A soul takes human birth in order to have a series of experiences through which it will awaken out of its illusion of separateness. The physical experience of being incarnated is the curriculum, and the purpose of the course is to awaken us from the illusion that we are the incarnation. Spiritual practices are tools to help us accomplish these goals.
You start from innocence and you return to innocence. A sage was asked, “How long have we been on this journey?” He replied, “Imagine a mountain three miles wide, three miles high, and three miles long. Once every hundred years, a bird flies over the mountain, holding a silk scarf in its beak, which it brushes across the surface of the mountain, that’s how long we’ve been doing this.”
We are on an inevitable course of awakening. If you understand that message deeply, it allows you to enter into your spiritual practices from a different perspective, one of patience and timelessness. You do your practices not out of a sense of duty or because you think you should, but because you know in your soul there really is nothing else you would rather do.
In Sanskrit this is called vairagya, a state of weariness with worldly desire where only the desire for spiritual fulfillment is left. The spiritual pull is the last desire, one that really grabs you, but that dissolves on its own because you dissolve in the process. The Tao says, “In the end you will be like the valley which is the favorite resort of the Way.” You become receptive, become soft, become open, become attuned, become quiet. You become the ocean of love.
The soul is made of love, and must ever strive to return to love. It can never find rest nor happiness in other things. It must lose itself in love. – Mechthild of Magdeburg
Time is a box formed by thoughts of the past and future. When there is only the immediate now – when you’re not dwelling in the past or anticipating the future, but you are just right here, right now – you’re outside of time. Dwelling in the moment is dwelling in the soul, which is eternal presence. When we’re outside of time, there’s no subject or object; it’s all just here. The thinking mind deals only with subject and object. But from within here now, you watch time go by. You are not being in time. You be, and time goes by, as if you were standing on a bridge and watching it all go by.
Ours is a journey toward simplicity, toward quietness, toward a kind of joy that is not in time. In this journey out of time to “NowHere,” we are leaving behind every model we have had of who we thought we were. This journey involves a transformation of our being so that our thinking mind becomes our servant rather than our master. It’s a journey that takes us from primary identification with our psyche to identification with our souls, then to identification with God, and ultimately beyond any identification at all.
Life is an incredible curriculum in which we live richly and passionately as a way of awakening to the deepest truths of our being. As a soul, I have only one motive: to merge with God. As a soul, I live in the moment, in each rich and precious moment, and I am filled with contentment.
– Ram Dass, excerpt from his newly released book Polishing the Mirror: How to Live from Your Spiritual Heart