Editors Note: This article is an excerpt from a larger document that is part of a fund raising effort for projects of Inner Path Los Angeles.
THE ISSUE AT HAND
As much as we often berate society for the problems of the world, in truth, it really comes down to each one of us, as individuals, who make up society. Some people don’t like that idea, because it means that we’re responsible for the problems we see in the world around us, but it also means that we’re the answer, and through self-effort and understanding we can individually and collectively make effective change in the world. For that change to be effective, however, it needs to be both from within and without.
Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase, “No matter where I go, there I am.” Our level of consciousness, and our life attitude and understanding, form the lens through which we see ourselves and the world around us. Consequently, our level of consciousness is an important tool as it is the pool of understanding from which everything we think and do takes place.
The numerous negative qualities that seem embedded in parts of our society – selfishness, lack of empathy, religious extremism – can all find their antidote through expanded states of consciousness and the thoughts and actions we express from that higher perspective.
RELIGION, SPIRITUALITY AND CONSCIOUSNESS
Before going on, I want to clarify the difference between being religious and being spiritual and what I mean by “higher consciousness,” because consciousness is really the crux of many of society’s problems.
Being religious means belonging to a religious organization and/or adhering to the tenets of a religion. It is quite possible to be religious and have no direct experience of God or Spirit in ones’ life. It all depends on the dogma of the organization and the effort of the individual. Interestingly, there are historical records of many true saints in Catholicism (as one example), who were persecuted for their spiritual experiences which ran counter to the dogma of the church.
Being spiritual means accepting that we have a spiritual side to our nature, often called our soul, and through various means, making an effort to tune into that aspect of our life. When we do that, spiritual qualities such as love, empathy, patience, and inner wisdom come to the fore. These are qualities that are universally understood. As we develop these aspects of our spiritual self, they become tools that we can actively use in the day-to-day experiences of life.
Consciousness may be thought of as the process of being aware of something. Just as our view of the world changes as we travel up a mountain trail and see the valley below us from an ever more expansive view, so too does our understanding of life change as our consciousness expands through practices that bring us into attunement with our soul.
It should be noted, too, that a change in consciousness is not the same as knowledge obtained from book learning, or good behavior developed from social patterning. Learning to be good and being good are distinctly different experiences.