Our Inner ‘Contrast Land’
Do you remember when you first started to meditate? Do you remember the moment when you set out on your path to enlightenment, to God and Self-realization? Wasn’t that a most wonderful time?! Didn’t you receive a special blessing at the beginning of your spiritual journey? Weren’t you blessed by some precious, special glimpses of the inner world and experienced a touch of its beauty, depth, and glory?
That moment, of course, was only the beginning of your inner journey. And then? Soon, too soon alas, the sweet honeymoon phase ended and you suddenly found yourself in the region between your first moments of revelation and the final goal of the journey: Samadhi.
For most of us there lies a vast and uncertain land between these two points. A long, wide, and winding distance between the beginning of our journey and the end. I like to call this the Contrast Land. It is a rocky terrain that we all have to cross.
In the Contrast Land
I call it the Contrast Land because it is usually marked by a considerable disparity between our momentary elevated meditative experiences – our soul awareness – and our habitual state of consciousness.
Isn’t this contrast a reality for most of us right now? On the one hand, we have (or are) already tasting some of the blessings of Spirit but on the other hand, we are still immersed in our old reactions and feelings. We may (still) get upset, greedy, lonely, jealous, downcast, negative, restless, impatient, and more.
It is a contrast between our littleness and our greatness; our humanity and our divinity; our limited joy and our limitless bliss.
This journey involves many ups and downs. Sometimes we are standing on a hill of deep inner perception but then find ourselves descending into a valley of a long-standing egoic behavior patterns and attitudes.
The spiritual journey can be a problematic excursion. The more we progress on our path, the more our soul suffers when our old egoic patterns express themselves. Isn’t this true? We know that we are so much more than any display of negativity, anger, desire, or impurity.
Sometimes that vast Contrast Land can also be demoralizing for us when we find ourselves in a meditative valley for too long without experiencing any peaks. In such times, we don’t seem to be making any progress at all. Unfortunately, the result can be that we lose enthusiasm for our meditations and our concentration increasingly wanders off to all of the things we have to do outwardly.
On Towards the Goal
Our soul will keep cheering us on:
Keep going! Keep moving along on your path through that rocky Contrast Land! As you meditate, keep gazing into the darkness between the two eyes, where the inner light will appear to you.
Fortunately, that light does appear if we keep moving forward. When we finally see it, we have made a considerable step forward on our journey through the Contrast Land toward our goal. That goal is the infinite Cosmic Light, which Paramhansa Yogananda describes as follows:
It is not a glaring light, but a light that is gentle and indirect,
which is spread all over the world.
In that light, in the glimmer of that light,
all the universe you will behold, as if in a mirror.
Again, and again we gaze into the darkness of the forehead. In fact, we do well to persist day after day as Yogananda tells us:
The Kingdom of God lies very near, just behind the darkness of closed eyes…
When you pierce the darkness of closed physical eyes, you behold the light of the spiritual eye—the intuitive, all-seeing eye of the soul. Through that spiritual eye you can enter the sphere of awakened silence. It is there, behind the clouds of darkness, that you perceive Christ.
By Christ, Yogananda meant the everlasting, eternal, unmoving Christ Consciousness. Indeed, this is the glorious goal (or almost) of our inner path, where we finally leave the rocky Contrast Land behind.
“The Sound of Silence”
Almost 60 years ago, Paul Simon wrote one of the most well-known pop songs ever, “The Sound of Silence.” He explained that there has always been a spiritual dimension to his music. In fact, if you listen to the song from the spiritual standpoint, it makes a great deal of sense as it describes the situation we are talking about: the rocky Contrast-Land consisting of our luminous divine inner experiences alternating with lower states of consciousness:
Hello [inner meditative] darkness, my old friend,
I’ve come to talk with you again,
Because an [inner] vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping [in my subconscious].
And the [divine] vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains within the sound of silence.
How wonderful! The divine vision – an experience we all have had – remains with us, in the inner silence. It leaves behind precious seeds which are planted in our brains, in our consciousness.
Then, again and again, we are confronted with our own lower consciousness, with our restlessness, pain, trouble, worldly and disharmonious experiences, with our reactions to city life, to our work situations, and to family circumstances. Our subconscious mind and our restless dreams reflect our unresolved inner state. Fortunately, the inner silence resurfaces repeatedly. The song expresses this stark contrast with these lyrics:
In restless dreams, I walked alone,
Narrow streets of cobblestone.
‘Neath the halo of a street lamp
I turned my collar to the cold and damp,
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night, and touched the sound of silence.
The next verse again describes our in-between consciousness. We are not worldly anymore so worldliness can easily bother us. We see and hear countless people talking (maybe also our own families?) but they are not really speaking meaningfully to each other. They hear but don’t really listen to others. They create many things, maybe write songs but it all comes to … nothing.
Fortunately, no one in their worldliness can ever dare disturb the inner sound of silence of the soul. As Yogananda puts it: “You can remain up in that eternal joy where not a thought dare to disturb you, not a sound cross beyond the bars of your silence in that eternal sphere.” This is what the song says:
And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more,
People talking without speaking,
People hearing without listening,
People writing songs that voices never shared
And no one dared disturb the sound of silence.
In other words, we are observing people leading a life that we too once lived – a worldly, foolish, and superficial one. As it is still an unresolved issue within us, it bothers us. We might judge them and feel uncomfortable with them. We might also try to convert and convince them. The song continues:
Fools said I, you do not know,
[Soul-] Silence like a cancer [of the physical body] grows.
Hear my voice that I might teach you,
Take my [spiritual] arms that I might reach you.
But my words, like silent raindrops, fell
And echoed in the wells of silence.
The end of this verse describes how our words to convince others just fall and drop, echoed only in our own meditative wells of silence.
The song goes on to describe the worldly idol-worship of people who adore materialism, technology, and consumerism, even though everywhere there are warnings or writings on the wall.
And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made.
And the sign flashed its warning
In the words that it was forming,
And the sign said, “The words of the prophets
Are written on the subway walls and tenement halls,”
And whispered in the sound of silence.
Revised Lyrics for “The Sound of Silence”
In short, we all have to deal with the contrasts of being on that rocky and changeable stretch of the Contrast- Land that lies between our first inner glimpses and our ultimate goal of Samadhi. The fact is that we can never move forward on the path by trying to change things outwardly or by trying to change others.
A prerequisite for victoriously crossing the Contrast Land is patience. Keep moving forward patiently day by day. Never cease your efforts in meditation! Swami Kriyananda tells us:
You’re going to have to grow gradually from where you are. It takes time. It takes effort. Patience is one of the fastest paths to God. Recognize then that every step forward is a step in the right direction. Don’t have absolute values. Have relative values in this sense: that you grow directionally toward whatever goal you are trying to accomplish.
Nayaswami Shivani, in order to inspire and encourage us, has rewritten the lyrics of “The Sound of Silence,” as “Inner Silence,” expressing the blissful consciousness we shall enjoy having left the vast middle ground when we finally reach the goal and purpose of our path. In that state, we will have become breathless and infinite, experiencing pure soul-consciousness, beyond space and time.
Hello light, my dear old Friend,
I’m glad to find you here again.
In the silence of my breathless soul,
You have touched my heart and made me whole.
And the vision of the star and the deep blue light
Fills my night. I listen to the silence.
Silence fills me to the core.
It takes me to the cosmic shore
Of the ocean beyond space and time,
Where I lose myself and then I find
A blissful reality of sound
And of light within the silence.
Silence leads me to the door
Of the eternal evermore
Beyond boundaries of all thought and form,
Through the tunnel where the light is born,
Where the lotus flowers bloom in the secret garden
Of my spine in the stillness of silence.
Silence plays its melody
Within you and within me.
When we take the time to be alone,
We find the path that takes us to our home
In the depths of our inmost soul where we want to be,
Where we are free beyond the silence.
This song truly gives us hope as it describes the glory of an advanced inner life. This is our inevitable future. Please listen to the song below.
Performed by Arudra Slisko and Mihai Huber
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