For the next post in my mystic spirituality series (which I have to warn you I may meander through with lots of tangents, because I am after all a Pisces and just can’t help myself) I wanted to cover the four types of spiritual paths, which correspond to four types of mystic experiences. I don’t usually like categorizing much, but I find this particular classification system useful for:
1) understanding the religious and spiritual traditions of the world
2) understanding the different routes to ’spiritual’ experiences, and
3) understanding your own spiritual proclivities
These four categories are based on ancient Hindu texts such as the Vedas and Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, but I first came across them in the biography of Vivekananda, one of the formost disciples of Sri Ramakrishna, and the first Indian ‘Swami’ to travel to Europe and the U.S. (he did this before Yogananda, founder of the Self-Realization Fellowship.)
In Vivekananda’s writings, he labels each path as a different type of yoga, or path to ‘union’ (which is what the word yoga means.) The root of any experience that we label as ’spiritual’ or ‘mystic’ is a dissolution of boundaries, and therefore rooted in a sense of union with forces or a power larger than ourselves. Of course dividing life into ’spiritual’ and ‘non-spiritual’ moments presents big problems, but for the sake of this post, let’s just not get worked up about that - I think we can all acknowledge that we have certain moments or experiences of opening that help define our spiritual lives. Personally I prefer the word ‘freedom’ to ‘union’ - as in, freedom from the forces that usually keep us tied down or separated. So I call this Four Paths to Freedom, but you can call it whatever you want!
Think about what you gravitate to the most as you read this. What has preceded your defining moments? What dissolves you? Which of these traditions have you gravitated to the most? Each path is traditionally associated with certain risks, which I have listed, so think also about whether you have ever been (or currently are) caught in any of these traps? Let me know in the comments!
Paths of Inquiry (Jnani Yoga)
These paths revolve around direct inquiry into the nature of reality, mind, personal identity, and God/source. While these start as intellectual exercises, the practices are meant to move you beyond intellect, dissolving subject and object and all the dualities of mind that cause us to believe we are separate from God/source/each other.
Motto: To Know (or even better, To Know the Knower)
Tradition Examples: Zen (all of Buddhism to some extent, but Zen in particular), Taoism, Vedanta, Hasidic Kabbalah (in terms of Talmudic study), Eckhart Tolle, Jungian-based symbolic psyche systems, the Enneagram
Risks of these paths: Getting trapped in the mind. Analysis paralysis. Mistaking intellectual understanding for wisdom, or self-awareness for realization.
Antidote: Surrender. Your intellect is your tool on this path, not who you are. It can bring you to the brink, and then you have to let go.
Paths of Devotion (Bhakti Yoga)
These paths revolve around devotion to an external representation of God, source, or love. Usually, this is devotion to a teacher, deity or other person meant to represent the liberated state. While initially these generate feelings of love for the object of worship, the idea is to collapse into the love itself, recognizing yourself as a pure expression of love, not an individual feeling love.
Motto: To Love (or even better, To Become Love)
Tradition Examples: Christianity (through devotion to Christ), Tantric/Vajrayana Buddhism (through mandala, deity, or guru identification), Sufism, ritualized Hinduism (deity devotion), Guru yoga
Risks of these paths: Getting trapped in external devotion. Never recognizing the same source inside yourself. Getting addicted to the ‘feelings’ of love or bliss that devotion can trigger, without taking the next step into becoming love. Sentimentality. Self-righteousness - when emotion becomes the sole psychological driver.
Antidote: Discrimination - as in the mental ability to take a knife to your ego, discriminate between the various forces at work there, and surgically dissect your emotional addictions (which can be considered a kind of jnani yoga - inquiry and devotion work together.) If you stay trapped in worship for the emotional ‘high’, your ‘object’ of worship has to remain external to yourself. Give up temporarily feeling good to be free.
Paths of Service (Karma Yoga)
These paths revolve around service to others, as a means to overcoming the ego’s self-interest. The goal is to live in selflessness, through service to others, in order to overcome all egoic attachments and thought patterns. Dissolution occurs through recognizing everyone (and yourself) as expressions of the same source. Service to others is service to self - there is no separation.
Motto: To Serve (or even better, To Serve as Source)
Tradition Examples: Christianity (think Mother Teresa), Judaism (in the principle of tikkun, or making the world ‘whole’ through compassionate action), Bodhisattva practice in Mahayana Buddhism (which includes Zen and Tibetan Buddhism, but some lineages stress service in action more than others, and fit better here), karma yoga monasteries like that established by Vivekananda himself (one of Gandhi’s inspirations)
Risks of these paths: Attachment to outcome - judging results instead of focusing on your inner relationship to service. Also, martyrdom or ’service ego’ - attachment to others viewing you as a ‘good person’, which masks underlying insecurities. And finally, compassion fatigue - a shutting down due to sacrificing your own needs beyond a level that is sustainable long term.
Antidote: Solitude. Meditation. Pulling inward instead of going outward for a time, to reconnect to your source and recognize your true drives.
Paths of the Unseen (raja yoga)
Raja actually means ‘king’, and these paths are so called because they combine aspects of all the other paths, plus add in occult and energy studies. The idea is to study the unseen forces in our world - the patterns of energy and laws of existence that determine what we experience and how the world evolves. Or put another way, the laws of creation. Dissolution comes through the recognition that we ourselves create the world, as opposed to the focus being on an external ‘creator’. Any act of creation - from the creative arts to healing (which is a kind of re-creation) to magic and manifestation - can be a practice on this path.
Motto: To Create (or To Become Creation)
Seeking: Power - as in the power to Create/Manifest
Tradition Examples: Tantric/Vajrayana Buddhism, mystic Kabbalah, kundalini yoga, siddha yogic paths, Religious Science/New Thought Christianity, energy healing traditions practiced as part of a spiritual path, Evolutionary astrology, any occult or energy-based tradition (magick, divination, healing, even martial arts) that is practiced as part of a spiritual journey
Risks of these paths: Arrogance. Attachment to using power as an individual, to fulfill your own ego desires, instead of as a means for experiencing yourself as a conduit for creation. Also, disassociation - too much time in the ‘unseen’ can leave you emotionally disconnected from ‘real life’.
Antidote: Compassion, and service (the raja and karma paths can work to balance each other just as the bhakti and jnani can.) Focusing on your connection to others is the best way to keep yourself connected and balanced.
Many people label only devotional or occult paths as ‘mystic’, but as I said in my Are You a Mystic? post, I use it much more broadly. As for my own tendencies, in my life I have most definitely focused the most on the Paths of the Unseen, with a strong draw to Paths of Inquiry too. But interestingly, the main focus of my last few years - parenting - is a combination of the other two Paths, Devotion and Service. So I’ve been pulled to explore other aspects of myself - and spirituality - through that.
So what’s your tendency? What paths (formally or informally) have you been drawn to? What do you most seek - Truth, Connection, Selflessness or the Power to Create? What traps have you encountered? I’m interested to know…
From Mommy Mystic
10 ways to control your anger - Professional expert’s advice
I am really emotional and excitable person. I think that there are two types of anger: constructive anger and a destructive one. In order to understand the anger phenomenon I decided to investigate the nature of anger, reasons of its appearing, key factors and anger management.
What does it mean this anger? Anger is a strong indignation feeling of our emotional sphere that is attended by self-control losing. Anger is a signal of our state. Glands produce an array of hormones that have a great and deep effect on all our body. The main participants of this process are adrenaline and cortisol. They activate cardiovascular system and consequently all organs. Adrenalin causes fast heart beating, rising blood pressure. These rich oxygenated blood streams to the places are responsible for reaction. Thus some extra energy is released.
There are 4 basic ways of anger expressions:
1. Straight and immediately (verbally or nonverbally) to show your anger. It gives an opportunity to free from the negative emotions.
2. To express anger in an indirect way. In this case usually suffer persons that are weaker, not dangerous and those ones who “come to hand”, usually they are our family and close relatives. Thus we hurt our dear ones. One of the best ways is to express your anger to the person who is the source of this very anger. If it is impossible- better find some compromise.
3. Restraining anger you “drive” it deep inside. So, negative emotions store will provoke a big stress sooner or later.
4. You may foresee situation of anger feeling, try not to expand this feeling but get to know the reason, understand and solve it. A Roman philosopher Seneca said: “When you are feeling of ascending “volcano”- stand still, not doing anything- not speaking, not moving.”
Anger is a normal and natural human feeling, especially nowadays as life is really fast and we have a huge amount of information to accumulate (in comparison with our previous generations). The range of anger is rather wide: from a slight annoyance to impetuous fury. Anger can be quick and long, lasting for years in form of bitterness, vengeance or hate. Anger can lead to health issues like depression, high blood pressure, hearth diseases, stresses, alcohol dependence and obesity. If you are anger- express it. If you feel discomfort from these “negative splashes”- then we can give some techniques how to manage your emotional anger:
- 1. Take a deep and continuous breath. Count up to 50 or imagine your aggressor just naked, only in socks. This will help you to calm and smile.
- 2. Have a walk. Look at high sky. Continue to breathe deep and easily. So you appraise the situation and calm down.
- 3. Do some physical exercises. When you are angry- your body is very tensed and tough. If you stretch your muscles it will relax your body, as you will spill out all your negative energy into action. Your brains will get more oxygen and it assists to clear your thoughts.
- 4. Write down all your thoughts. Write down that you are mad and why. Avoid being rational, logical or laconic. Write on paper all you are feeling this moment. Try to write all in details. The function of this technique is to shift all your anger out of your head on paper.
- 5. Be grateful. Find someone to thank. Do you not forget about yourself. Thank that you have woken up today, thank that that the Sun is shining for you, that the sky is blue and the grass is green.
- 6. Prayer. Ask God to be with you during this anger moment and lead you.
- 7. Meditation. Close your eyes, look into solar plexus, and be all your anger, breathing deeply.
- 8. Change of places. Move yourself on your enemy’s place. And look at situation from his point of view. Better look at the situation from the ceiling. Focus on details, especially on funny and absurd ones. Strive to forgive your enemy as well as forgive truly yourself.
- 9. Go back to your childhood memories. Recollect state when you were angry. Hug this child and say: “All is ok. I am here. You are good child. I love you and I will not leave you.”
- 10. Your values. What is the most significant thing in your life? Who are the most important people in your life? What kind of person do you want to be? Think and accept that point that you are living your life, and you are living your values. There is a good man inside you that wants to help you. I wish you good luck!
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