Spiritual Journey–Denial

As I mentioned in my first Spiritual Journey post, I recently bought the book Autobiography of a Yogi and began to read it again.

Early on, Yogananda talks about his parents’ teacher, Lahiri Mahasaya, and refers to a photograph he had of this teacher. I turned to the page with the photograph, curious to see if I would feel anything upon looking at the picture of this revered teacher. No, looking at the picture did nothing for me.

Then I had the thought to close my eyes and meditate on the picture. I did so, and I immediately felt myself in the presence of Lahiri Mahasaya. It was peaceful, and we began conversing.

You will not be surprised to learn, if you have read my two previous “Spiritual Journey” posts, that I cannot tell you much of our conversation. Even as we were talking, I blocked out many of his words. I could still hear that he was talking, but I could no longer understand what he was saying.

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It reminds me of a dream I once had when I was seventeen. In the dream, I was somebody else, with their mind, their body, and their memory. This has happened a few times over the years, that I totally become someone else in a dream. What surprises me most when this happens is that I have someone else’s memories. I can draw upon a lifetime of experience that is totally different from my own life experience.

In this particular dream, I was a German man. The part of me that was watching the dream, the part most closely associated with my waking self, knew that I cannot speak German in the waking world. So, even though my dream-self spoke German and conversed with others in the dream in German, my watcher-self could not understand what was being said.

How was it possible, I wondered upon waking, that one part of me understands something while another part cannot, at the very same time? How can my access to knowledge be so variable? I suppose it’s not much different from waking life, when one moment you have forgotten something and another moment you can remember it. The difference in the dream was that I witnessed my inconsistent access to knowledge.

To my shame, I notice that I have inconsistent access to knowledge in waking life, too. I can remember several occasions when people have said things that I didn’t want to hear or know of, and, once I realized they were saying something I did not want to hear, I could no longer understand what they were saying. It was as if a flip had been switched, and instead of hearing English, I heard gibberish.

The first time I became aware of this was in college. There was a person in the campus administration whom I admired very much. His department was holding an event that evening, so his name was in the air at the student center, where I was having lunch. Some women at the table next to me were discussing him, and one was criticizing him rather vocally.

I remember taking offense when I realized they were criticizing him, since I considered him to be such a fine person. I did not want to hear a word spoken against him. Once I had that reaction, I could no longer understand the words of the woman who was speaking against this man. She had changed neither volume nor pitch, but speech that I could discern and understand before became garbled and unintelligible. Even though I had been curious to hear what she would say next (she was going to explain why she disliked this man), the larger part of me completely rejected what this woman was saying, to the extent that in my ears her words became gibberish.

This event points to two things. First, I can and do filter my world, limiting my perceptions to what some aspect of myself has determined to be permissible within a framework of acceptable world view. I have read in self-help books as well as spiritual books and I have also inferred from my own observations of the world that we perceive the world according to our beliefs. This means that our experience of the world is limited or enhanced depending on what we allow to be true. This is obviously the case for me.

Second, this event highlights how much understanding depends on emotional concordance. Have you ever been so angry with someone that all communication seems to break down? The expression “breakdown in communication” is generally meant figuratively, in that the negative emotions of one or both speakers prevents them from creating a receptive environment within themselves to the words of the other person. But in my college experience, once I became angry and rejected what this woman was saying, the breakdown in communication was absolute. Even though I could still hear her, the woman’s words no longer held any meaning for me.

Remembering this humbles me, because I like to think that I am open-minded. Yet here is proof positive that at times I am close-minded. It’s one thing not to understand talking seals in a dream (see previous blog post), but quite another to lose understanding from one moment to the next in “real life”. How much confidence can I have in myself when I know that I do not allow certain information into my awareness?

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In my meditation moment with Lahiri Mahayasa, our conversation became unintelligible and I could no longer hear his words. I do not know what he said during that part of our conversation. I did perceive that the information was being absorbed by me on other levels, as if my body could hear and receive his words even though my mind refused them.

However, I can tell you some of what Lahiri Mahasaya said to me. He told me to write and publish these experiences, and all my spiritual experiences.

“Now publish it,” he said.

“Publish what?” I asked, not wanting to know.

“All of it,” he answered.

“All my writing?” I asked.

“All of it,” he said again.

And so here is the beginning of the writing. May it serve.


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