Why Humanity Is On The Cusp Of An Evolutionary Leap


If you think enlightenment is all about losing touch with the world, think again! In this video, Steve Taylor – the author of The Leap – explodes the five biggest myths about spiritual awakening.

Eckhart Tolle Summaries The Journey From Sleep To Spiritual Awakening…

You are a human being. These two words not only describe who you are as a member of a particular species but, if examined more deeply, also point to the twofold nature of your identity. Human is who you are on the level of form; that is to say, your body and mind. Those two aspects of your form identity make up your conditioned self. That self is conditioned by genetics and the environment, as well as other factors as yet unknown to science.

Being, on the other hand, points to the essence of who you are as timeless, formless, and unconditioned consciousness. Human and being, form and essence, are ultimately not separate, in the same way that a wave or ripple on the surface of the ocean is not separate from the ocean or from any other wave or ripple, although it may appear to be so.

Being, or pure consciousness, emanates from the Universal Source of all life — God — as light emanates from the sun. Unlike the sun, however, the Source does not exist in space and time. It is unmanifested and therefore inconceivable, so there is nothing you can say about it. However, your consciousness emanates from the Source, so you can never be separate from it, just as a ray of sunlight cannot be separate from the sun but always remains connected with it.

The Source emanation pervades the entire cosmos — which is to say, our dimension of space and time — and it is the intelligence underlying and guiding the evolution of what we perceive as the physical universe. So the universe, including human beings, was not just created in the distant past but is still in the process of being created. It’s a work in progress, so to speak. You need to understand this basic premise to be able to appreciate and derive great benefit from reading this book. As Steve Taylor puts it, evolution is not just behind us, but in front of us as well.

Furthermore, and contrary to the creed of our mainstream culture, there is direction and purpose behind the evolutionary process, as he explains in his latest book, The Leap. Where it is going, however, is beyond all imagination. What we can say is that the evolutionary impulse behind the process is the growth of consciousness. The universe wants to become more conscious, and the main life purpose for all human beings is to come into alignment with that universal purpose. Seen from a higher perspective, of course, all that exists is already in alignment with it, even if it seems to be opposed to that purpose, but it is aligned only unconsciously. Entering into conscious alignment with universal purpose is an amazing evolutionary leap.

However, what does it really mean for human beings at their current evolutionary stage to “become more conscious” or to “awaken”? If I had to put it in a nutshell, I would define it as “disidentification from thinking.” When you realize that the voice in your head, your incessant compulsive thinking, is not who you are, then you have begun to awaken.

A new dimension of consciousness has arisen, which we could call awareness, presence, or wakefulness. You haven’t fallen below thought; you have risen above it. Now you can use thought instead of being used by it. Your sense of self shifts from identification with your mental positions and narratives to the alive presence within you, which is consciousness itself. You realize the being behind the human, so to speak. Something that transcends your conditioned personality begins to emerge. You realize your essential identity as unconditioned consciousness itself, and you can verify within yourself the truth of Jesus’s words: “You are the light of the world.”

Although The Leap provides plentiful conceptual clarification regarding wakefulness, as well as many highly interesting firsthand accounts by people who have experienced that shift in consciousness, you cannot truly understand the meaning of awakening except through awakening, which means going beyond discursive thinking and concepts. The concepts, however, can be helpful if used rightly, as pointers toward realization rather than as ultimate explanations or mental constructs that you need to believe in.

n any case, this book will be of real benefit to readers who are either already undergoing the awakening process or who have reached a point of readiness, perhaps as a result of experiencing a deep crisis, a loss, or some kind of psychological turmoil in their lives. This book can greatly assist those readers in understanding what is happening to them and coping with the confusion or disorientation that often accompanies the initial stages of that shift in consciousness. Others may discover that they have already had awakening experiences without realizing it or that they have been going through a gradual awakening for some time without recognizing it for what it is.

The fact that enormous collective challenges almost certainly lie ahead for humanity — most of them self-created by the unawakened, egoic state of consciousness that still has the majority of humans in its grip — should not be interpreted as an indication that a more widespread awakening is not going to occur. The opposite is probably the case: the crises we are experiencing, and the greater turmoil to come, may act as a catalyst for a collective shift in consciousness. As Steve Taylor puts it: “The evolutionary leap was already under way before these problems became so serious, but perhaps it has become — and is becoming — more powerful as a result of them.”

Challenges are the lifeblood of all evolution. Every life-form, from plants to animals to humans, evolves as a response to the challenges it encounters. Your comfort zone is not the most likely place where you are going to find spiritual awakening, although the ego may tell you otherwise. If you look to people, places, things, or circumstances for fulfillment or happiness, you will be disappointed again and again.

Don’t tell the world, “Make me happy!” You would be placing an impossible demand on it and condemning yourself to perpetual frustration. Instead, allow the world to make you conscious. You may find that every challenge, every obstacle that life seems to put in your path, is an opportunity for awakening, for becoming present, or for deepening the state of presence. Many challenges you encounter, whether of a personal or collective nature, will have been created by human unconsciousness, either your own or that of other people. Every seeming obstacle to your happiness or fulfillment is a potential portal into presence! Just modify your response to it and see what happens. Your life is not determined by what happens to you, but by how you respond to what happens. Most importantly, don’t add to the collective unconsciousness, which manifests particularly in the media and politics, through your reactivity. Bring the light of consciousness to every encounter, every problem, and every Facebook post!

Life always gives you what you need, and right now it has let you know about this book, which you can use as a guide or companion through challenging times. It contains a great deal of precious wisdom, expressed in the straightforward, clear, and down-to-earth language that Steve Taylor is so good at. I have a feeling that, by way of a miracle, it may even reach one or two people in the media and in politics!

Source: Heal Your Life

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Awaken Interviews Dr. Steve Taylor – The Collective Awakening Is Occurring

Donna Quesada: Oh, this person is awakened or this person is a spiritual teacher…everything is perfect for this person…they’ve got it all figured out. But not necessarily.

Dr. Steve Taylor: That’s true, yeah. I think that is one of the greatest myths about enlightenment or spiritual awakenings. That it makes all problems disappear. That life becomes completely easy. And people cease to have any emotions…to feel sadness or anger. That kind of thing. I think one of the issues is there are lots of degrees of wakefulness. I think that people that are very highly awakened—a very high intensity of wakefulness—they may cease to be angry…cease to feel sadness. And they may have a completely empty mind, and no longer experience disturbances of mood or thought. But that’s quite rare. They still react to challenges in their life. They still feel stressed by the challenges of life. They feel sadness when negative things happen.

And in some cases, personality traits which they have had all their lives may not disappear. They may even be exacerbated by awakening. I think sometimes…it happens especially a lot with spiritual teachers. We’ve all found out about narcissistic spiritual teachers. Spiritual teachers who exploit people who are not as perfect as they seem. And that’s often because somebody experiences an awakening and maybe there was a little narcissism in their previous personality which has not completely disappeared. A little bit of ego-eccentricity or hedonism and if they become a spiritual teacher, those traits can be exacerbated. The role of a spiritual teacher can exacerbate narcissism. Especially if you have a lot of, sort of…fawning admirers. Whatever you do, they still give you admiration, even if you behave negatively or unethically. So, you start to lose perspective and a little bit of narcissism can be massively inflated to the degree where it becomes quite destructive.

DONNA: What is the best way to deal with negative personality traits or to deal with…even, things like anger. I’ll jump just a little bit. Now a days mindfulness has become such a buzz word. And even therapists are taking to it as a modality to use with their patients, which is good. I see it as a positive movement to incorporate meditative styles and practices like mindfulness into their approach with patients who suffer from anxiety, for example. But is that enough to deal with problems like anger or problems like anxiety? And if its not enough, then what is the best way to deal with these traits and tendencies?

STEVE: I think it can be helpful, you know? The essence of mindfulness is that it teaches you not to identify with your thoughts and your emotions. It teaches you to step back and observe them as if they were a process passing by. And that can be very helpful because if you identify with a thought or an emotion, there is a process of intensification that happens. The emotion becomes stronger. The thoughts…they gain more momentum. They start to multiply. And there is a very close relationship between thought and feeling. The more negative thoughts you think, the more negative feelings you have. And the more negative feelings produce more negative thoughts.

DONNA: It feeds itself.

STEVE: Yeah. It’s a vicious cycle. But if you withdraw your identity from that process, then it’s a bit like a car which has run out of gas. It slowly stumbles to a halt. So, that can happen. The flow of thoughts and emotions slowly eases away when you dis-identify with it. So, that can be helpful. But I think what’s even more helpful, going beyond that, is that if you transcend your separateness and if you experience a sense of connectedness with nature, with human beings, with the whole cosmos, then negativity still exists but it doesn’t disturb you as much. If you have a cup of water and you drop a poison in a cup of water, it’s deadly. It can kill you. But, if you put a drop of poison in a lake, it just dissipates and ceases to be dangerous.

DONNA: And is that because you are the water, or you are relating to something as big as the water and so the upset diminishes, in terms of the perspective you have on it.

STEVE: Yeah. You are no longer trapped in a narrow ego-eccentric view, which can be very disturbing, and events can disturb you tremendously. If you have openness and connectedness, then events don’t disturb you as much. You have a sense of equanimity…a sense of calmness. Just like the surface of the lake. So, any disturbance will quickly pass away without causing much negativity.

DONNA: We haven’t really used the “G” word. Sometimes, when I’m talking about these issues, even myself…and by the G word, I mean God. People get nervous around the idea of God…the utterance of God. And when you use the analogy of water, I think…Wow! We are identifying with something so big, so vast, so infinite, that all of these disturbances that are part of material life seem to shrink in importance. And yet, we haven’t really called it God. Is that something that we need to identify with? Does God fit in to this picture of Awakening? Or do we even need to use that word?

STEVE: Well, personally, I’m a bit reluctant to use the G word. Maybe that’s because I don’t have a religious background. Well, I think one of the issues with the word God is, it means something different to a lot of people…to most religious people. The way you were using the word God there…the inference you were using it in, doesn’t have the same meaning to most religious people. Most people think of God in kind of a anthropomorphic way—as an almighty being who can intervene and control the events of the world. And I think what we are talking about is much less personal…much less anthropomorphic, and something that is not apart from human beings…something that is part of our own being. And I think there are lots of religious mystics that have used God in that sense. The meaning of God, which religious mystics used was very different than the meaning of God that most other conventional religious people used. So, I think it can be a little problematic to use that word God. But it doesn’t matter too much and if you want to use that word, it’s fine.

DONNA: As we wind down toward the end of our hour, I’m remembering something else you said that struck me. We’ll switch gears a little bit. You know this notion of awakening and those who aren’t awakened…it seems like today we see so many people in positions of power who should not be in positions of power. And if I’m quoting you correctly, you said, “those people who are drawn to power are exactly or precisely the people who should not be in positions of power.” And so, it makes me wonder, why aren’t more awakened people stepping into positions of leadership? And, I guess, it’s a piggy-back question. I would like you to explain that a little bit more. Why are people who shouldn’t be in power drawn to power and why aren’t awakened people drawn to leadership, so that we can kind of steer this ship in a better direction?

STEVE: I think it has a lot to do with the structures of our society. And positions of power are usually reserved for wealthy people or people that have very high status. But mostly, in our society, positions of power are filled with people that have a strong ego-centricity. People who have a strong desire for dominance and control. And as you say, they are completely the wrong people. Most politicians are not particularly altruistic…are not particularly idealistic. Some are, definitely. But the majority are usually self-seeking, ambitious people, who have this strong need for power and dominance. And the problem is that these people, because they have such a strong desire for power…they are not altruistic, compassionate…not responsible. They are usually not sensible. So usually, they are precisely the wrong people. But you know, in my book, The Fall, I did a lot research about indigenous societies and a lot of indigenous peoples have very sensible attitudes to power. In most cases it wasn’t people deciding they wanted to be leaders and putting themselves forward. Leaders would be chosen by the group. And even if a person didn’t want to be a leader, they would have to take the role of a leader.

DONNA: Ah…

STEVE: So, the group would choose who were the wisest, most sensible people…most responsible people. And they would give them the responsibilities of being leaders. And if people had the impulse to be leaders, they were usually put to one side and were known to be dangerous individuals because they had that desire for power.

DONNA: Wow.

STEVE: They were sometimes ostracized or even asked to leave the group. So that’s a lot more sensible and I think we should do that in our society. Spiritual teachers do not want to be politicians usually because they want to be connected to people on the ground. They don’t want to distance themselves from other people in a position of power above the hierarchy. They want to share their wakefulness with other people on the ground, so to speak. And they are not interested in wealth or in power, they are interested in altruism. Why should they be a politician? It would be their worst nightmare!

DONNA: Maybe it’s some of this too…in spiritual teachings, there is always this invitation to turn the pointer inward…to look at achieving your own inner peace first…and to recognize the connection of that to the ripple effect it will have on the rest of world as opposed to just going out for a march. There’s this understanding that it doesn’t matter how many unenlightened people go out for a march, you can’t change the world in that way. It has to start on the inside. And I think that spiritual people have a greater sensitivity to that and to the importance of that. And that’s sometimes misunderstood. How can you change the world by sitting on your cushion and meditating? How on earth is that going to do any good? Can you speak to that at all?

STEVE: Yeah, good point but I think another one of the myths about spiritual awakening is that people become detached from the world…become indifferent to the world. They don’t care about politics, they’re just kind of blissing out and enjoying their own inner peace. But I think that is a myth. Truly awakened, genuinely awakened people become very concerned for the well being of others. And they want to make a contribution to the wellbeing of the whole human race. So, in many cases, they do become socially conscious and they do become socially active…even politically active. And in a more general sense, they want to contribute altruistically to the wellbeing of other people. And that arises naturally from the compassion that awakened people feel. Once you transcend ego separateness, your own desires or needs are no longer so important to you. But, other peoples’ needs become more important to you. You feel this identification with the whole human race…with the sufferings of the whole human race. And because you feel other people’s suffering so intensely…you want to alleviate that suffering.

DONNA: …And animals, too, and the environment too.

STEVE: Yeah. And even your own body. I think in the unawakened state, people have a hostile relationship with their own body. They don’t treat their bodies particularly well. They have a bad diet. They don’t exercise. They drink to excess, and so on. But, in awakening, you feel a sense of responsibility for your own body. You feel a desire to take care of your body…to treat your body well. Partly because you are more integrated with your body. You are no longer a separate ego. Your body becomes part of your being.

DONNA: Well, Steve, we are just about at the end of our hour and I’d like to ask you if there is anything else you would like to share with the Awaken.com listeners? Or anything that is on your mind that you’d like to bring attention to?

STEVE: Yes, maybe one thing I’d like to share before we’re finished. I talked a little bit earlier about how when people go through suffering in their lives, it can be the trigger for spiritual awakening. Like, when people are dying of cancer or suffering, or of bereavement…and I think that applies on a collective level as well. I think the collective difficulties we are encountering now in the whole of our species…the economic problems, the political turmoil, the environmental problems, and so on…they could be acting as a spur for a collective awakening. The collective awakening is occurring. And perhaps it is occurring in response to the crises we are going through. So, on every level, suffering has a potential positive effect. There is always a positive transformation aspect to any suffering that we go through…either as individuals or as a species.

DONNA: Something to keep in mind lest we fall into despair at the state of things!

STEVE: Yeah, which is easy to do!

DONNA: I’ll take that as an optimistic nod. We’re ready for a positive change and move in a better direction.

STEVE: I think so.

DONNA: Good! Well, then I will thank you again for sharing your time with us this morning…or evening for you. You lecture in Leeds, is that right?

STEVE: That’s right. Three days a week I’m a lecturer in psychology, back at University of Leeds.

DONNA: Wonderful. And would you mention your most recent book one more time and we’ll leave that title fresh on our readers’ minds?

STEVE: Yeah. My last book, which was published in 2017, was called The Leap; The Psychology of Spiritual Awakening.

DONNA: Well, Thank you. Thank you, again. I look forward to future works from you and it was a pleasure to get to know you.

STEVE: Yeah, likewise…thanks a lot.

Awaken Interviews Dr. Steve Taylor Part I – Natural Wakefulness and Experiences of Mysticism
VIEW HERE

Source: AWAKEN

Awaken Interviews Dr. Steve Taylor – Natural Wakefulness And Experiences of Mysticism

Posted on April 14, 2018

Donna Quesada: You’ve written so extensively about the subject of awakening…what led you to this aspect of your work?

Dr. Steve Taylor: For me, personally, I think I was always a person that showed natural wakefulness…from the age of 16 or 17, I was aware of what I would now call “spiritual experiences.” But at the time, I didn’t understand them.

DONNA: So, you had a natural experience that wasn’t inspired by any kind of practice at all? You were a teenager?

STEVE: That’s right. I was 16. The thing that I really liked to do as a teenager, was wander around in nature…wander around the parks looking at the sky…looking at the trees. I’d just feel a sense of quietness and a sense of connection to nature…the natural scenery around me…feel a sense of wholeness and kind of like an elation, a kind of euphoria. But I didn’t understand it at the time. I used to write poetry to try and describe some of these experiences, but my background wasn’t a spiritual background. I didn’t have a religious background or a spiritual background. So, at the time, I didn’t understand these experiences. I tried to explain it to people and they thought I was crazy. So, after a while, I thought it was crazy as well. I thought there was something wrong with me. For a long time, I was confused and I couldn’t accept myself for a long time. It was only accidentally, when I was 21 or 22 years old, that I picked up a book about Mysticism. I was drawn to it in a book shop. And when I read the book about mysticism, I suddenly recognized my own experiences. I thought, wow, this is what’s happened to me. So, I suddenly had a framework or context to make sense of my experiences, which was very, very helpful.

DONNA: Did that lead to a more formal practice or a search for a teacher, perhaps?

STEVE: Yeah, because even though at that point, I finally understood myself…I finally accepted myself…there were still some difficulties…some challenges…the kind of life-style I was living. At that time, I was a musician. So, the kind of life-style I was living, wasn’t conducive to spirituality. Lots of late nights. Playing gigs. Lots of drinking and smoking and that kind of thing. It took me a few years to learn to meditate on a daily basis. So, by the end of my 20’s I was meditating on a daily basis. And I began to find a stability and I began to integrate my spirituality into my daily life. And I changed my life to fit my spirituality. I became a vegetarian, stopped smoking, stopped drinking, that kind of thing. So, it took me a while to find a stable base and meditation was definitely a part of it.

DONNA: So, it’s funny…you were a musician…and drinking and smoking and all of that. On the other hand, you were that third group…that has a natural, deep feeling about life. And the sense that there is something more…and the tendency to ask questions and to experience things on a deeper level. It reminds me of something my own teacher said—David and I have the same teacher—and he was talking about the hippies. And he was saying that people tend to think of them as sort of rebels and outcasts and all of that, but the reality is, they are actually closer to enlightenment than they are given credit for. The mainstream is off. The way we are doing things is somehow under the thumb of propaganda. And government can be oppressive and they are sensitive to all these things. They’re almost ahead of their time in their awareness of things that just don’t feel right. They want a new spirituality…they want a new way of living. They’re asking questions that the mainstream isn’t asking.

STEVE: I think that’s very true. I think the hippies were a very significant social movement. I wrote a book called The Fall, where I said that most of the human race’s problems in history have been due to our intensified sense of ego and sense of self. So, we have a sense of separateness to nature which leads us to exploit nature. We have a sense of separateness to our own bodies which leads to sexual repression…towards hostility to sexual desire. I think the hippies, to explain it in more detail…about 300 years ago, there was a social movement, a collective shift in consciousness which began in the 18th Century. The second half of the 18th Century. I call that the “Trans-Fall” movement. It’s when human beings began to move beyond separateness…beyond the super intense sense of ego. So, there was a new sense of compassion. A new sense of egalitarianism and democracy and so on. And that has continued since then and I think the hippie movement was a significant part of that. It was a time when men became more feminine. It was a time for new openness to the body and sexuality. And it was a time when people identified with indigenous cultures. It was a time when people felt a connection to nature and a desire to explore transcendent states of consciousness. So, in some ways, I think it was an expression of evolution, this evolutionary movement which I spoke about earlier. This movement beyond separateness and to a deeper state of consciousness.

DONNA: Seems like we are talking about oneness and unity. That is the common thread that runs through…I’ll go ahead and use the ‘E’ word. The enlightenment traditions of the world…whether we are coming from a Taoist platform or a Hindu platform, or a Buddhist platform…it seems like this thread of continuity has to do with overcoming our sense of separateness. And nature, from that point of view, can be a conduit to waking up because it can inspire the sense of awe…I’m a part of something bigger than me.

STEVE: Oh, definitely. Funny enough, in my research as a psychologist I’ve done quite a bit of research on awakening experiences which are temporary experiences of transcendence. They usually fade away after a few minutes or a few hours. They are just a temporary glimpse of wakefulness. And nature is one of the biggest triggers of awakening experiences. So often when people are swimming in the ocean, or swimming in a lake, or walking in the mountains…or even, just lying in the park on a sunny day…that’s when awakening experiences often occur, due to the effect of contact with nature. I think nature has a quality of stillness. It enables us to calm down. Our minds begin to slow down. Our minds empty and some space opens up inside us. A bit of space opens up between our thoughts, and we somehow get in touch with deeper levels of our own being. We transcend separateness.

DONNA: Do you think art can do that, as well? When you were just describing that, at this moment, I was thinking about the word sublime. You know the German philosopher, Kant, talked about the sublime…when we are confronted with something that words cannot describe. And I feel like that experience in nature is not unlike the experience we have with art. And also, like a spiritual experience.

STEVE: Yeah. In fact, that was another significant trigger of Awakening experiences. Witnessing a crazy performance…a lot of people talked about going to the theatre to see a dance performance…listening to music…and they would experience this more expansive state of consciousness. Yes, I think in the same way, art can give way to transcendence. It can open up our minds. It can open up space inside us. And it can remind us, or connect us to a higher reality.

DONNA: So, when I was preparing for this interview, I was reading some of your work where you talk about dogs. As an animal lover myself, I want to switch gears just a little bit and take advantage of your time and ask you about that…because having two dogs myself, I was relating very much to the stories you were telling. You were talking about empathy. And how we are not the only ones with this quality of empathy. When we can almost predict what the other will do or sense what the other is thinking. You were saying how dogs know when their owners are coming home…and that they did some tests…and the dogs would go to the window as soon as the owner was on their way home…and they repeated the tests and they were able to demonstrate that the dogs did have an overwhelming sensitivity and connection to their owners. So, this makes me wonder if humans are the only ones. And I don’t think we are…that have this quality of connection that we have been talking about. Would you be able to comment on that?

STEVE: Well, I think in some sense, all living beings are inter-connected. We share the same fundamental consciousness. You know, that’s what compassion is. If I feel compassionate towards someone’s suffering, I am sensing their own inner being. I am sharing…that’s what empathy is. When we perform acts of kindness…that’s triggered by our shared sense of being. And that works on kind of a psychic level, too. If I think about a person and they call me in the next second. Or, if I have a dream and I meet that person in my dream the next day…that works through the inter-connectedness between us. We share the same collective mind. That enables us to be telepathic.

The problem with human beings is because of our egos. These strong and separate sense of egos. We kind of isolate ourselves from the ocean of being. We become like separate islands within the ocean and we sometime lose the ability to empathize with one another and the ability to sense other people’s suffering…and people’s intentions or thoughts. But animals…because they don’t have the sense of ego that we have, they’re actually more connected to us and to each other, which is why it has been shown many times, that dogs have this psychic connection with their owners.

DONNA: Yes, Well, I’ve experienced it. And so, I took an interest in that. It’s not only sensing when their owners are coming home…although, how could we know that?…we are not home to watch their behavior. But certainly, being in car rides you can tell that when we turn in certain directions that are different than the usual route, they sense something different has happened. They are somehow in tune in a different way than we are.

STEVE: Yes, I think so. They share this unity of being which we have sometimes, but we often lose it because of our ego centeredness. And cats, I have a cat and a couple of years ago my wife’s father died and when my mother in law…my wife’s mother came to stay with us…the cat…it was so obvious that she was responding to my mother in law’s grief. She would sit near her. She was comforting her. I think it happens a lot that cats have this, and probably dogs too, of this sense of when people are in need. People need comfort when they are bereaved or depressed. They sense it and offer their comfort.

DONNA: Interesting. Yes. Speaking of bereavement and things of this nature, do you think there is such a thing as the dark night of the soul? Is suffering necessary for the process of awakening?

STEVE: It can be, yeah. I’ve found in my research and in my own experience, too, that when spiritual awakenings happen suddenly and dramatically…it’s often preceded by intense suffering. I’ve done research with a lot of people who were diagnosed with cancer and told that they only had a few months or maybe a year to live. I’ve done research with people that were severely disabled…people who were addicts, who lost everything do to addiction…many people who were bereaved…and it definitely seems that the intense loss and suffering they went through was the trigger of their spiritual awakening. What seems to happen is the normal ego breaks down in the face of so much suffering. Just like a building in an earthquake. It just collapses. But when the normal ego collapses in some people, there seems to be a kind of latent higher self that is waiting to be born…and that new self-arises inside of them and becomes their normal self.

DONNA: Almost like we are supposed to awaken but we live in a state of distraction or darkness or overcome by life’s day to day necessities. And it takes some strong event to shake us out of that. Out of the normal life’s pattern, so to speak.

STEVE: Yeah, exactly, yeah. It’s a bit like on a communal level, you can have a group of people that live in a town…they all live in their different houses and they don’t really interact. Sometime it takes a crisis…if there is a crisis in a community…like, maybe a fire, an earthquake, maybe just a burglary, a spate of burglaries in the town. It brings people together, it shifts the community to a higher level. People begin to interact. They communicate a lot more. They act altruistically towards each other. The whole community somehow deepens and becomes more connected.

DONNA: Yes, yes. I’ll draw on your background in psychology a little bit more on this because I find it so fascinating. This observation that even when people do have an awakening experience or are pursuing an awakened life in formal practice or on their own…it still doesn’t equate with sanity. For example, being in a human body and living a human life is somehow challenging. And I’ve often seen that just because people have a spiritual life or are living a spiritual lifestyle, they still fall prey to life’s challenges. They still suffer from the depression or anxiety that they always did suffer from and it doesn’t just magically disappear the way we would expect. Oh, this person is awakened or this person is a spiritual teacher…everything is perfect for this person…they’ve got it all figured out. But not necessarily.

Continued in Part II…
Source: AWAKEN

Letting Go – Steve Taylor Ph.D.

A few months ago, I completed a research project at my university about purpose…
We began with the hypothesis that there are different types of purpose. We identified seven different types, beginning with no purpose, survival purpose (in other words, just getting by from day to day) and religious purpose. We also identified ‘self-accumulative’ purpose, (which means accumulating money, status or power), altruistic/idealistic purpose, and ‘self-expansive’ purpose, which means developing yourself creatively or spiritually. Finally, we identified ‘transpersonal’ purpose, which is the ‘spiritual‘ feeling of serving a purpose that is bigger than you, without much conscious effort or intention. It’s when your purpose seems to flow through you, and carry you along, rather than you pushing it along.

We had some interesting findings, especially in relation to age. There was a negative correlation between self-accumulative purpose and age. That is, the older a person was, the less important money, possessions, status, and power were to them. Meanwhile, there was a positive correlation between ‘transpersonal purpose’ and age. The oldest age group (65-plus) were most likely to feel this kind of ‘spiritual’ purpose, while the youngest age group (18 to 30) were the least likely. (Interestingly, we found that women were more likely to be more oriented around transpersonal purpose too.)

Our research investigated the relationship between different types of purpose and self-reported happiness too. We found that ‘no purpose’ and ‘survival purpose’ were most strongly related to unhappiness, while altruistic, self-expansive and transpersonal purpose was associated with happiness. And transpersonal purpose was most strongly associated with well-being.

Gerontranscendence

Why should older people be more oriented around a ‘transpersonal purpose’? Does this imply that people become more ‘spiritual’ as they get older?

Some evidence for this comes from the theory of ‘gerotranscendence,’ developed by the Swedish psychologist Lars Tornstam. Tornstam suggests that aging can be a process of spiritual development. His research has shown that about 20 percent of people (more women than men) over the age of 65 attain ‘cosmic transcendence’ in which they feel connected to the universe and that they are part of everything alive. They also feel a strong sense of the presence of people who are physically elsewhere.

My own view is that this is because getting older entails letting go of some of our psychological attachments. It means that we are no longer able to depend on external things as much for our sense of identity and well-being. We have to let of our attachments to the future, to our appearance, to our possessions, our success, and so on. This is partly because we move towards the end of (or retire from) our careers, and also because we move closer to death.

This ‘letting go’ is one of the primary characteristics of spiritual development. All spiritual traditions, from Buddhism to Sufism to Taoism, emphasize the importance of not being dependent on external things for our well-being. They tell us that we should not care too much possessions, about ambitions and worldly success, and so on. Rather, we should find a natural source of well-being inside ourselves; a natural contentment that isn’t disturbed by the events and circumstances of our lives. So, for some people, getting older seems to mean becoming more rooted in this inner well-being, as opposed to chasing after sources of external happiness.

The Importance of Acceptance

So in a sense, old age can be a process of natural spiritual development. Obviously, this doesn’t always happen. Many old people struggle as their psychological attachments dissolve away. They may feel aggrieved about changes to their physical appearance, the loss of youthful vitality, and the potential loss of everything they have accumulated (their achievements, possessions, status and so on) through death. Rather than experiencing transcendence, they feel more anxious and frustrated. As the famous developmental psychologist Erik Erikson noted, in old age, there are two paths we can take – into ego integrity or into despair; that is, into wisdom and acceptance, or into bitterness and resentment.

In my view, the key element here is acceptance. I wrote a book called Out of the Darkness, which was a study of how intense psychological turmoil (such as a diagnosis of cancer, bereavement, addiction or intense depression) can sometimes give rise to personal transformation. I found that the transformation was always preceded by a moment of acceptance; of letting go of resistance, of surrender, or ‘handing over.’ And this is no doubt the case with old age. If we resist the natural process of letting go that comes with aging, we will become more unhappy. If we accept it, we will become happier – and at the same time, more spiritually developed.

Source: Psychology Today

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