Actually, I’m not sure how comforting that last answer is. You say spiritual identities really do communicate with us, but our inner processing affects our reception of what they say. If that’s so, how can I know who I’m talking to—assuming I really am talking to someone else and not just muttering inanities to myself?
THE GUIDES RESPOND:
This question is common to everyone when they begin communicating with the spiritual realm that exists beyond the realm of physical human experience—although, to be accurate, the spiritual doesn’t really exist beyond the physical realm. It is more accurate to say the spiritual realm exists in parallel to human reality, right beside it.
When individuals first attempt to shift their awareness, which is dominated by the experience of physical reality, and seek to communicate with the spiritual realm—when, using the terms we introduced earlier, they begin shifting their focus from their human you to their spiritual you— doubts arise. This is natural. It is natural because seekers are making their first tentative steps into new territory, and trepidation, uncertainty, even fear, naturally accompany such steps. So lack of clarity as to whether communications are spiritual or merely imagined arises because the communications are subtle. In contrast, the emotions of trepidation, uncertainly and fear are powerful. That you are entering new territory ensures doubt is inevitable. So the question is itself not only natural, it is unavoidable.
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We liken this situation to a child’s first day at school, or to an adult’s first day at a new job, when the environment is unfamiliar and you fear that what is expected of you is beyond your capabilities. Clearly, you are out of your comfort zone. Yet you are also excited because of the possibilities this new environment offers. At least, we hope excitement outweighs the trepidation and fear!
This is how we view the context in which this question is being asked. It’s an excellent question, because the fact you’re asking it means you are being challenged. New perceptions are pushing you out of what you know and have become comfortable with, out of the established patterns established by your gloopy self and into unexplored regions of your self, which is where the subtle signals are being received. No matter that you are uncertain of the source of the signals, the fact you are receiving signals at all is to be celebrated.
This, then, is our first answer to the question: be happy that you are uncertain. It is a significant step towards becoming spiritually knowing. Note that we say it is a significant step and not a first step, because it is not a first step. Anyone for whom this question is important has done a great deal of prior work to reach this stage in their development.
We add that continuing to question perceptions, no matter how experienced you may be in receiving signals that come from beyond your human you, is a trait we encourage. We encourage it because—and we are now commenting on the development of spiritual insight—people are like frogs. That is, people tend to progress by jumps rather than smoothly, one step at a time. We’ll explain.
Imagine a frog is sitting on a large leaf floating in a pond. The leaf symbolises the familiar everyday world. The frog is comfortable sitting there. However, a time comes when the frog gets tired of its familiar world. It wants to extend itself, to experience something new. So what does it do? It jumps. Perhaps it jumps onto a new leaf in the pond, changing its perspective, so the world now appears slightly different to how it did. Or perhaps the frog jumps out of the pond altogether, into a new pond. Wherever it lands, a settling-in period follows, after which the new place likely becomes as familiar and comfortable as the previous one.
This is what people do both spiritually and in their everyday lives. They become dissatisfied with their experiential inputs. Eventually, the dissatisfaction becomes so intense that they feel compelled to make a jump. They then land in a new place, which leads to a new view of the world. Perhaps it provides a different way of relating, or initiates a different way of behaving, or offers a different way of living. In using the word different we are assuming it incorporates a feeling of greater satisfaction than such individuals previously experienced. After a settling-in period, this different, more satisfying situation becomes their new normal. However, what people rarely do is start questioning the new place in which they have landed. Satisfied that life has changed, they don’t ask themselves if this is where they can satisfy all the levels of their self—because the reality is that more new perspectives, new information, new feelings, new knowledge and new relationships are available to them. Much more exists to be explored. However, it will only become available if it is actively sought.
Accordingly, we recommend that you don’t think of yourself as a frog. Don’t think that spiritual development involves a single leap or that it incorporates one fundamental change. Instead, think of yourself as a mountaineer or a long distance runner, that your spiritual quest involves a challenging climb or a long journey. Certainly, pause long enough to acknowledge the ways that each place, feeling or item of knowledge you experience is satisfying and meaningful to you. Then acknowledge that this is not a destination to settle into permanently, it is merely a step towards what comes next.
Of course, if you adopt this advice you will never be quite settled, never be completely certain, never be fully fulfilled. But we suggest that this is a good thing, because it will result in your horizon continuously opening out. You won’t have the mindset that your happiness merely depends on finding a better pond with a change in food and a larger leaf to sit on. Your mindset will be that each place you arrive at is a valuable staging post on your journey towards the ocean.
This realisation provides another context in which to consider the question, because there is always something more, existing beyond the current limits of your perception, that once you become aware of it will destabilise what you know. Ordinary life involves establishing a stable balance between you, the people you regularly interact with, and the familiar world you all share. In contrast, a spiritual journey is one of imbalance, in the sense that it forces you to re-evaluate the familiar relationships that stabilise your everyday existence.
Be aware that we are equating stability with being static. We introduce the word static here because it illuminates an important facet of what is required in order to progress spiritually. A normal life is stable, in the sense that the individual has established a relationship between the physical and spiritual realms, a relationship that is static.
The way each individual relates the physical to the spiritual is usually set in place by late childhood. Essentially, it involves the individual accommodating the physical to the spiritual in a way that feels comfortable. This accommodation applies whether the individual acknowledges the spiritual realm or ignores it completely. By late childhood the accommodation is crystallised into a set attitude. Because it is crystallised, individuals become static. They are not going anywhere— of course, we mean this in a spiritual sense, that their understanding of the relationship between the physical and the spiritual is no longer developing.
Now consider what is involved in not being static. Imagine what is required to keep moving. To do so, think of what it takes to walk. Walking requires that you lift one foot and move it forwards. This creates a posture of imbalance. If you didn’t compensate for the imbalance you would fall over. But you do compensate by shifting your weight from the grounded leg to the leg which is outstretched. As a result of shifting your weight you take a step forwards. You could then draw up your following leg, place it beside your grounded leg, and take up a static posture once again. Or you could keep your following leg moving through, shift your weight onto it, lift your newly following leg, and repeat the process. In this way you walk. So it can be said that walking requires a continuous state of imbalance.
We offer this as an analogy, to show you how a state of never being settled, of never being in balance, results in forward movement. Imbalance leads to progress. More significantly, imbalance i s absolutely necessary to progress. So rather than maintaining the traditional religious and spiritual pairs of good and bad, of ignorance and wisdom, we suggest you adopt the conceptual pairs of balance and imbalance, stasis and progression. To reiterate, when you feel off-balance, when you are uncertain where your foot will land next, such a state is spiritually advantageous.
We now come back to the question of how someone who seeks to establish a newly adjusted relationship with the spiritual realm may identify the sources of communications apparently emanating from that realm, and may also be certain that such communications aren’t imagined, that they don’t merely involve you talking to yourself.
We’ll start with the second part of this question, the issue of whether a subtle stream of thought is imagined. Our response begins by asking: within you, what is the source of imagined communications? The answer is there is only one source of imagined communications. It is your gloopy self. The gloopy self is built on a bedrock of fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of the new, fear of threats, and fear of whatever is destabilising, is what led to your gloopy self growing inside you in the first place. The gloopy self then projects its feelings onto the world. Sometimes these feelings are justified, usually they are not. And even when there is some justification for their coming into existence, such as when there really is a threat, the gloopy self extends its response far beyond what is actually required to deal effectively with the situation. These projected feelings are imagination in action.
Elsewhere we have called the gloopy self a psychological compensating mechanism. It forms patterns of processing and behaviour within the human psyche to help individuals cope with the vicissitudes of life. Because vicissitudes occur from birth, and for many people even before birth (due to emotional and physiological stress affecting both mother and fetus during pregnancy), your gloopy self s patterns of compensating behaviour are deeply ingrained in your psyche. We have previously likened the gloopy self to a pole that, by adulthood, stands solidly in place, its base buried deep in compensating attitudes, behaviours and fears that go back to childhood. During their life people cling to their pole, making it the centre of what they do to cope whenever the winds of vicissitudes blow. Because everyone clings to their own individual pole—that is, because everyone accommodates themselves to the behaviour, feelings and thoughts emanating from their gloopy self—their gloopy self becomes the static centre around which their sense of identity forms.
Accordingly, when you are trying to decide whether unusual, subtle communications are real or imagined, two possibilities arise. Both involve your gloopy self. One is that they are entirely imagined, and your gloopy self is the source. The other is that the subtle communications are not imagined, but your gloopy self fears being destablised by them and so generates doubt, trepidation, and uncertainty regarding them. Indeed, whenever you receive feelings or ideas that are not usual for you, you can expect doubts and fears to follow. Know that the gloopy self is the source of those doubts and fears.
This being the case, your question becomes: How should I proceed when a subtle impression arrives, whether during meditation, in dreams, during quiet moments, or when you are engaged in an everyday activity and a thought unexpectedly pops into your awareness that is different to normal?
Our advice is, firstly, take it seriously. Treat it as important. Don’t shrug it off, brush it away, or assume it is imagined. If you don’t take it seriously you’ll never find out if it is potentially useful. In fact, even if you initially think it is imagined, still treat it seriously. You can decide later whether it is or isn’t.
Second, record it, so you don’t forget it. There are plenty of life distractions, which are unhelpful, because getting caught up in them leads you to forget the subtle impressions that occasionally enter your awareness. Drawing your attention away from subtle impressions towards distractions is another strategy the gloopy self uses to sustain its stasis.
Third, with your impressions on record, you are in a position to weigh their validity. Validation is essential. Much could be said about this. Briefly, validation is a process by which you seek other impressions, other experiences, which confirm a previous impression or experience. Often this involves a waiting game, because it may be days, weeks or even years before you receive what you consider to be sufficiently strong confirmation to validate your original impression and show it wasn’t imagined. This is a further reason why keeping records is useful: you can look back to when you had a similar perception, no matter how long ago that was, and contrast and compare it to what you have recently perceived. Of course, some impressions are so distinctive and vivid that they remain with you for the rest of your life.
Fourth, once you find that the subtle communication is not imagined, that it is one of a number of similar communications that come from outside the thoughts and feelings that are a normal part of your psyche, you have validation. Of course, what you do with the validated communication, whether you reject it or respond to it, and how you respond to it, is another issue again. We’ll deal with it another time.
We stress that taking a subtle communication seriously is at the heart of our response to the question. If you take it seriously enough to record it, it then remains available to you to come back to and ponder. By weighing it up at a quiet time when you have the time, focus and energy to do so, you are in a position to eventually validate the communication as real and valuable or reject it because it is not. But if you don’t take the communication seriously in the first place, if you shrug it off as merely being one of those strange things that occur in life, you are allowing your gloopy self to dominate your response. Your gloopy self doesn’t want challenging, unsettling, unbalancing communications. It wants stasis. Doubt is a manifestation of the defense mechanisms it uses to sustain stasis, to keep the frog sitting on the same leaf, looking at the same view, experiencing the same inputs, until it dies.
We offer one final observation about doubt and seriousness. You can experience them both at once. You can take a subtle communication seriously enough to write it down, yet at the same time doubt it means anything at all. Doubt and seriousness can be present together because doubt emanates from your gloopy self and seriousness from your higher self. The two levels exist side by side within you, and your awareness is perfectly capable of listening to both at the same time.
In fact, a definition of being spiritual is that both levels feed an individual’s awareness and decision-making. Your human you and your spiritual you can and do operate simultaneously. Spiritual progress involves bringing your human you and your spiritual you into alignment and having them walk together, hand in hand. The more you bring these two facets of yourself into coordination, the more you develop an appreciation of things spiritual.
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