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Six Practical Ways to be More Connected with God in Daily Life

mandala

Introduction: There are no “Shoulds” in God

One of my goals as an author is to bring God “down to earth,” and help people connect with the Divine within themselves in practical ways that can be integrated into daily life.  In the West, most people view “God” as something outside of them to be believed in, and do not realize that He/She/It is within them (and ultimately IS them), and can be experienced ever more deeply through spiritual practices like meditation.  Although we are already one with God right now in this very moment, most of us still need to do spiritual practices to remove the ignorance that veils us from It, just as fog veils our reflection in a mirror.

People often view spiritual practice as an obligation, but in reality it is a celebration for people who understand that God is Ever Present, Ever New Bliss, as the great Master Paramahansa Yoganada once defined It.  A wise woman once told me that, “There are no shoulds in God,” because the spiritual path is ultimately about connecting more deeply to Love, Joy, and Bliss, and not about pleasing a Deity outside of you.  For once you realize that God is the Source of all Joy, seeking Him becomes potentially effortless, because you realize that He is what you have been seeking all along!  Furthermore, once you realize that you are One with Him, and that He is actually the One experiencing “you,” your own seemingly ordinary life becomes transformed into His very expression, “The Kingdom of Heaven within you” (as Jesus expressed it) or “Nirvana” (as the Buddha called it).

Here are six practical tips for communing with God in daily life as a working person with a 9-5.  For a more comprehensive explanation of my spiritual views, read my book Daily Bliss in the link above.  If you do not believe me, or if these methods don’t work for you, I simply don’t care.  As Hafiz once said, God and I are having a wild party, and will enjoy Ourselves no matter what, but it would also be great if others joined in the Fun!  All my writings are merely expressions of what works for me that will hopefully inspire others to seek the Divine within themselves.  And don’t be fooled:  No “how to” manual or “___ step method” can lead you to God if you do not love Him more than worldly things, and are not willing to sacrifice lesser goals to realize Him.  Only His Grace can open your eyes to the fact that He is the goal of life Itself and that, apart from Him, there can be no lasting happiness.

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The Rest is Gravy: A Rambling

“Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” – Psalm 37:4

Interfaith corollary: “If you single-pointedly worship Me, I will take care of all your needs.” – Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita

This is my first blog post in a while.  I’ve been working full time as a drug and alcohol counselor, a strange and unexpected twist on my spiritual journey that I hope to write about more in the future.  My job has been demanding most of my creative energy, and this blog had to be set aside temporarily.  Lately, though, I’ve realized that I should pay more attention to the inner desire I have to write, and make more time in my week to prioritize it.  This post has no real organization, but is merely me “popping the cork” to a hopefully entirely new generation of blog posts where I will write about spirituality, religion, society, and my own bumbling journey along the path to God.  But enough of my excuses for my lack of involvement in this blog, which probably amount only to laziness if I am scrupulously honest with myself.

So what have I been learning in nearly the past year since I’ve written seriously on this blog?  I’ve been learning the same lesson over and over again that was wonderfully and simply expressed by King David nearly 3,000 years ago in the above Psalm.  Oftentimes we complicate the spiritual path, forgetting that God-Realization is far more important than mundane aspects of our life we incessantly stress about (“the desires of your heart”).  For me, the heart of the spiritual path is turning away from empty material hopes, and placing one’s hope in the higher satisfaction of God-Realization – the actual experience of God/Bliss which many religions attempt to describe, but that no religion can ever possibly contain.

Some readers may be turned off by the fact that I am quoting from the Bible, but do not mistake my feeling of connection to a Bible passage (I am ethnically Jewish, after all) for blind sectarianism. Although I study religions for a hobby, at the end of the day I am a seeker of the Divine Itself. I am not Jewish, not Christian, not Hindu, not Buddhist, but a seeker of the Nameless Bliss and Joy is eternally One with my own natural awareness in this very moment!  Scriptures undoubtedly have spiritual, inspirational, and cultural value, but they cannot generate an actual experience of the Divine; they are like a tiny candle compared to the mighty Sun.  Truly – although I revere God-inspired scriptures such as the Bible, the Bhagavad Gita, and the sutras of the Buddha –  scriptures become like a hindrance, or even repulsive like animal feces, to anyone who has had a genuine mystical experience.  They are the path and not the Goal.  They are the treasure map, but not the Treasure.

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Inspiring article I found on the New York Times website

https://www.nytimes.com/…/muslims-give-money-to-jewish-inst…

The link to the article I am referring to is above, which talks about how Muslims donated big sums of money to Jewish institutions after the antisemitic destruction of Jewish grave sites.  It is great when the media gives a more balanced perspective of Islam and actually reports on the good deeds of the Muslim community, and the literally thousands of denunciations of terrorism that pour forth from Muslim leaders all over the world every year. I take an interfaith persective genrerally, but speaking as a Jewish man, Muslims are my brothers and sisters who worship the same “God of Abraham, Moses, King David and Jesus” found in BOTH the Bible and the Qu’ran. It is truly a tragedy that many Jews, Christians, and Muslims remain ignorant that the Bible and the Qu’ran, though obviously different in certain ways, nevertheless reflect nearly identical worldviews and spiritual mythologolgies. Any true Jew should view Muslims as part of their spiritual family, and visa versa. When will we stop arguing over what name to call God and start living lives that reflect His love for all humanity?

Some Brief Thoughts on Spiritual Peace

There is an eternal Spirit that is not affected by the tumultuous events of the world. Anyone rooted in this God-Awareness has a peace that nothing can ever take away. Anyone who rises above the belief that they are the body can be peaceful spiritually even in times of great distress and historical chaos. The events in a movie can be wonderful, boring, or tragic, but the Watcher of the movie is always at peace. Through regular meditation practice and God’s grace, any human being – like Jesus or the Buddha – has the capacity to realize that their Buddha Nature, True Nature, or Christ Consciousness is always free, never dies, and is actually Peace Itself. Things, dreams, and relationships with people can be temporary blessings, but only the realization of our oneness with God/Buddha Nature can truly satisfy us.

This is a hard truth, but until we learn this primordial spiritual lesson, we will circle and circle, lifetime after lifetime, wondering why we are perpetually unfulfilled. Yet when we return to God it is understood that His Joy is infinitely superior to any temporary joy based on human desire; yet in truth we do not “return” to God, for God realizes that He has only been pretending to be “you,” and has been free all along.

Wishing you the highest boon of full awakening in God-Consciosuness that all beings are, whether they know it or not, truly seeking,

Jeffrey

A Bumbling Okie’s Brief and Shameless Ramblings On Easter

This theme is so vast and rich that I hope to write a much longer blog post about it soon when I have the time.  Moreover, I will talk about only one aspect of the myth here (the esoteric perspective based on realization) that does not negate the other aspects.  A myth is a myth because of its multifaceted and mysterious nature.  The myth of the resurrection also contains ideas of grace, relationship with the Personal God, and many other themes.  There are many, many sides to this inexhaustible diamond; who in their right mind can claim to grasp its meaning?  That said, here are some shameless ramblings:

In my opinion, whether you literally believe in it or not, the resurrection of Jesus is a powerful symbol that points to our own eternal nature, or Christ Consciousness. Culturally, the archetypal theme of the death and resurrection of the hero goes all the way back to prehistoric shamanic religions, and was present in later pre-Christian cultures all over the world (in the Osiris myth of Egpyt, for instance). The resurrection is ultimately an archetypal and mythological statement about humanity, a “finger pointing to the moon” of our own eternal nature.   Like Jesus, we all must “die” to our ego and transcend death through the “resurrection” of our Deathless Awareness, which is always present yet mysteriously hidden by our own spiritual ignorance. As one of the great myths of mankind, the historical reality of the resurrection of Jesus doesn’t even matter – in fact, thinking about myth overly historically empites it of its power, as the unrivaled mythologist Joseph Campbell was always fond of harping on.

Because the resurrection functions fundamentally as religious mythology, it is ultimately about us all.  Traditional Christianity does the teachings of Jesus a great disservice by misinterpreting that the deeper truths of the New Testament only apply to the historical Jesus. Jesus taught UNIVERSAL truths about the nature of humanity.  As he became an awakened Christ through his deep realization of the Christ-Consciousness, we all have the capacity to become awakened Christs (or Messiahs, Anointed Ones); in the same way, the historical Buddha was a human being who became the Buddha through his own personal awakening experience, and we all have the capacity to become Buddhas, for we all have Buddha Nature. To realize your own Christ-Consciousness (or Buddha Nature, True Nature, Krishna Conscisouness, etc.) through meditation and spiritual practice is the ultimate joy, and goal of life. Truly, spiritual awakening is like being “resurrected” from the “dead” idea that we are only the body and mind. In reality, we are much, much more… Like Jesus, our True Nature is eternal!

Anyone who, through meditation and spiritual practice, realizes their own Christ Consciousness will understand the deeper meaning of the resurrection myth. They will see that, in reality, it has nothing to do with Jesus, for he was only a vessel that the myth expressed itself through. They will realize that Jesus was just a wave on the great Ocean of Spirit, and that you too are a wave on that same Sea! What was true with him is true for you. You are no different in nature; Jesus had merely realized It fully. Unfortunately, most modern churches that teach in his name will ironically persecute you for saying this.  If you say you are “one with Spirit” (a heretical utterance in most churches), you say the same thing Jesus was perecuted by the pharisees for saying about himself 2000 years ago.  History is fully of depressing yet fascinating ironies…

To conclude this shameless rant, we should all take heart in the hope that whatever we go through on this planet is only temporary. In reality, we are One with eternal Bliss Itself (our True Nature is God!), if only we realized this. We all have the capacity to rise above the dualities of the world through deep meditation and ethical living, and to see our Source.  This goal is indeed difficult, and is perhaps the most difficult path a human can walk.  Though it may seem like a “tall order,” the myth of the resurrection of Jesus makes it clear that any human being – through the grace of God and their own spiritual effort – has the capacity to wake up and be free!

May God reveal Itself to you, and may you “resurrect” from the illusory idea that you are your body/mind.  May you become an awakened Christ and a fully realized Buddha by realizing that, in reality, you have been one all along!

With Cosmic Unconditional Love emanating from the Source of all life,

Jeffrey

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Three Reasons to go on a Meditation Retreat

greatvow – The meditation hall at Great Vow Zen Monastery, where I have lived for 9 months and have participated in 10 sesshins.  I have also done one 10 day Vipassana retreat (as taught by SN Goenka), which I highly recommend.

I returned this week from a 5 day silent meditation retreat that Zen Buddhists call sesshin (sesshin is often translated as “touching the heart-mind”) at Great Vow Zen Monastery.  It was my 11th long retreat, and, as usual, it was a deeply meaningful experience.  It was also utterly outrageous and fascinating; although retreats can be difficult, for me they are like going on spaceship adventures through my own mind/body and discovering new worlds!  In this post I’ll share three reasons why I feel that going on meditation retreats is spiritually useful. This post is mainly about retreats that are 5 days or longer.  There are also shorter 1-2 day retreats that are good introductions to retreat practice, and that can be very powerful experiences.  My discussion in this post is also limited to my experience in the Zen tradition, though I have also done a Vipassana retreat which I strongly recommend as well.   For a more in depth explanation of what meditation retreats are like, and for a fuller explanation of why I think they are important, you can read my book (specifically, the section is entitled “Meditation Retreats”) in the free pdf above.

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Travel Blog 1: The Burning Ghats of Varanasi

ganges-varanasi – The Ganges in Varanasi

Introduction

Varanasi!  How can I describe your beauty and your madness, your noble aspirations and your often chaotic reality?  Oh city of Shiva, you remind me of life’s highest goal, and the futility of chasing worldly desires.  You contain terrible poverty, but you posses the wealth of thousands of years of crystalized spiritual knowledge.  You are the victim of global capitalism’s inhumanity, but you testify to the transcendent God that is called by many names and who alone exists.  You are filled with modern pollution, but the fragrance of your devotion to God has blessed the world many times over.

I recently went on an amazing one-month pilgrimage to India, and stayed in the two holy pilgrimage cities of Varanasi and Bodhgaya.  I stayed in Varanasi for 9 days.  Varanasi is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, is considered the holiest pilgrimage site for most Hindus, and is highly influential to Buddhists as well.  The Buddha gave his first sermon just outside Varanasi in Sarnath nearly 2500 years ago.  Shankara, a great sage who influenced nearly all subsequent branches of yogic thought, is believed to have once lived here.  Tulsidass, Lahiri Mahasaya, Trailingaswami and countless other Yogi-Christ’s have blessed this city with their presence over the centuries.

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Being and Doing

clean window  – A mind stilled by meditation is like a cleaned window that more fully reveals the beauty of the universe.

We are never satisfied by “doing,” by checking off the never ending to-do list, always waiting for an ideal future that never arrives, or musing on a past that is completely over. “If only X occurs, THEN I will be happy….” This part of our mind is never content, and keeps us chained to karma like a hamster on a hamster wheel that never stops and keeps getting faster. Planning and thinking are indeed important in their useful contexts, but we are only truly satisfied by BEING, by stepping off the hamster wheel, being fully present in each moment, and experiencing the beauty of life as it arises.

For me, Zen meditation, which I’ve been doing daily for nearly 7 years, has been a natural medicine for my mind’s addiction to stressful thinking.  In seated Zen meditation, the basic premise of the first stages is simply learning to be present without letting your mind fly off into thoughts of worry, fear, fantasy, or the past or future.  The practice is a natural stress reducer and therefore conducive to basic human happiness.  For only when we are fully present are we truly happy and free of stress (which is simply thought). And, incidentally, the sages of old tell us that the present moment is the gateway into experiencing God or our own ever-present True Nature –  a more ultimate form of happiness.

Yet even if you don’t believe this, learning to still your mind and train it to abide in the present moment without reverting to thought is an inexpressibly wonderful blessing for both religious and non-religious people alike. A mind habitually lost in thought is like a dirty window that stops us from fully expiriceing the beauty of this incredible universe. A stilled mind is like a clean window that enables us to enjoy the beauty around us, and also generally have more peace and less unnecessary stress.

So how is the mind stilled in the first stages of meditation? One breath at a time…By sitting in an upright posture and returning, again and again, to the breath. This type of mindfulness meditation is indeed simple, yet sometimes it can be so mysteriously difficult, for the mind initially craves thinking like an addict (they call it “monkey mind” in Zen for a reason!). Yet learning to still your mind with meditation is a blessing whose value cannot be quantified, and something anyone can learn to do with practice.  The effort is worth it!

May all beings know the peace of a stilled mind, and be free from stress. Have a nice day! :)

A Bumbling Okie’s Brief Thoughts on the Kingdom of Heaven

Experiencing each moment, just as it is, is the “goal” of meditation. Meditation is not the attainment of a temporary blissful state, but the realization that our very life is the Way, is the Kingdom of Heaven. Thus Jesus once spoke that “The Kingdom of Heaven is within you.” Heaven is not a physical place, but a state of mind – a realization – that perceives reality without the obscurations of ignorance. The Kingdom of Heaven is a state of mind that perceives all beings as emantions of the One Spirit, like hairs growing out of the same head or waves on the same Ocean of Love. It is a state of mind that perceives one’s True Nature as the eternal Christ-Consciousness (or Buddha Nature, to use another religious “dialect”), not merely the body/mind. When Jesus realized this he became Jesus Christ. If Cleedus or Beckie realizes this fully, he can become Cleedus Christ, she can become Beckie Christ, etc.

To have this realization for ourselves is the goal of religion which is actual realization. As the Psalms put it, the law is then “written on our hearts.” We then no longer need the outward codes of religion, because we realize they are merely describing our own True Nature. We do not need a physical temple, because we realize our very body is the temple of the Spirit. We do not need to worship a prophet like Jesus or Buddha, because we see they are merely a “finger pointing to the moon” of our own Divine potential. How unspeakably wonderful it is to know that God can be experienced here on Earth as a human being, and that this very world is itself God’s manifestation! To realize this for one’s self is called the Kingdom of Heaven. May all beings see this for themselves! Have a lovely day… :)

Airports, Musing, Hafiz…!

I just got back to India and wrote this in the Amsterdam airport during my 30 hour flight.  I can’t wait to blog more about my experience in India!

Airports…..Oy Vey! How could I be honest and say they do not annoy me… Yet airports and plane flights are an excellent place to practice meditation, patience, and to develop the “fruits of the Spirit,” as Paul the apostle called them. A person of Spirit does not surf on a wave of light above the annoyances of daily life, but simply views daily “problems” with a spiritual mentality. Every temporary hassle is an opportunity to practice kindness and patience. Every time someone gets angry with me is an opportunity to practice unconditional love. If I spiritualize my life I do not think, “How frustrating is this!” or “How annoying is this person!” but rather think, “This is an opportunity to deepen my spiritual practice.” If you free your mind and view everything as meditation, nothing can hinder your peace. The secret of all the great yogi’s and mystics is that they realized that their own mind is the key to peace, not outer circumstance. For is not our own mind the temple of God Himself, who is peace Itself? Now does Hafiz, that poet of poets, have a verse for this very principal? Of course he does…

BECOMING HUMAN

Once a man came to me and spoke for hours about
“His great visions of God” he felt he was having.

He asked me for confirmation, saying,
“Are these wondrous dreams true?”

I replied, “How many goats do you have?”

He looked surprised and said,
“I am speaking of sublime visions
And you ask
About goats!”

And I spoke again saying,
“Yes, brother – how many do you have?”

“Well, Hafiz, I have sixty-two.”

“And how many wives?”
Again he looked surprised, then said,
“Four.”

“How many rose bushes in your garden,
How many children,
Are your parents still alive,
Do you feed the birds in winter?”

And to all he answered.

Then I said,
“You asked me if I thought your visions were true,
I would say that they were if they make you become
More human,

More kind to every creature and plant
That you know.”

-Hafiz, the poet of poets!