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The Mystic's Life Lesson #25
Agonies and Ecstasies
In your daily, steady journey toward higher consciousness, there are agonies and ecstasies. It's so important to understand your daily struggles are tinged with promise and magnificence. Whether each of your days seems a battle or a tour of the sublime, you are growing toward higher consciousness and fulfillment. Whether your focus is character growth, your universal self, or a satisfying relationship, you will need to appreciate your highs and lows.
As you become more conscious, you see much more beauty around and inside you. You see everything in a fresh way ó the breakfast bowl, the shape of the spoon. Perhaps the song of the birds seems so new and so beautiful that you wonder where the birds were prior to your adventures in higher consciousness. All your senses are sharper. Food tastes better. Your nose feels as if itís been turned off for years prior to your coming alive. Your sense of touch becomes greatly increased, and delightful. Your appreciation of shapes and colors rapidly expands. You find new depths in your appreciation of music. Your enhanced appreciation for melody and harmony may create in you a new musical taste which thrills you.
You become more an artist of life ó able to pay inspired attention to the subtleties, the fine details, and the extraordinary values that make everything you experience or do seem more worthwhile.
Thereís more zip in your life. This added vitality sustains you and enables you to have progressively more meaningful moments in your life. You no longer feel, if you ever felt, that the project of life is just to get by and that the work of life has muscled out the joy. Instead, you now have the strength and energy to start creating a life more consonant with your inner sense of beauty and harmony. You find it easier to express your values in the outer world.
You live your life with periods of ecstasy, periods of sheer delight in being alive. You, likely and often, feel gratitude for the gift of life. You are eager to open this gift and discover all of its features.
Perhaps you begin seeing auras, bodies of light, surrounding peopleís heads or whole beings. Perhaps you even see these electromagnetic fields around your pets and the trees. Fortunately, scientists have that electromagnetic fields do exist around living things. They have also observed auras around inanimate objects such as coins. You may find, in the thrill and the ecstasy of your life, that you begin to see ó through calm eyes ó the light around people.
Your heart begins to be so full of love and kindness that you feel you are sharing in the life of those close to you. You are much less a stranger everywhere you go, and perhaps you even sense the pleasure of others in greeting you. Perhaps you also feel the delight of strangers in coming into contact with a happy person, a truly alive human being.
Breathing seems delicious. The air entering your nostrils delights you. On a clear day, the air flowing into your nostrils seems like rare wine. You also enjoy sensing your pulse which you can feel most anywhere in your body. You can feel new life and vitality throughout your body.
You live sensing the source of life. You live with the feeling that you are regularly in the presence of a higher consciousness. You thrill to be living your life in this presence which promises so much joy and so many possibilities.
But if there is ecstasy, there are agonies too. Moving toward higher consciousness and occasionally experiencing glimpses or tastes of it involves some downs, as well as ups. Sometimes the agony and ecstasy take turns. And sometimes agony takes more than its share of your thoughts and feelings.
The main source of the agony will likely be your own emotions and your expectations. If they are particularly confused, you may at times feel that you are ó despite your high quest and determination ó visiting hell. Based on your past feelings you may, as you become more vital and alive, experience old emotional tendencies which remind you of your past frustrations or your low self-esteem. Your old emotions, which had free rein for years perhaps, will create a storm whenever given the opportunity. Your life force will easily flow in the old grooves, bringing up feelings from childhood and other feelings which seemed long forgotten.
When you are proceeding toward higher consciousness, it is natural to want to feel good and happy about it. So itís very disconcerting to think, at times, that despite your quest, youíve been feeling rotten all day. Also, in your optimism and in your study of higher consciousness, you expect to achieve it soon, and in a delightful ó perhaps even cinematic, ultradramatic ó way. Then, as you proceed toward your goal, you realize it requires effort and the transformation of old tendencies into new tendencies; you find your romantic expectations are not being fulfilled. Instead, now and then, your conscience or some sense of inadequacy haunts you.
Your fears even torment you with the thought you will never attain higher consciousness, or perhaps your expectations were all wrong from the beginning. You fear the great hopes which you cherish so much may not be realizable by you or anyone.
Living with frustrated expectations for a period of time can also seem like living in hell. It is an agony to experience negative emotional momentums which continually hound you and sink their teeth into your dreams. Itís hard to watch your desires die ó or have to spend one long day, and then another, aching for satisfaction.
Also, your subconscious mind gets into the act and throws old memories, images of unhappiness or misdeeds, along with a few choice mistakes, into your daily thoughts. "What? Youíre planning to achieve higher consciousness? Thatís FUNNY!" your subconscious mind suggests in its acts of sabotage.
There are additional agonies ó guilt, periods of self-doubt, an ongoing sense of inferiority or a painful, lonely arrogance which just wonít go away. You also agonize that you should be more patient and yet you find yourself extremely impatient. Then you become impatient that you are not developing patience faster. It would be funny if it didnít hurt so much. But it does. Itís agony.
Plateaus are often miserable experiences, too. Perhaps only a month ago you were doing fine. You made genuine progress and were experiencing many of the ecstasies.
"But where did the ecstasies go?" you ponder. "Nothing new has developed for weeks! Iím trying. Iím working hard. Iím doing my part! But goodness, what a barrier, what a plateau. Will I ever break through? Will I ever go onward and upward again? Is this the level Iím going to have to live on? Iím stranded between two worlds, between my old self and the impossibilities of my hopes.
Boredom is quite agonizing, too. When nothing new is occurring, while at the same time your friends are doing very well, itís especially difficult to deal with boredom.
"Somethingís supposed to happen. Iím making the effort. Iíve studied the website. I visited the Gurus and Masters. Nothingís happening. Thereís nothing to this stuff. Iíd be better off playing solitaire," you moan at times.
Worse than the agony of the plateau or the boredom is failure. At times most everyone tries to move forward, tries to become more conscious. However, due to old tendencies, you discover frustration and blockage instead. You develop the feeling you cannot break through. You start to think everything you try wonít work. Your sense of self hurts, and your esteem goes down the tubes. You know, "for a fact," youíre a failure. General doubts flood your mind. You wonder if you can ever, even if given a hundred million lifetimes, find your higher consciousness, make the grade.
Failure is agony. Not only is failure so painful, but other people seem so superior, so able, so successful compared to you. Your sense of failure adds to your sense of separation from them ó often initiating jealousy and subsequent possibilities of hatred. While your failure looms larger and larger in your mind, the successful people around you seem to be a different and superior species.
Another agony is your conflict of direction. You may be trying to please everybody while also meeting the demands of higher consciousness. Concerned relatives who may think of higher consciousness as a worthwhile hobby perhaps notice that you are treating higher consciousness as something more important than boating or golfing. Your loved ones become worried. Theyíve read newspapers and heard strange things about altered consciousness. While theyíve done strange things themselves perhaps, they fear you may be doing something dangerous to your mental health or spiritual future. Poorly informed about what you are doing, perhaps even superstitious and unwilling to understand, they may make your life very painful. They may insult you or try to coerce you not to study and grow. Itís fairly agonizing when people you love donít want you to do what youíre doing. Conflicts may force a choice regarding whatís more important ó your aspirations or their respect. This ultimatum creates clouds of doom overhead and personal agony underneath. Higher consciousness could make you a much more loving, interesting, and happy companion if only your close companions would give you a chance.
Also, your own personal superstitions give you a rough time. Due to your lack of training, you donít understand the goodness or beauty of the higher consciousness. You fear high intuitions may command you to give up your career, to go fight such things as the tsetse fly in Zambia. You might also be afraid that suddenly youíre going to project your consciousness out of your body and who knows where youíll go ó and what if you canít get back into your body?
You may fear that, while youíre out in the blue in elevated consciousness, friends will think youíre dead and gone; undertakers might embalm your body before youíre able to comment. This kind of doubt and ignorance is indeed agonizing, too.
The Pressures of Life
Then there are the pressures of life. Everyday you have to make a living (most people, anyway). Somebody must pay the rent, food bill, utilities. If you have children itís necessary to see they get a good chance to thrive now and in the future. The pressures of career and all the activities generally required of you in order that you may look at breakfast on a regular basis impact your private dreams of higher consciousness. You feel torn between your duty in the world versus fulfilling the yearning of your heart, a yearning so important and deep that life seems entirely empty and worthless without that fulfillment.
Not only do the regular pressures of life seem agonizing at times, but there are so many unforeseen variables. For example, you strive to lead a balanced, goal-centered life but suddenly your car dies and you have to spend more time working to buy a new one. Or, you were planning a quiet evening but instead you have to work late or handle an emergency. Suddenly a problem comes up, people need your help, and your plans for a weekend in the woods evaporate. Perhaps a new expense requires taking a second job for a short time and your once leisurely evening meditations have to be tightly fit in before dinner. Or, you had counted on a few days of rest and study but somebody got the flu. Perhaps it was you. Constant variables can be agonizing unless you understand your quest from the viewpoint of increasing your consciousness daily as you face lifeís problems and challenges in a creative and forthright manner.
Thereís also the problem of being greatly misunderstood. For example, in your job you may try to serve your higher values and make life better for your clients. At the same time, your co-workers may feel you are striving to steal a promotion by looking good. Insecure managers may feel youíre trying to replace them while youíre simply endeavoring to be a more loving and efficient person. Or, when you go to the movies with a close friend, you may put your elbow way back on the arm so your friend can use the front part of the arm, the more comfortable part. Your friend gets angry. He feels youíre making a territorial claim and are trying to prevent his use of the shared arm.
Big or small, numerous situations may occur in which you feel youíre striving to perform a service and truly help somebody out; but the person youíre trying to help, or another person whoís watching, may feel youíre striving to take advantage or even rip off the other person. The world lives with a conflict of motives. As you strive to grow in consciousness, your motives may often be misconstrued. These misjudgments are often a source of agony.
At first, itís hard to get a balanced life established. Sometimes youíre so tired you donít have energy to do the study or the meditation you want. Activities run you ragged and youíre too tired to try to better your life or consciousness in any way. Sometimes your concerns vary widely. Perhaps you donít ever seem to have enough money to lead a secure, balanced life. This may happen to you from time to time until you become consolidated in higher consciousness and prosperity becomes established. Until then, economic concerns can be a regular headache. At other times ill health may thwart or delay your hopes for progress. Most any delays ó from fatigue, financial insecurity, or health problems ó are private agonies.
You may know other agonies, too. People tend to fear the unknown. You may well seek the higher consciousness but probably have no idea what you would do with it if you received it. In your ignorance you are prey to wacky ideas. You may take seriously something you would not attribute any significance whatever ó if it were in a field you were more familiar with. So you can easily become a victim of false ideas from false teachers, as well as false, unexamined experiences. You donít know what is true. You donít know whom to believe. You donít trust your experiences because they donít prove out in daily life. This confusion is agony.
Further, you assume at times you are not progressing. Based on your limited judgment, not knowing much about the situation at all, you can somehow assume youíre qualified to gauge your experience as being successful or unsuccessful. Not yet being very subtle or very aware, you usually make false assumptions.
In the beginning you may fantasize what higher consciousness is like and then suffer when practices toward higher consciousness do not yield the hoped-for fantasies. Or, to make the agony of ignorance even worse, sometimes you get "psychic experiences." Psychic sights or sounds generally come into the mind during periods where you are not concentrating or giving attention to your meditation practices. Usually, psychic experiences occur when you are sitting back with your mind blank, perhaps feeling lazy or too tired to pay attention. Suddenly you experience lights, sounds, perhaps even visions of some strange or very celestial beings.
Psychic originally referred to the soul or spiritual realities but came to mean, in modern times: "1) of or having to do with the psyche, or mind; 2) beyond natural or known physical processes; 3) apparently sensitive to forces beyond the physical world," according to Websterís New World Dictionary.
Based on common usage today, psychic generally refers to "the psyche, or mind" and is distinguished ó perhaps unfortunately or unfairly ó from the spiritual. That is, some people do have genuine spiritual experiences but call them psychic. Or, often people who have no knowledge of higher levels of awareness brand all spiritual experiences as psychic, or mental, and dismiss them as imaginings.
In dealing with problems of terminology then, most modern yogis, mystics, and metaphysicians accept psychic to mean "of the mind." They place "psychic" awareness between the levels of regular objective/subjective consciousness and the higher level of spiritual awareness. Based on this usage of the word psychic, most adepts, gurus, and teachers urge their students not to indulge or encourage these intermediate, often incorrect, mental impressions from their psychic nature. The reasons for strong warnings and cautions about psychic experiences are the catastrophes which have often occurred in the lives of once-aspiring students. Students who become enamored with psychic experiences often rely on psychic impressions, which they donít understand, or which they misinterpret, to guide their lives. They base all their important decisions on these experiences ó many times disastrously. Since these mental impressions are sometimes correct, students often become convinced their impressions are always right so they ignore both reality and the helpful instructions of those who could extricate them from slavery to mental and emotional impressions.
Often studentsí psychic visions and other phenomena are triggered by their own subconscious desires to be great or especially important to others. Such students have often throughout history become arrogant and, too many times, mentally ill. Also, as they often become convinced they are great leaders, or the Messiah, they attract small bands of like-minded people ó especially where heavy drug use is also involved ó and often become paranoid in the fear that an unreceptive world is "out to get them." And sometimes they do outright harm to their children, friends and strangers, about whom they get a negative impression.
On the other side of this extremely important issue, there are millions of people in the world who are, or learn to be, more sensitive than the majority of humanity. Their psychic perception is more accurate. They, because of their greater appreciation for others and life itself, often receive psychic images about future events, hints to help others be happier, or to help ill people get well. Itís a shame that these more-sensitive-than-normal individuals have often been tortured, burned as witches, or live in ignorant condemnation even today.
Go Beyond the Psychic
If you should have a psychic experience ó i.e., see ethereal forms, hear voices, have tactile sensations about people beyond range of normal touch, smell fragrances others canít, see departed souls, glimpse possible future events ó write it down. Donít try to interpret or understand it right away. Examine it in the light of your normal consciousness and scriptural writings. If you think itís important or affects you emotionally, discuss it with someone you know to be spiritually attuned. You see, the problem with psychic impressions is that sometimes theyíre right, other times theyíre wrong. Sometimes these impressions are only partial and woefully incomplete. Sometimes, too, your psychic experience is a vivid reflection of what you want to experience ó a vivid fantasy. Gain a calm insight about your psychic impressions while pushing forward as fast as you can into higher consciousness. Go beyond the psychic. Consider it a transitional level of awareness through which you are moving.
Itís also true that you should not totally disregard your psychic experiences. Consider the foreman of a crew deep within an African diamond mine who suddenly received the psychic impression that the mine shaft was about to collapse on all his crew. He ordered immediate evacuation. As soon as his men were safely outside, the shaft collapsed into rock and rubble. Was the impression from higher consciousness or an intermediate psychic level? It could have been either. Fortunately, the foreman didnít file away his impression for later study. He acted on his "intuition."
For the most part, examine your psychic experiences in the light of day. Act on them only if they seem appropriate while benefiting others as well as yourself. Always strive to distinguish between your psychic and spiritual impressions. And donít, if you would know higher consciousness, encourage psychic activity. Avoid making ó or letting ó your mind go blank. Donít seek psychic impressions of others or of events. Go beyond, seek your own reliable higher consciousness.
Mainly, keep in mind that psychic experiences ó when encouraged ó can lead you into a fantasy world, away from reality. If you rely on fantasy and direct your life based on what may be delusive impressions, you will gradually develop a weak will and mind. Acting mainly on psychic information you will lose control of your own life. You wonít be able to know a true life-transforming vision from a psychic experience, even if your life depends on it. Your "misguided life" will, within a year or two, become a living hell. Another agony.
Main Differences Between Psychic Experience and Higher Consciousness
The point is, donít fear psychic experiences but donít rely on them. They may be wrong or right, which is really not much genuine help to you. However, the more pure the mind and subconscious are, that is the more free they are from egocentricity, and the more closely you draw to the higher consciousness, the more true intuition ó "the voice of the soul" ó will develop. Much protection in and of itself will be afforded you. For if you truly live in love, who can harm you? The universe itself will move ó with all its powers ó to save you.
The main differences, by the way, between psychic experience and higher consciousness are:
Ecstasies That Vanish
Thereís another form of agony which is important: the ecstasies that donít last. At times, especially in the life of the beginning and intermediate seeker, there is splendid life-enrichment. Your being is flooded with rapture and joy. You feel you could live in this rush of delight forever. Every phase of your life improves. But then, inexplicably, your precious ecstasy dies down and withdraws. Nothing you can do brings it back. You feel bereft. The ecstasy, the wonder of life, the sense of harmony, the fresh perceptions, vanish. You feel stranded, more than a little lost.
The main reasons your ecstasies come and go are:
All in all, as a devoted seeker of higher consciousness you find yourself in an incomparable position. Not only can you experience ecstasies which transcend all other joys; your agonies are extremely beneficial, too. Your agonies can develop your character and understanding, guiding you toward your sublime goals.
But there is much more to be learned: the two great techniques that deal with all the agonies and which will increase the duration and beauty of your ecstasies, two priceless skills that will further change your life!