My philosophical mind is always trying to find the commonalities in spirituality. Also, my scientific mind. We don’t say “What science do you believe in?” But “What religion do you believe in?” is a common question.
That’s because science is a universal approach to learning about physical reality, while every religion considers that it alone holds the key to the truth about a presumed spiritual reality. So scientists are able to stand on common ground with other people, while religious believers end up isolated on their own distinct islands of false understanding.
I’m attracted to the possibility that it’s possible to have a genuine spiritual science. I don’t know what this would look like. However, I suspect that seeing clearly now would be a central value.
For a Wikipedia definition of the scientific method is: “essentially an extremely cautious means of building a supportable, evidence-based understanding of our natural world.” Ditto for an understanding of whatever may be above, beyond, or beneath the natural world.
To me, “supportable” and “evidence-based” means that you’re in touch with what is objectively really there, not what you subjectively presume to be there. So I found it interesting that while the two of us who have shared our God experiment are doing very different things, we’re both trying to see clearly.
Every day I spend some time meditating, trying to look within myself. Punkindunkin said that she spends time in nature, taking in the world around her. For both of us, if we let our perceptions be obscured we’re going to miss out on a lot of the reality that is both within and without us.
Which is why I consider that stilling my mind’s chatter is the #1 thing I can do to get more in touch with both the natural world and any supernatural world that may exist. Just as a dirty or misshapen lens on a telescope leads to a distorted view of reality, so does a confused consciousness.
By “confused” I don’t necessarily mean illogical or mistaken. I just mean that my mind is full of junk that keeps me from being aware of the here and now. Almost every evening I go on a half hour walk through the woods and around a lake with our dog.
If I’m engrossed in thinking about something, often I barely notice what is right around me. A mountain lion could be lying on a branch above the trail and I’d likely be oblivious to it (but, fortunately, our dog wouldn’t).
This is why I’m a big fan of using some sort of mantra to keep useless extraneous thoughts to a minimum.
A mantra is just a word or words that you repeat mentally instead of all the other stuff that keeps spoken by our inner voice, such as this typical on-the-dogwalk recitation of mine:
“what am I gonna eat tonight nothing in the fridge maybe laurel will cook something nah can’t count on it starving man I’m starving what’s in the freezer isn’t there a pizza no damn we ate it last week jesus I’m gonna starve but got to feed dog first hey where is dog anyway shit she’s way ahead chasing deer how’d that happen oh yeah I was thinking of something”
In his book “Open Mind, Open Heart” Thomas Keating says:
“Many people are so identified with the ordinary flow of their thoughts and feelings that they are not aware of the source from which these mental objects are emerging. Like boats or debris floating along the surface of a river, our thoughts and feelings must be resting on something. They are resting on the inner stream of consciousness, which is our participation in God’s being.”
I don’t think it’s necessary to call this “God’s” being, but Keating is a Christian and that’s how he sees things. I prefer to just call it being, or even better, reality. Consciousness is how we connect with reality. If we aren’t conscious, we know nothing about reality.
Building on Keating’s metaphor, I use a simple one-syllable mantra as a transparent boat floating on the stream of my consciousness. Keating aptly observes that thoughts and feelings usually are like boats with large holds to explore. You see a thought-boat going by, hop on board, and start exploring all the nooks and crannies below decks. Pretty soon, you’ve lost touch with the real world above, where mountain lions, dogs, and lakes exist.
It wouldn’t make sense to pay so much attention to a mantra that it too obscures your view of the world. I’ve make this mistake in the past. I used the mantra as a way to put blinders on rather than see more clearly, like saying “No No No No No!” when someone says something you don’t like, rather than listening to what’s being said.
Now my mantra is like a transparent boat that I barely notice. It’s just a way of keeping me in touch with the natural stream of my consciousness rather than with all the thoughts, feelings, imaginings, worries, memories, anticipations, and so on that I would otherwise be focusing on—big boats with large holds that catch my attention yet never bring me the cargo of contentment that I’m searching for.
I like Keating’s view of faith:
“Faith is opening and surrendering to God [or, I’d say, reality]. The spiritual journey does not require going anywhere because God is already with us and in us. It is a question of allowing our ordinary thoughts to recede into the background and to float along the river of consciousness without our noticing them, while we direct our attention to the river on which they are floating.”
It seems that to see really clearly is to see what is seeing.