Dr. Stewart Bitkoff, Contributor
“You yourself are under your own veil.” -Hafiz
Q: I have been traveling the road to higher consciousness for many years and it has been a long hard journey. Fortunately there have been occasional Divine Breezes along the way, but I cannot say I feel any closer to God for my efforts. Also, sometimes traveling gets so lonely and I wish I had someone to talk to about this struggle; can you help me understand, why the difficulty and mystery?
Earth Phase: Physical & Spiritual
“The lower self prevents you from remembering God.” -Traditional
In the spiritual journey, each traveler is both question and answer; goal and door which blocks the way. That is the Design, or earth phase, that we have immersed our self in; one of physicality and spirituality. This duality of knowing and not knowing; seeking and finding are one of the universal laws of our earth experience. Yet beyond this duality of knowing and not knowing, is the first universal law: Oneness of Creation. For you see, knowing and not knowing while at polar opposites are both part of the One; this Oneness may be experienced in spiritual states like the Beloved’s Caress or Oneness of Creation experience. These are sublime experiences and many seek to repeat these states over and over; yet, when thinking and working this way, they miss the point of the journey
One day, I asked my teacher; why this struggle? Why this struggle between the ego (daily consciousness/lower self) and the wisdom of our heart (continual awareness of God). Wouldn’t it simplify things if we were all born being continually aware of the Divine?
He answered, the ego serves as a boundary between this world and the next. Without the ego, we would all be lost, absorbed in the splendor of God and of no use in this earthly life. This journey is much more than being continually absorbed in God; the journey is about serving others as God’s Servant. Added spiritual capacity is necessary for specific tasks and functions; these are a tool to manifest something Higher.
Manifesting the Real
In order for that which is hidden behind the veil of our daily awareness, to be revealed, 2 processes must be at work. And the outcome of both of these processes is always dependent upon Grace; because in this endeavor, ‘love is never earned it is bestowed.’
Quieting the Lower Self/Ego. The first process involves working on and refining our worldly consciousness or what has traditionally been termed ‘the ego.’ Often our worldly consciousness (lower self) blocks the higher consciousness with its concern for our physical, emotional and intellectual well being. We are multi-level beings and to fully enjoy and participate in this earthly experience, there are many stimuli, thoughts and experiences which are necessary for daily life. So, in this journey, of both physicality and spirituality, the traveler must learn to still and quiet the lower self; in order to allow that which is deeply hidden to manifest.
Often this stilling or quieting of thought, for a time, involves unlearning many things, examining how our consciousness operates and practicing techniques designed to still the lower self. Stilling the lower self is much different than destroying it; this aspect of consciousness, because it is very complex, as indicated, is needed to function in the world. Typically we cannot not have a thought, but can learn how not to act on it and minimize its effect on our total consciousness. This pushing aside by quieting, temporarily, for most travelers takes much work and guidance by another.
Awakening of Spiritual Centers. The second process involves awakening our inner spiritual centers (or chakras) which must be done gradually and in a certain order. This awakening of our spiritual centers can be done while the traveler is learning how to still troubling thoughts which create noise in the consciousness. This stimulating of spiritual centers is often accomplished through exercises, guidance of one of the teachers and the Grace& Mercy of God.
When the traveler is ready, spiritual centers can be awakened or activated by the Light at any time or place. It is a question of readiness and the process has been termed organic and part of a natural maturation.
Enlightenment & Misconceptions
When done correctly, adding of spiritual capacity is accomplished gradually so it does not disrupt others portions of a traveler’s life. This adding of ability is mysterious to most travelers, because they have limited exposure to this learning structure, further outcomes and processes are rarely discussed. Often this structure cannot be accurately put in words, it is multi-level; and because few have limited exposure to what is actually required and how this is being done, there are many misconceptions and resultant frustrations.
Typically most travelers view this developmental process like other learning situations in their lives. For example, look I have read all the books, said my prayers, given money to charity and talked to every ‘teacher’ I could find. I have been at this activity now for 4 years and worked very hard; certainly if I was going to high school or college I would have my diploma. Yet mystical states elude me, I still get anxious and worried and I certainly don’t feel God/Light aglow in my heart when the kids start fighting and screaming.
Enlightenment, or added spiritual capacity, typically occurs within the ordinary human personality. Enlightenment involves bringing forward latent spiritual skills and capacity to operate alongside all our other skills and capacities. This coming forward is additional capacity that we consciously use to serve the situation and Higher Destiny. Typically, this ability is not for oneself but to help others and the majority of work to enable this function involves removing from consciousness, for a time, those thoughts, ideas and hidden motives which stand in our way.
I remember one day, I asked my teacher, look I’ve been at this spiritual study stuff now for 3 years and really don’t feel anything is happening. How do I know I am progressing? With a smile on his face and a kind voice, he offered, “do you think about God now more than you did before coming to see me?”
And of course my answer was, ‘yes.’ However I was looking for outcomes of a different sort: reading minds, knowing the future, being God’s BFF and living in peaceful harmony. Because of my expectations, I had created my own frustrations.
Strangers & Loneliness
One of the technical terms for the followers of the Path, is that travelers are ‘strangers.’ Strangers to themselves and others, yearning for something they cannot define and must find. Each traveler has an unsettling awareness that they don’t quite fit into the world as most people define it, and for a time may be unclear what the inner unease and burning is about.
If you find yourself on the long road and it is raining and dark, to ease your pain, consider the following.
- Talk to God/Light. Tell God how you are feeling and what you need. God is inside all of us and listens to all our prayers. Tell God what you want and need, and in time, as God Wills, it will be Given to you. “Remember, if you take one step toward God, God will take ten steps toward you.’
- Call a friend and find out how they are doing. Share your feelings and experience.
- Help another. Reach out and assist someone who is having a difficult time.
- Get-up, do something physical that is fun or helps another. Get out of yourself. A healthy mind and body thrives on activity.
- If you need the company of like minded believers, reach out and contact one of the many organizations set-up for this purpose. Remember be careful in your choices, there are many who would take from you.
- Ask the Universe for whatever you need. You are the son/daughter of a King and this has been promised to you.
It doesn’t mean it ceases to exist.
The sun also shines in the night.
About the Author
Dr. Stewart Bitkoff, spiritual traveler, poet, is a student of Sufi Mysticism and the perennial philosophy. Professionally specializing in the healing applications of therapeutic recreation, psychiatric rehabilitation and mental health treatment; he holds a doctorate in education and served on the faculties of multiple colleges and universities.
Stewart is also the author of Sufism for the Western Seeker, published in 2011, was nominated by ‘Foreword Magazine’ for Adult Non Fiction Religious Book of Year Book of the Year Award, placing 4th (honorable mention) and is a must read, as well as The Ferryman’s Dream. Both books are also in Kindle format and available on Amazon.com or local bookstore.
Register for an upcoming retreat weekend with Dr. Steward Bitkoff atop Bangor Mountain, in the beautiful Pocono Mountains, Kirkridge Retreat Center on Sufism & Enlightenment, May 30- June I, 2014. For information is available here: http://kirkridge.org/programs/upcoming-programs/ – click on Detailed Information for full program highlights.
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