The Five Stages In Spiritual Practice

An Autobiography

© 2015, By Prashant S. Shah

StarpointCol

Chapter-1:

I took a walk in the street.
There was a large pothole.
I didn’t notice it in time, so I fell in.
Then I started to blame others.
I was upset, so I took time to come out.

Chapter-2:

I took a walk in the same street.
There was a large pothole.
I noticed it, but I didn’t act in time, so I fell in again.
I knew I shouldn’t have fallen in, but I still preferred to blame others.
I was upset, so I took time to come out.

Chapter-3:

I again took a walk in the same street.
The large pothole was still there.
This time I tried to walk around it, but still I fell in — it has become a habit.
I knew I shouldn’t have fallen in, so this time I accepted it as my fault.
I wasn’t upset, so I could get out quickly.

Chapter-4:

I still took a walk in the same street.
The large pothole was still there.
I was careful, so I could walk around it without falling in.

Chapter-5:

Now I take my walk in a different street.
There is no pothole.

Some Interesting Observations:

The narration of the five stages of improvement is SYMBOLIC. Read the observations by our readers:

By Ginger M:

What is so interesting about this ‘autobiography’? Well, it’s like a whack on the side of our head. It shows us what commonly happens as we try to improve ourselves! Our habits are rooted in the subconscious, and hence we are not sufficiently aware of how we act. We fall many times before we get things right.

By Frank Sanchez:

The chapters of this “Autobiography” are small, but they reveal a great truth. Here are my observations:
1. We can’t avoid what we don’t see. That is the beginner’s position. Hence, we blame other people for our misfortunes. Then our awareness does not lead us to make the necessary changes.
2. As we use our experience, we acknowledge our contribution to the making of our troubles. But still have to take the necessary action. Mere knowing does not change the reality. Hence, we keep on getting the same results.
3. In the next step we begin to make the necessary changes. However, we are so accustomed to doing things in our old ways that our patterns repeat. At this stage we know the real reason for our failure. Hence, we don’t blame others. We know what we have to do to overcome our problem.
4. Now we see the problem and we are able to overcome it.
5. Ultimately we become farsighted. Then we can avoid the problem from arising.

By Madanda Machayya:

The 1st line shows our habit.
The 2nd line shows the problems that awaits us in the outer world.
The 3rd line shows what usually happens as we try to change the habits. We keep on going back to it.
The 4th line speaks of our reaction or self-assessment as we make improvement.
The 5th line explains the extra difficulties we create for ourselves.

By Sanjeev Vaidya:

Initially all of us lack awareness. Hence, our habits rule us. Then we make mistakes; we blame others; and we suffer the reactions we generate! That is the human story. The autobiography illustrates the stages of improvement. The ultimate aim is to make the problem irrelevant!

If you find this article interesting, we invite you to read further; see our article/blog titled: The Magic of Quantum Learning, understanding the nature of the inner work in spiritual practice.

Advertisements

The Magic of Quantum Learning

SummitCopyright © 2018, Prashant S. Shah; http://www.spiritual-living.in

When we look at the world we do not see it factually like a camera picture. We see it through the lens of our MENTAL MODELS. We use these models to grasp things mentally; to interpret the happenings in the world; and to give meaning to our experiences.

However, the mental models have arisen from our personal experiences, beliefs and assumptions. Hence, what they show us is not objective or true. It is subjective and prejudiced.

When the problem situations of our life arise due to faults in our mental models, we get into stuck situations or our problems keep on repeating. We cannot get out of such situations without first correcting the faults in our mental models. Only after correcting these faults we can generate true solutions and get results we want.

Here we illustrate the role played by our mental models by considering three kinds of learning: No Learning; Ordinary Learning; and Spiritual or Quantum Learning.

CONTENTS:

  • How our mind works
  • The role of our Mental Models
  • The no-learning habit
  • Ordinary learning
  • Quantum or spiritual learning
  • The place of purification in spiritual life

How our mind works

When we look at the world we do not see it factually like a camera picture. Our mind receives only some impressions of the object and forms a ‘mental image’ of it. The mental image is usually incomplete. So the mind completes it by filling in the missing elements from our memory. This ‘filling in’ is the first source of error.

Next, we do not register this ‘completed image’ into our memory. We interpret the mental image with the help of our mental models. Our mental models are the stored assumptions, concepts and beliefs in our mind. Thus, what we register in our memory is not the original mental impression of the object or situation, but our ‘psychological remake’ of it. This is the second source of error.

The role played by our mental models

Our mind makes ‘mental models’ out of the storehouse of assumptions, concepts and beliefs in our mind. We use these mental models to grasp things mentally; to interpret the happenings in the world; and to give meaning to our experiences.

However, our mental models themselves are made from our personal interpretations. Hence, our perceptions with them are subjective and prejudiced. They show things as we imagine them to be and not as they really are.

When our mental models are faulty, we cannot generate true solutions. We can correct apparent problems but the deeper roots of the problems remain. Sooner or later they drive us into stuck situations or our problems keep on repeating. Hence, we have to correct the faults in our mental models. This is also the inner-work of ‘purification’ in any spiritual pursuits.

Here we show this need by discussing three kinds of learning: No Learning; Ordinary Learning; and Spiritual or Quantum Learning.

The no-learning habit:

In the normal process we learn through feedback. We are using feedback when our present action utilises our past experience. That is, what we do now is done after considering what happened the last time it was done. In this way we correct our mistakes and make improvements.

What happens when we DISREGARD the feedback on our actions? We repeat our actions without regard to the result. We may justify our actions by saying: “I’m like this” or “This is how I do things”. However, when we act like that we are not being intelligent; our actions are inappropriate to the existing situation; and we do not learn from past experience. Some people say: “If you don’t succeed, try and try again”. However, it would be more appropriate to say: “If you don’t succeed, try something DIFFERENT”.

People with the no-learning habit make recommendations without trying to understand the issues or situation; they make prescriptions without trying to diagnose the problem; and they reply without really listening to the question.

In most of us the ‘no learning habit’ continues in some form or another. That happens because it takes a lot of effort to be thoughtful and act intelligently.

Ordinary learning:

When we use the feedback on our actions, we improve our performance; we learn from our experiences; we can act intelligently; and we do not repeat our mistakes. This is method of ordinary learning taught in our schools.

However, this method has one big limitation. If we are searching for the solution in the wrong places, then our feedback and logic will not guide us to the solution. They actually become irrelevant. Hence, the method of ordinary learning cannot be used to ALTER the direction of our search.

Example: If a mistake or an error has arisen due to a fault in our perception, then we cannot correct it with logic. Our perception comes first; it sets the direction for our search — where we look. Subsequently we use logic to organise our thoughts around the perception. So, when our perception itself is faulty, we look for solutions in the wrong places, where they do not exist. Hence, we cannot find them. We can deceive ourselves further by concluding that the problems cannot be solved.

There is an interesting Zen STORY on this point: A monk is searching for a needle. Some people join him in the search. Then someone asks the monk, “Where exactly did you drop the needle?” The monk replies: “I dropped it over there”, pointing to a spot in a distance. Then the person remarks: “You should be looking there; why are you looking for it here?” To which the monk says: “I am looking for it here because the light (lamp post) is here”. This story illustrates how we individually and collectively look for our solutions. We look for them in the places that we are familiar with, or in places where we expect to find them. But what happens if the solution lies in a different place? Then we cannot find it through experimentation, feedback, or logic.

To put it differently, when a mistake in our perception is due to a fault in our mental models (that is in our attitudes, assumptions and beliefs), then we cannot use ordinary learning to correct it. Ordinary learning can only help us in correcting a mistake when the causes are on the ‘object side’ – that is on the outside, as in others. It cannot help us in correcting the mistakes when the causes are on the ‘subject side’ – that is within us, as in our perception. When a fault lies in our mental models, the ‘mistake factor’ is within us. Then ordinary learning cannot help us. We can only use it to make some small superficial improvements, like increasing our efficiency.

Whenever we get into stuck situations or when our problems keep on repeating, we must understand that the root of the cause lies within us, in our mindset. Hence, we cannot solve the problem or situation by trying harder in the same direction. We have to scrutinize our mental models and find the fault there. Next we have to correct it. That will radically alter the direction of our search. However, if we ignore the mental models, we continue to work with the wrong assumptions. It is like looking for our solutions in the wrong places!

Quantum or spiritual learning:

To solve repeating problems or to get out of stuck situations, we have to scrutinise our mental models. We can do it by trying to VALIDATE our assumptions, attitudes and beliefs. It will show us the part of the cause that lies within us. First we have to correct this cause. Then we can to solve the problems that arise on the outside.

Our mental models subconsciously dictate our choices. Hence, by correcting the faults in our mental models, we also clear our perceptions. It alters the ‘lens’ through which we see the world. It changes our experience of the world, our assumptions, and how we regard everything. It re-orients our mind and enables us to look for solutions in the right places. Once we have the right direction, we can use ordinary learning to make our actions result oriented and improve our performance.

Spiritual learning is not limited to correcting the mental models. We scrutinise the entire ‘subjective nature’ of the mind through which we see the world. It raises the ‘quantum level’ of our insight – from where we see. Then we can see clearly; correctly diagnose the cause the problems and generate truly lasting solutions.

The place of purification in spiritual life

In spiritual life we talk of growth in terms of clearing the ‘impurities’ from the mind. These impurities are our personal thoughts, obsessive desires and negative emotions. They create a fog in the mind that obstructs our perception through a higher faculty. Hence, we cannot recognise the true nature of things.

Purification clears this fog. Then we can see things clearly, without distortions; we can situate everything properly; we can know the right place and right order for everything.

The problems that we experience in life, individually and collectively, arise due to the faults in our mental models. The apparent causes of the problems are in the existing situations, but their deeper roots lie within us. So, we cannot generate lasting solutions by merely attending to the apparent causes. Sooner or later we have to deal with roots. To get to the roots we have to look with the right attitude and in the right places.

However, there is a LAZY SIDE to all of us that does not want to make the effort to change our ways. Hence, we keep on searching for external solutions to our problems. Hence, our problems keep on returning. It is similar to what happens when we take ‘a pill’ to solve the health problems that arises due to our faulty eating habits.

Pill-z

Most of us do not want to accept the responsibility for what happens in our life. We’d rather blame our fate or the circumstances; or we hope that the problems will simply disappear in time. Unfortunately the faults in our mental models do not autocorrect. So we keep getting into stuck situations and our problems keep on repeating. If we want a different outcome, we have to undertake purification. If we keep on postponing this task, we can wait for a lifetime.

If you want to implement the ideas contained in this article, please read our Course-4: Advanced Spiritual Practice (Sadhana) under the tab of ‘Correspondence Courses’ on our site http://www.spiritual-living.in