On this physical plane of existence, we are bombarded daily by a constant stream of sensory stimuli. These stimuli push and pull us in every direction as they compete for our undivided attention.
First, this input is taken in through our senses: we see, hear, touch, feel and taste everything around us. These contacts create impressions upon our sensory organs, which are then fed into our brain, where they are catalogued, processed and prioritized into meaningful bits of information. Finally, all this information is formed into a picture of the world that we call “reality.”
This direct sensory perception is augmented by past experience stored in our brain in the form of memory. These memories tell us how to react to the people and objects around us: which are useful, which are unnecessary; which are pleasant and which are painful; which are friendly and which are hostile.
These two sources of impression together form the rudimentary material that makes up our consciousness. It is this sensory consciousness that the average man or woman uses to navigate their way through life. It is the yardstick whereby they measure all of their actions and deeds.
The spiritual life, on the other hand, provides us with a different model for perception. Spiritual training is about breaking down this physical way of seeing, so that we can recognize the spiritual essence that lies behind the external form. This different way of looking at the world was called by the Baal Shem Tov “seeing the Divine Presence in everything”, while Sri Ramana Maharshi spoke of it as “the Self seeing the Self.” In fact, when a devotee asked him about the importance of the practice of brahmacharya (celibacy) in Hinduism, Ramana Maharshi replied:
“To live and move in Brahman (the Absolute Reality) is real brahmacharya… so long as you identify yourself with the body, you can never escape sex-thoughts and distractions. It is only when you realize that you are formless pure awareness that sex-distinction disappears for good.”
This higher way of living is achieved through a radical transformation of our consciousness. First, emotion needs to be transformed into spiritual intuition. Our emotions are like radar; they “sense” the world around us and then return to tell us what feels good and what feels unpleasant. Or like ultra sound, they move inside us and produce an “impression” of what is going on in our heart: are we happy or are we sad, are we angry or at peace. Our emotions are our tool for assessing the state of our physical reality.
Like feelings, the higher intuition is also a tool that stretches out and touches the world around us. The intuition, however, uses the “sensory apparatus” of our soul to gather its information. It takes in the spiritual impressions that are emitted on higher levels and then creates a picture of the reality that the soul has revealed. It is this “soul reality” that we want to learn to feel and perceive.
The second transformation that needs to take place is merging the lower mind with the higher mind: The lower mind is concrete. It takes a person, object or idea and builds it into a form in mental matter. Using this thoughtform, it then examines, analyses and defines this object or idea and arrives at an intellectual understanding of its properties and characteristics.
The higher mind, on the other hand, works through direct knowledge. The Kabbalists like to quote verse 4:1 in Genesis, “And Adam knew his wife Eve”, to symbolize this type of knowledge. This kind of knowledge only comes through intimate contact. It leads to an understanding of the essence of a thing and not just an intellectual comprehension. It is the path that unites us with the Divine Mind.
These two shifts of heart and of mind are the key to higher awareness. Building a spiritual life that will develop this higher perception is the challenge that every one of us confronts. One of the most potent tools in accomplishing this work is the practice of meditation. Meditation awakens us to the world of energies; it makes the spiritual realm come alive.
We can see how this process functions by looking at different types of meditation techniques. Meditation that focuses on our breathing sensitizes us to the flow of energy through our spiritual centers. Visualization meditation develops our awareness of our inner spiritual space. And concentration meditation forges a link in mental matter between our higher and lower mind.
Creating a path that leads to higher awareness is a challenge that confronts not only individuals, but all of the world’s religions as well. When the teachings and practices of a religion reflect this higher vision, the religion flourishes and grows. But when the outer form obstructs the inner truth; then the religion becomes lifeless and begins to wither. Today, every religion is in crisis; all are in need of new insight and inspiration. We, as individuals, can contribute to the growth and vitality of our own religion, by striving to realize this higher consciousness in our own lives.
Copyright © 2012, by Yoel Glick
- The Power of the Presence, Vol.2, David Godman↵