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Painting by Aniela Sobieski

The ancient Greeks said that at the time of our birth we are each born with a daemon or a unique guiding spirit. And I can get that because sometimes I wonder if it was the daemon that was waking up and ‘çalling’ out to me, whilst sitting on that pylon in London, that I had to go on an adventure to India. And it felt like following a strange voice into an unknown land.

And going to India shifted me fundamentally in some ways. And when I went up to Rajasthan I found that there was a whole language for the inner world and the soul and the sacred that had been handed down through the centuries(and a language we don’t have in The West). And that felt like stumbling upon some kind of treasure. And Jung once said something like the sacred will show up in the most unusual places and where you would least expect, and that is what it felt like to me after going to India. — Jon Wilson

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. I remember at that time I was sitting next to him, and the room started to glow with ambaric [like amber] richness, as if the air itself, like butter, you can cut it. So dense, so sweet, so loving, as if it’s God’s heart embracing all of existence with the preciousness, with love. And I remember there was even a can of 7Up. I said, “What’s this can there doing in the room, the holy room?” It was as if the space around it was making it glow as a most precious object, without any of my projections about this. — Faisal Muqaddam, Enlightenment Happens in the Heart

We humans who live in the West have a sophisticated grasp of the material world but a primitive notion of spiritual things. I never wanted to go to India, where the reverse holds. I guess I was more interested in cultures with literary and aesthetic traditions as a young person. Maybe I was influenced by reading about Joseph Campbell, who, convinced he wanted to go, couldn’t wait to leave India and get to Japan where things were orderly and clean.

France and Italy fed my spirit in just the right way. The Latin countries stretched me how I needed to be stretched. I still feel that way.

But ideas are different. The spiritual perceptions of the East seem mysterious to us in the West, especially in America. They go further into inner realms than we are accustomed to. Of course we are a bit too naïve. We give too much credence to the gurus and magical thinking mixed into the old culture. Our practical and material-minded culture makes us gullible when faced with an ancient storehouse of spirituality like India. We are strangers in a strange land when it comes to spiritual landscapes. We keep our eyes fixed on the surface, on the externals of life.

Enlightenment is a fanciful idea to us. We don’t realize how fraught that path is, what dedication it takes and how painful it can be. We simplify it with spiritual bypassing. We have no lack of homegrown gurus teaching such spirituality.

It’s best to go slow and ask a lot of questions when it comes to the search for spirituality. It needs to be grounded. It’s more to do with the heart than the mind. The incessant activity of the mind can muddy the waters. Once compassion is awakened you’re on your way. Once you feel connected and empathetic and able to attend to the life happening around you, it’s probably because your mind has become quieter.

Techniques exist for encouraging a quiet mind, but forcing it to shut up doesn’t work. If you follow it where it leads without believing its warmed over conclusions, you’ll notice a fallacy. You have to be patient, but once you see the chaos inside you things mutate by themselves.

The important thing is giving space to the wisdom of the heart. The world could use a bit more empathy. Compassion could heal all our crazy injustices. Our confusion and suffering could be gone in an instant if we were all capable of love.

You get your intuition back when you make space for it. When you stop the chatter of the rational mind. The rational mind doesn’t nourish you. You assume that it gives you the truth, because the rational mind is the golden calf that this culture worships, but that is not true. Rationality squeezes out much that is rich and juicy and fascinating.

Anne Lamott
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions for Writing and Life

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