The search for true Self consists in a process of understanding. Basically, it is not about doing but is about thinking, questioning, reflecting etc. For this process certain indicators are needed to help make a distinction between what serves the process of understanding and what does not. And one needs a teacher to help one establish the truth.
But what can one do if suitable indicators are still unclear and one has not yet found a teacher?
Actually there are things that one can do. All of them will calm and clear the Thinking-Feeling-Energy-System (personality structure) in such a way that it will not constantly get in the way of the process of discovering truth. In this respect such actions fulfil an important function, even if they do not directly help us to find the truth.
The last essay was about meditation. This is one of the most important instruments for quietening the mind of the seeker, so too devotion, the subject of the May essay. Both will create in the life of the seeker a space that is relatively untouched by personal matters.
What does it mean to make meditation and/or devotion part of ones life?
Above all it means that I allow time for my spiritual journey. 1 The search for completeness happens in space and time after all, even if it aims at something beyond. So the search does need time and space and, as a seeker, I must allow for them.
Exercises and rituals make sense, both, preparing for the search of truth and accompanying it. What serves the search for truth? Everything that makes me quieter without putting me to sleep. Everything that makes me alert without exciting me. Everything that opens my heart, without making me drift off into desires and longings.
What kind of exercises, what rituals?
Every spiritual discipline has its own rituals, but for Western seekers it is not so much a matter of properly executing a given ritual but of actually incorporating one (or several) into one’s life in the first place. Such spiritual rituals are an expression of my devotion to the truth, they fulfil no other purpose. I can create my ritual to suit my situation.
What could my ritual look like in order to support me in my search?
First of all: A ritual needs to be a regular part of my life. I can have a version for weekdays and one for holidays, but there should be no day in which it is dismissed completely. In this sense a ritual is like a child or a pet – one cannot simply pass it over. To muster the discipline for such an attitude, I must like the ritual in just the same way as I love my child or my pet. There will probably be days when I would rather do something else, but if I like my ritual, I will overcome my listlessness.
The aim and purpose of all spiritual exercises is to give me the capability to recognise truth. In order to open myself up fort this recognition I need one fundamental quality: calmness.
Calmness is an expression of trust – trust that what I search for really does exist and that I can find it. This trust cannot be produced, it grows in in proportion to my connection with sources of truth – be it by the reading of spiritual scriptures or listening to spiritual teachings. So part of my ritual should be reading or hearing something that lifts me beyond my personal matters and strengthens my trust.
I suggest three components for a ritual: meditation, devotion, inspiration by reading/listening.
As a meditation I should choose something that suits me. Whoever enjoys movement can choose a meditation with movement, whoever enjoys music can choose a meditation with music, can sing or play music etc. The length depends on what fits into one’s life but it should not be shorter than 10 minutes.
Next is devotion. I should find something what awakens love and devotion in my heart and that also raises me positively above my likes and dislikes. It can be something in nature (for example a tree, a mountain, the sun, the ocean), a God, a saint, a spiritual teacher, a melody, a sound or even an abstract symbol. It does not matter what it is but, just as with my chosen meditation, I should not constantly change it.
Now, what do I do with the object of my devotion? I find a way to express my love and devotion; for the duration of the ritual the object is friend, lover, guest. I can pray, sing, be quiet, light a candle, decorate it with flowers, paint something for it – there are no limits to creative imagination. The main point is that the devotion opens my heart for something higher. As the one before, this phase should last at least 10 minutes.
The third component „inspiration“ has already been mentioned, it also should last at least 10 minutes. If time is very scarce one can write down one sentence or paragraph which touched one and stick with it through the day.
As a component of my life a ritual such as this will change me and I will probably value it more and more. It is no substitute for the search for truth, but it gives it a foundation.