Living a Spiritual Life in a Material World

In the late 1920’s “talking pictures” were well on the way toward replacing the silent movie era. Warner Brothers and Paramount were established studios by then, while Universal and Columbia pictures were just getting their start. Some actors and actresses were successful in both venues, as was Greta Garbo who in 1935 won the New York Film Critics Circle Award for her role in Anna Karenina. Clark Gable, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Errol Flynn and many others graced the silver screen back then. Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman stared in the 1942 favorite “Casablanca.” Color pictures pioneered by Kinemacolor (from Britain) and Technicolor (The Wizard of Oz) and Cinema Scope (widescreen) added depth and a new wonderful dimension to the screen. And today 3D and digitally animated films charm the screen with incredible special effects.

Humphrey Bogart

Aside from feeling nostalgic about movie classics, I bring this up today because films are still shown on the “big screen.” That’s one reason why we like to go to the theater (along with pop corn and candy). The big white screen serves as the background and support for projected images, allowing characters and wonderful stories to come alive for us.

Without the screen we cannot watch the movie, and without the pictures there is no dialog and story.

Ingrid Bergman

We live in a material world. As the famous song goes, “Living in a material world, and I am a material girl,” by Madonna. Concerned about the welfare of our bodies we build homes that keep us sheltered from inclement weather, and we feed our metabolic engine (digestion) to consume and process materials. Our physical body is the wondrous instrument that enables us to live in this particular plane of existence. Through it we:

a) perceive our environment (Indriyas – five senses of perception; sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste)

b) move around from place to place (Indriyas – five organs of action; hands, legs, speech, etc.).

c) are composed of matter, the five basic elements which exhibit the properties of earth (prithvi), water (apas), fire (Agni- tejas), air (vayu) and space (akasha).

d) are powered by breath (Prana) and other metabolic processes.

e) utilize our brain and mind (manas) to sustain the ego and navigate through daily challenges.

We exist in the world of nature (Prakrti) and her qualities – Sattwa (creation), Rajas (preservation), and Tamas (destruction).

When we come in contact with an object (say a beautiful flower) the mind holds that image and becomes completely identified with it. When we shift our awareness to the petals or to the flowers fragrant smell, the mind in turn identifies with those attributes. As we walk around the garden to catch the sight of crocus, daffodils, petunias and roses, one by one these objects also dominate and overtake the mind.

In whatever activity we engage in our true nature (bliss consciousness) seems to be overshadowed by the mind’s identification with the objects of perception. The material world “appears” to eclipse our authentic spiritual nature. This is what we call living a material life – when our genuine spiritual essence is replaced by the mind’s identification with the material world.

In our analogy:
The white screen – represents our true nature, bliss consciousness, pure awareness, the SELF.
The movie – represents the projected images of the relative phenomenal world that we identify with through sight, sound, touch, smell and taste.

Just as a motion picture overshadows the white screen as we watch and enjoy it, so to the objects of perception overshadow our genuine nature.

The degree to which our bona fide nature is veiled by the mind depends upon our personal level of consciousness.

For example, when we are walking on the beach and enjoying the sun we can take a stick and drag it through the sand. That creates a line or furrow. The harder we press the deeper the channel we create. That line remains in the sand and will stay there until the wind or surf eventually covers it back up. Now take that same stick and swipe it through water. You will notice that it also creates a line, with emanating ripples, but that will not last long. The impression in the water quickly disappears. Now take that same stick and swipe it through air. That also creates a line, we can feel the resulting wind, but that disappears even faster.

The continued practice of meditation expands our awareness and lessens the imprint (like a stick through air rather than sand) of experience on the mind. That is why through sustained practice of daily meditation life challenges and problems seems to become more manageable. They make less of an impact and fall more softly upon the mind. They don’t seem as catastrophic, earth shattering, or as important as they once were. We begin to see things with more perspective and clarity.

When we practice meditation the material world now becomes our friend. By alternating between meditation and activity, day after day, the experience of inner silence becomes stabilized and made more tangible in our lives.

This is what we call living a spiritual life in a material world. Lessening the minds attachment and fostering greater awareness with sense of SELF in all that we choose to do.

Before the advent of steadfast color dyes, when we wanted to alter the color of a shirt, we would soak it in a dye for a few hours and then hang it up on the clothes line exposing it to the sun to dry. The sun’s light would bleach and cause some of the color to fade, but what remained in the cloth was steadfast. Dipping the shirt back into the dye again, and once again exposing it to the sun, causes the color to become even truer. Like that the inner stroke (meditation) effuses the mind with silence while the outer stroke (activity) causes it to fade somewhat. But what remains is unfaltering. Over time that daily exposure to pure consciousness (in meditation) becomes a more clear experience, and propels us to higher ground.

Don’t meditate for longer periods of time than instructed unless you are under the direct supervision of a teacher. Some types of meditation can be practiced for hours at a time (contemplation, walking mantra …) while others for only minutes (i.e., Transcendental Meditation, 20-minutes twice a day). Longer is not necessarily better since stabilizing the experience through activity is just as important as meditation itself. Meditate only for your recommended length of time.

In our blog we have not yet discussed in great detail the higher states (5, 6, and 7) of consciousness that are intended for human experience. We will cover that topic more rigorously at another time. However, since part of that subject is relevant to today’s post, I would like to say just a few more words about that topic.

In Cosmic Consciousness (CC) we have realized our true nature as being beyond time and space; existence bliss consciousness. Our small self has recognized its status as the large SELF, absolute being. But when we open our eyes the material world appears as it did before, objects still distinct and different from ourselves. But then, through the expansion of the qualities of the human heart (love, tenderness, adoration …) our five physical senses become more cultivated and we eventually gain the ability to distinguish the most refined and delicate structures of the material world (Glorified Cosmic Consciousness, GC). Through further refinement of the nervous system and aided by the application of the knowledge “thou art THAT” at the right time, our five physical senses become even more refined and can eventually gain the ability to discern what is beyond the finest and most sublime level of the relative world – the absolute value of being.

In summary, the higher states of consciousness:

5) Cosmic Consciousness (CC), aka Enlightenment, Nirvana.

6) Glorified Cosmic Consciousness (GC) – refined direct perception (sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste) of the finest value of the relative world.

7) Unity Consciousness (UC) – refined direct perception (sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste) of the absolute unmanifest value of existence.

In Cosmic Consciousness we have developed our full inner potential (subjective), and in Unity Consciousness we have developed our full outer (objective) potential. The absolute value of life, the underpinning of all creation, is now visible on the surface of materiality. Life in Unity Consciousness is fully living the spiritual life.

Strive to walk the earth and bless humanity by living a spiritual life.

This entry was posted on Sunday, July 11th, 2010 at 7:22 pm and is filed under Spiritual Life in a Material World. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

 

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