conflicting opinions, a compass to find this kind of steady ground can be indispensable. That compass is proper meditation. Through such meditation you rest into the depth of your being, the source of your inner wisdom. I have found the Surya Ram Meditation, an ancient technique from the Himalayas, to be the most natural and effective practice.
Proper meditation is a tool that can help you become more willing to take a deeper look, not just at the information, but even more importantly, at how you receive and process that information. What does the information you’re receiving resonate with or clash with inside of you? More importantly, why? Are you reinforcing your biases or are you moving beyond them?
Only as you explore this will you begin to cultivate your ability to discern, will you begin to cultivate your ability to listen, to know how to listen, and what and who to listen to. As Adi Shankara said, the spiritual path is the path of discernment.
Dr. Michael Mamas is the founder of The Center of Rational Spirituality, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the betterment of humanity through the integration of ancient spiritual wisdom with modern rational thought. From personal issues to global trends, Dr. Michael Mamas helps individuals and organizations develop a deeper understanding and more comprehensive outlook by providing a ‘bridge’ between the abstract and concrete, the Eastern and Western, and the ancient and modern. Dr. Michael Mamas has been teaching for 35 years (including the U.S., India, Europe, and Canada) and writes on a variety of subjects on his blogs, MichaelMamas.net and DrMichaelMamas.com.