Now of course, be assured that you never will make contact with it in the hurly-burly of everyday living or while giving one’s time to time-wasting energies. There must be, in the life of the seeker, sufficient periods of introspection, contemplation, inner communion, meditation, quiet. In quietness and confidence you find it; in stillness you find it; in the deep silence within yourself you find it, in the contemplation of God. Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee. Note that word, stayed on thee—the ability to be still, to have periods of quiet away from the clamor even of family living, away from the distractions of radio and movies and television and all of the rest of these things.
Understand, this is not asceticism, and it doesn’t mean that we may not enjoy the theater or music or radio. It means that we may enjoy them for brief periods, but these must not occupy all of the time that is not engaged in our business or household activities. There must be adequate time for inward refreshment, inner rest, inner contemplation of the spiritual realities. There must be time and occasion for walking in the park, to contemplate the beauties of nature by day or the beauties of the sky by night. There must be periods of complete aloneness when there are no thoughts of others around us, when we are not distracted by the attention of others. There must be these periods for the student who hopes, during this lifetime, to make their inner contact with their source, which is God, the life-stream.
The Master revealed that
You are the branch, I am the vine; if you are connected with the vine, if you are one with the vine, if you keep your thoughts on me and let me occupy your thoughts, you will bear fruit richly. If you do not abide in me, in my word, in this truth, if you do not let the presence of God abide consciously in you, you will be as a branch that is cut off and withereth,
and you may accept that as a complete truth. It is only in proportion as you dwell for periods within your own being, in inner contemplation, in quietness and in confidence, in silence and secrecy and sacredness, that you are so one with the vine that the Spirit of God Itself, which is always flowing through the vine, or Christ, of your being, now is enabled to flow out into the branch, which is your human existence. Your human existence is the branch. Your inner spiritual being is the vine, or Christ, and you must live in attunement with your own inner being, so that its rich flow of Spirit may find outlet through you.
Again, you may take the poem of Browning as absolute truth. Truth, or God, is within ourselves. Think of this now: Infinity is within ourselves. Eternality, immortality, youth, vitality, strength, health, infinite being is within ourselves.
You cannot go to holy mountains and find it. You cannot, you need not, go to holy temples to find it; the place whereon thou standest is holy ground. Right where you are, I am; whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I mount up to heaven, thou art there. If I make my bed in hell, thou art there; and if I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art there.
Do you not see then that right where you are in this room or in the room in your home or in your garden or in your business or on the streets, in your automobile, on your bicycle, up in the airplane, out on a ship—where you are is holy ground, for I and the Father are one. But you only make this come true in your life by consciously dwelling on it, abiding in this Word and letting this Word abide in you, for otherwise you are cut off, and even though the Spirit of God is still within you, even though the whole kingdom of God is within you, it is of no use to you. You might just as well have a million in the bank and not know it and starve, not because you’re poor—you aren’t; you have a million—but you don’t know it.
So it is that you can be going through this life sick, aged, poor, and then dying, and all of this time you have the kingdom of God closer to you than breathing and nearer than hands and feet. You have the kingdom of God within you, and you yourself have cut yourself off from it because you will not abide in this word and let this word abide in you. You will not ponder it, meditate upon it, cogitate, go frequently within. This is not a life of asceticism. This is not a life of giving up the world. This is merely taking, oh, four, five, six periods a day of three or four or five minutes each. If harmony is not worth that much to an individual, they sell their birthright cheaply.
The way is strait and narrow, and few there be that enter. Isn’t that sad? Isn’t it sad that only because we have been…well, first of all, we have not been taught that this is the way of life, the way of life eternal, the way of life harmonious, and therefore the world, as such, is cut off from the bounty that it could be experiencing; but the saddest part is when students do become aware of this and then find that they have no time, as if their twenty-four hour day were any less than anyone else’s twenty-four hour day.
Surely, surely there must be either a great need, and that is why many who are either at the end of the rope physically, many who have been told there is no hope for them in medicine, will make this effort; many of those who are at the point where there are no longer human resources to lean on, these too will make the effort; but for the others, who have a fair amount of health and a fair amount of supply, the only thing that will send them to this God-realization is an inner hunger, the desire to know him aright, whom to know aright is life eternal. There are those who really hunger and thirst after a knowledge for God.
Now then, meditation is actually the connecting link. Again, it took many years to learn that meditation for the people of the Western world is almost impossible. They have for so many generations been living in the mind and in the body, occupying both mind and body to such an extent that they cannot attain an inner stillness, they cannot attain that inner listening ear, that the next question came: “Is there not a way whereby those of the Western world can attain the ability to meditate,” and again it took years, but the answer finally came. Yes, there is a way.
This way is indicated in Scripture. It starts with the same quotations I’ve already given you. Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee; lean not unto thine own understanding, acknowledge him in all thy ways, and he will give thee rest—in other words, the ability to abide in the Word and let the Word abide in us—and eventually this revealed itself to me as practicing the presence of God.
I’m sure most of your are familiar with the Brother Lawrence little book called Practicing the Presence of God in which he describes his holy life, doing his scrubbing of the floors and peeling of potatoes, cooking, all of the chores of monastery life, yet occupying his thought with thoughts of God. This actually is what revealed itself to me eventually, in this way: If a student could awaken in the morning and instead of immediately arising, lie abed for five or ten minutes and turn thought to God. Now of course, this is not a formula, because in order to have any value at all a spiritual study must be spontaneous, it must be original. It cannot be made up of made-up prayers or made-up meditations or made-up affirmations. It must be spontaneous. And so we use it (audio is garbled here) an illustration.
As I open my eyes one morning it may be that, seeing the sunlight, I realize that when last I was awake it was dark; now it is light. I have had nothing to do with this, and I know of no man on earth who has. This turning of night into day must be an activity of God. It must be done without the aid of man; it must be done without the influence or coercion of man. I never heard of anyone praying that darkness become light, that morning should follow night. It seems that we all assume that this always has been and always will be because of some kind of a law. It really makes no difference whether you call it a law of God or a law of nature or a law of mathematics. The fact is that it is an influence, it is a power, it is a direction which operates by and through a law of some kind that is not influenced by man but which influences man.