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Self-Development: Variability & Singularity

by Dr. Stewart Bitkoff

I Wonder Why?

Sometimes I wonder why
There are so many people,
And why
There are thousands of birds,
And why
The earth is filled with insects,
And why
The ocean has all those fish,
And why 
The land nourishes plants,
And why
There are so many things
I can’t name them all.

O Lord, is this endless variety
To convince us You exist?

When we were beginners on the spiritual path, there were many things we had to learn and experience.  One day while sitting in our teacher’s office, he offered the following words, which are expanded below and help frame this present discussion.  “Looking at the earth from the moon, all worry and care is lost in the majesty of the earth’s Oneness.”  Often we came looking for answers to life problems and this view- this mystical view of Oneness -was always the answer to life’s infinite variability and vulnerability.  While this view of Oneness was transitory- it would come and go- it was the antidote and when we were in this state we knew Infinite love and peace.

Multiplicity of form and seemingly endless variability is a wonder and joy of creation and exists, in part, so we might question, why? It is part of the journey and part of the answer.  

Early Self Development
In the 1960’s when self-development through body building was just beginning to gain some interest in the United States, I used to read the early articles published in Strength & Health Magazine: a pioneer in the field which discussed how to build-up the different portions of the body. These were articles on enhancing strength and definition in arms, legs, back and abdominals; often articles were authored by champions of the sport. After studying these articles for several years, it became clear to me that each of these writers had their own work-out system, high lighting specific personally useful exercises; many times these work-outs differed. At first I could not reconcile this variability; you see at the time I was searching for one full-proof plan I could follow to build-up my muscles. Yet most plans differed, which I found disappointing, so eventually I created my own workout taking exercises from various champions.  For many reasons, my success on this path was limited.

In time, I moved on to other self-development activity, but never forgot variability and singularity often parallel each other.

As the years passed, I saw our basic human need to develop one system that worked for everyone in other areas of life. At work the boss had one way he/she wanted things done, and my employer for many years the New York State Office of Mental Health, when solving problems, usually funded one solution that worked for as many people as possible; at the time, variability and the need to individualize hadn’t fully emerged as an important technique in developing treatment plans and solving larger administrative problems.

Religion & Self Development
In religion and spiritual studies there is a long record of one approach/belief system being the favored son/daughter with alternate approaches frowned upon and even attacked.  Today we live in a more open age where it is generally recognized by more people, different approaches exist because people are different, and what works for one may or may not work for another. I read somewhere there are over 200 recognized religions at present in the world.

While all things in the Universe are connected and part of the One- there is infinite variability and multiplicity of form which contributes to the richness of this physical experience.  For example, in the ocean there are fish that come in thousands of shapes and sizes. It is the same with plants, insects, planets, stars and people. It seems it is only baseball hats that come ‘one size- fits all.’

For the spiritual traveler who is looking for a self-development path to follow: with all these choices how does one decide?  In one way, many choices make it uncomfortable for the traveler who doesn’t fit; wondering if something is wrong with them. Also the likelihood you might not fit your birth religion is reasonably high.  The same teacher cited above used to say, ‘the religion of your birth is more or less an accident; depending upon the family and culture you are born into.’  

So if you are unhappy with your religion or spiritual path, consider the two pieces below. These might help with your searching.

Divine Friction
Together the Master and Traveler sat, eyes closed, meditating on the Light.  How long they sat this way it is impossible to say; and as the Master reflected the Light upon the Traveler’s heart, slowly he became a small sun unto himself, emitting loving, peaceful healing energy.

Through the Master’s Guidance, the Traveler was connected at his spiritual heart, with the Light of the Universe; through a spiritual caress, the Traveler had become One with all things.  Now, as a drop in the universal sea of Love, he danced with eternity, both aware of his own individuality and the inner connection to everything about him.

Master: Clapping his hands, the Master called to the Traveler: “Now awake from the slumber which has been your life and ask me the questions that fill your mind?”

Traveler: Slowly opening his eyes, trying to acclimate to the world of forms, the Traveler queried, “Master, I know you have spoken about the meaning of opposites many times, and how on a deep, inner level they are really connected; combining to form the fabric of our lives.  Yet, I am still confused; why must life be a series of ups and downs; happiness and sadness.  Why can’t life be a singular joyful experience of the Light?  Why is the world created both as a source of great joy and sadness?”

Master: “The world is a multi-level expression of the Light; at their center, as you have just experienced, all things are connected and One; and once you have sipped of this Unity, your heart is joyful and triumphant- having tasted its home.  Yet even with this proof, mind continues to question; for that is part of its job.

Remember, darkness and light; joy and pain work together by creating a friction or resistance, sometimes clashing in upon themselves; this resistance, or unease, propels the traveler forward; always seeking and questioning- until the day, when the traveler experiences the singular, connecting, glorious spiritual Unity and answer.

As one of the Servants of God has said, “gazing at the earth from the moon, all things -human wants and desires- are lost in the Oneness of this magnificent, multi-colored orb as it travels through the heavens.”
Traveler:      And as the Traveler sat and considered the Master’s reply; he realized anew, in this journey, mind asks the question and heart ultimately answers it. 

The Heart Chooses
Driving down the highway you see all kinds of vehicles.  Some are brightly colored; others are dull and rusted.  Some are made in Japan and some in the USA.  Each is in motion taking the traveler to their destination. Yet in the long run, some work better than others.  Some are superior in design and will be better maintained. It is the same with spiritual paths.  Each claims to take the traveler to their destination; all are equivalent in this respect. Here the similarity ends. 

Then how do you know which path to choose?  Use the same criteria you have been given to select a car.  However add one more thing.

When you pick a car, ultimately, it comes down to what suits you and your circumstances.  If you have little money to spend, you will pick one that is the best buy for your budget.  Or depending upon your personality — you may pick any "old thing" as long as it runs. In the selection of paths, there is another element and that is sincerity or burning in the heart.  Depending upon how honestly you seek, burning only for truth, truth will seek you. For some travelers, the path chooses them; they are unaware of their own inner merit and yearn for a glimpse of their Beloved. It is tradition these are the ones who attain.

For many people religion is a structure through which spiritual learning can begin and mature.  For other people, religion is an indoctrination system that pushes them away. Over the years as travelers advance, spiritual learning takes place more outside of a religious context and occurs in daily life through personal spiritual experience. Personal spiritual experience is the natural extension of religious inquiry; the great religions were created to be spiritual highways for travelers to start learning about themselves and their relationship with Truth.  A key experience on the mystical Path is reconciling multiplicity of Form within the singularity of Oneness; I have referred to this early experience as the Oneness of Creation experience.  May you have your own experience which helps reconcile multiplicity and Oneness- continuing to lead you along the path of spiritual learning.
If you enjoyed this piece check-out my book Light on the Mountain; available on Amazon in paper and Kindle. Go to www.bit.ly/bitkofflight.

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