Sunday January 31 we will meet at my office at 46 Riverside Drive in Binghamton at 2 pm for 15 minutes of silent meditation followed by a discussion of Michael Singer's new book The Surrender Experiment. I have mentioned this book in several recent talks. In this book Michael Singer gives many examples of discerning the guidance being provided by life and then surrendering to that guidance, even when it went against his own preferences. Not always clear in the book is the answer to the essential question: how do we know when we are being given guidance by life, and when is the apparent guidance being directed by my own ego? How do we know whether it is truly thy will or more my will?
Discernment and Surrender
Ask for guidance. Do not assume that you know the right answer. It is essential to ask with absolute humility and openness to being shown the way.
Willingness is essential. This willingness to be shown and to follow through with action is the meaning of surrender. It is definitely possible to recognize the need for an action that is not appealing or even goes against our own best judgement. Even if we receive guidance but do not wish to follow, waiting is usually ok. When a particular action is ‘suggested’ repeatedly, it is probably wise to follow it. This process does not negate the thinking mind or undercut the role of reason, critical judgement or thinking in the usual sense. However, if we are not willing, we will not be able to see what is being revealed. Willingness benefits from a comfort and even eagerness to dwell in ‘not knowing’. Not knowing is your friend. The mind that knows is closed. Adopt the perspective of not knowing. Learn to be ok with uncertainty. It is a myth that we should know what we are doing all the time. Only those who are closed can always know or believe they know the truth. A closed mind knows programming and belief, not revealed truth. We are looking for revealed truth. Programming and belief is already known and very limited in its power and effectiveness in the world. Therefore, we must remain open and frequently dwell in a kind of uncertainty. Learning to tolerate this Cloud of Unknowing is a large part of the spiritual path. We are always searching for the revelation of the Will of God. This searching must be accomplished without fear, doubt or anxiety. It is more like a watchful waiting. There is no effort to force an outcome. This waiting is actively passive. It is neither active nor passive. It is open, curious, receptive.
When in doubt, it is often good judgement to wait. Wait in the not knowing. Expect to know but recognize and accept when you don’t know. Try to be content with not knowing. When the time is right and there is a need, what is next will be revealed.
How can we discern the difference between what my conditioned mind wants and what God wants? It is not always easy or clear. There are certainly no rules. To recognize it requires trust, intuition and surrender. Usually, however, God’s will is not very subtle or hard to recognize. It tends to be insistent. You will notice yourself repeatedly revisiting an idea or plan of action. If something repeatedly occurs to me without obvious external or internal prompting, it is a safe bet I am being guided. Once you recognize the guidance, try to relax and carry through with it to the best of your ability. Avoid doubt or any other kind of worry or rumination as much as possible. Worry is merely your thinking mind doing what it does best. It is not helpful and is really just a bad habit. Observe the worry and then try to lose interest in it and ignore it.
The indicated action that is revealed is a ‘next’. Try to stay present and attuned, always open to further guidance. Recognizing and carrying out guidance skilfully requires understanding and practice. These skills will develop over time, as with anything else. Remember experiences where you felt guided in the past and review the outcomes. Usually you will see that things went well, often much better than you could have ever imagined. While the indicated action might engender fear to the self-identity beforehand, there is often a feeling of relief and ‘rightness’ afterwards. Try to maintain awareness of this entire process. We all have this ability inherent in us as human beings, although some appear to be naturally more at ease with the required letting go of perceived control.
Eventually this other way of knowing becomes second nature and is mostly effortless. Interruptions in the flow of awareness come as conditioned beliefs and habits are triggered. This eruption of conditioning and fear is not a problem. Rather, it is an opportunity to become more aware of unconscious programming and release it. In other words, it is an opportunity to become more free and clear. Everything that appears to be a problem will yield to a calm and present awareness.