One of the essential qualities in the spiritual life is openness. It is a quality that expresses itself in all aspects of our life.
Spiritual openness begins with an open mind – a willingness to investigate new ideas and consider alternative ways of thinking and living. Where there is an absence of dogmatism, our minds can run free and explore new horizons. This is what enables us to grow and evolve. Openness lies at the basis of all human progress.
An open mind does not imply a lack of convictions and standards; rather, it is the willingness to examine the standard that we are currently using in the light of reason and the higher dictates of our heart. If, after we have carefully investigated our beliefs, we find them to be lacking, then we need to be ready to change what we think.
An open state of mind requires humility and courage – humility to let go of our own certainty, and courage to address new possibilities. When we open ourselves in this way, we become receptive to Divine inspiration. Then God can enter into our thinking and link our mind to new states of consciousness.
Openness also means an open heart. An open heart expresses itself in a willingness to uphold others in their suffering. It awakens within us a desire to help wherever we see another in pain. It empowers us to love our enemies, even as we must fight them with all of our might.
An open heart means never yielding to hardheartedness. An open heart means stretching our love wider and wider until it encompasses all peoples and all nations – until it encompasses every living thing.
The spiritual life requires not only an open heart and an open mind, but also a genuine readiness to explore new self-definitions – to accept other ways of understanding who we are and what our life is about. The spiritual life demands a power of adaptability – a capacity to mold ourselves into a new task and purpose – an ability to live according to changing rules and shifting circumstances: a yearning to look at the world from a more elevated perspective coupled with a desire to reach for ever higher goals.
Someone who wants to progress along the spiritual path needs to have a strong will and perseverance, but at the same time, he cannot become fixed in his ideas or patterns of behavior, nor in his expectations of what will happen in his life. He needs to be willing to give up hearth and home, like Abraham, in order to fulfill the command of the Lord.
When Moses comes before Pharaoh to demand that he allow the Israelites go into the desert and worship their God, Pharaoh asks Moses what the Children of Israel will need to bring to the desert as an offering. Moses replies, “We will not know with what we must serve the Lord until we come there.” (Exodus 10:16)
According to the Hasidic Master, Ephraim of Sadilkov, this verse comes to tell us an important spiritual principle:
We cannot know what the next step in our spiritual evolution will be before we come to the next spiritual level. Because when we reach that level, our whole state of consciousness will be completely transformed. As a result, all the beliefs and ideas that we have held until that time will become obsolete, and all our old ways of thinking and acting will seem limited and immature. We will realize that God had something completely different in mind for our life than what we had imagined. Something that is grander and loftier, yet more subtle and refined.
We have our own ideas about who we are and what we want to become. We have ideals that we strive to fulfill. Yet, as we move along the path, our consciousness changes, so that we find ourselves at odds with our old ideals and self-definitions. It takes inner strength to question our old visions, and even greater courage to reform our ideals again.
Spiritual openness is an aspect of the consciousness of the soul. It is a quality that is in direct opposition to the natural tendency of the personality. The mind tends to fix things in place – to concretize them and give them a solid shape and form. Spiritual openness demands that we live with uncertainty and a lack of set boundaries. It asks us to enter the expansiveness of the wilderness and stare into the abyss.
The abyss is the place of Emptiness. It is a place where nothing is fixed or formed. It is a place of infinite expansion and infinite possibilities. It is a place that is found by looking through the eyes of the soul.
Through inner contemplation we can lift ourselves out of the confines of linear thinking and touch the powerful immediacy of the direct experience of the Higher Mind. Here we experience truth instead of learning it; we live an idea instead of mentally analyzing and then digesting it.
Out of this direct experience comes inspiration and prophecy; out of this “thoughtless thinking” comes innovation and change.
It is the difference between finding our own solution and being a perfect instrument of God. In the first case, we use the powers of the lower mind to sort out the solution to a problem; in the other, we put ourselves aside and rest in stillness and silence – waiting to receive the “Word” of the Lord.
This is the higher meaning of the often-quoted Biblical phrase “heneni” – ‘”I am here.” It is the prophet’s cry of preparedness to receive the Divine command; it is our forefathers’ exclamation of readiness to put all their hopes and desires aside in order to fulfill the Will of God.
Openness is not a solitary attitude of mind; it is part of a number of concepts that form a spiritual whole. Openness is intimately related to the principles of love, freedom and unity. Love opens our heart to others. It is the energy that breaks down the barriers that keep people apart. It heightens our awareness of the interrelationship between different peoples and religions. Through the love consciousness, we realize the fundamental unity of all humanity and all life.
Openness is essentially a liberating force; it frees us from the bonds of intolerance and opposition to others. It also frees us from the idea of “I and mine”, and focuses our consciousness on the larger picture, where there are many other people with needs that are greater than our own.
The energies of openness, love and freedom shatter the physical consciousness of this plane of existence that is based on separation and limitation. They break down the attachment to form, which is an integral part of the material mind. They link our minds to the greater reality of the higher worlds, and enable us to work in the consciousness of Unity and Oneness that emanates from that realm.
copyright © 2015, by Yoel Glick