Listening for God

"To begin with. know by experience the difference between mind and consciousness, two quite different things." - The Mother.A problem arises in your life. It may relate to health or finances or relationships or your spiritual path.

Or maybe all these. You decide to seek God's guidance on how to heal. You practice your personal discipline of opening to sacred directive. You may pray, breathe deeply or sit in lotus position. In time, quiet comes. Then, perhaps as chills run up your spine, there also comes that quiet inner voice.

And the voice says, "You are to quit your job, stop taking your medicine and move your family to a spiritual community halfway around the world.".Now I ask you, are you sure that's God speaking?.During forty years of teaching the divine presence and creating environments in which people actually experience that presence, I have observed one particular difficulty as the most troubling for so many people. This difficulty is the inability to tell the difference between the true voice of God ? or any sacred spirit who can guide us effectively - and all those other voices that rumble around in our heads.

I cannot count the times people have shared with me their experiences of following guidance about major life changes, only to discover through bitter experience that the changes didn't work. Then they blame God. The truth is, the problem lies a lot closer to home. Just because we recite the words of a prayer or cross our legs in lotus position doesn't mean the next words we hear necessarily come from God.

Don't get me wrong. Seeking guidance through prayer and meditation is what I teach and what I practice. I myself pray and breathe and sit quietly to make that direct, vita connection to unconditional love and joy ? and to God. But we all need to comprehend the deeper essence of our guidance, not just react to the surface words. Sooner or later, almost every seeker accesses direction from an inner voice about significant life matters, and we need to know how to listen.

What we may not realize is that there are ways of examining the messages that come through. After all, people probably have been listening for God from the beginning of time. By now, we should have learned something.

What I have learned over my own years is that discernment challenges our self- understanding at a deep level. On the one hand, we need to develop a clear perception of the terms "ego" and "mind." On the other hand, we must experience God directly so that we recognize in our hearts the true feeling of divine consciousness.

Otherwise, it is just too easy to glaze over the possibility that our ego, that mass of self-concern that wants to dominate our lives, may be strongly influencing the message we're receiving. Further, we tend to discount that the source of our messages could be the thoughts of humanity over the centuries ? that collection of musings that we call the mind. If we're tempted to stop taking our medicine or move halfway around the world based on an inner directive, it really is a good idea to investigate the best ways to listen deeply.

In the words of Sri Bhagavan, the contemporary spiritual master of south India, "The first step towards listening is to become conscious that one is not listening.".This first step of becoming conscious is a spiritual art called "discernment." As with any art, there are principles and standards. Two basic cornerstones in discerning authenticity are, first, to apply our own wisdom to its limits and, second, to consult our spiritual community.

Consulting community for discernment is a practice common to all authentic wisdom traditions. If we do not belong to a spiritual community, we can at least consult someone who has more experience in such matters than we ourselves. Later in this writing, I will share questions that a spiritual community can put forward to help determine the validity of guidance. But first, we can develop some common ground for understanding the influences that may surface during listening.

The ancient wisdom teachings that inform Hinduism, Buddhism and other authentic Eastern traditions place an especially strong emphasis on freeing ourselves from the clutches of ego in order to experience reality. This involves the same discernment as knowing the difference between God's voice and inner babbling. The quotation that appears at the beginning of this article is a directive that I love and admire for its simplicity and clarity.

It is taken from the work of French mystic Mirra Alfassa, the woman known as The Mother and the spiritual partner of 20th century Indian sage Sri Aurobindo. She writes:."To begin with.

know by experience the difference between mind and consciousness, two quite different things.".By "consciousness," The Mother is referring to the divine essence of authentic wisdom. In the stillness of our deepest beings, we sense this truth of a supreme awareness beyond anything that we can think or feel.

We sense a central, primordial force of unimaginable intelligence. Depending on what culture we were born into or have chosen to join, we may name this essence God or Great Spirit or Allah or Sacred Mother, or any of countless other beautiful names. Our words, though they vary from one tradition to another, do not alter the nature of this essence.As this vibration of divine consciousness resounds in our hearts, the core of our existence comes alive. The more intimately we connect, the greater our reward. We become filled with unconditional love and joy.

Our health and relationships improve. Our daily existence changes in unforeseen ways. Our total being takes a quantum leap toward wholeness. We become better people.

And so it is that we strive to align with God in the most direct manner. Each of us wants to hear that sacred voice of wisdom counsel, and through that listening, to realize our true self.The Mother's words also point out the distinction about "mind" common to Eastern thought that was mentioned earlier. In the West, we tend to think that each person possesses an individual mind. In Eastern teachings, there is one mind of human consciousness, and all humans tune into that mind through individual intellectual processes. This mind, according to the Vedic teachings, comprises the thoughts of humanity over the entirety of our existence as a species.

Individual humans, the teachings say, pick up impressions from mind in the form of thoughts and feelings.This mind web of connective thought helps us know what one another is talking about, and it provides stability in day-to-day life. But problems start when we link our personal identities to the mind.

Here in the West, everything from basic communication to our abstract ideas about God are observed and defined in terms of the mind. We find ourselves relying on the mind to register expectations, comparisons and judgements about the people and events that make up daily existence. Then we begin defining who we are in terms of these same expectations, comparisons and judgements. After we've built up the mind to a point of dominance in our lives, there is little room for other input such as intuition to register.

We come to accept mind itself as so powerful that it must be the source. We see it as the ultimate reality, rather than just a collection of thoughts.So, when we sit down to meditate, the first source of information we're likely to encounter is the mind. All the thoughts out there are just waiting for us to pull them in, and our mental processes and individual histories serve as magnets to attract thoughts that relate to our egoic perceptions of ourselves, for better or for worse.

If we are not prepared to discern what comes from mind and what comes from God, we can receive a very clear reading from mind and think it is from God.This means that, if in that vast expanse of the thoughts of eons there exists a suggestion to move my family to an ashram a thousand miles away, I can pick up that suggestion. Further, if in the past I ever entertained the thought of such a move, that thought form in itself is enough to attract guidance to my listening.Meditation masters learn to recognize mind input and allow it merely to evaporate. But unless we have trained for years like these masters, evaporation may not come easily. As a result, excessive self-concern, self-centeredness and self-pity -- all conditions indicating the dominance of ego in our lives ? may attract mind babbling that is confused with guidance from a deeper source.

Because we believe so strongly in the mind, something special is necessary to restore our inner focus. That something special is the spiritual art of discernment that each of us is responsible for developing. In this sense, discernment is the key to the door of sacred knowledge.

But how do we turn the key to this door?.Let's return to The Mother's words, ". know by experience the difference between mind and consciousness, two quite different things." We have explored the meanings of mind and consciousness, but the true key lies in the phrase "know by experience." To gain this experience, we must test our concept, perhaps many times, in order to know ?- really know -- what we're doing. Sometimes trial and error works.

But a better testing takes the form of consulting our spiritual community.Following is a set of nine suggested questions and considerations that a community might raise to clarify listening and validate personal guidance. These considerations are designed to cut through egoic concerns and influences in listening, and to help us recognize authentic guidance.1. Begin your process by acknowledging that one way God teaches is step-by-step and quite deliberate, and often our first understanding can be far distant from the ultimately intended sacred meaning.

Even if a message comes from a sacred source, we need to test it effectively to be sure it hasn't been tainted by ego concerns. If I have a medical condition and I hear personal guidance saying to stop taking my medicine, is the proper reaction simply to halt all medications? Or is it to look into another treatment that could be more effective? Even if there is no egoic influence at work, we need to respond intelligently.2.

Is the voice telling you something that you really want to hear, such as "you're going to make a lot of money doing this"? Is it praising you or declaring that you are "the chosen one"? Are you being stroked? Does this guidance inflate your image of yourself in any way, shape or form? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, watch out.3. Have confirmations for the guidance appeared in your personal universe? Confirmations might include hints such as an unexpected opportunity, a chance meeting with just the right person, or a relevant passage from sacred literature that just happens to flow into your thoughts, perhaps time and again.4.

But as you stay aware for confirmations, are you uncritically interpreting ambiguous wording in spiritual guidance in the most favorable light for yourself? Are you searching too hard for omens in the atmosphere to confirm your listening? Is there a hidden agenda in your wanting certain words to mean certain things?.5. Is the guidance building relationships and creating a more harmonious environment among people around you? Or is it creating disharmony and division? If you act on the advice from your listening, would you be invading or violating another person's space or rights? This can be one of the most obvious indicators.

God creates harmony, not disharmony.6. Would this guidance, if followed, produce a healing effect on either you or someone else? If you were to follow this guidance, can you foresee an outcome that would release a burden from you? Even accepting that God does not create disharmony, could the guidance be designed to reveal something about your that you prefer not to face? Has truth about a personal weakness surfaced in such a way that you can release that weakness and step forward in your life? This would be a purpose of God.7.

Does the guidance instill fear or does it strengthen your confidence and courage? Is the guidance bringing out a true talent that you haven't used fully? The voice of God does not set us up for ambush or failure. It sets us up for success.8. Even linguistics can give clues. For instance, is the wording original or a copy? Information from mind tends to be robotic, and it often puts forth word plays rather than clear, authentic, creative phrases.

If you have been given a name for a project or a building, is it an authentically creative name or is it a word play on an existing name? God's vocabulary is quite extensive.9. If you sit down and meditate on your listening, can you go deeper and deeper into your perception of the spiritual direction existing beneath its surface meaning? God's voice rings true on many levels. And as you go deeper, are the revelations consistent with the universal principles of unconditional love and joy?.While these questions can open the way for deeper understanding, no such list ever can be complete in terms of understanding guidance because there are too many variables. Still, this is a good place too start.

Taking guidance to community for discernment can assure that both you and anyone else involved will be held accountable on matters large and small.But at the end of the day, both literally and figuratively, there still remains nothing better than once again seeking contact with our deepest divinity. Back into meditation one more time. Sit quietly.

Breathe deeply. Pray whatever prayer we love. The more deeply we are aware of ego and mind, the deeper the level of healing we attract. Listening with discernment, we know our guidance reflects sacred intelligence and unconditional love.With this foundation, we can appreciate sacred writings such as this Biblical passage from 1st Corinthians 13:1-4:.

"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. "If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. "If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

" "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.".And doesn't that say it all? Even as we discern deeply, we still must know that love is the answer to all.

Blessed with this knowledge, we can establish a clear and powerful access to the voice of God, a voice always there in every moment. We simply need to know how to listen.


By: Ron Roth

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