Interfaith Now
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Interfaith Now

Peace that Passes All Understanding

Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash

Spiritual life beings when seeking fails.’ Adi Da Samraj

If you want to find out who you truly are, the best possible training is to be utterly lost.

That’s the paradoxical path of life, ultimately you can’t go wrong, eventually all roads leading back to Rome, even somewhere a little more peaceful.

It’s a high-risk strategy of course on behalf of the soul, but sometimes hefty doses of trauma, great swathes of blank spots in your history, and lashings of emotional pain, are the gateway to greater life.

When all seems lost, often something outside your normal awareness is opening up; a brush with death — real or psychic — taking us into territories of great learning we could never have gone to voluntarily.

We might call it the call to adventure, the descent on the hero’s journey, and we can spend lifetimes treading water, refusing the call in our fear, simply repeating a story we have already lived.

Many old people I have met look back on their lives with regret; the window of opportunity was ajar, a piercing light glinting through it, but they couldn’t quite step through.

Often, pride deters them from admitting their failure, while others see the quest only in terms of their material life, sometimes misreading the signs from within, building a bigger ego-world that may or may not satisfy.

Even if it does, it is temporary and only delays the inevitable inner quest and the eventual discovery of not just who we are but what it is that lives.

Most of us have become so identified with the ego-I and its attachments, it is almost impossible to conceive or concede we are far more than we can imagine.

If only we had eyes to see, we would find the clues everywhere and hear the song of the entire universe, which both cries and calls us to a sacred remembrance of our origins.

Birdsong on a morning balcony in spring, the breath that bears us along, our birth and our death, even our fully functional plumbing system, informs the aware that in fact we are not living life, rather life is living us.

Ask yourself the question: do I make myself dream at night? In this way, you can come to understand you are not the body-mind.

Yet because the mind has taken control, both individually and collectively (we should be able to see it in the madness everywhere around us), we do not notice the unseen.

Air and water, those very essentials, seem like trifles, holding little interest until the finite body is deeply threatened.

But in fact, the doorway to real life is precisely in turning our attention to the invisible that we long took for granted, searching within for the answers that alone can illumine our dilemma, the fact that we are born to die.

The greatest tragedy for most of us is that we will die while remaining asleep at the wheel of our own lives, our mind and world filled with objects we take to be real, soon to disappear into oblivion like the body itself.

The gift of being human — and human alone — is that we can find a way out of the maze in the mind and discover the inner guru who has the power to teach us all we need to know.

Some of us will attract an outer guru first whose job is shore us up and guide us through mind and emotions to the teacher within.

Gurus have a hard time of it nowadays, often dismissed as charlatans, greedy and manipulative, determined only to feather their own nest.

It’s the old story of one or two rotten apples tarring the whole orchard. It is simply how our minds work, baby and bathwater out together.

In truth, there is no-one as effective as the jnanior realized being in helping us cut through the unreal and put us back on track.

Not only must we have the karma to meet one, we must have the karma to be able and willing to do as instructed.

Pride, the very enemy of the Self, so often outwits us; as the chief architect of the ‘I’ thought, which is the first concept and simply a pale reflection of the true ‘I’, it serves only to sharpen our sense of separateness.

It is this separation that keeps us from our true nature and the correct perception of reality as a single block of consciousness, rather than splintered into seemingly different objects.

When we start to worship consciousness or the sense I Am itself — instead of the objects in consciousness — we begin to reverse the gravitational pull towards separation.

Which ego doesn’t worship its own success, self-image, or status? Either that or its narrative of a terrible life — either serves. For in its puffed-up smallness, it can only say ‘look at me, I matter’.

To this separate self, the only way out seems to be to grow personal fulfilment, to create a bigger, better, shinier ‘I’. What could be more logical than that?

The only problem is, however big our particular wave becomes, however successful in worldly terms we are, we will continue to feel separate from the ocean of the greater self.

Success, it turns out, is not the final remedy for what ails us, whatever society or family may tell us.

Anyone who has watched the film Citizen Kane with its desperate final cry of ‘rosebud’ will understand how lonely it can be at the top. So often, those at the peak of the pyramid bemoan their lot with, ‘Is this it?!’

There’s that portal again, that call to greater life. As the Advaita teacher Tony Parsons says, ‘Disappointment is the great gift of the Beloved.’

When we can see both success and failure as impostors, as Kipling said, then we are well on the road to home.

Our destiny is to root ourselves in what never comes and goes, the discovery of what was there at our birth and which will accompany us at our death.

For underneath the transitoriness of life lies the peace that passes all understanding, all that we devalued as it could not be understood with the mind.

‘When the night of Illusion disappears, then the dream of ‘I’ also dissolves. Then the Great Experience is fully realized and is our own place.’ Siddharameshwar

Copyright Simon Heathcote



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Simon Heathcote

Simon Heathcote

Psychotherapist writing on the human journey for some; irreverently for others; and poetry for myself; former newspaper editor.