About the Book

The Importance of Method and Practice

(Excerpt from Part Two: Essays, Reflections and Insights)

One of the most disconcerting developments within modern

spiritual enquiry is the often deeply felt resistance some folks

feel toward a methodical approach to inner development. Many

spiritual teachers nowadays advise their students that a methodical

approach to the spiritualization of their being limits and inhibits

free and creative response to their inner unfolding. This often leaves

the student bewildered and confused because they deeply realize

that more than verbal teaching is required to bring about the kind

of inner changes which alone could facilitate the unfolding of their

deeper humanity.

However, if we are serious about the possibility of fundamental

change, and approach our inner awakening realistically and not idealistically, it would not be unreasonable to suggest that we cannot

remain self-contracted, emotionally scarred, mentally conditioned

and trapped within the apparent reality of the thought-attention

knot and, in the midst of these, stand free in the light of our deeper

intelligence and emotional equanimity. To be awakened is literally a

matter of waking up from the slumber of our pre-inspected ways of confused living. And this gradual movement from darkness to light requires

appropriate and diligent practice necessarily founded on effective

method. Without method our gestures toward sanity and wellbeing

will tend to flounder and will soon lead us astray into the

many forms of distracting potential which may become available to

us during contemplative enquiry.

The path of human unfolding as suggested in this book teaches

us how to recognize darkness and how to transcend it in a practical, effective manner. And although we will naturally start our enquiry as a

form of intellectual understanding, such understanding, however

clear and insightful, should always be regarded as a mere point

of departure. Understanding, not informed by actual experience

and translated into living reality, soon loses its value for pointing

beyond itself. Instead, it settles down as part of our comfortable

knowledge-base, to be used strategically either to impress others

or to convince ourselves that we are indeed in possession of some

fundamental truths about life. But truth is not something to be

possessed. Only thought can create the illusion of possession. Such

internalized knowledge will therefore remain on the outside, not

being able to penetrate beyond itself into the living reality toward

which it points. To translate knowledge into living reality, methodical

practice is of vital importance.

In relation to well-being and integral living, understanding

alone can never deliver on its promises. Functioning within the

enclosed circuit of its own limited and conditioned intelligence it

can always, only reflect on itself, using its existing knowledge-base

as foundation for such reflection. Although this thought-based inner

reflection about spiritual matters may bring about many outward

behavioral modifications (such as changing our eating habits, trying

to become kind and generous, refrain from certain activities

regarded as un-spiritual, attending gatherings with others who have

the same set of beliefs and principles as we do, adopt a new teaching,

philosophy, guru, spiritual path or religion, and so on) these tend

to become stale, ritualistic and mechanical. Ultimately they have no

transformative power as they are founded on knowledge, rather than

our own personal insight and experiential evidence. In this way,

knowledge without experiential evidence becomes an obstacle to

true human unfolding.

For those who feel an earnest desire to wake up beyond the

confines of their own self-imposed limitations and inner turmoil,

the categorical shift from mental understanding to accepting the

need for appropriate forms of practice by which knowledge gets

transformed into living reality, signifies a critically important step

along their path of inner development. We have to appreciate that

all human-created suffering is rooted within very specific, and well

functioning, principles of inappropriate use of powerful faculties

such as thought, memory, attention, conditioning, emotions and the

limited intelligence within which these operate. Here we notice a

very methodical order of dysfunction, meticulously constructed and applied

in any moment of unawareness. Our suffering is therefore not a series

of random, isolated responses to challenges. It operates within a

well-established framework of its own logic and motivation. If this

web of suffering was not so finely, and intricately woven, most

of us would have lived in the simplicity and clarity of our natural

condition.

And it is this order within human-created suffering which we have to

penetrate and allow to dissolve naturally in the light of our deeper

human potential. And this we can only do through methodical

practice. We have to meet the methods employed by the processes

responsible for our suffering and confusion with an aspect of our

human potential which is of a higher order than that of these forms

of dysfunction which we dramatize every day as though they were

our inevitable destiny. This is where method and practice play such

an important role. We have to find ways for moving away from our

present mental and emotional confusion to a living revelation of

our true being. Methodical practice, such as described in this book,

could greatly facilitate this process. We always seem to be confronted

with a simple, yet, devastatingly powerful truth: we either transcend

that which binds us, or we will remain caught in the destiny-creating web

of our own self-created and self-maintained disorder. Looking at our human

situation in general, we appear to have no other choice than to

observe, investigate and transcend that which confines our being

into human-created suffering.

One last aspect of the notion of method requires some further

investigation. It is simply in the nature of method to appear to be

counter-intuitive and to interfere with our natural way of doing

things. For example, those of us who have had a few golf or tennis

lessons are well aware of this interesting phenomenon. The way we

are instructed to hold the golf club or the tennis racket during our

first few lessons feels very awkward and contrary to our natural

inclination for holding these. Yet, as our game progresses, we begin

to realize to which extent the correct method for holding these

sets us free. Someone once remarked that all method appears to

be counter-intuitive, or against our natural inclination. This is quite

true, at least from the beginner’s perspective. But as one’s skills

begin to mature, it becomes evident that what initially appeared to

be against our natural impulse, now greatly facilitates the correct,

and most effective, way of managing our game. .

The same applies with regard to spiritual unfolding. The nature

of self-enquiry requires very delicate and specific kinds of inner activity,

such as we explored during the practices of both Passive and

Direct Awareness. The inner quiet which is pivotal to the gradual

unfolding of our deeper intelligence and human-heartedness appears

to be in direct conflict with the random and uncontrolled

movements of thought and attention with which we have become

closely identified over many years of uninspected living. What may

therefore at first appear to be unnecessary restrictions on the way we

may prefer to approach the process of awakening, soon proves itself

indispensable to the integral unfolding of our natural condition.

Method truly sets us free. When used intelligently and with awareness,

appropriate methods of practice lay a sound foundation for all

future development. It is useful to remind ourselves that when we

first set out on our path of inner growth, most of us operate in

a somewhat random, disorderly and generally unintelligent way.

In fact, it is exactly because of this incoherent functioning that we

tend to produce the inner turmoil and bewilderment we are now

attempting to come to terms with and free ourselves from.

The tree first needs to be trimmed before new, fresh shoots

of healthy growth could start sprouting. And when we adopt appropriate

methods whereby we sensitively and judiciously prune

our unintelligent ways of living, these soon get replaced with intelligent,

and whole-hearted, participation in everything we do. For

this to happen, methodical practice is indispensible.