When they asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up, they really meant, "What do you want to do?" Whatever we might have chosen, it was not the same as choosing what or how to be. "Let the beauty of what you love be what you do," the Sufi mystic Rumi said in the thirteenth century. Be beauty, as artists painting the canvas of their lives. Be love.
But how? In today's world, most people understandably look to their jobs to define themselves. Having found no meaningful spirituality, they assume their work will adequately fill the traditional role of religion, as an aid in answering the questions, "Who am I?" and "Why am I here?"
What Do We All Want?
We all want to lead happy, fulfilled, and meaningful lives. These goals are universal, even though very different things bring different people happiness. For some, fulfillment is attained through raising a family, earning money, or playing sports; for others, it may appear in writing, cooking, or artistic expression. And we all want to be loved.
Eastern wisdom traditions teach that because our thoughts, feelings, and desires are constantly changing, we will never achieve enduring happiness or peace of mind through objects, relationships, or anything outside ourselves. Things wear out, get lost, fall out of fashion, or break. The person in our perfect relationship turned out not to be who we thought they were. And then we turn out not to be who we thought we were. Each of us is an ever-changing series of events, interpreted through our, and other people's, hopelessly subjective perspectives. We simply won't find the ultimate meaning of life in another ever-changing person.
Our minds are always wandering, reacting to other people's behaviors and words, and taken over by the thoughts and memories streaming through our awareness. So it is also fruitless to seek lasting happiness through thought, or even through sensual pleasures. What attracts us today fails to satisfy tomorrow. Yet we continue to think that serenity comes from something we do or have, rather than the way we are.
What Are We Seeking?
Really, we are all seeking a relatively satisfied and stable state of mind, free of cravings or fears. Eastern philosophies call the inner feeling of enduring calm and causeless joy resulting from union with God "bliss". They distinguish inner bliss from Western societies' concepts of pleasure or happiness -- fleeting feelings that focus on temporary bodily sensations, acquiring things, or changing circumstances to satisfy our desires.
According to Eastern thought, the reason we feel good after buying a new car, or eating a delicious chocolate, or having great sex, is that our cravings and graspings are temporarily silenced. We mistake this momentary pleasure for freedom and peace of mind, and so we hunt for more objects, experiences, or accomplishments to fix our inner craving for wholeness. We search for security, position, pleasure, and comfort when we should be searching for truth.
This inner, instinctual search -- a search for God -- is inborn in all people. Eastern philosophy teaches we will never be satisfied until we become still -- until we stop moving, doing, thinking, remodeling, and attending to outer sensations, and start listening within. A divine plan is unfolding, and when our soul is ready, we'll participate.
An Experience in Consciousness
For centuries, the Bible has presented its message that religion is an experience in consciousness. Unfortunately, people memorize its prayers and promises instead of seeking that experience. In this lifetime, we have the opportunity to consciously create a receptive state within our mind to commune with infinite consciousness. Belonging or not belonging to a church or religion, and performing or not performing spiritual rituals has little to do with a person's relationship with God, or spiritual consciousness. Although the human mind creates desire and then fulfills it, wisdom traditions tell us our deep longing for truth and freedom is our soul's yearning to experience its boundless depths. The stream of consciousness we each call "my life" is the universal journey of infinite consciousness or God awakening to itself. It is this consciousness that informs and animates each of us.
Consciousness discovering itself, by way of you and me -- what could that possibly mean? Spiritual master Yogananda said that because the ultimate motive for people's actions is the attainment of spiritual happiness or bliss, our very existence is bound up with this innate goal. This fundamental and universal motive may be seen as our true religion, or "that which binds us", which is the original meaning of the word religion, from the Latin religare. It follows that whatever actions we take to satisfy our yearning for inner happiness and peace may be called "religious" whether or not they have anything to do with organized religions' creeds or systems of belief. Whatever you do to experience inner peace, connectedness, and meaning is your religion.
You may or may not presently feel bound by religious beliefs. You may have already ascertained that truth based on one individual's direct experience will have difficulty surviving in any religious organization. Organizations are headed by people, and people with inherently different experience and beliefs will have conflicting ideas about the truth of other people's revelations.
Showing Up For God
Each of us must discover our religion for ourselves. The transcendent experience that is available to all of us -- the experience spiritual masters throughout history have tried to describe -- transforms a person's perceptions of life so profoundly that organized religions devise sets of rules they think will bring others to the same experience. If you have read this far, you are probably a seeker who suspects that spiritual transformation is possible, but who may be repelled by the dogma and rituals you encounter in religious services.
You can have a spiritual life, without having to go anywhere, or believe anything. You do, however, have to "show up for God," and pay attention, just as you do when you want to build a relationship with another person. It's simple, but it takes practice, and patience.
©1999. Reprinted with permission of New World Library,
Novato, CA, USA 94949. www.newworldlibrary.com
The Heart of The Mind: How to experience God without belief
by Jane Katra, Ph.D., and Russell Targ.
The Heart of the Mind demonstrates that experiencing the presence of God doesn't require knowledge of theology or belief in the supernatural. The authors present evidence that by simply calming our minds and opening our hearts, we can find the meaning, love, and healing that spiritual mystics have described throughout the ages.
About The Authors
JANE KATRA, Ph.D. has been a practicing spiritual healer for twenty-five years. She holds a doctorate in health education and has taught nutrition and health classes at the University of Oregon. Dr. Katra currently works part-time as an "immune-system coach", while writing and participating in consciousness research. She is the author, with Russell Targ, of Miracles of Mind: Exploring Nonlocal Consciousness and Spiritual Healing.
Watch a video with Jane Katra: The Amplitude of Illumination & NDE
RUSSELL TARG was a pioneer in the development of the laser and cofounder of the Stanford Research Institute's investigation into psychic ability in the 1970s and 1980s. His books include Mind Reach: Scientists Look at Psychic Abilities and The Mind Race: Understanding and Using Psychic Abilities. A retired senior staff scientist for Lockheed Missile and Space, he now pursues ESP research at Interval Research Corporation, in Palo Alto, California. Visit the authors' website at www.espresearch.com.
Watch a video with Russell Targ: Everything I Know About ESP (Ex-TedTalk)