Religion For Dummies
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Spiritual living begins with looking at day-to-day events differently. Instead of judging things by how important they are on the scales of worldly accomplishment, you focus on the depth of meaning behind the outer appearances of everything in your life.

To grasp the deeper, more meaning-filled levels beneath, behind, and within your surface life, you have to shift the focus of your consciousness, bringing the more materialistic, limited view out of focus and a higher awareness into focus.

Letting life be meaningful

Every moment of life is meaningful. Every person you encounter has an important movement in your dance. Every object you can see right now, wherever you are, is profoundly full of deeper significance and meaning. In this amazingly prolific universal creation, everything around you is inherently and naturally in perfect harmony with who you are and what you think and feel.

Moving deeper past the surface layers

Spirituality is a way to move beyond the most surface understanding of life and to begin to peek into some of the underlying layers. There are gazillions of underlying layers, so this is not a goal-oriented search to get them all under your belt. Rather, it's contentment with where you are and what you know, along with an inner effort and openness to growing into new and more wondrous views, vistas, and visions.

If you can pull your senses and thoughts away from outer distractions, you may move beyond the most obvious layers of appearance to see some of the amazing symbolism and multidimensional images behind the surface of life.

The following contemplation exercise can help you appreciate how perfect it must be that you are exactly who and where you are right now.

1. Contemplate how this world is filled with such a variety of potential life experiences, from the life of a reigning aristocrat to that of a starving child.

2. Look at telescopic photographs of the untold millions of other stars and galaxies out there, and consider how many kinds of life experience must be available on them.

3. Imagine that there must also be innumerable other dimensions of life besides these few bandwidths of energy that are commonly called the physical universe.

4. With this immense vision in mind, contemplate how and why your soul chose to express in human form, on this particular planet, and in your very specific and unique combination of circumstances.

By understanding and appreciating more of the intricate melodies and harmonies of this universal symphony, you may find that life becomes more profound, more symbolic, and more naturally spiritual. Each day brings fresh insights and inner transformation.

Being more conscious

Being more conscious of the underlying layers of life brings several benefits:

  • Being more conscious makes life more interesting. You'll never have to be bored again. Even while waiting in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles, you can look around and contemplate the symbolic messages and lessons behind all these strange folks who have appeared in line with you. For example, if someone near you is having an argument, you can ask what inside yourself may have drawn you and that argument together. Do you have some undigested anger? Do their words mirror a situation you have been in before?
  • Being more conscious helps keep you focused in the moment. You understand that you are exactly where you are supposed to be and that the fullness of life's bounty is available to you, no matter who, where, and how you are. With this, the stress-filled drive to make it to the future or recreate the past begins to soften into contentment with yourself as you are right now.
  • Being more conscious opens the door to receiving divine guidance. All around you are magnificent, potential sources of guidance. You could think of them as angels or spiritual guides. They can talk to you through anything and anyone, revealing what you need to know and how to live a fulfilled and vibrant journey. However, if you don't have the ears to hear — the capacity to perceive their subtle guidance — these beings can talk and advise all they can, but to no avail.

Looking toward enlightenment

Enlightenment is the crown jewel of spirituality. Different traditions have alluded to this elusive state with various terms, including nirvana, bodhisattva, fanaa, mukti, and liberation.

With enlightenment, you move beyond mere relaxation techniques or positive thinking. Enlightenment is a complete shift of perception, in which you flow with absolute inner freedom in an awareness that reaches deeply into the unseen realms.

With the blessing of enlightenment,

  • You have no more fear, no more greed, and no more aggression.
  • You know that everything — all of it, all of us — is one.
  • Your love becomes unconditional and untainted by mundane expectations.
  • Every action you perform stems from the flow of universal energy through you.
  • You're aware of death and aware of eternal life.
  • You know that the entire universe is bursting with fresh life in every moment.
  • You're willing and able to let go of who you thought you were and become that which you have always been.

This is a big sacrifice to make — giving up all you think you are. However, if you don't do it now, Father Time will come and do it for you one day! This is why Sufi saints give the command to "Die before you die!" Die to the small self before the small self dies. Loosen your identification with the leaf and remember that you are the great tree. Then, when that particular leaf turns brown and falls to the ground, dissolving particle by particle into the elements of the earth, you still will be here in all your grand and divine fullness.

Two steps come together on your quest for enlightenment:

  • You have to want it.
  • You can't want it too much.

This state of enlightenment is also called self-realization or God-realization. It's called "realization" because the great, enlightened beings have "realized" one fact — a fact that has implications on every element of life as you know it. This fact is that everything is one, that knowledge and the knowing of that knowledge are inseparable. In other words, what you see is what you get, and what you get is what you are.

Realization is not just about reading some words and being able to discuss or debate them; but rather to realize the essence behind insights such as "in the beginning was the word, and the word was God," "everything is one," "the kingdom of heaven lies within," or "thou art That."

After you realize the essence of spiritual teachings and make them an integral part of your reality, they filter through and transform your entire world. Your sense of limited individuality fades like a mirage that had been blocking the bright sunlight of supreme truth. As this supreme light blasts through you, unimpeded by mortal illusions of limitation and separation, you become enlightened. You emanate not only your own personal human light but also a higher, more universal light.

How will you know if you're enlightened? You already are, but your mind doesn't know it. That's what discovering spiritual practices and principles are for — to move you beyond the limited view of yourself so you can remember and realize your true nature!

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