What an amazing dream God has created for us! It is engaging, intense, happy, sad, frustrating, fulfilling, and, above all, mesmerizing. And it is all of these at the same time, all of the time. Our days and weeks are so entrancing that we rarely step back to see a broader perspective. When we do so, we see that there are layers to the apparent reality.
First, and most obvious, is the physical level, that which is revealed to us by our senses. Secondly, there is the world of thoughts, emotions, and reactions. This level, too, is obvious to most people. But the third layer, the spiritual, is subtle and largely invisible. Yet, unless we become aware of the omnipresence of God in creation, we are strangers in a strange land, destined to roam forever through the dream-world of appearances. The challenge of life is to integrate all of these together.
Near Ananda Village in Northern California is a clinic founded by one of our members, Dr. Peter Van Houten. Even though relatively small, the clinic has become nationally recognized for its practice of “integrative medicine.” Integrative medicine approaches patient care with the understanding that there are multiple layers to most health problems. Consequently the clinic has counseling available on site and a practice called a “warm handoff.” If a doctor feels that a physical condition is caused by emotional or behavioral problems, he not only prescribes counseling, but takes the patient to the counselor, introduces them, and makes an appointment on the spot. The result of the warm handoff is that a person is more than three times as likely to keep the appointment with the counselor than if they had simply been given a recommendation.
For the problems of life we need our own warm handoff from one layer to the next. It is not enough to acknowledge vaguely that a challenge may have an emotional dimension. We need actually to introduce the issue to our inner counselor, introspection. And then we need to recognize that our mental/emotional issues always have a deeper, spiritual dimension. We need to see behind our reactions to the attitudes that produce them, and behind the attitudes to our soul identity. If we try to solve a problem only on one plane, we will be no more successful than a smoker who blames the weather for his cough.
Try a little experiment with me. Take a situation that you’re dealing with currently. First, see it clearly in all its details on the obvious, physical level. Then do a warm handoff to the emotional level. Forget about the endless details and concentrate on the causes of your emotional reactions. Are they due to fear of an unknown future? Or anger because some desire has been frustrated? Or the complex mix of emotions that arise when we want reality to be different and can’t accept that what is, simply is? As you learn to get in touch with this layer of reality, you will gain much more control over your life.
Finally, make a warm handoff to the spiritual level. This is best done in meditation when the mind and emotions have been stilled. Every negative emotion has a spiritual solution. Fear is eliminated by faith. Desires dissolve in the fires of love for God and Gurus. And the inability to accept life is conquered by the realization that everything is God’s dream and is created, as Yogananda said, “for our entertainment and education.”