Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Holiday Cheer

I’ve spent some time reviewing everything that’s been written in the blog before now, including the questions and answers in the comments. I can hardly believe the great variety of information and inspiration that is contained here. It’s like a whole course in itself, and the comments are the spontaneous dialogue arising as we progress together on the path to ultimate freedom--offered here for the benefit of all that are open and ready.

I was surprised at how long some of the entries were. Once I get going….some of you must really persevere in order to get through a whole entry, much less more than one. Practically speaking, I should just recommend that everyone read the whole thing again from the beginning, and that would surely be enough for anyone; yet some people like something new, something up-to-date. So here we are, all meeting in the same space around the same general time; and our meeting in that subtle space is the primary happening.

I wonder how many people have actually read the whole blog? Am I the only one?

If you are new here, I recommend reading any and all of the past entries since the blog began, and you will find that the comments following each entry include many insightful questions with answers regarding applying the principles of Truth to the practical details of everyday life. Every entry of the blog is as timely now as it was at the time it was first posted.

December is the holiday season, and it is an excellent time to practice lightheartedness and cheerfulness. Many people are disheartened these days by certain downward cycles in the external world. They walk around with worry and anxiety on their faces, coupled with all the anger they keep buried in their psyches—angry at life and the hand they were dealt, at everyone around them for, mostly, just being themselves, and even angry at the weather. If they are driving and another car passes them, they get angry. Who does he think he is?

We are so quick to be offended by any imagined slight, and then we justify our anger. Of course I’m angry, look at what he said to me. As though Jesus Christ himself would be angry if anyone had said or done the same thing.

Please do not think it is natural to be this way. It might be normal to be this way; it is the human condition, after all. Still, with the recognition and application of the principles of Truth in each new present moment, we can burst free from the confines of habitual, contracted thoughts and emotions, and begin to glimpse the glory of the light and love that lie eternally within us.

The natural way for a human being to live is with gratitude and appreciation for all of God’s gifts, with optimism regarding the future, with great cheer and lightheartedness, and with unconditional love and compassion for all beings in his or her psychic sphere. These days our sphere of experience and influence includes cyberspace, something unimagined just a few years back. Otherwise there would be no blog.

Celebrate your holidays with great love. Love your Self, and recognize and love that same Self in all those around you. This is the true way to celebrate—absorbed in love and appreciating all beings for being exactly as they are.

Enjoy your meals together with great joy, with lighthearted conversation and much laughter. Everyone will feel uplifted afterwards, and even digestion will be improved.

This is also a time of giving, of freely offering what you have to share with those in your lives. Sometimes it feels challenging to give when we feel we hardly have enough as it is, yet through the act of giving we open ourselves up to receive even more from the universe. It is only through giving that we can receive, and we receive much more than we give. It is the act of offering that initiates the opening.

Many of us do not understand how constricted we are when it comes to receiving. Many, from various aspects of past conditioning, don’t feel like we deserve anything really good, or that we are worthy of very much. This is because we don’t recognize or appreciate the divine Being that occupies this shell of a body. If we knew Who was actually in here, we’d naturally love and worship our own Self all the time. In this way we live in perfect contentment and bliss.

Through giving, we come in conscious contact with that higher aspect of ourselves that is capable of giving something worthwhile to others. This awakens us to the very best of ourselves, and through practice we naturally live in this way.

When we feel we have to cling to what little we have, we close ourselves off from all the magnificent offerings the universe has in store for us. When we cannot give, we are also incapable of receiving. The door has been shut.

As Saint Francis of Assisi said, "Remember that when you leave this Earth, you do not take with you what you have received, only what you gave away."

We are concluding the year 2009. Let’s go out living and loving and giving it our best shot in all ways. Let’s go out being our best and brightest, and offering the best we have within us to all those with whom we come in contact.

In certain cultures it is felt that the way we end one year is how we start the next, and how we start the next year has a great influence on how the whole year will go.

For the rest of 2009, let’s be loving, laughing, and a little bit loony. Remember, only the ego takes anything seriously, and taking ourselves seriously is the greatest folly of all. Let’s go out the old year playfully, and enter the approaching new year as the oncoming of the greatest play yet.

We receive many letters and emails from people around the world who report how much they are gaining from the lessons through email. Since we launched the course over a year ago, there have been new groups of participants to begin each and every month. We do not advertise, yet somehow the word is spreading. Expansion by word of mouth is truly the best way, for it is organic, from the inside out.

I am looking forward to seeing who the final participants to begin in 2009 will be, and who will be among the first group of 2010. What a great future we have to look forward to. There is much to share. No matter how far we have come before now, there is always the next step, and by its very nature it is always surprising and totally unpredictable.

Remember that the greatest Truth of all is the simple Truth of the present moment. Be present now, bring your attention to the existing moment, and learn to live in that subtle space between thoughts. The activity of the mind is not nearly as interesting as we have always presumed. More than anything else, it is agitating.

Love everything unconditionally, including yourself—all the movements of your mind and emotions—and through practicing love become an embodiment of love. When we leave this world and this body with the final exhalation, all that will be remembered of us is how much love we shared, how much we gave. All else was irrelevant, no matter what we think we did or did not accomplish in this lifetime. In the end, how much love we shared with others while we were here is all that will matter in the least.

I send you my very best, and all the love of my heart is offered openly and freely. Happy Holidays to everyone.

For information about the Course of Training written by D. R. Butler and available by email, write: drbutler.course@gmail.com

For Spanish, write: drbutler.cursoesp@gmail.com

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Grace of Gratitude

This is the month that we celebrate “Thanksgiving” in America, and it has always seemed among the best of holidays. Thanksgiving Day is a day of awareness of gratitude. Gratitude has inherent within it a divine grace that uplifts us and enriches our lives.

Gratitude attracts to us more of what we are grateful for. In the same way, criticism attracts more to us of what we are critical of, annoyance attracts to us more of what annoys us, and making someone wrong for their actions or words only attracts to us more apparent wrongdoings in the actions and words of others.

Gratitude is special in the sense that it rewards us more than any other feeling or attitude. It rewards us because it opens up the universal flow of all that we are thankful for, and this flow is infinite, limited only by our capacity to experience gratitude.

Too many of us experience gratitude only when something special happens. If we win the lottery, we feel gratitude—for a while, until we realize how much trouble it causes unless we use the winnings in totally unselfish ways. On the other side of gratitude is the desire for selfish gain.

Many of us rarely acknowledge all that exists in our lives that is worthy of great gratitude. We can have gratitude for this physical body, for this opportunity for a physical incarnation, in which it is possible to progress spiritually through harmonizing karma. We can have gratitude for our home, for the clothes we are wearing, for our family—no matter how troublesome they might seem from time to time. We have no idea how many people on earth live without the many things we take for granted every day.

The secret to experiencing gratitude is living in the present moment. If our attention strays too far to the past or to the future, our experience of gratitude fades and is finally forgotten as our mind once again becomes entangled with familiar egotistical melodramas that the ego has identified with as its “own” life, as what is “happening” to it.

It can be observed, however, by any individual being that clearly perceives, that in the present moment everything is fine. Someday we will realize that in the present moment everything is absolutely perfect. Nothing is ever going wrong in the present moment. It’s only when we begin putting words to stuff, describing conditions, situations, and other people, that we get caught up in the illusion of time and circumstance and lose touch with the Truth of the present moment.

Practice gratitude and see what happens as a result, see the palpable difference in your mental and emotional state. It is impossible to be in a bad mood, or possessed by a negative emotion, if we are absorbed in the experience of gratitude. This is an extremely natural experience; however it requires practice, like everything else, to perfect it and fully manifest it.

When you feel the impulse to be critical, or to think things aren’t going well in your life, or to blame someone else for your own feelings, look around you and see with the vision of the truth all that exists in your life that is worthy of your gratitude. There is so much more than we are aware of, so much more than we ever consciously acknowledge. Gratitude is a spiritual state, and through the consistent practice of it we are spiritually elevated. We can’t wait for it to come on its own account, however. We must generate it from within, through our own conscious intent, attention, and will. We must consciously attune ourselves to it. In the course we are taught how to do this.

Speaking of the course, a participant recently emailed this question: “If I take the attention off my mind and direct it inward toward the higher tattvas, will I still be able to perceive the world and function within it? How will my experience be different?”

By tattvas he is referring to the levels of creation as explained in Kashmir Shaivism, which are referred to in the course because they give a certain perspective of how the creation of our own personal universe happens, and how the Universal becomes the individual. For our purposes here and now, we can simply consider the “higher tattvas” as the higher qualities and feelings, such as love, compassion, kindness, cheerfulness, lightheartedness, and gratitude.

Yes indeed we are still able to perceive the world and function in it. Not only that, we perceive it even more clearly and function more effectively than ever. Simply because we become aware of a higher or more refined state of being doesn’t mean that we lose touch with practical life.

How will your experience be different? You’ll feel lighter, and definitely more lighthearted. You will experience gratitude for all the goodness that has been bestowed on you instead of focusing on the things or people that you assume cause your troubles. All your troubles are caused by your own troubled mind. It does no good to blame them on others, or on life. What we think is what we get.

You’ll stop thinking about things so much. In fact, you’ll no longer have to think. You will think only when it serves a useful function. Otherwise you’ll simply bask in this simple flow of life, appreciating each moment for whatever it contains. You will go beyond qualitative differences between things, and live in a state of pure equality-consciousness, where the only differences are obviously imaginings of the mind.

I was recently reviewing the last two chapters of Siddhartha, written by Herman Hesse and first published in 1951. These last two chapters of the book are among my favorite passages of all that I have read.

Govinda and Siddhartha were close friends in childhood. Govinda left to become a monk, while Siddhartha went through the experiences of worldly life, and finally became enlightened through his work as a ferryman. Late in life the two met again, and Govinda recognized Siddhartha’s attainment. The last chapter of the book is the dialogue between the two of them, and in it Govinda asks: “But what you call thing, is it something real, something intrinsic? Is it not only the illusion of Maya, only image and appearance? Your stone, your tree, are they real?”

“This also does not trouble me much,” said Siddhartha. “If they are illusion then I also am illusion, and so they are always of the same nature as myself. It is that which makes them so lovable and venerable. That is why I can love them. And here is a doctrine at which you will laugh. It seems to me, Govinda, that love is the most important thing in the world. It may be important to great thinkers to examine the world, to explain and despise it. But I think it is only important to love the world, not to despise it, not for us to hate each other, but to be able to regard the world and ourselves and all beings with love, admiration and respect.”

It seems to me that Siddhartha’s response pretty much sums up all that we need to understand or practice. Love of this world, of our life, of what we are doing at any given time, of all others around us, and of ourselves just as we are, allows us to live in a state not comprehended by the ordinary intellect, no matter how well “educated” we might happen to be. And with this love comes a great gratitude for all that life has to offer, for the exquisite fullness of one present moment after another, and there is a genuine appreciation of all that others contribute to our lives, whether we enjoy it at the time or not.

This time of the year is a time for gratitude. During this time practice feeling thankful for all the goodness you have been given. Such conscious practice soon becomes a subconscious habit, and the time will come when it will be as natural to automatically experience gratitude as it was previously to automatically experience emotional reactions, disapproval, fault-finding, and focusing on what is wrong.

If you have never consciously tried feeling gratitude as a consistent practice, then give it a go just as an experiment, just to see what happens as a result. You might be surprised at the life-transforming power that lies within this simple feeling of gratitude for the goodness in your life. There is so much grace in gratitude. Try it out and see what happens.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

When Feelings Don't Reflect Reality

I received an interesting email from a man that I have known for a long time. If anyone is sincere, consistent, and unpretentious regarding spiritual work, it is he. I have seen him apply the principles of Truth in his own life, and he has lived into the life he always dreamed of. And yet, he is willing to share the following honestly and openly:

“I've come to realize that my life is pretty much how I dreamed it might be some years ago. I have managed to save enough money so that the vicissitudes of the economy no longer cause me worry. I own a nice home with a beautiful garden and no mortgage. I have a loving and devoted wife whose company I still thoroughly enjoy. I won't bore you with more details, but you get the picture.

“In spite of enjoying the life I had dreamed about, when old patterns of thinking emerge, if I am not vigilant and put these thoughts in their proper place, out of my head, the same old feelings of anxiety will come up. If I'm not careful I can become just as stressed as when I used to be worried about making the mortgage payment.

“Some time ago I was fond of thinking that if only I could get the circumstances of my job right, get my life just right, everything would be perfect. Now that everything is ‘perfect’ I notice that those same tendencies that caused me grief have followed me into my perfect life, and it's those subtle familiar tendencies that were the problem all along.”

I think our friend has summed up something many of us experience without fully understanding what is going on. On the outside, life is good; in the moment, life is good; yet the same unpleasant feelings that were prevalent when life didn’t seem so good keep coming up even now.

From time to time, as there are no exact equivalent words in modern languages, certain Sanskrit words will be incorporated into our expanded vocabulary, and their usage can broaden our perspective of many aspects of life.

There is a Sanskrit term, samskaras, that roughly translates as “subconscious tendencies.” Our samskaras are the tendencies to automatically think, feel, act, and react in ways that we wouldn't consciously choose.

Say we have a samskara to be agitated very easily. So something happens to trigger our agitation, and we blame the trigger. A person is being himself, totally acceptable to everyone else, yet for some reason something he does or says agitates us. We blame it on the person. Then we say that he did something that agitated us, as though it is his fault. Yet chances are he did nothing wrong whatsoever. Our agitation samskara got us once again.

In a sense, samskaras are the root seeds of our karma, as subconscious tendencies lead to actions that eventually lead to the corresponding reactions, or consequences. Since the universe is in perfect balance and harmony, existing in a mathematical exactitude we can hardly comprehend, any action or motion—either physically, emotionally, or mentally—produces a corresponding reaction, consequence, or result necessary in order to maintain the harmony and balance of the universe.

Anyway, I digress. Our friend is asking why do these old feelings come up even now that his outer life is as he always wished it to be. I am certain that everyone reading this has similar experiences. We have old feelings that come up, even though there is nothing associated with them in present-moment reality.

For example, a feeling of fear and anxiety arises while we’re resting in a calm and serene environment. It corresponds to nothing in our actual reality, yet it captures our attention. Such feelings have nothing to do with what is actually going on. They rise from the past, irrationally for the most part. Yet they trick us into caring about them and getting involved in a mental or egotistical way.

It reminds me of the person who couldn’t enjoy her vacations because, instead of enjoying the present-moment reality of the holiday, she spent each day counting down the days before she had to return home to her ordinary routine. Our mind runs our life to the degree that we are unable to enjoy present-moment reality because of the predominance of habitual thoughts, including obsessing on a future that doesn’t even exist.

I am very happy with the circumstances of my life these days. I am in a beautiful place and environment. Right now the leaves are changing colors and there are explosions of reds, yellows, and oranges in every direction around me. The view out of my window as I write is of the fields and trees that extend as far as I can see, and now the sun is shining brightly on them, illuminating an extraordinary scene of sparkling colors. How thankful I am to be here, to have the freedom to enjoy this beautiful simplicity.

This auspicious karma is to me an outpouring of divine grace. You have no idea how much gratitude I feel for the life God has given me. Like our friend, I am also very happy with my wife, Kay, and together we produce the course for the participants that share it with us, as well as play through life together the best we can. We learn a lot from our relationship. And, as my teacher once told me, there is always more to learn.

Still, even though I have no reason to complain about a single thing in my life, the same old feelings from the past do come up. Sometimes I experience the most intense sadness. The mind tends to associate a rising emotion with something in particular in present life, so I’ll think I’m sad because I haven’t seen my children in a while and I miss them. Of course, this is just the samskara of sadness finding a reason to be sad.

When this comes up, I remind myself of the truth, that they are all very happy with their lives and successful in their own chosen fields. My oldest loves his work and his life with his fiance, and my two youngest are doing well in their respective schools and enjoying their lives. When I remember to be happy that everyone is happy and doing well, my temporary sadness disappears. It was a samskara that came up, looking for some way to work itself in, and the only way to deal with a recurring samskara is to replace it with something more uplifting.

The sadness does not originate with missing my children. That is only its current justification. I experienced the same sadness when my mother died in a car wreck when I had just turned 21. I was very close to her, so the underlying sadness went on for many years. A few years later in my mid-twenties, I was filled with sadness and anxiety as well when I reached a point where I had no idea how I would come up with the money to pay the rent or buy the food. I reached times during that period when I had to borrow money from friends in order to get by.

This was the state I was in when I met my primary spiritual teacher at the age of 29, at the peak of my Saturn return. After that meeting everything changed for me. But that is another story for another time.

So, now my life is as good as anyone could reasonably ask for. I create my experience of it as I go along from day to day, just as all of us do. Today I felt to share more personally than usual, and possibly it is helpful to someone, or even to me for simply writing it down. The point is, all the old tendencies do come up from time to time. They rise into consciousness and tempt us to join them and wallow in them like we did in the old days.

My anxiety doesn’t get me too much these days, because I tell it that I’m too old to bother to worry about anything, that I won’t be around long enough for anything I could worry about to matter that much. But, because I’m this sentimental Cancer who always had a secret love of family and community, the sadness still gets me sometimes. Now when the unwanted sadness comes up, I replace it with the knowledge that everyone is happy as they are, and that all they want for me is that I also be happy.

Anyway, that’s my personal sharing regarding our friend’s letter. All the old tendencies hang around for a long time and when they arise we simply need to be strong enough to step back into our own present-moment contentment. It is easy to be content in the present moment. It’s when the mind takes us away in its concerns or its fleeting dreams of the past or future that our contentment is replaced by all the stuff of the world.

Compassion is so important in this life, and especially developing compassion for ourselves. When these old, outdated feelings, these samskaras, arise in our personal consciousness, we need to see them as they are and have compassion for ourselves for still having to deal with them. Samskaras are not who we are, yet they cause us to automatically act and react in ways we would never actually choose to.

Each of us in this world is either a puppet of the samskaras, or always remaining vigilant and ready to deal with them when they come up, ready to replace them with something greater, with some reminder such as, The only true and lasting sensation of Consciousness is love. It is true, and for this reason, it is only when we feel love that we experience our true inner Self. They are inseparable.

Love and compassion combine to form a light that dissolves all leftover stuff from the past—all the samskaras—until such stuff no longer has the capacity to rise in our consciousness and tempt us anymore. This inner light ultimately dissolves everything into complete oneness. In this light, everyone is forgiven for everything. All blame and guilt are wiped clean. The inner light reveals an unexpected perfection.

There is an inner light whether we are consciously aware of it or not. This inner light allows us to ‘see’ what we feel and think, and all that is ‘going on’ inside us. It is there even as we sleep, otherwise how would we ‘see’ our dreams? Ultimately we experience ourselves as one with the light, and then we realize that nothing else is ever actually ‘going on.’ It is all merely a momentary play of the mind.

The inner light is most accessible to us during times of lightheartedness. Be as lighthearted and cheerful as you can. Be in touch with the humor of things even when challenges appear.

Humor is always the best approach; seriousness is only the ego trying to regain control. If we can maintain lightheartedness and cheerfulness, life has a way of working out for the best. Try it—in this one area you will never be disappointed.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Love, Light, and Bliss

If this is your first visit to our blog, we welcome you. I encourage you to explore the entire blog, and especially the first entry, dated July, 2008, entitled “An Introduction,” for it gives a concise and clear account of what we do here. I invite you to also check out the comments at the end of each entry, as we have enjoyed many very interesting and provocative question-and-answer exchanges, and you might find that some correspond to your own life.

The purpose of the blog is manifold. Primarily, it is a place to tune in to positive energy and to the Truth of the present moment. The words naturally guide us into the wordless state, or the state between words. The Truth of the present moment is beyond words, and cannot be exactly stated or verbalized. We cannot define or describe it; we can only allude to it. Alluding to it in a certain way, however, brings about the experience of it—an experience so profound that it cannot be captured or understood in words alone.

The blog is also a meeting place where we can have our questions answered in ways that everyone can benefit from the exchange. Everyone who reads this is invited to share comments or questions in the comments following each entry.

One person wrote to say, “In your lessons you often talk about relationships, and apply the principles to relationships. This is very good for people involved in relationships, but what about the rest of us? When do we get to the ‘love, light, and bliss’ you spoke of? Spirituality is much more than relationships, wouldn’t you say?”

Well, of course spirituality goes far beyond relationships. It goes beyond duality altogether, for that matter, where the only one you can ultimately have a relationship with is your own Self.

In reality, this is already the case--everyone is another individual expression of the same inner Self. When we talk about relationships in the lessons, we’re not limiting them to interactions in a romantic sense. We’re speaking of interactions with everyone we come in contact with.

Since everyone is ultimately an individual expression of the same One, and we all share the same exact Awareness of Being, then how we see and relate to others in any way becomes a central emphasis of sadhana—or spiritual work, or the process of personal development—or however you wish to think of it. The thing is, relationships of any nature, even those with your dog or your cat—who are also God in disguise—include certain aspects of your spiritual development. If there were nothing to be learned or harmonized, they would not even exist.

One of the most intense, yet productive, spiritual practices is doing our part to create, maintain, or restore harmony to any relationship, including whomever we are with at this moment.

The world isn’t generally set up where we can easily avoid other people. Even monks and swamis have to deal with other monks and other swamis. Karma isn’t set up to go through life alone. Therefore in order to be in harmony with the natural order of the universe, we must first be in harmony with each individual who has been included in our karmic sphere—those with whom we share a relationship of any nature, no matter how intimate or how casual.

If we are always relating to the same Self in all its various disguises, then the principles of relationship are extremely significant in fully realizing our own true nature. Through practicing the principles in practical ways in our own life, including relationships, we do the work we came here to this planet, in this body, to do. The secret lies in being in harmony with whatever is. See the equality of things, and don’t get caught up in polarities.

Another wrote to say, “Infatuation has really come up strong this year and honestly reveals a pattern of behavior over the years where I periodically develop these odd crushes on people. They seem to last for a while, cause me some degree of pain and confusion. Then they pass. I would like to be free of this pattern and do my best to see the Truth in the present moment. Any thoughts or ideas will be greatly appreciated.”

First of all, infatuation comes in many forms and on many levels. For example, most of us are greatly infatuated with our own thoughts and melodramas. We think they’re so interesting that we can hardly wait to tell others all about them. Meanwhile the others wait for us to finish so that they can tell us their thoughts and melodramas—the ones they are currently infatuated with.

Of course, you mean infatuation with another person, and I know very well how much pain and confusion this causes. The pain and confusion arise from its illusory nature. It feels like we should do something about it, and then it’s painful when it’s inappropriate or impossible to do anything whatsoever, and if we do something about it, we cause unnecessary karmic complications. So there is pain and confusion either way, whether the infatuation “works out” or not. Infatuation never “works out” in an ideal, Hollywood-ending kind of way.

Infatuation is unrelated to love, even though our mental melodrama tries to convince us that it is real and has great meaning and promise. Infatuation is very powerful, yet it passes extremely fast, and we’re left wondering what hit us. In one moment we’re madly in love, and in the next moment we’re wondering what we got ourselves into.

When we are relatively young it’s very challenging to remain totally free from infatuations. We always think we see a person who is more interesting or more rewarding or more something than the other people we already know. We think she is unique in some way, and that she can add something indispensable to our life that is available from no other.

At my age infatuation is no longer a problem. For one thing, we start to see that no matter how mysterious or unique another might outwardly appear, ultimately it’s only another variation of everyone else, or a different combination of all the traits and qualities we are already familiar with. Under the spell of infatuation she might seem to be a wonderful and mesmerizing creature, but once the spell breaks we might be amazed to see how completely ordinary she is in all ways.

There’s no easy answer to putting an end to infatuation. It’s just one of many things we need to work on as we progress on the spiritual path. As we mature on all levels, and expand our awareness of the Truth, infatuation and other contracting qualities gradually fall away from us.

The spiritual path is not different from all the things of regular life. It is not something vague and other-worldly, having nothing to do with the ‘real world.’ It is a certain approach to each moment, where we bring our own awareness and presence into every situation life presents, including when we are grabbed by infatuation.

In truth, living a spiritual life is simply being more aware and present in each moment, focusing attention on the higher qualities such as love, light, and bliss, while refusing to focus attention on the more contracted qualities such as anger, agitation, worry, jealousy, suspicion, infatuation, and the like.

A spiritual life is how we live each moment—it is being totally focused on the Truth of the present moment, as well as free from the remembered past and imagined future. Such things no longer imprison our attention.

Love, light, and bliss are available at any time, while undergoing any endeavor. We can sit and experience them in formal meditation, yet there is no reason to limit the higher qualities to sitting meditation. They can be integrated with every situation in life, with every relationship, with business ventures, or simply strolling down the street. It is a moment-to-moment thing, independent of circumstances.

There is no limit to how much, or how often, we can experience the love, light, and bliss that is already an integral part of our own eternal nature. They exist within us already. They are more who we actually are than any verbal description we could make about ourselves.

We only need to take our attention off our apparent problems and difficulties and focus our attention on the already existing love, light and bliss. They are part of our nature, not passing phenomena like thoughts and feelings. The nature of the inner Self is love, light, and bliss. After all our thoughts and emotions have come and gone, we will see that this is the way it has always been as well as the way it will always be. Love, light, and bliss are eternal.

So it’s not when do we get to the love, light, and bliss? It’s when do we start focusing our attention on our already existing love, light, and bliss, that exists without interruption? These more expanded qualities exist right now within our own Self. It’s up to us to recognize and appreciate them, and nothing stops us other than the conditioned mind and ego.

Because some work needs to be done to break free from the conditioned mind and ego, and to learn how to consistently focus our attention on our higher qualities, as well as on pure Awareness of Being, we offer the Course of Training through email. The lessons of the course lead us step-by-step from where we currently find ourselves to where we ultimately wish to be.

As Shunryu Suzuki once said: You are perfect just as you are, and you can use a little improvement. That about sums it up.

We look forward to getting to know those of you who sign up for the course this month. It is a great adventure to share together, and has the potential to change lives forever.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

“Will I ever ‘Get it’?”—Grace and Self-effort

Someone recently asked, “Will I ever ‘get it?’ Will I ever actually see and experience the Truth of the present moment?”

Lots of people have various versions of this question from time to time. Once I had the realization that wondering what was wrong with me was the primary problem. I also saw that the only aspect of me that would wonder such a thing would be the ego itself.

In a sense, wondering if we’ll ever ‘get it,’ prevents us from ‘getting it’ or experiencing it for oneself, as a present actuality and not merely a premise or some future goal. It reduces the experience of Truth to words, and the true experience is far beyond mere words. In fact, it is the space between words, which is infinite and eternal.

We all experience the Truth from time to time. Otherwise this blog would make no sense and you never would have read this far. You know what experiencing the Truth of the present moment is, or you wouldn’t be here. The very phrase would have no meaning for you had you never experienced it.

Enjoy this moment of getting it. Whether for a moment or an eternity, what does it matter? Ultimately they are the same. We experience the highest Truth, the most expanded state, and then moments later the ego and mind get involved in something again. We go in and out of the experience of the Truth all the time.

When we experience the Truth, we experience that the Truth is eternal and unbroken. When we forget the Truth, we even forget that we ever knew the Truth, and wonder if it’s ever actually possible. Most of us go back and forth between these two experiences, depending on our state at the time.

The point of spiritual work, or work for personal development, or for the expansion of consciousness, or for eventual freedom and liberation—or however we choose to understand it—is to increase the amount of time we experience the Truth and to decrease the amount of time we forget the Truth. Ultimately, as we mature spiritually, we gain consistency, and this greater degree of consistency is true growth.

The experience of the Truth is beyond time and space, therefore a moment of Truth is eternal. There is no ‘Truth’ limited to time or space. The Truth, or pure Consciousness, is timeless and formless. It has no seeming linear reality in the way the physical, objective world does, with our ongoing descriptions of melodramas and so forth.

Appreciate and honor those moments of Truth as they arise. Just because you don’t consciously ‘remember’ them doesn’t mean they never happen. The experience is only real now.

Someone else wrote to ask, “It seems that your course is more about self-effort and not so much about grace? Would you consider this to be true?”

To be honest, it has been my experience and observation that not many people truly understand grace, although many have erroneous ideas regarding it. One person actually quit the course because she preferred to do spiritual work through grace instead of self-effort.

Let’s look at this. Through grace we are alive, through grace we experience love, through grace we have each other, and through grace our predominant thoughts manifest as outer realities. Through grace we breathe and the heart beats. This doesn’t mean that grace is going to do our sadhana (spiritual work) for us.

God has given us the free will to think whatever we choose, and thought leads to action, which leads to reaction. Our habitual thoughts set off chain-reactions that go all around the world for all we know.

Through grace our thoughts do become real, but it’s up to us whether we think of what we want or what we don’t want. It’s up to our own self-effort whether we think pleasant thoughts or unpleasant thoughts. Grace gives us the power to do the work, but grace doesn’t do the work for us. On the level of being an individual, there are certain things we must do for ourselves.

If we are having an unpleasant day, we can be certain that we are thinking unpleasant thoughts. Through grace our thoughts manifest emotionally and physically, usually in that order. Yet we determine what we think with our own free will. The problem is, most of us don’t use it, and instead settle into automatic, predictable patterns of thought and reactivity.

This is our primary responsibility as an individual: to determine what we think instead of mechanically being swept along by a torrent of habitual tendencies from the past.

The weird part is that most of us reading this already think we know this, that we already do this, and that I am merely harping on the most elementary fundamentals. Yet, for the most part we don’t actually practice these principles in our lives on a moment-to-moment basis.

We give ourselves credit for understanding the principles, we say, I’ve known about creative thought for years. Let’s get to the good stuff, let's study the more advanced aspects of Advaita Vedanta, yet we don’t do it in the most practical ways in day-to-day life. We don’t actually practice what we think we already know. Therefore, most of us need more self-effort—which is primarily an activation and coordination of attention, conscious intent, and will. This is discussed in detail in the lessons by email.

To many of us this sounds very simple. Yet to actually practice it in our own life often seems almost impossible. Through grace we come upon these teachings, through grace we gain an awareness of the principles, and through grace the principles do bear fruit if we practice them and not merely agree in theory. Grace even gives us the inherent power to practice. Yet we have to practice the application of the principles through our own self-effort. It does no good to merely “know about” the possibility.

There were some excellent questions in the comments following the previous entry, and if you haven’t read them, please take time to do so. I hope you include the comments in your reading of the blog, as a lot of information and inspiration is there. Here are a couple of questions from last time that are well worth rereading:

Jackson: Sometimes (my wife) relates to me very disrespectfully and criticizes me for things that seem to me like her own projections and have nothing to do with me. My question is how do I know whether she is deluded and sees things about me that are her own imagination and actually have nothing to do with me, or whether I am deluded to the point that I can’t see the truth of what she says?

D. R. Butler: It is important to first understand that it does not matter if your wife knows the truth about you or not. Ultimately, of course, you might need to understand this, but that’s not where you start off. You start off by understanding why you are seeing her as you are, and what is being reflected back to you that you need to understand about yourself.

We each experience the consequences of our own actions and attitude, and our own ways of seeing and understanding things. If you see your wife as “disrespectful and critical,” it is important that you understand what it is about yourself that causes you to see this particular reflection. In other words, the important thing is not to understand your wife’s projections onto you, but to understand your own projections onto her.

See that you are the one who is conscious of disrespect and criticism, therefore including them in your personal reality. Don’t blame them on your wife or anyone else. Replace them with respect and appreciation instead, and you’ll see something totally different in your life as well as your wife.

Relate to her with love and respect, with lightheartedness, and don’t take her too seriously when she seems to be the ways you have the most trouble with. Don’t come back at her when you feel unjustly blamed or attacked. Don’t get defensive. Simply stay centered in your own harmonious state. Of course it will be challenging, but that is where you have to start if you truly wish to change anything.

If you can remain steady within yourself, and not be pulled into reacting to whatever she is or isn’t experiencing, or how she does or doesn’t see you, or however you happen to see her, things cannot remain as they presently appear to be. You will see that your relationship always reflects your own attitude and your own vision. The way the other person affects you is not up to them; it is up to you.

See and relate to your wife in the ways you would like for her to see and relate to you. Ultimately everything in our own life originates from our own vision. We see it before it becomes real for us, and how we see something is the cause of what we see. This especially applies to relationships of any nature.

Susan: The part that I am still struggling with is how I relate to myself. I'm less kind and less positive in my internal dialog when that part of me that I call the "Judge" gets on a roll. Any hints about how to develop internal compassion?

D. R. Butler: The closest we have to an actual “original sin" is thinking lowly of ourselves, being critical of ourselves, and generally feeling unworthy. We do not outgrow this, and it does not fall away on its own accord. It is the human condition, and was described in certain scriptures thousands of years ago.

We have to consciously practice thinking well of ourselves, respecting ourselves, and loving ourselves. When done correctly, the persistent ego is humbled. This is the highest discipline.

This does not happen automatically, or simply by deciding to do so. We have to do the work, or actually apply the principles in real life, in order for the transformation to occur. We are currently, thanks to grace, engaged in that process.

I look forward to the comments following this entry, and I give thanks to those who contribute their questions. Often, in reading the answers to the questions of others, our own questions are answered as well, and through each simple exchange all of us can learn something new.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Difference between Thinking and Knowing

A question came in this month asking the difference between thinking and knowing, and we’ll get to it in a moment. It is a great question, as many of us “think” that we “know.” It would be better to “know” that we are only “thinking.”

One principle is very simple even though it is also extremely profound. It is that we live in our thoughts. We live in our thoughts, and we think that our thoughts are true. There is a space between thoughts that is formless and eternal, that is so changeless that it will be the same a million years from now, while thoughts arise and subside as quickly as waves on the surface of the ocean.

What is often not understood or appreciated is that habitual thoughts are creative. If we think about the most horrible situations, we will without any doubt experience horrible situations in our personal life. If we think about how pleasant and enjoyable everything is, we will experience a pleasant and enjoyable life. Our attitude determines our experience. We can prove the truth of this simply by objectively observing.

We can see how things actually work, but first we must awaken and develop a more refined vision than what we are ordinarily satisfied with.

No matter how far we might have progressed spiritually, or even if we consider ourselves an absolute beginner, the truth remains that we live in our thoughts. We cannot get out of this, and it cannot be otherwise. Therefore it is very important to take responsibility for each thought in each moment, for our habitual and predominant thoughts will have very real consequences in our life corresponding to the nature of the thoughts. This is true for each individual in this world, whether one ever consciously realizes it or not.

Now we will get to our questions, both of which originally appeared as comments following the previous entry. The answers have been somewhat expanded since they first appeared.

Sally: My son asked me a question today: What is the difference between thinking and knowing? As I tried to discuss it, I realized that it wasn't so easy for me to explain.

D. R. Butler: Thinking is mental activity, or mind in motion. It usually involves something regarding the past or the future. Generally speaking, thought is very self-absorbed: "What should I do today? Shall I go to the gym or work on my art project?" or, "The more I think about what he said to me last week, the angrier I get."

Thoughts, in general, don't have anything to do with the Truth of the present moment. They are simply meanderings of the mind, verbal descriptions of egotistical melodramas. A thought is merely what we are thinking. Most of us, however, are very fascinated, even infatuated, with what we are thinking. Generally, thoughts take us out of our awareness of the present moment, and at their worst they stir up negative emotions, which in turn bring up the most unpleasant aspects of our personality.

Knowing, on the other hand, doesn't actually require thought. For example, someone asks, "What is your name?" and immediately you know your name. You don't have to think about it, remember it, or conjure it up. Your name simply arises in your awareness because it is something you already know. You have a firm conviction regarding it. There is no doubt.

Another example is how we know that we can walk across the ground or the sidewalk and we know that it will support us. We don’t think, “Will my next step land safely? Will the ground below me support me if I move from here?” We don’t have such thoughts. We know that we will be supported. There is no doubt. Thoughts are the origin of doubt.

Knowing is beyond creative thought. What we know is already real for us. Truly knowing is far beyond merely thinking.

Before we can tap into true knowing, we first need to move into that space between any two thoughts. When we are in that space, we have momentarily transcended the mind, and “knowing” arises intuitively, without any necessity for thought.

The highest aspect of "knowing" is the firm conviction that one's true and eternal nature is the inner Self, or pure Consciousness. "Thinking" that we are the Self, or pure Consciousness, is very mediocre compared to knowing that we are the inner Self, that our true Identity is pure Consciousness. In the Shiva Sutras an aphorism says: Knowledge of the Self is a firm conviction.

Truly, our primary purpose for being here, is to know our true nature--which is ultimately the changeless and eternal inner Self of all.

Ari: What is the best way to get others to appreciate the worth of the course and to awaken their interest in taking it for themselves?

Just this past month I've had three people ask for an introduction to the course. It is so exciting to have people I can talk about the principles with.

D. R. Butler: The best way to interest someone in the lessons is to tell them exactly how taking the course benefits you and your life. What does it do for you that might not be present or available otherwise? After all, if there are no actual benefits, there is no reason to take it. The lessons are certainly nothing to “believe in,” as there is no dogma. The course presents a way of life, based on living in the Truth of the present moment.

As far as appreciating the worth of the course, however, it takes even the most sincere participants of the course a while to truly appreciate its value, even though they might immediately experience benefits and enthusiasm regarding it. It is challenging to appreciate the full value of reading the lessons as a practice until you experience it for yourself. Even in your enthusiasm to interest others in the course, in a year from now your own appreciation of the course will be so much greater than it is now. That is the best part.

Regarding an introduction to the course, the best introduction is the very first entry on the blog, posted almost exactly a year ago in July of 2008 under the title "Experiencing the Truth of Being," and now simply titled "Introduction." Anyone who wishes to get an idea of what the course is about should read that entry. It will be obvious from the reading whether the course is suitable for a person or not. For some people the words and ideas will resonate completely, and for others not at all.

In fact, I invite all current participants of the course, no matter what lesson you are on, and all readers of this blog, no matter how long you have been reading it—and especially if this is your first time to check it out—to go back and reread that first entry posted in July 2008. Many people will see it with an entirely different perspective now than they did the first time they read it. Try it, just to see how it feels now, and to see if your understanding of those particular words and ideas has grown and deepened since your first reading.

As you know, we do not advertise, we are rather low-key, and we realize that only a certain kind of person will take the course. Therefore we depend entirely on word-of-mouth to attract new participants. We are certain that the lessons will benefit those attracted to them enough that they will want to tell other people about the value of taking the course for themselves. The people who sign up for Lessons 1 & 2 each month request the lessons because someone shared with them how valuable and effective they were in his or her own life. Coming across the course is not something that just happens haphazardly.

Neither does beginning the course for oneself happen by chance or coincidence. Someone is ready for the process that happens through reading the lessons—and for the study and practice of the ancient principles of Truth as applied in today's world—and then they naturally hear about the course from someone who takes it. It is a mysterious process, and yet it has happened for a long time now for many people.

If you are reading this blog, it is most likely because someone at some point told you about it and suggested you check it out, and perhaps through reading it over a period of time you have discovered that something about it actually works in your life, and so you come back to it. Reading this is not the kind of thing that happens by accident.

Anyway, thanks to all of you who do make the time and effort to read this, and to share this inner communication together. It is very fulfilling to me that you choose to meet in this space.

Added July 23: Since I can edit the entry, I'd like to mention that there is already a very strong question and answer session in the comments following this entry. The best way to read the comments is to click on the title of the entry at the top, and then all the comments will appear below in the same size type as the entry itself. Someone recently wrote that he'd "only recently discovered the wealth of wisdom hidden in the comments" following each entry of the blog. Of course, nothing is hidden from one who sees.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Participating in the Inner Process

In case you haven’t noticed, today’s world is changing at a very rapid pace. Although the principles of Truth are eternal and changeless, the presentation and application of these principles must be immediately relevant in today’s somewhat unpredictable world in order to be practically useful to us.

Someone recently told me that someone had referred to this blog as “recycled wisdom.” I laughed when I heard that. Considering that the principles of Truth were first stated in scriptures written thousands of years ago, who among us can come up with new and improved wisdom? Should we come up with bits of wisdom that the sages who wrote the scriptures never considered or experienced? Since the principles were expressed in scriptures thousands of years ago, all teachings of any era since then are "recycled" to some degree or another. There is only commentary on what has already been stated quite clearly, as well as updated methods of presentation.

The most useful communication now is to make the ancient principles relevant and practically applicable in everyday life at the present time. At no point in our lifetimes has the outer world changed at such a fast rate as is happening now. It is important to keep up, on some corresponding inner plane, with the world as it is. This includes how our personal lives are going at the present time. The primary thing is to be established in harmony with the present moment as it is.

Some interesting questions have come in from those who take the course through email, and I’ve chosen to answer a couple of them here.

William: Can you discuss the relationship between going beyond desire and seeing harmony in all things, or remaining content with what comes unsought, verses the discipline of determining what we think so as to create more pleasant results. In the lessons, sometimes you seem to say to simply remain content with what comes unsought and see the perfection of the world as it is, and other times you seem to imply that the priority is our work on ourselves, the work of the present moment to break free from past conditioning. An elaboration on these two approaches would be very much appreciated.

D. R. Butler: There are many approaches to sadhana, to working on ourselves for spiritual growth, or for personal development—however we wish to think of this process we are engaged in that induces us to read the blog or our current lesson. After all, we could spend our time watching one of innumerable TV channels, or checking out our favorite sites on the Internet, or bickering with our partner for that matter. After all, many couples are addicted to bickering just to have something to do together.

Everyone is at a certain level of work on oneself for spiritual advancement. Some of us might be practicing seeing God in all things, and living in the awareness of pure Consciousness being and doing everything. Most of us, however, get caught up in thinking that something else is happening in addition to God’s play, or that someone other than God is present among us, and that such a godless situation or person must be dealt with somehow. The result of this is that it creates unnecessary stress and anxiety

A truly wise person, one who consistently sees the Truth, sees everything as equally the play of the same divine Consciousness. There is no higher or greater vision than of pure Consciousness appearing as everything we perceive and experience. If we could see everything as a manifestation of Consciousness, we would live in the awareness of the Truth of the present moment.

The practical truth, however, is that most of us are constantly thinking of stuff, constantly imagining how things are, constantly describing the world, others, as well as ourselves. We reap the results of these thoughts, of our imagination, and of the ways we describe the world to ourselves. All these things start appearing to be real in our own life.

Therefore, since we are creating our own world anyway, often in the very ways we wish it were not, why not learn to be aware of the creative power of mental energy? Since our thoughts set energies into motion that have consequences in the emotional or physical realms, we might as well be aware of what is going on, and have some conscious input as to how mental energy is directed. Otherwise, habitual patterns will repeat themselves endlessly, and we will live as though we have no choice regarding what we say and do, or how we react to what others say and do.

If there were no conditioning affecting us in limiting ways, then there would be no reason to “break free from past conditioning,” as it says in the question. Most of us, however, have conditioned ways of being and seeing things that limit our perception and experience. This limitation exists until we consciously do whatever is necessary to break free from that conditioning.

This is why in the lessons we explore what needs to be done in order to break free from past conditioning, as well as how to do it. Even though the highest understanding is that everything is the play of the same Consciousness, it is still practically important that the individual comes to understand the creative process, and how situations and events come into being in one’s personal life.

Principles of Truth must be examined from many different approaches, and seen on many different levels, before they become clear enough that we can live by them.

Susan: My current lesson describes a pattern of behavior that I would like to change having to do with reacting to something someone says and immediately wanting them to behave differently. I can see the behavior now as a conditioned response, but I don't have the skill yet to stop my reflexive behavior—(anger). Wanting to explore how to upgrade my response I brought the subject up for conversation. I was then reminded that focusing on the problem gave it more energy. So my question is, how can I explore strategies to upgrade my reactions without focusing on the past negative behavior?

D. R. Butler: You will see that we can go into such things to a much greater degree in the lessons than here in the blog, simply because one lesson lays the foundation for the next. Your question is classic. It is a question all of us wish to be more clear about.

Concisely, the answer is that when you become aware of a habitual tendency, you can change it by creating something more harmonious to take its place in advance. This way you don't focus on the problem; you create beforehand how you will respond instead of being pulled along by past habitual reactions. Focus of attention requires intention and will, which we will explore in detail.

The fact that you have such a question is exactly why we go into such things in the lessons. No matter how sublime and expanded we aspire to be, we still have the nitty-gritty stuff of life to go through and come into harmony with. It is part of being a human being and a process that happens on many levels simultaneously.

You will see that you don't have to refer to or describe past negative behaviors in order to improve the future. All that is required is to focus on what creates or maintains harmony in the present moment. Once we establish harmony within ourselves right here and now, there is no outer force strong enough to disturb it. It is a great thing to be established in a harmonious state, no matter what challenges it.

We don't have to solve past problems. More likely we simply need to see something in a new way right now, which transforms who we are and how we deal with the outer world and other people. As we will learn, it is primarily a matter of focusing attention. This is what we are being taught to do through practicing the principles explored in each current lesson.

Your question was, “How can I explore strategies to upgrade my reactions without focusing on the past negative behavior?” Simply remain focused on whatever contributes to the harmony of the present moment. Allow each moment, through your most mundane actions and words, to be your contribution to the harmony of the world, simply through maintaining your own harmony no matter what happens around you. This is the very best strategy.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Inner Life

The outer world is going through a strange and turbulent cycle at the present time. There seem to be so many uncertainties out there for so many people in a way that, only a few years ago, few of us might have imagined. When the world apparently takes a downward dip, it is the very best time to turn within and develop a greater awareness of our inner life.

There is an ongoing inner life that has been present since before we were born. Yet many of us rarely give our attention to it. Many of us today are so fixated on outer activity and events that we remain oblivious to what is happening deep inside on the inner levels of being.

It is an excellent time for meditative practices. Turning within and being aware of the inner light is a stabilizing force. When we experience our own inner light, it radiates outward to the whole world. Turning within toward the inner light projects an uplifting energy to those around us. And now is a time when the world needs light the most.

Now is the time when it is most productive to focus on how to be helpful to others, how to be supportive, nurturing, and kind. These are the qualities most of us need to develop, and the world as it is today is providing the perfect opportunity to develop them. It is good to be aware of what is happening, and to remember to not get caught up in the outer dramas, including how the media describes current reality.

There is a verse in the Shrimad Bhagavatam that says: Truly wise is he who is unstirred by praise or blame, by love or hatred. He is not moved by the opposites of life. Indeed, he delights in the blissful Self.

Can we remain unstirred by praise or blame, or by love or hatred? Imagine what a steady mind is required to remain free from such influences. Today many of us are challenged by the opposites of life. It is the way the world has to be for us to experience the greatest inner growth. Life is designed so that we can grow through facing whatever is presented to us, and in this process we delight in the blissful Self.

Ordinarily in life we get caught up in mental details, in habitual ways of describing conditions and situations. Even with a sincere desire to break free from this, we find it very challenging. Some power seems to pull us back into delusion in spite of ourselves. It is important to know how to break free from deluding influences.

At the root of all the principles of Truth is the inner Self of all beings, pure Consciousness. We serve ourselves and others simply by remembering this simple Truth once again.

Remember to love and respect your own Self, and to be aware that the same Self dwells within all. We are all mirrors of the same infinite Awareness, and we see reflections of ourselves everywhere and in everything.

Do not get caught up in outer appearances, or this world might sometimes appear to be an unkind place. If we can recognize and love the Self in its multitude of forms, no matter how challenging they sometimes are, we will live a life of contentment.

Today the world has taken many bizarre manifestations. Especially at this time, in this moment, see the same divine Being in all things. No matter what happens around you, live in the Truth of the present moment.

When we see and experience the equal divinity of everything, we will experience our own divinity. We will experience that within ourselves that divinity shines on forever. The pure Self of all lives in eternity, in the eternal now. God has already given us everything. All we have to do is recognize and appreciate our own true nature.

Imagine what it might be like to go through life seeing everyone, each detail of the world, and all the situations and conditions of life as equally divine. The first step, after all, is to imagine what it might be like. If we don’t take that first step, we have no way of getting there from here.

Realize the tremendous amount of conditioning that has gone into us thinking lowly of ourselves, and seeing the impurities and imperfections of people around us, and in the world in general. The mind has been taught to describe things in the most grotesque ways. Everything in life has been limited, constrained, and we have learned to see the worst in people, and to be blind to their true greatness. Of course, since we are each blind to our own greatness, it makes it all the easier.

Imagine the revelation that will take place when we realize that everything in life is already pure and perfect exactly as it is, that each detail is as God has created it. This revelation can take place at any point—even now—if we open up to it and allow it to happen. First we can glimpse the beauty and perfection of this world, and then we can gradually focus on it more and more until it becomes absolutely clear.

We can look at the tragedies and catastrophes of the world, the immense suffering that goes on in so many places, and ask, how is this pure and perfect? Still, for the purpose of inner work, the true question is, what do we have to do in order to see purity and perfection in everything?

Can apparent suffering be pure and perfect as it is? We can develop this pure vision simply through strengthening our capacity of compassion. Through pure compassion, we can see the beauty and perfection in all the suffering of this world.

As we work on seeing the divinity of the outer world, we can also work on experiencing the divinity of our own Self. These two things always go together. The outer world is basically a reflection of our own inner consciousness. We see qualities and conditions in the world and others according to the qualities and conditions we recognize in ourselves. For this reason we need to develop the discipline to always see the highest.

When we recognize our own divinity we see the divinity of the whole world, and vice versa. When we see divinity wherever we look, we become divine while still in this body. We already are divine, as we were created from pure divinity, yet we need the conscious recognition of it in order to experience it. This is what is ultimately gained through focusing on the inner life, and we shall see that the inner life is the essence of our existence, both in this world and throughout eternity.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Bliss of Lightheartedness

Here’s affirming that each person who reads this enjoyed a happy January and is looking forward to an even better life in the year ahead. One way we can guarantee a greater life for ourselves and our loved ones, effective immediately, is through spending more time in a lighthearted state. Lightheartedness is our greatest weapon against all the ills of today's world. If we can manage to spend more time being lighthearted, we will be surprised how much more enjoyable daily life will be.

The way this world is set up is very strange--the more difficult it gets for people on the outside, the easier it is to turn within and do the inner work we actually came here for. As a planet, this current cycle is the darkest of all, and most people have a hard time in their physical lives. Yet, for those souls who choose to use this time to deepen their spiritual growth, this cycle presents a great opportunity for upliftment and elevation.

When it is darkest on the outside, inner work happens naturally and spontaneously on the inside. We simply need the conscious intent to be more present, more alert and aware, and definitely more lighthearted.

The state of this world as we move into February, at least if one pays attention to the media, seems to be a time of madness. Yet, the opportunity is present now for significant advances on the spiritual path if only we make use of what is currently available and be sure to apply the principles of Truth in our own lives.

Remember that everything is not as it appears to be, and that there are profound and even sacred processes going on behind the scenes that are not readily observable.

If we practice the principles of Truth, we will actually feel more alive. It is obvious if we look around, perhaps walking down the street in our neighborhood, that some people are simply more alive than others. Some have a bright expression in their eyes, a twinkle of a smile, and walk along with great awareness as though they enjoy the very act of walking, or they are engaged happily in whatever they are doing. Such people love what they do in each moment, regardless of the details.

On the other hand, other people have a dull, lifeless expression in their eyes, they move about as though they have hardly any energy or spirit, and they are obviously not happy, and not enjoying what they are doing. They might even be expressing negative emotions, which is among the very worst obstacles to spiritual growth.

Simply observe and you will see that some people live in a greater degree of aliveness than others. People live on various levels of energy, and some live at a higher vibrational level of energy than others. All this is centered around the degree to which one is present in the existing moment.

Some great questions have come in over the past 2 weeks, so let’s get to them.

Ann: This week a friend's words dislodged a relentless waterfall of thoughts. I was completely aware that the problem was my own and that "she" had nothing to do with it. Trouble is that no matter what I did, I was unable to stop, shift, or stabilize the onslaught of thoughts. I could barely find the space between two thoughts, much less stay there, even though that particular practice has been especially potent for me recently. The continuous flow of thoughts, and my inability to slow them down...much less stop them...caused me to panic at one point.

Question: When a samskara is triggered that causes such an intense reaction, is there anything that can be done other than to stay with it, watch with awareness, and use the will as best you can at the time?

DRB: That is a great question and goes right along with many of the comments that came in during the last two weeks (posted in the "comments" below the January 15th entry). There were some great questions and answers, and I hope you will take the time to read them. It seems that many people are reaching a similar point in growth at a similar time. Sometimes it happens that way when groups are working on the same things together.

The true answer to your question is covered in the lessons of the course. It would be unlikely that I could fully cover the answer here on the blog. As you go through the lessons, you will see that your mind works differently than it did before you began the course. Simply reading and contemplating the lessons enables you to let go of previous mental conditioning and stubborn patterns of thought and emotion, and to actually think and feel in new and expanded ways. When you start to think and feel in new ways, your whole life becomes new. I am sure you have already observed this to be true, and it happens again and again as we grow.

Ann, it is very good that you can see the onslaught of thoughts. Most people go through life never even seeing how out of control their mind is, and assume that being lost in thought is a normal way to live. So just the fact that you are seeing what you are asking about is in itself a sign of growth and maturity.

You will see that it is impossible to “get rid of” an onslaught of thoughts or anything else we are focused on. We cannot get rid of the darkness in a room. All we can do is turn on the light. When we turn on the light, the darkness is already gone.

To be free from such an onslaught, or from any other samskara or tendency, we must have an alternative, an option, to replace the onslaught with. This is a very important step. Getting rid of thoughts or any condition is like getting rid of the darkness. We must “turn on the light” or replace them with something greater.

As we explore in the lessons, the onslaught is too fast to replace it with something else at the moment that it happens. Once it starts, we can only observe it, and the more we truly watch it, the less it will affect us.

Our preferred option or replacement must be created in advance, so that we will know immediately where to focus our attention instead of being pulled along by the onslaught. This is explained in detail in the lessons, but for now that will give you something to work with.

Lisa: I recently completed reading "The Secret," and not long after a friend told me about your blog and course. I am wondering if your course teaches the same ideas that are written about in "The Secret?"

DRB: "The Secret" serves as a nice introduction to the basic principles, and is a great help for beginners on the path who are discovering these truths for the first time. The Course of Training available through email explores on a much deeper scale the principles on which "The Secret" is based.

I appreciate "The Secret"--both the book and the movie--and feel that they serve a great purpose in activating and awakening an interest in learning about the principles necessary for success and happiness. Especially in today's world we must learn how to approach life positively. Yet there is much more to understand for greater spiritual growth and personal development.

The Course is an approach to each moment of life, and we begin by exploring the principles that must first be understood before even greater principles can be comprehended and instilled. This is a process that happens from step to step over time, and cannot be gotten from a book in a way that is permanent and lasting and truly transformative--lasting transformation requires an ongoing commitment to a path of study and self-observation.

If we only read a book, we will be momentarily excited and enthused by the ideas, yet that excitement and enthusiasm will tend to wane as past tendencies of thinking and feeling (samskaras) take over again. In order to overcome the conditioning of the past, a program of development is required, a path to lead from one step to the next, as well as the work necessary to break free from past tendencies and habitual patterns of behavior and reactivity.

The Course of Training through email offers the opportunity to grow from wherever we are right now to a greater state in the very near future, which will be "now" whenever it is experienced as our present Truth. Of course, the Truth of the present moment is true right now. All that is "lacking" is our recognition or realization of the Truth that is eternally unchanging. This is the Truth of our own eternal Being.

Knowing this Truth, living joyfully in the present moment, we live in perfect freedom in this world and while in this very body.

This is why our course is entitled "Living in the Truth of the Present Moment."

Jo: If you were to give us one attribute to focus on during the month of February, what would it be?

DRB: the attribute we all need to focus on most now is lightheartedness.

Due to the current state of the world, it is very important that we avoid getting caught in seriousness or heaviness of any nature. Being too serious or heavy will pull us into a darkness that can be difficult to extricate ourselves from. This is a time that maintaining lightheartedness will be extremely fruitful.

Be laughing, loving, and a little bit loony.

Remain steady in seeing the humor in things. As much as possible, don't take any situation, any other person, or yourself, too seriously. Especially with the state of the world today, it is important to approach life lightheartedly. If we become too serious, we will be vulnerable to negative emotions, and once we get involved in negative emotions, we forget all about the inner Self and get totally lost in egotistical melodramas.

If you want one thing to focus on during the month of February, focus on being lighthearted. The more lighthearted we are, the easier it is for others around us to be lighthearted as well, and the more those around us are lighthearted, the more joyful and cheerful our world will be. If we wish to contribute to the state of the world around us at the current time, then focus on being lighthearted above all else.

For more information about the Course of Training written by D. R. Butler, write: drbutler.course@gmail.com
For Spanish, write: drbutler.cursoesp@gmail.com

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Being Accountable In Each Present Moment

In Lesson One of the Course of Training through email I share a dream I had before I began writing the new course. In my dream I was among a group of people who were actually doing the work of the present moment, not letting themselves get away with mechanical reactivity, any form of negativity, or even the slightest hint of disrespect or hostility.

These people in my dream were entirely accountable to themselves, for their thoughts and feelings, for how they spoke or related to any other person in each passing moment. If they went off-track for even a moment, they immediately came back into the awareness of the Truth. If they could not see it clearly themselves, they were quickly reminded by one of the others, and they were always open to the reminder, never becoming defensive or compulsively needing to explain their position.

Many believe in the Truth of the present moment, read all about it from many different sources, and even speak about it to others as though it is something they hold true—yet they do not hold themselves accountable for their actions or how they speak or relate to others from time to time. If they react negatively or defensively, or get lost in explaining themselves, or find themselves becoming hostile to anyone for any reason, they tend to justify it for whatever good reason they can come up with this time—and there are no end of seemingly excellent reasons to justify our negativity.

Few of us are willing to be responsible for how we live from moment to moment. Instead, we largely tend to be slaves to past tendencies, sometimes acting like a child, and other times like a young teen, mechanically working out whatever leftover stuff remains in the system from those years. We go through the day getting stuck in psychic spaces from the past, not even really conscious of how we are actually being or expressing to others in the present moment. Few people, even those with a keen understanding of spiritual principles, realize how stuck they are in past tendencies.

In our Course of Training, we emphasize being focused in the present moment, because no matter what we believe in or agree with, or what platitudes we speak to others as though we have true understanding, the only thing that actually counts is how we are right here and now.

Many people conveniently skip over the present moment in their mad rush from the past to the future, yet the Truth of Being exists only here and now, in this present moment.

Before anything can be accomplished, there must first be a conscious intention for it to happen. In order to experience the incredible joy and satisfaction that arise from the expansion of our inner state, we must generate a conscious intent to do the necessary work. This whole process is explored in detail in the lessons of the course.

For some, it might seem strange that we need to “work” at spiritual growth. We might have simply assumed that all we need for spiritual growth is to believe the “right” things, as we were indoctrinated, and to be “good” by following those beliefs. In fact, we even feel guilty when we're not “good,” according to whatever standards and ideals we inherited from family and society.

The Course of Training through email is for those who are open to the possibility that true spiritual growth is possible if we are willing to work toward it in this present moment, and to not put it off until “later”—which usually translates as “never.”

The course is for those people who simply want to come into harmony with the present moment and to be content in their own life as it is right now.

It is for those who have experienced a fruitful spiritual path for many years and want to explore even deeper. It is also for all those who simply have some inkling that there is much more to life than what they have previously known, yet for whom the ideas and terminology of the lessons are new and unfamiliar.

The course is simultaneously for those who are absolute beginners on the spiritual path and for those who might have done sadhana (work toward inner growth) for many years. Most people who will appreciate the lessons are those who begin the Course having already attained some understanding of spiritual principles. I work primarily with those who have been practicing spiritual principles for awhile, and few absolute beginners show up; but they are indeed welcome.

Ultimately, the Course is for anyone who sincerely aspires to see and experience the simple Truth of the existing moment.

We can learn what is new only when we maintain a state of inquiry. True self-inquiry is an exploration of what is true right now.

A friend of many years has written to ask what he can do to become a kinder person, and he asked if it was possible to answer his question in the blog.

I am happy that he aspires to be a kinder person. I wish more people were interested in adding kindness to their lifetime achievements. We do not tend to automatically be kind, as true kindness requires some consciousness and presence in the present moment.

We can automatically be “nice” or “polite”—but that is mostly superficial social conditioning like most other stuff we do without being conscious of how we are being. It is an artificial and false face we put on to appear okay to others. That is not what we mean by being kind.

Unfortunately, many of us are habitually unkind. We get rigidly caught in a hostile, contrary, competitive personality, habitually criticizing others, engaging in fault-finding, and generally making others wrong about whatever they do or say. Many of us are outwardly unfriendly, even though we have no desire to be so, and might even be surprised to learn that others see and experience us as difficult or uncomfortable to be with.

True kindness is seeing the highest and the best in others, and relating to the highest and the very best in them at all times.

If we sincerely wish to be a kinder person, then we must consciously and deliberately see other people in a higher, more refined way. If we habitually look to see what others are doing wrong—which is how many of us have been conditioned to be—there is no way we can be kind to them. We are being unkind simply by seeing them as less than or worse than they actually are.

The kindest act is to see the highest in another person. See him as divine, perfect, and pure in all his ways. Sure, each person in this world has quite human quirks and foibles, yet we can simply note them and be amused that God has taken such a clever disguise.

The mistake many of us make is that we wait for the other to be kind first. I’ll be kind to him if he’s kind to me. This approach will get us nowhere. We will never change for the better with such a limited attitude. We cannot leave anything up to the other person.

If we hope for love, we must be more loving. If we hope for affection, we must be more affectionate. If we hope for respect, we must first be more respectful. If we hope for kindness, we must first be kind to others.

See the highest in others; see them as pure, perfect, and beautiful. Each individual is a microcosm of the entire cosmos. Each person is equally a creation of the supreme Divinity; each individual is a living expression of the Infinite Omnipresence. If we can simply see another as he or she actually is, we are already infinitely kinder.

We are kindest when we see divinity radiating from whomever we are with—regardless of what they are conscious of in their own mind. See the highest in all others, even when they are unable to see the highest in themselves. When we do this, we have attained the pinnacle of kindness.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Welcome to 2009

On this date, 2009 arrives. I am happy to be able to share the beginning of a brand New Year with you. May this be your happiest New Year's Day, and your best year ever.

In September, 2008, we launched the new Course of Training by email. Participants who began then will receive Lessons 9 & 10 in January, and those who began since then will receive their corresponding lessons as well. It has been an auspicious new beginning for many of us, and I appreciate each one of you who have shared it with us.

Anyone interested in information about the new course can write to the email address at the end of this entry. You can also receive the first month of the course (first two lessons and newsletter) free of charge simply by requesting it for yourself.

Also, beginning now the Course of Training is available in Spanish. Our good friend Marta, who lives in Spain, has worked with us for many years, and I trust her implicitly to translate even the subtlest meanings of my words into Spanish.

Ahora el Curso ya está disponible en Español. Para más información e inscripciones, envíanos un correo a drbutler.cursoesp@gmail.com

Speaking of Marta, we received an email from her at 8 pm on New Year's Eve saying that in Spain it was already 2009. Kay wrote back and told her it was the first time we'd received an email from the future.

Kay and I both wish you the very happiest New Year, and may the year ahead lead to greater contentment, health, prosperity, and happiness. Usually, if we are content, the other qualities follow naturally and take care of themselves. Conditions and situations around us tend to take a form corresponding to our predominant inner feelings, so if our primary feeling is contentment, life around us arranges itself to fit the feeling of contentment.

One of the primary principles is that we perceive and experience our personal life, from one moment to the next, as we describe conditions and situations to ourselves and others, as well as by our primary feeling at the time. A happy person will not interpret circumstances the same as an angry person, and a depressed person will interpret things even differently. A content person sees things in ways that contribute to his contentment, and through experience and observation over a long time, I recommend contentment above all other feelings. It is by far the most stable.

Even the joy of love is more easily available if we are relaxed and content. Love and lightheartedness go together, and a person who enjoys love and lightheartedness will find life to be greatly fulfilling.

It is up to us whether we are lighthearted or serious and heavy. It is not up to another person, or what anyone else said or did, or even current life circumstances. Our inner state is determined only by our own attitude, and we can generate a lighthearted attitude simply by activating the will to do so, and refusing to consider anything that would threaten or diminish it.

Unfortunately, many people have lifelong habits of negativity and contracted states, and these states tend to feel more normal and comfortable than a lighthearted space where there are no cares or worries. It is challenging to overcome the contracted states we have lived in most of our life, and that is why we offer a Course of Training focusing on the transformation from our current state to a more enlightened state. We cannot be transformed simply by reading about it or agreeing that it is possible.

It takes actual step-by-step work to experience the transformation from a contracted state to a more expanded state, and for this it is helpful to have guidance. In our case, the grace lies in the reading.

In India, when they celebrate the Hindu New Year, Diwali, the custom is that on that day everyone speaks, thinks, and behaves exactly as he or she wishes to be and act during the coming year, for it is believed that however one acts on the day of Diwali is how he will tend to be over the span of the entire year.

Of course, in a year from now, we will be in a completely different space—freer and clearer and less cluttered with mental confusion and emotional agitation—yet for that to fully manifest we must begin now living and speaking and behaving as we know it is right to live or speak or behave right now, in the present moment. Simply by giving it our best shot in each present moment, optimum growth is assured.

Enjoy this beginning of your new year, and enjoy the coming year to the greatest of your capacity. The Creative Principle of the universe put us here to be happy and to enjoy ourselves in a most natural way. In fact, that Creative Principle created happiness and enjoyment in the first place. Why shouldn't we avail ourselves of it?

We have space for one question and answer:

Ari: There seems to be a focus in the lessons on relationships, which is great. In the world we live in, relationships seem to be front and center for most people. They also appear to be a lot of work and seem to bring a lot of difficulty in people's lives.

Why do you think we are so attracted to relationships? Is it karmic? Do we think the person is going to "complete" us?

I remember living alone for a long time. Life seemed so simple. But mabe I am not remembering the difficult times.

DRB: Ari, I think anyone involved in a relationship would have to laugh after reading your last paragraph. Yes, life does seem simple when we live alone, doesn't it?

Of course, many people who live alone wish they could find someone nice to live with. They meet someone interesting, start things going in one way or another, and see how wonderful is the bliss of another person. So they move in together.

Before too long, something quite different and unexpected happens. This other person who seemed so perfect in the beginning suddenly and inexplicably starts to display undesirable traits. In fact, they might even manifest in the very ways that we always most hated or feared. Suddenly life feels very complicated, and much of the trouble apparently comes from the other person.

Yes, our Course of Training does focus a lot on relationships, because when it comes down to it, our interactions with others during the day are foremost on the list of most people's activities. Our personal life revolves largely around the other people in it. So the Course places an emphasis on living in harmony with each other.

Relationships are indeed karmically determined. It is our karma to come in contact with certain people and not other people. This is why we know only an insignificant percentage of the people in the world. Who we know and who is in our life is not determined by chance or coincidence nearly as much as we sometimes think. We all knew each other long ago even better than we do now. When we break free from this karmic delusion, we remember who we truly are.

The Course focuses on relationships because, strange as it seems, relationships with other people are our primary arena of sadhana or spiritual work and growth. And by “relationships” in this sense we include all interactions with others. We are in relationship with the clerk in the store for the moment that we are with them. A major aspect of life is getting relationships right—or at least being in harmony with all who are attracted into our lives for whatever reason.

Relationships are a lot of work and do sometimes cause a lot of apparent difficulty. Yet, that seeming difficulty is the result of clashing samskaras or complementing egotistical tendencies, which have to be cleansed from our psychic system before we can be free from all conditioned influence. Whatever we go through in relationship to others is purifying if we allow it to work its way out and be released into the ethers. Sometimes we want to hold on to such things instead of freely letting go, but that is another story altogether.

When we avoid others and keep to ourselves, it is too easy to hide our ego from ourselves, and therefore more challenging to evolve spiritually—which is in truth the only kind of evolution there is. In relationships of any nature—marital, business, friendship, whatever—ego and samskaras are exposed and have to be dealt with and come into harmony with. This entire process is explored in great detail in the lessons of the Course.

We might think another can complete us, yet whether we think that or not, we can only complete ourselves. Depending on another for completion is a frustrating proposition at best. We find our ultimate fulfillment within ourselves, yet relationships of some nature with other people usually lie along the path we have to travel to get there.

The primary elements to maintain in relationships of any nature are respect and harmony. Be respectful of all others, even if they are unable to be respectful of you. Come into harmony with all others in your life, even when they cannot manage to come into harmony with you.

It does not matter in the least how another sees you or thinks of you; you can still see and respect the inner Self in all others, no matter how they might treat you at any particular time. Some people truly do not know how to live respectfully, act respectfully, or relate respectfully to others—even the ones they live with and supposedly love. For the most part, in ordinary life, we have never been taught this, and few of us have had good role models in this area.

Never take another's lack of respect personally—it has nothing to do with you. Respect yourself and everyone you know, and your life will be filled with respect.

Respect is not really something that can come from others. Even if others respect you, you are no better off unless you respect yourself.

Respect and harmony in relationships are among the primary keys to enjoying a life of joy and contentment. Above all things, where others are concerned, be respectful and remain in harmony within yourself.

The following was sent in from a dear friend and participant in our Course, who wrote: “This sounds like a quote from a recent lesson, yet it's actually a quote that is over 2500 years old from the Dhammapada, which is traditionally ascribed to the Buddha.”

We are what we think
All that we are arises with our thoughts
With our thoughts we make the world.
Speak or act with an impure mind
And trouble will follow you
As the wheel follows the ox that draws the cart.
We are what we think
All that we are arises with our thoughts
With our thoughts we make the world.
Speak or act with a pure mind
And happiness will follow you
As your shadow, unshakable.

My love and good wishes go with you.

For more information about the Course of Training written by D. R. Butler, write: drbutler.course@gmail.com. For Spanish, write: drbutler.cursoesp@gmail.com.