As I just described to you in today's email, this year's Holy Week has more than lived up to its reputation as a time of trials and temptations. And it's a fact of human life, no matter what your spiritual perspective, that there WILL be times when you're overwhelmed by one crisis after another.
Fortunately, the world's Authentic Ancient Traditions have some wisdom to share with you that will help you prepare, survive and even thrive in the midst of it all...
First, though, I need to address the obvious problem... most people are under the partly mistaken impression that spiritual life is all about finding PEACE.
Well, yes it is... but...
Keep in mind that for most people around you, their ideas of inner peace don't go much beyond the kind of "peace" you feel when you're sunning yourself on a tropical beach with a good book in one hand and a pina colada in the other.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to point out that that kind of "peace" is superficial. It's really just a temporary absence of trouble.
I think you'll agree, though, that true inner peace would have to be something so strong you couldn't lose it because of changes in your circumstances. Otherwise it wouldn't be true inner peace at all, just an imitation. So let's dig a little deeper.
The next level of inner peace is the deep calming of your central nervous system. This is already a great thing in our culture because so few people ever experience it. Hara is one of the most effective ways to pursue this kind of peace.
Peace in the sense of deep calm in your central nervous system is usually a prerequisite for spiritual progress, but it's not the deepest level of inner peace. And that makes sense, of course, because, no matter how profoundly calm your nerves are, you can still lose that peace.
So the ultimate level of inner peace has to be so strong that it renders you invulnerable. It has to be a peace that "passes all understanding", as Christ said; otherwise it's bogus. This kind of peace only comes as the fruit of consistency in the practice of meditation and/or noetic prayer.
The catch is this: meditation and noetic prayer are tools for bringing the ultimate experience of inner peace. However, they do this by acting as "drills" that dredge up a lot of supressed emotional garbage so that this very garbage can be processed, integrated and transformed.
And that's partly why people in deep spiritual practice feel so "set upon", especially in the early stages. They're dealing with the darkness within. This tends to leave you with the feeling that the universe itself is conspiring against you! Actually, in a certain sense, the universe is conspiring FOR you; it just doesn't feel that way ;-)
You see, all these trials have a huge benefit that you don't sense when you're in the middle of them. Slowly but surely they're detaching you from your attachment to results, your attachment to your own addictions, from your attachment to this short and transitory life itself. This is part of getting you "unstuck" from the world of time and space and focusing your gaze on the transcendent reality.
In other words, you're being pulled towards enlightenment. You're being made spiritually strong, invulnerable to your environment and turned into a tested and proven warrior, capable of leading others.
Here are some tips from Ancient Traditions about how to make the journey easier:
1. Practice your spiritual discipline at every opportunity, whether you "feel like it" or not.
2. Expect challenges more than peace and learn to enjoy and thrive on challenge. This will give you courage.
3. Set challenges for yourself, especially physical ones, and use them to hone your Warrior's spirit.
4. Remember that every challenge conceals benefit for you within it. This will give you fortitude.
5. Keep yourself in good physical shape - without this you automatically begin to feel weak and powerless.
6. Stick to your program of regular exercise, regular spiritual practice and a good diet - this above all functions as a WALL around you.
7. Remember, that in a spiritual battle you can be lose over and over again without being defeated. The only defeat is giving up. Stand your ground no matter what. This will teach you faith, because if you stand your ground - meaning you maintain your meditation / prayer - you'll see yourself miraculously rescued time and time again.
Momentarily I have to leave for our main Easter service. It lasts 4 hours or so, starting just before midnight. Usually a joyful time, this year it comes on the heels of several nasty conflicts in the parish and so for me this service is likely to be a major spiritual trial.
I could choose to cower in my bed and not go. Or I can make the Warrior's choice and "dive in". In the words of a great spiritual guide of recent times, unless a person enters into the sea of trials armed with nothing but faith, he will not advance spiritually so much as an inch.
Dr. Symeon Rodger