Spiritual development is not a straightforward process. Even as we gradually gain mastery of some skills, the level of difficulty of simple tasks can telescope as we go more deeply into experience.
Using Divine Names in spiritual practice can address a vast array of issues at multiple levels of experience. We keep yielding deeper results if we employ them sincerely over a period of time. This post further illuminates the synergy between the practices Raqib (loving attention) and Hafiz (respect and protection), continuing from prior posts.
Effective spiritual practice can evoke deeper layers of the same issues that the practices soothe. Over time, practice eventually alters life experience and behavior. Initially, focusing on change often stimulates and evokes the issues we attempt to change. This can make practice difficult to sustain. Following through anyway allows us to uproot and resolve the issues and alter our responses to stimuli.
Meher Baba said, “True spirituality is not for the faint of heart!” Our essential unity with all Beings becomes easier to realize as we learn to face all that we turn away from. Some of our inner landscapes can be more challenging than what we experience outside ourselves. We resist seeing ourselves in certain ways. Spiritual work, intelligently sustained, ultimately works down into our defenses and identity-related processes, which often resist awareness.
Using my recent experience as an example: Among crowds, I was judging others for inattentiveness and lack of heart. I understand the origins of this reaction in my personal history. Understanding is a good step—but on its own, understanding may not dissolve reactivity. It does, however, form a basis for useful self observation. When I can bring loving attention (Raqib) and protective respect (Hafiz) into my self observation, my energy begins to change, helping to actually dissolve old constellations.
A classic antidote for judging is to find the same in one’s self. Let us consider the old biblical saying: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”
Noticing everything that we react to in other people and looking to the cause of that reaction in ourselves is a good place to start. It is a useful operational premise to consider that when we judge others we have something to work on in ourselves. I used to think this was about my annoying flaws and the flaws of others. It can just as easily be about vulnerability, excessive-compassion, and other less-obvious imbalances.
As a young person, I found it easy to rationalize this way: “Viewed objectively, I have sawdust while they have the plank.” It was usually true. This was still an attempt to protect myself from my own exacting criticism. Even when the other person has the plank, this doesn’t work. What I needed to hear was that the next step is to find real compassion for how the sawdust and the plank arise and learn to express that compassion for both myself and the other person.
No bypass or defense, however well rationalized, enlightens. Awareness is key. (Ya Raqib)
By normal standards I am hyper-aware. Even though awareness is always a goal, I found it a bit scary to call in greater awareness with Ya Raqib. In actual fact, my practices took me into areas I had inadvertently resisted seeing, such as whatever was left of my inner wounds.
The places we have shut down are strongholds of ignorance. We instinctively protect wounds. Instinctual defenses often prevent exactly what we need from coming in. This is why we continue to need it. It is the thing that hasn’t been available, owing to our patterning.
Relaxing defenses does not mean walking around in states of excessive vulnerability. It means being observant without prejudice. This includes being open and willing to accept whatever protection (Hafiz) may be available.
Protection is not defense. Protection can show up as a form of grace, with which we move through the world, respecting things as they are. Awareness, for example, of a dangerous step, place, or person or circumstance need not evoke fear or defense. Respectful attention allows us to walk through or around danger without arousing it.
How does intensified attention differ from hyper-vigilance?
Focused attention does not stem from reaction. It is not embroidered by patterns from the past, or fear. Unlike hyper-vigilance, attention supports a steady condition of healthy orientation within the zen of reality.
Ultimately, spiritual practice develops the ability to stand in the dignity of Connection with Life, whether or not the people around us have enough heart to receive us.
How do your defenses keep out what you need?
What do you judge yourself for, and how does this judging keep you from resolving the underlying issue?