Before we answer this question, one must understand the three discoveries of God.
First, God might be discovered as the Holy Spirit within us, or as the Hindu tradition explains it, the Paramatma or Supersoul residing inside every being. Second, God might be discovered as the impersonal, eternal fabric of reality. The Hindu tradition names this aspect of God Brahman. Finally, God might be discovered in God’s personal form. So, there is the Holy Spirit or Paramatma; the impersonal fabric of reality or Brahman; and God’s personal form. With these three discoveries of God in mind, we can identify the agnostic, theist, and atheist.
The word agnostic is based upon the word gnosis, which means knowledge. An agnostic is a-gnostic, meaning without knowledge. Therefore, one who is agnostic takes the humble position that they do not know whether the three discoveries of God exist or do not exist. And they take this position because they have not invested sufficient time in approaching God to be able to evaluate matters of God. This is like the layperson accepting they cannot evaluate an engineer’s structural diagram because they have not studied engineering.
The theist believes in God’s three aspects, although they might not have experienced them all. The theist has invested considerable time in approaching God through spiritual theory and practice. Grace has touched them and they realise that God’s existence is at least highly probable. Probably, they have experienced the first two aspects of God: the Holy Spirit or Paramatma; and the impersonal Brahman or fabric of reality.
The true atheist differs from popular definition. Today, we consider intellectuals such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Stephen Hawking to be atheists. Actually, most intellectuals are agnostics rather than atheists, although they do not realise it. Why are they agnostic? Unless one has taken the effort to approach God over many years, the unbiased and self-aware person should realise that they lack the knowledge to evaluate matters of God. That is to say, they are agnostic.
However, due to a lack of spiritual practice in society, intellectuals believe they can evaluate God without first approaching God. Basing their arguments on easy-to-access information, such as historical inconsistencies and moral incongruities in scripture, they argue that God does not exist. These intellectuals are just the same as the twentieth-century scientists who doubted quantum theory because, at first glance, a table appears solid and matter cannot be both light and particle. Society considers these intellectuals who have not approached God but who believe they can evaluate matters of God to be atheists. But as you can see, their position is actually agnostic.
The true atheist is one who has invested some but not enough effort in approaching God to believe in all three of God’s aspects. Often, they believe in the first and/or second aspect of God: the Holy Spirit or Paramatma; and the eternal fabric of reality or impersonal Brahman. With this limited spiritual awareness, they then proclaim that these are God’s only aspects, that God does not have a personal form. This is the true atheist. But if they stay their path, or come into contact with a bona fide spiritual teacher, they will become a theist in due course.
The purpose of spiritual practice is to become part and parcel with God or Life. To become part and parcel with God or Life is to fulfill your purpose. Each of us has a different purpose and none of us can achieve it without guidance.
Since spiritual practice means to approach God, one naturally develops virtue along the path. Kindness, compassion, tolerance, forgiveness, and love swell up inside us. Spiritual practice also fosters harmony. Harmony arrives individually and then spreads to our family, community, and species.
During a latter stage of the spiritual path, one comes to realise true humility, which is the understanding that we can only know so much and what we can know is infinitesimal. With this realisation, one voluntarily surrenders one’s life to God, becoming a perfect part and parcel of existence. In place of their individual desires, they take on the desires that God or Life has for them. They generate no karma since, rather than living their own life, they have allowed Life to live through them as its instrument. Such is the aim and perfection of human existence.
The primary purpose of meditation is to (1) develop your spiritual awareness in order to (2) become part and parcel with God or Life. In doing so, Life begins to live through you as its instrument, rather than you living through life.
The specific manner in which Life lives through you as its instrument, is by means of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit or Qi meditation focusses directly on connecting oneself to the Holy Spirit inside us. It unfolds over three phases.
During Phase 1 and 2, the technique is identical. In Phase 3, the technique is extended. This extension is shared only with those who have sufficiently progressed through Phase 1 and 2. Otherwise, the extension can confuse more than clarify. For the motivated seeker, Phase 1 and 2 offer much room to grow.
Step 1: Identify your most sensitive body area. This could be your palms, forehead, crown, heart centre, or soles of your feet.
Step 2: At your chosen area, notice any physical sensations.
Step 3: At your chosen area, guide your awareness into your body.
Step 4: At your chosen area, feel the flow of energy inside your body.
Step 5: Observe and follow the flow of energy as it moves through your body.
Throughout: If thoughts or emotions distract you, do not reprimand yourself as this only reinforces the distraction. Gently return your awareness to observing and following the flow of energy within you.
Mindfulness is focussing your attention on the present moment while you go about your day.
To start practicing mindfulness:
E.g. Walking around your home: Walk at half or quarter speed. Notice how each foot rolls onto the floor, flattens, remains, rolls and lifts off again. Notice your arms moving through the air. How else are your senses stimulated? Maintain your focus on the process of walking, and you’re being mindful.
After mastering mindfulness for one activity, try another. Aim to add more and more mindfulness to your day. As you do this, your breath will slow and lengthen, you’ll feel less emotionally reactive and more mentally clear. You’ll become more aware of your surroundings and your entire nervous system will relax. And these are only the initial benefits of practice.
Mindfulness develops our presence as we go about our day, whereas meditation develops our overarching spiritual awareness. Mindfulness can also be considered a type of meditation.
Meditation techniques come in many varieties. The most well-known and well-regarded techniques are listed below. But remember: the best meditation technique is the one that you feel motivated to practice consistently. Then, as your spiritual awareness develops, you can adjust your technique later.
You might have heard of these types of meditation practices: Mantra, Focus, Breath, Vipassana, and the Holy Spirit or Qi meditation.
○ Holy Spirit or Qi meditation: The recommended method for this era, and a full breakdown is provided in Question Two above.
○ Mantra meditation: Repeating a mantra out loud or inside your mind. Use a simple mantra such as “Om,” “In Christ’s name,” “Hare Krishna,” “Jesus.” Or a longer and more complex mantra that you feel drawn to.
○ Focus meditation: Continuously focus on an object of your choosing, such as a candle flame, image of a spiritual figure, or another object of meaning.
○ Breath meditation: Closely observe your breath as it enters through your nose, pauses at the bottom of your belly, and then leaves through your mouth or nose.
○ Vipassana meditation is an extensive technique that begins with observing the sensation of air flowing out beneath your nostrils and above your upper lip. After this stage, there are many, many more steps as one develops greater awareness of the gross and subtle sensations of the body.
Posture Note: Meditation practices also prescribe a body posture. Most suggest the upright seated position to prevent the mind from dozing off or getting distracted. In contrast, the Holy Spirit or Qi meditation unfolds across three different body postures.
Eye Note: Tibetan Buddhists meditate with open eyes. They believe meditation should develop one’s ability to detach from the material world and absorb oneself spiritually, especially amidst the happenings of life. To Tibetan Buddhists, meditating with eyes open is an effective method to develop this detached state of being.
Freedom exists in different varieties. One might acquire:
To feel free despite your many responsibilities, you must seek out spiritual freedom. Spiritual freedom arises partially when one can view life from an elevated perspective, and fully when one becomes part and parcel with God or Life. Partial spiritual freedom develops from watching. The more that you can observe life while you live it, the more free you will feel. To formally develop spiritual freedom, you must practice mindfulness and meditation.