I am so very grateful for the life I have had. In many, ways it has exceeded my expectations, often bringing me happiness and success far beyond anything I could ever have imagined.
When I set out on my life's big adventure across the world, leaving Chicago and everything I had ever known behind, I could not even dream of what I would find here in Japan. This is not to say that there have not been many challenges over the past 22 years since I left, but to say that the good things I experienced and the knowledge I gained have been precious, and that back home in the sleepy suburb of Villa Park, the type of life I found was almost completely beyond my understanding.
I have always been lucky to have great teachers. These amazing people seem to show up just when I need them, and to offer me guidance and wisdom so that I can continue to make the choices that yield such extraordinary results. This is part of why I feel so truly blessed.
Life is about the experience, and leaving everything behind and moving to Osaka in 1991 was such a fantastic experience for me. Just making it here took 10 years of effort and three failed attempts (an interesting story of its own), but completing this quest taught me that with hard work and commitment I could really achieve any goal I ever set for myself, and that continues to be the case. It gave me unshakable confidence in my ability to find a way forward, even through situations I could never have anticipated. One way or another, I have always got to where I wanted to be, usually far beyond my own expectations. The ripples of the stone in the water go far beyond what we can predict before we toss the stone in.
I truly believe that success is found when we are in tune with the Voice of our soul. Helena Bhavatsky's excellent (and heavy) occult tomes (The Secret Doctrines) shed some light on it, and in retrospect my many long discussions with Guro Fred Evrard, who is an insightful spiritual guide, helped me gain a better understanding of this particular interpretation.
Many of us believe we are put here for a purpose, and according to this theory, our soul (the immortal essence of us) has a mission to achieve in order to proceed on the path toward enlightenment. Our soul will seek to heal itself (as will our body), and seeks not only to fulfill spiritual destiny, but also to restore our karmic balance and make progress toward the ultimate goal of Satori. We are most successful when we act in accordance "in tune" with what the soul wants. These moments "in tune" are not times of delirious, babbling joy. Rather, they are experienced as feelings of peacefulness, contentment and satisfaction; the subconscious awareness of PURPOSE.
According to Bhavatsky, we are born carrying not only physical characteristics from our parents, but spiritual ones as well. Our souls have imprinting not only from our past lives, but also from the circumstances under which we have taken this human form this time. The emotional baggage of our parents becomes ours, as well as the mission we were given this time - to balance, to heal, and to continue our progress toward enlightenment. One explanation for our "natural abilities" is that they are leftovers from achievements in our past lives that the soul has kept into this life, despite the fact that generally speaking, the specific memories are all wiped clean each time. When the body dies, the soul sleeps, and waits for another chance to improve itself and continue the sacred journey.
It becomes then critically important to listen to the voice of the soul, which should give us direction into how to achieve the tasks that will restore our spiritual balance and lead us toward our ultimate enlightenment. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin elegantly said that "we are not human beings having a spiritual journey, we are spiritual beings having a human experience". So...how do we do that?
Our earliest and easiest experience of our soul's voice comes when we are dreaming. This is a chance not only to expunge the subconscious, but also to be close enough to our resting state to experience this voice. Sadly, many people do not remember their dreams and so cannot remember what their soul told them.
The very best way is through prolonged meditation. The mind at rest can truly LISTEN, and can be trained to hear this voice. I say "prolonged not in the sense of being sat for endless hours of Zazen, although this is an admirable thing. Rather I mean that for most people, it takes years of practice to be able to filter the noise and truly hear the voice. We must meditate in order to:
- hear the Voice --- become aware that the soul is trying to reach our current consciousness
- listen to the Voice --- begin to hear the words our soul is saying
- understand the Voice --- begin to understand the meaning of the words
- believe the Voice --- recognize the benefit of following the guidance of the soul
- remember the Voice --- keep the words after meditation so we can implement them
These steps take time to master. To be perfectly clear, the Voice is our soul telling us what we need to do in this human life to fulfill our spiritual destiny. As we are inherently GOOD beings, this Voice will never tell us to kill our neighbor, blow up a building, or some other negative thing. The guidance is always to help us return to righteousness so we can achieve spiritual balance, heal ourselves, and progress toward enlightenment. EVIL never yields anything but more evil. That can be the voice of many things (organized religion? prejudice?) but it will NOT be the voice of your soul. In fact, when we harm others, we cause delays in our growth as the soul must find balance again and heal itself, which takes time. Although this is an infinite journey, our soul gives us a sense or urgency as it seeks to reach enlightenment. Since our soul bears the scars of negative traumas inflicted on us, and the negative traumas of what we have inflicted on others when we do not listen to the Voice, achieving balance and healing usually involves the positive acts of helping others, displaying compassion, and contributing to growth in order to erase these "karmic debts".
In my case, my original teacher taught me meditation and I began to hear the voice when I was in my early teens. I knew somehow that I belonged in Japan, and driving my life toward that goal become my sole preoccupation (together with martial arts training, which facilitated it). I did not know what would happen when I got here, but I knew this was where my life would happen. The 10-year struggle to get here was part of restoring my balance, establishing my faith in myself, and cementing my confidence to progress. It brought me to the many teachers I have had since, and has given me a life of rich experience far beyond my teenage dreams in suburban Chicago.
It also showed me another important lesson --- You do not need to know your DESTINATION in order to know your DIRECTION. I did not know what I would find here, but I knew I would find what I was looking for. Not knowing the right answers should never stop us from asking the right questions.
This is a long post, with some heavy-duty stuff in it. However, I promise if you follow your daily practice of meditation with the explicit goal of hearing/listening/understanding/believing/remembering you will find your insight and your True Path.
Your soul will thank you for it.