By love, I do not just mean love between intimate partners, but the warm, dynamic response of our heart to the world around us. The spiritual traditions teach that love is a basic component of the spiritual dimension. In the dualistic religions of the West, God is love. In the nondual traditions of the East, love is inherent in the spiritual essence that we can realize as our own being. Love is part of our own essential nature, somehow hidden or enfolded within us. Our desire and our efforts to love uncover our mysterious wound of separation from this authentic core of life.
For this reason, our relationships can become spiritual pathways; they can help us realize the spiritual essence of ourselves. For many people, the word spiritual suggests an intangible, inaccessible, and perhaps improbable realm of existence. As spirituality is understood in this book, however, the spiritual refers to our true and basic nature, beneath the fantasies, artifices, and constraints that distort our usual experience.
It is our most subtle and most clear attunement to ourselves and the world around us. When we enter the spiritual path, we are becoming real. Although it cannot be detected by the ordinary range of our senses, the subtle essence of our being does become tangible as we attune to it.
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It becomes an actual experience, a quality of being that is felt in our whole body and that can then be discerned in all of life. As we realize this essence of ourselves, our senses themselves become more subtle and begin to reveal the radiance, fluidity and a spacious stillness that suffuses the material world. The most radical transformation that occurs with this subtle attunement is that instead of experiencing ourselves as separate from our environment, we find that our own being is continuous with everything around us.
This book describes how the realization of this unified, spiritual dimension of life transforms all of our relationships. The understanding that I present in this book is most closely aligned with the Hindu system of Advaita nondual Vedanta and the Tibetan Buddhist schools of Mahamudra and Dzog-chen. These Asian traditions have in common the recognition of a fundamental dimension of consciousness that encompasses and pervades all of our experience.
Some of these traditions consider this dimension to be the nature of the mind, and some the nature of the universe. Some consider it to be the foundation of our individual minds, and others regard it as a unified dimension, as one mind at the root of all life. But they all agree that this dimension of pure consciousness is uncreated. It spontaneously appears.
It reveals itself to us as a transparency of our own being and everything around us. But the primary sources of the ideas and practices offered here are my own experience of spiritual practice, the necessities of my own healing the challenges and gifts of my relationships, and the spontaneous emergence of guidance in response to the needs of my students and clients in my practice as a psychotherapist and spiritual teacher over the past three decades.
I am not concerned with arguing for a particular philosophy, for I do not believe we can know for certain which explanation of ultimate reality is true. I do know that the experience of spiritual oneness is the innate potential of our human organism, and that it involves a transformation of every aspect of ourselves, including our physical body and our psychological maturity.
Spiritual realization is not a matter of constructing something new; it is always a clearing away, a letting go of the holding patterns and beliefs that obscure our true nature. If oneness is our true nature, it is also the natural potential, the underlying reality, of our relationships with other people.
This book looks at how relationships can help both partners in a relationship release their barriers to spiritual oneness. This is presented as a dual process of resolving our resistances to contact with our partner and attuning directly to the subtle dimension of spiritual unity. The spiritual essence of life is our most subtle, fundamental dimension of consciousness. The Asian literature describes fundamental consciousness as all-pervasive. It is experienced or experiences itself as vast space, pervading our own form and everything else that we experience, even physical space itself.
It is therefore the basis of unity within our own being our internal wholeness. And it is the basis of the unity of our own being with everything around us. It is an unbroken dimension, a dimension of wholeness and stillness that, when we attune to it, is coexistent with the movement of life.
Spiritual realization is not just a matter of uplifting our mood or changing our behaviors and beliefs. It means that we enter into and experience ourselves as the spiritual foundation of existence. Although the traditional teachings do not speak of it in this way, fundamental consciousness is the basis of contact: our deepest contact with ourselves, with other people, and with all of nature.
It touches and knows everything that it pervades. Although our fundamental dimension of consciousness is referred to in spiritual teachings, it is just beginning to gain recognition in the psychological field. Up until recently, it was thought, in the more adventurous schools of psychology, physics, and medicine, that energy was the basic stratum of life.
Energy, which is movement, such as flow, pulsation, or vibration, is easier to perceive and to feel than consciousness. The energy dimension is a spectrum in itself, from denser to subtler vibrations.
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When we realize ourselves as fundamental consciousness, we also reach the most subtle aspect of the energy spectrum. But we can experience the movement of energy without accessing the pervasive stillness of fundamental consciousness. Therefore, the application of fundamental consciousness to psychological and physical healing represents the cutting edge of the human growth movement.
There is also a growing recognition in contemporary psychology of the mutuality or interconnectedness, of existence. The psychoanalytic theorist Robert D. Stolorow describes human interaction as an intersubjective field of mutual influence. Interestingly in his book Nonduality, the Buddhist philosopher David Loy refers to the unified, spiritual dimension as a pre-subjective ground, because it exists beyond, or deeper than, our subjective distortion of reality. In this book, I describe how the intersubjective field can gradually transform into the pre-subjective field of spiritual oneness.
I also show how this shift brings compassion and insight to relationships, and helps both partners disentangle themselves from the defenses and projections that obstruct the flow of exchange between them. Human development can be seen as a gradual realization of the oneness of self and other. As we evolve in this way, we develop inward contact and the capacity for contact with other people at the same time. It begins in infancy, as the rudimentary distinction between self-awareness and awareness of our mother or primary caretaker , and culminates in the simultaneous self-knowledge and oneness with others that defines spiritual maturity.
This book looks at the difficulties that thwart this developmental process and how they can lead to the boundary problems of merging loss of self-contact and distancing from others. It also shows how the realization of fundamental consciousness resolves these difficulties, so that our development toward spiritual oneness can proceed. One of the main barriers to contact in intimate relationships is the fear that we will become submerged in another person. Attunement to fundamental consciousness can alleviate this fear because it pervades both our internal being and our environment as a unified whole.
When we live in this dimension, we have a felt sense of both our internal experience and our oneness with the life around us. We can therefore experience oneness with another person while remaining attuned to our own internal being. Spiritual oneness is not a loss of self in the other, not the merging of identities that is so often a problem for people in relationships. It is the unity and continuity of two individual people. In the dimension of our spiritual essence, we grow simultaneously toward wholeness within our own body and oneness with other people.
In this book, I present several ways that couples can enter into the oneness of fundamental consciousness together. One of the ways is through a subtle channel that runs through the vertical core of the body This channel is the center of the chakra system in Hindu Yoga and is called sushumna. In Buddhism, it is called the central channel. To find this subtle core of the body, you can focus inward toward your spine from the front of your body, as deeply as you can without strain.
Finding the subtle core of the body requires not just depth of focus, but also subtlety. It is a subtle inward attunement to ourselves. The sushumna forms a straight line from the top of your head to the center of the bottom of your torso. It cannot be neatly equated with any part of our physical anatomy, such as the spine, for a normal spine is not a straight line.
Instead, it needs to be located through the feel of it. Life is truly without limits. But once back in our normal world, life feels very confining with few choices. Creativity suddenly has narrowed and the physical world can be like shackles on the power of love and imagination.
There is such a big difference between the expansive spiritual experience and being confined to all the rules and limits of normal living. A practical life of thinking and doing can be so contrary to a world of fiery beauty and simply being. Awareness set free in a spiritual awakening is challenged and feels compromised coming back where it is much just getting through the chores of the day.
What has happened to the vastness, the infinite freedom? During a spiritual awakening many realize they are the center of the universe and the universe is centered in them. This is not one's ego shouting from a mountain top but exactly the opposite. They are humbled by the love as it unfolds and continues unfolding from the very center of their being.
Spirituality grows inside as the universe opens within, stretching out more and more, spreading forever, beyond planets and stars.
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Back in our everyday world, life is centered around who has authority, the loudest voice in the room, anything or one who gets our attention. More often then not, we feel as a victim of events and not the creator. This is what is most difficult for people who have had a spiritual experience to try to explain: We create and choose our own reality. In the normal world this seems very insensitive and wrong as if saying all suffering is chosen. But in the spiritual realm after finding such a large universe of unlimited being, in context of this vast self, the parts of life which include suffering are seen in a different perspective.
In the non material realm, there is no time, no hurry, no getting to or returning from. Timelessness is when minutes can be hours. What seemed like eternity may have been just seconds.
Awareness so full in each moment, time ceases to exist. Coming back to this world, everything revolves around the calendar, appointments and meetings. We are busy passing time, wasting time, having no time, seemingly waiting forever. We are concerned not only with how soon or how late we are but also how much and how little there is. In the spiritual reality everything is so very present, nothing is missing. Life is more then complete. The spiritual world is wonderfully whole. All answers are present and seemingly any and everything we could want is already given.
Awareness is happy and full in and of itself. When God is so present how can their be time, need, or anything separate? The experience for many people in spiritual awakening includes meeting their spiritual family, guides, and yes, angels.
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They have come home. Family is reunited, found waiting and excited. It is our loving family. Grumpy grandpa and everyone else are now awakened. There is no desire to run away from home but exactly the opposite. We have finally come home and we do not want to leave. While on our Earthy plane, people are looking for their soul mate or soul family, on the other side everyone is a spiritual partner. How does one live in the normal world after reuniting with family, finding the true meaning of relationships?
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The two worlds are so different. The experience of eternity can make the demands of everyday life seem superficial and without meaning. For some weeks I have had conversations with Yolaine Stout president of Aciste. She and others who have had their lives turned upside down with spiritual experiences have much to share and teach us. They describe the challenges living in a culture that is debating whether God exists or not while they try to manage their life changing spiritual experience.
What Yolaine and others are concluding is the best way to live after a spiritual awakening is to embrace the experience. This may throw the old life into turmoil as one seeks new work, activities, friends, maybe even a new partner.
But once the heart has been opened there is really only one choice and this is to receive the love and continue loving. In a spiritual awakening colors are more bright, thoughts are more clear, the filter of the mind has been put aside opening true awareness. During the experience, doubts, worries, desires, hopes and problems, all the debris normally floating in and clogging the mind are gone. Awareness without all the stuff normally occupying it, is brilliant, light. Now there are new opportunities to meditate and continue the clearing by receiving our peaceful heart. The awakening experience is an introduction to our awareness in its natural, true state.
The memories of a spiritual awakening can be a beginning point. Seeds have been planted in our life, seeds to nourish and keep growing. In silence, meditation, retreat, taking time to receive more deeply and embrace these memories allows the love to grow inside along with new experience to come forward.
The special quality of being in the spiritual awakening is being absorbed in our awareness and slowly into our personality and daily life. Soaking our awareness in our heart's essence lifts the cloud, the dullness of this world which has settled in our mind and hangs over most of our senses. The calling of eternity is too much to ignore or put limits to.