Practising Urban Mysticism
Ken & Elizabeth Mellor
(What follows is a slightly amended version of the workshop notes that accompany the workshop that Ken & Elizabeth Mellor do of the same name.)
Urban Mystics are increasing in numbers in the modern world. We are everyday people who are very committed to spiritual realisation and awakening. Most of us are very much the same as everyone else, working, raising families, finding our ways in the world. What may be different is the extent to which we are dedicated and committed to our spiritual purposes. We organise our daily lives so that we can fulfil those purposes as well as we can. However, from another point of view, this is probably very similar to the way many families organise themselves around activities such as football or other interests that excite and involve them.
Urban mystics come from all walks of life and backgrounds. Whatever our origins, we are all interested in exploring our spirituality and savouring the succulent fruits of doing so. At the same time, we are interested in doing what we do as an integrated part of our everyday lives. We want what we do to make a difference to the ease with which we can do things in the modern world and the satisfactions and fulfilment that comes from our day-to-day lives. Many are also interested in making a practical difference in the world so that we help to improve conditions for all on the planet and assure a better future for all.
Many millions of people are living like this these days and the numbers are increasing. Vast numbers are experiencing the profound nourishment that rewards mystical practice. Traditionally, this type of commitment to mysticism was pursued in secluded places like mountain caves, deserts, forests, or monasteries or convents. However, our modern quests for fulfilment generally take place in the midst of the day-to-day world.
Involvement Not Seclusion
A defining characteristic of urban mystics is their involvement in everyday life. They continue to deal with the practicalities of their lives. Urban mysticism is a practical form of spirituality that we pursue in our homes, at work, while caring for children, while walking along the street, and while playing sport or sitting alone. As profoundly effective as any other “brand” of mysticism has ever been, urban mysticism is geared to a new and evolving humanity that exists today.
We learn that we can maintain our spiritual intentions and commitments in everything that we do. The practices work in the midst of ordinary activities and secluding ourselves is not necessary. We don’t need to take ourselves away from the distracting influence of other people or situations. Our practices help us to convert “distractions” into assets that propel us ever more directly into Awakening.
The Quest of Quests
Discovering how to experience Life directly and learning to master the processes of doing so is the quest of quests for urban mystics. Everyone is enlivened by Life. Everyone needs it, we seek it out of need, and we hunger and thirst for it when we don’t have enough of it. We have a primal urge to rediscover it, or if we have already made the discovery, to expand our direct experience of it. Life animates us and guides all that we do so that everything can seem designed to alert us increasingly to Life in ways that we are not yet acknowledging.
The desire to become one with Life is compelling and addictive. We are “Life junkies”. However, unlike usual addictions, ours is wholesome, healing, fulfilling and beautiful.
The successful practice of urban mysticism is supported by our becoming as clear as we can on what our current priorities are and how these priorities relate to the realisation of Life. The Meditations and Exercise that follow are designed to help you to sort these issues out for yourself.
Joining Directly with Life
The Vedic Mantra helps to link us directly to Life so that we experience it with increasing immediacy and intensity. This is a very powerful and ancient practice, one that we can use while doing almost anything. Life is, itself, the answer to all fundamental questions, the solution to all basic mysteries, the fulfillment of all primal need and desire. Many mantras help us to connect to Life so that we discover this by living it in our lives, including the Vedic Mantra.
Meditation 1: Vedic Mantra initiation.
This ancient mantra has great potency and produces wondrous effects. Even if this meditation was our only practice, great progress is possible. Also, because it is easy to use while doing other things, it is ideal for busy people who want to keep some form of practice going throughout their waking hours. (You can obtain a copy of a recording of this initiation/meditation from our Website Shop - Vedic Mantra Recording.)
How we respond in our lives, what we emphasise, what we put our time into - all of these show our actual priorities. As urban mystics, we will do best if we are understand our existing priorities. With these clear, we can modify them if necessary to make sure we are heading in the directions that are important to us. Also, when combined with committed action, clear priorities help to guarantee that we will get the results we want. They become the guiding hand behind all that we do as we shape our actions deliberately to promote Life-enhancing outcomes.
The meditation that follows included two meditations that are available in our Website Shop. They are the Grounding Mediation and the Centering Meditation - Grounding Recording and Centering Recording
Mobile Meditation 1: Your Priorities
Step 1: Walk around outside slowly and attentively. Initially, make your walking itself the meditation. Concentrate particularly on centering and grounding. In other words, pay attention to your observer and to the physical experiences of which you are aware both inside and outside you.
Step 2: Keep centering and grounding and allow yourself to contemplate what is fundamentally important in your life. What are your highest priorities in life? What comes next? and next? This is not something to analyse, nor to discuss with yourself. Simply bring the issue of priorities into your awareness and allow your consciousness to do whatever it does with that. Go with the flow that follows bringing your priorities into your awareness stimulates, whatever it is.
Step 3: Keep centering and grounding and occasionally bring your attention back to dwelling with, or holding your life’s priorities in your awareness. Keep moving around also. Avoid standing or sitting for long periods. It doesn’t matter if you seem to lose concentration on “the issue” as you do this. You will have time to concentrate and remember later if you need that.
Paired Exercise 1: Clarifying Priorities
We can often powerfully bring areas of our lives into perspective, sound out the emphasis we give things, or discover the way things are moving in our lives very powerfully through discussing them with others. This paired exercise is to help you to identify your priorities clearly in this way. If you don’t have anyone you can talk to about this kind of thing, make notes to help you to stay attentive and to help you to remember what you think about.
Step 1: Get together with your partner and take turns to discuss your most important life priorities. You are to discuss what your actual priorities are, what is important to you. If everything was ideal, what would you give most time and attention to in your life? What would come after that? and after that?
Step 2: What does the way you live indicate about your priorities? The highest priorities that you live by are what you give most time and intensity to day by day. So, what do you spend most time doing? What comes next? and after that?
Step 3: How well do your two lists match?
Solving the Mystery
For our practices to succeed they need to be effective. Our mysticism needs to work. And how do we know when it is working? It is when we are solving the mystery of Life, knowing what is fundamental in all that we are and do. So we need to learn to experience Life as directly and intensely as we can.
For some people the question: “Why would I do that?” or “Why bother?” arises. The answer is: “Because it’s worth it”. For example, knowing Life directly brings peace, love, joy and light - these are the ever-present accompaniments of Life. Life nurtures our souls and enlivens our beings and our bodies as nothing else can through these experiences. Practically speaking, all sorts of things in our lives become easier. These results alone are enough for us to undertake our quests.
Another question arises too: “Why is it such a mystery?” The answer: “The mystery arises because Life is experientially unknown to most people”. It lies hidden behind the events of life and hidden in ways that seem to make it unreachable, invisible, inaudible. However, this mystery is solvable because we can learn to experience Life directly and intensely. Also, and this is very important, Life is continually prompting us to experience it and to solve the mystery. And the solution: it lies hidden behind our worldly occupations and preoccupations.
The way we link directly to Life is through our souls, in particular the “I AM” at the core of the individuality that each of us has. The ways we do this are very practical. We use the centering, grounding and mantra meditations, plus whatever other practices help to promote our awakening to life energy flowing through us. They show their value to us in how quickly and wonderfully they produce the results we seek. After using them for long enough, we become Life and everything else dissolves into it, too.
So in relation to the mystery of life, Life is the solution of that mystery. To experience this solution (resolution), we need to establish oneness in all that we are and do. The Biame Mantra is a powerful means of helping us to do this. A recording of this Mantra Meditation is in production. We will have it in the Shop as soon as we can.
Meditation 2: Biame Mantra initiation
Observing the Distractions
The Biame Mantra floods us with wonderfully soothing, healing, fulfilling, brightening, sweetening and quietening energy. Its natural affect is to produce oneness, wholeness, completion. At the same time, unless we identify those aspects of our lives that we are using to keep us from the quest, we may inadvertently block the mantra’s power.
Remember that what we do demonstrates what our actual priorities are, whatever else we may claim, hope for or assert to be true. Urban mystics need to develop a form of relaxed, alertness by which we remain vigilant to ensure that they are keeping themselves on track.
Mobile Meditation 2: Noticing the Veils
Step 1: Walk around outside. Your primary objective is to observe what you do to keep you from paying attention to Life. You are walking in an environment filled with Life. Notice what you do that interferes with your perceiving this.
To do this, you first spend time noticing the fullness of Life in all that you are experiencing. What is on the “inside” and the “outside” of you? While you pay attention to these two general areas of your experience, keep noticing the various things you do that interfere with your continuing to do this without interruption.
Dealing with Distractions
Myriad activities occupy us each day. Whether they are blessings or not depends on how we go about dealing with them. For example, we can do what we are doing and lose ourselves completely within the activity, we can be inattentive to what we are doing, or pay attention to all sorts of wounds, troubles, strife and discomfort. By contrast, we can practise doing everything as a means of linking ourselves directly to Life. Urban mystics regularly encourage themselves to keep doing this. Naturally, we have variable success. All the same, by practising it, we are more likely to succeed.
Clearly, some activities are inconsistent with direct spiritual advancement, which is not to say that we won’t learn from doing them. Even so, most things that we do can be done in ways that contribute directly our direct experience of Life.
Paired Exercise 2: Pulling Back the Veils
Step 1: Take turns to discuss the following issues:
• what you do that promotes your spiritual awakening
• what you do that distracts you from your practice.
• what you do regularly that directly obstructs your spiritual awakening
Step 2: Then discuss what practices you would like to do regularly (possibly daily) to enable you to embrace Life at every opportunity. Keep notes of these activities for later use.
Embracing the Life "Within"
To this point, we have concentrated on both the purpose of urban mysticism and the need to organise our lives practically so that we can do what is necessary to produce the results we want. We now turn to the “inner” processes and how to promote deep change and awakening. As with our lives in the world, what we do internally influences the outcomes we get very powerfully. So it helps to pay attention to what we are doing to promote our “inner” awakening.
Two things stand out immediately. The first is repetition. We need to do the practice. If it’s walking in the forest, we need to go for walks, if it’s gardening, we need to garden, if it’s meditation, we need to meditate... At the same time, while we are doing what ever we have chosen, we can do other things to promote the inner processes.
Promoting Love, Gratitude and Joy
As we meditate, we can promote oneness with Life by making our systems open and available so we become both receptacles for Life and vehicles for expressing it into the world. We can do this by using the Inner Smile Meditation.
Meditation 3: Inner Smile Meditation
Step 1: Sit or stand upright. Get yourself well grounded by noticing the contact of your body with what is supporting you. Centre yourself, too. Repeat one of your mantras at least briefly.
Step 2: As you sit there, notice your eyes. Allow them to soften. Imagine that they are like clear windows through which you are looking. Imagine that they are bathed in a loving balm that leaves them feeling relaxed, clear, quiet, sweet and fresh. Keep doing this until you can notice some softening, brightening, quietening or sweetening in your eyes.
Step 3: Keep meditating on your eyes like this and encourage the effects of what you are doing to spread. Gradually allow the softness, transparency, quietness and sweetness to seep down your face through your cheeks. Keep encouraging it until the whole front of your face is completely saturated in the sensations from your eyes. When these sensations reach your mouth, allow its corners to curl up a little. If you notice your eyes wanting to close slightly or completely during the process, allow them to do this.
Step 4: Now, physically smile with your eyes. Squeeze the muscles in the corners of your eyes very slightly so that small smile lines appear. Just a hint is fine. To heighten the effect as you do this, you can imagine each eye is like a face that has its own smiling eyes and mouth.
Step 5: Let the physical smile stay in your eyes for a while and then, if it has not already, gradually allow it to spread to your mouth, too. It is fine for this to be a light smile, although wide smiles and toothy grins, even laughter, are acceptable too.
Allow yourself to experience the pleasure of the smile through all of your senses. Also, let this pleasure keep going all the way down the front of your body. As it does, allow it to spread from there to fill up all of you: front, back, top, bottom, mid-line and body wall. Encourage every part of you to which you give your attention to relax, to let go, to become still and transparent. Keeping doing all of this for several minutes, less if you don’t have much time.
Step 6: Imagine that you are filling up with Divine Love that pours into you from within your heart, from above your body, or from all around you. You are a vessel, a receptacle of Love, a spring of love into and out of which love in pouring. You are filled with gratitude as you are filled with Love and you give thanks for the blessings you are receiving. As this occurs, you smile lovingly at whatever you notice, making yourself open to and at one with the experiences you have.
Step 7: Now bring into your awareness aspects of your body, your personality, your way of life, other people, things in the world around you, situations and events. Smile lovingly at each of them and give grateful thanks for the Love you feel and the opportunity of doing this. Continue until the aspects of you, or people, things or events you smile back at you.
Cultivating love for ourselves and for all else in our lives is “the royal road” to full awakening. Loving, grateful acceptance of whatever we have in our attention and the experiences this stimulates in us helps us to open to and become one with all that we are experiencing. This availability helps to produce a state of inner oneness that opens us as nothing else can to the flow of Life through our systems. An important hint is that we can experience loving, grateful acceptance for something without liking it or agreeing with it. This distinction is important at times.
Added to this, the physical act of smiling releases neurotransmitters in our brains: serotonin and endorphin (which mimics the effects of morphine). These chemicals influence our moods and our physical and other responses. Serotonin directly stimulates us to feel happy at the same time as it reduces our sensitivity to pain, and endorphin provides direct pain relief. This softens our bodies and makes it easier for us to relax into whatever we are experiencing.
Spreading the Benefits
From our own and other people’s points of view, it is best to spread the beauty that we experience as our mystical practices bear fruit. The practice involves becoming a source of beauty by accessing our own beauty and then meditating that in a variety of ways into the world around us. The more we do this, the more Life flows into and through us. The field then affects others and they add to it in their own ways. We then get the benefits of their contributions. Also, whatever we do, think or feel transmits out into the world around us at all levels. It then goes out from us, affecting everyone it contacts along the way, gathering the same momentum and intensity with which we sent it forth until it returns to us multiplied many times. This meditation is one way to promote what we want deliberately.
Mobile Meditation 3: Filling the World with Smiles
Step 1: Go outside and walk around. Pay very close attention to your physical experience, both your sensations and what is physically around you. Keep yourself well centered in your observer as you do this.
Step 2: Do the Inner Smile Meditation. As you do, keep looking around you, listening to what you can hear, touching things, and smelling/tasting what is there. With everything you notice, smile at it with grateful love and saturate everything, yourself included with this. Keep doing it the whole time you are outside.
Building Our Practices
As we have already notice, whatever we do as a practice and whenever we do it, the results will depend very significantly on how much we apply ourselves. Obviously, it is easier for some people than others to do this, too. However, regardless of how easy it is for us to practise, doing some thinking and planning about it usually helps. This exercise is designed to help you develop an approach that is more specific and aligned with you and your preferred life-style.
Paired Exercise 3: Making/Checking Your Practice
Step 1: Take turns to discuss with your partner the practice that you think will work well for you. Allow yourself to talk about whatever you will find helpful. No one here needs to agree with it, no one else needs to do it, nor to agree with you doing it. In other words, allow yourself free rein in thinking about what would be good for you. Do this generally to begin with. Remember that you have your notes from yesterday afternoon’s discussion to prompt you.
Step 2: Now become specific. When will you do what you are thinking about? Where will you do it? With whom will you do it? How long will you do it? How many times a day will you do it? What will you need (cushion, special clothing...) in order to do it? What arrangements would you need to make with others to do it? Make brief notes of your answers. Also, make a deliberate commitment that your partner witnesses about what you are going to do from now on in your life.
The Full Practice
As we progress lots of different things may help.
Doing things with others. What we share intensifies, so let’s intensify what we want to build in our lives.
Noticing the beauty in our lives. What we notice we get in life, so let’s keep noticing the aspects of our own experiences and the world that we would like to support and build into our lives.
Dedicating our lives to the practices that we want to become a permanent part of who we are. What we worship we become, so let’s put the time and attention into what matters so we get what we want.
Learning from those who have already mastered what we are learning is a powerful way of catalysing our own processes. Find Masters who are living exemplars of what we are learning and learn with them.
Dealing with what is immediately in front of us today gets us to pay attention to the lessons Life is bringing to our notice. The next step is the one at our feet, so let’s take it, rather than distracting ourselves with things that are less immediate, or “on the horizon” of our lives.
Whatever our practices may be, the awakening process is a life-long one. We can confidently expect to continue to benefit for the whole of life. As the years pass, the benefits build. What we experience as normal today is very different from what we will experience as normal in twenty, or ten, or five, or one years time. Most of us cannot conceive, even in our wildest dreams, of what our meditative and life experience will be then. What we increasingly discover, or at least most people do, is that the more they persist with their practice, the more awakened they become and the more rewards they experience in this.
Meditation 4: Sunning the Soul
Step 1: Sit upright in a comfortable position. Get yourself well grounded and centered. Do the Inner Smile Meditation. Repeat one or both of your Mantras. Keep guiding your awareness onto the particular steps that need more momentum, while doing your best to do all the steps at the same time.
We go from this workshop back into our everyday lives. A little preparation can make the transition as easy as possible, sometimes very much easier. Several areas are important to consider. These are: greeting the family and others and reconnecting with them, changing old anchors, setting up new anchors, arranging support for you to help you keep going with the practices you have devised for yourself.
Paired Exercise 4: Re-entry Arrangements
Step 1: Take turns to discuss the following things about re-entry into your life. Think specifically and definitely about what you will do. Your partner’s job is to help you plan very clearly and concretely. Include:
• greeting the family and others and reconnecting with them
• changing old anchors
• setting up new anchors
• arranging support for you to help you keep going with the practices you have devised for yourself.
Step 2: Make notes of what you plan so that you have a memory aid later on should you need it.