I have often found it amusing, since I was once was a scholar and scientist, that I often say that I don’t think about things very much. It might be because I have already exhausted my analytical mind with over a decade of scientific inquiry. More seriously, however, I’ve come to recognize the power and utility of the intellect — AND — I am profoundly aware of its limitations.
I have traveled to the depth of this reflection, as I have crossed the long (and rather lonely) bridge from academic scientist to spiritual teacher. When I was a child, I oriented towards science as the path to true knowing of the world and service to humanity. As I pursued spiritual inquiry alongside of my scientific endeavors, I came to a point where I lost heart for my role in using science to transform and elevate consciousness.
At this turning point, I vividly saw that spiritual transformation does not originate from concepts or ideas — it arises from the unexpected awareness that springs from the still Heart. And only when the heart is open, willing, and ready to take the leap beyond the confines of the experience and habituation of what we might call the “physical mind” or psyche.
People often talk about a “leap of faith” when making the big changes in life. I have made the leap into many dramatic personal and professional changes. What has made this possible? Not faith in anything external. Nor anticipation of a specific expected outcome. Rather, it ultimately rests upon my willingness to enter and breathe life from the space of unknowing — that which lies between past experience and the manifestation of the heart-vision of the future. The analytical mind and the psyche live largely in the past: what has been experienced, what has been observed to be possible, what is likely to happen, what psycho-emotional conditioning predicts.
When a “leap” is required, it is the leap beyond all of those supposed “securities” and constraints. I call it a “leap of heart.” Any faith at this point, when standing before infinity, is intangible and wordless.
In many ways, the “leap” is not all that mysterious. From one perspective, it is a choice to step beyond one’s individual conditioning and comfort in repeated experience and observation of cultural patterns. From another angle, it is a choice to dream and live something different, something un-experienced, something unprecedented, something un-describable. It is a choice and a commitment to stay the course even when a rebelling psyche or condemning social influences (family, friends, or the non-descript “they”) say (or yell) otherwise. There is no one leap and you are “done with it.” The possibility and allure to “leap right back” remains. One keeps choosing and leaping (forward or backward).
Furthermore, you do not leap alone. When you leap, many people can be affected. Depending upon the structure of your relationships, some may try to snap you back like a rubber band while others will propel you forward more like a sling shot. Again, leaping forward or backward.
In the early days of my leaping, I found a particular question helps maintain my focus and choice: am I going to spend my life proving my psyche — or my soul — right?
It can be also insightful to envision what the leap – big or small – in front of you looks like. Do you perceive it as a leap “over” something? A leap “out” of something? Is it a leap “into” something? Rarely is one fortunate to entirely leap out of something, except in the sense of (attempted) escape. What has not been completed – in family relationships, in marriage, in professional goals, resolving trauma – is likely to re-appear, or rather, be re-created until it is transformed and deeply released from within. Therefore, internally, the leap towards your soul is a simultaneous leap forward and backward.
Experience has taught me that the truly committed leap is a plunge into a space of unknowing, and a moment to moment dance with great Mystery.
I have found this aspect of seeing the “leap of heart” very helpful. Spiritual and personal growth talk can take on a bit of “fairy tale” characteristic. Here’s the scenario: there is this long struggle to make a decision, a choice, to take the path of your heart. Then there is an expectation of a happy ending or clear path. But really, the initial leap is the just the beginning. Choice and commitment are constant companions in the sequel to the story. Or, rather, they write the epic. Their absence makes for a very short story.
I would like to close this article by zooming out to a bigger picture perspective on the individual and collective “leap” that is opening before humanity.
One can tweak beliefs and models about the world, but as long the psyche remains the dominant guide, then there is not really a substantive difference in the underlying framework, motivations, and purpose of our actions. It is like moving the furniture around a room. It looks fresh and entertaining, for a little while, but people are sitting on the same sofa having the same sort of conversation.
Only when the psyche becomes a clarified servant to the soul or higher Self – a tool of incarnation rather than the decision-maker — then will a different life, a different world be possible. Here is the great bridge to cross, individually, and then collectively. There are often precious few examples in of this true spiritual courage in day-to-day life, and those different paths are frequently criticized or marginalized, in the quest to validate the psychological and social status quo.
Very often, the spiritual mind has to be construed as wrong for the physical mind to appear right.
The physical mind, elegant neurology conditioned by evolution, is trapped in its circle of individual and collective experience. It does not grasp, digest, or conceptualize what is All from the standpoint of what is partial. By analogy, it is like asking someone who has lived amongst lakes to now look over their shoulder and see the ocean. No matter how many lakes you have seen, they are a bit like the ocean (water, after all), but also nothing like beholding the vastness of the ocean.
So it is with Spirit and Soul. You can read lots of texts, compare different meditations, reflect in many holy places, but that awareness, that mind will not Know its Source. In a paradox, Source is both completely present in all of them and also completely unknowable. Unknowable, that is, from the eyes of the psyche– and it doesn’t matter if you are looking through a microscope or binoculars. In the leap of the heart, you are entering into the empty space between where you are and what your eyes are gazing upon. Once immersed in that Space, the horizon projected by the limited psyche will dissolve into what it always has been.