There are many people who assume that spiritual work is mostly of the mind. One can go to satsangs, spiritual talks, and other such events and hear inspiring words about presence, self-realization, love, egolessness, non-duality, and so on. At such events, one will invariably notice the affirmative nods and smiles of most of the listeners, who clearly like what they hear. If, however, one consciously (or unconsciously) steps on the corns of some of the people attending such events, one quickly sees that not all is as it seems.
For example, after one such gathering–led by a well-known spiritual personage–someone I knew from a teaching I had studied for several years came up to me with a smile on his face and said “Hello, Dennis,” which I appreciated. Unfortunately, I couldn’t remember his name. When I told him that I had forgotten his name, a dark cloud, a frown, flashed across his face, which, after several moments, turned back into a smile. Now I am all for smiling (I write about the importance of smiling and “the smiling breath” in many places), but it was clear to me at that moment that his smile was an effort to cover up his irritation and maintain the image that he had of himself. Perhaps he saw this identification with his self-image, and, if so, that is all anyone can ask.
Another time I was waiting in line to get my room assignment in San Francisco at the Whole Life Expo for a talk I was giving. The person in front of me was a well-known spiritual author and teacher. She had a huge smile on her face and was a paradigm of calmness. When the woman giving the assignments told her which space she was going to be speaking in, the teacher erupted with disbelief, irritation, and tension. “I cannot be in that room,” she said. “I want a better room. It’s impossible to teach in that room.” After about ten minutes of checking and rechecking what other spaces were available, she finally got her way. And, with a huge smile, headed off toward her talk. Did she see herself impartially during that exchange? I have no idea.
But that is by no means the end of the story. Who do you think got the space she had just rejected? Why, me, of course. And she got the space that was originally assigned to me. There was a certain spiritual justice about that since my talk was entitled Awakening to the Miracle of Ordinary Life. This indeed was “ordinary life”!
When I walked into my newly assigned space, which happened to be quite large and noisy (with people walking by to get into other rooms), I saw why the other teacher hadn’t wanted it. But I also realized that this was a perfect situation for what I was going to be speaking of. So a certain calmness came over me and I discovered an entirely new way not just to speak (more quietly so people would listen) but also a new way to be in relation to the various thoughts, emotions, and sensations that were arising as I spoke. A great sense of inner freedom appeared, the freedom to welcome the truth.
Copyright 2005-15 by Dennis Lewis