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Being the Observer

by Robert Meagher on 01/02/20

A couple of months ago I was cycling home from an evening coffee with a colleague I had not seen in many years. It was dark out by the time I started back home, so I had on my reflective vest and flashing lights on the front and back of my bicycle.

Less than 100 feet from my home, a cyclist coming in the other direction, suddenly cut across the street and abruptly veered toward me. To avoid a collision, I slammed on my breaks. I stopped too quickly, however. The momentum of my moving forward caused me to flip over my handlebars and crash to the pavement.

I remember at one moment I was aware that my feet were above my head. Time seemed to stop. I then felt myself hit the pavement and skid briefly. I remember hearing the bicycle crash and scrape the pavement. I remember hoping the bike was going to be okay.

As I lay on the pavement, I remember wondering if I was injured. So I decided to move slowly. I started with a leg. That one was okay. I moved my other leg. That was okay too. I moved an arm. That arm was okay. Then I moved the other arm. That arm was okay too. I slowly, very slowly made my way to my feet.

I remember looking down the street. I saw the cyclist carrying on their way. It did not appear that they had slowed down at all. They certainly had not stopped. They didn’t even look back.

At this moment, I remember feeling an intense rage well up inside of me. It felt like the other cyclist had intentionally veered across the street to hit me. My rage wanted me to yell some profanity at the cyclist. My rage wanted me to hop on my bicycle, chase down the cyclist, and confront them. Even worse, my rage wanted me to physically assault the cyclist for what, in my rage, I felt the cyclist had done to me.

As my rage was having a field day with what it wanted me to do, I became aware there was a part of me that had been watching the entire event unfold. Let’s call this part of me the ‘observer.’ This observer did nothing more than observe. It watched the other cyclist veer toward me. It watched me slam on my breaks. It watched me flip over my handlebars. It watched me crash to the pavement. It watched me pick myself up. It watched me fill with rage.

And through all the watching the observer simply observed. It did nothing more, and nothing less. It simply watched what unfolded. It did not judge. It accepted it all. Most significant, the observer was silent. The observer was at peace.

I quietly walked my bicycle home. Remember, I was less than 100 feet from my home. I remember feeling at peace. I also remember feeling rage. It was like there was an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other. Except, the observer was watching both!

In the days that passed, I vacillated between rage and peace about the event. Eventually the experience melted away. But what has stayed with me is the memory of the observer. That observer is someone or something I intend to cultivate a relationship with.

Robert Meagher has been ordained as an Interfaith Minister and certified as a Sacred Attention Therapy (SAT) Therapist. Robert is the Founder and Spiritual Director for Spiritual Guidance and Co-Founder of the Center for Human Awakening.

We Don’t See The World As It Is, We See The World As We Are

by Robert Meagher on 12/03/19

I want to share a recent, personal experience that made it clear to me that I don’t see the world as it is. I see the world as I am. This great spiritual teaching is echoed throughout many traditions and could be simplified to share that the world we see outside of us is merely a reflection of our inner state of being. On a deeper level, perhaps, the teaching is rooted in the law of cause and effect. The majority of people may think that something is happening outside of them (i.e., a war, an atrocity, an argument, etc.) and that they are affected by this thing that is happening outside of them. Said another way, how I am affected (influenced) is an effect (result) of what I perceive as the cause (i.e., a war, an atrocity, an argument, etc.). In truth, however, I am the cause and what I see outside of me is the effect (result). Everything I see is the result (the effect) of my thoughts (the cause). And my thoughts originate from me. I am the cause. What I see (the effect) is a physical manifestation of my thoughts (the cause). Allow me to share how this law of cause and effect can work with a recent, personal experience.

I had come out of a meeting feeling a myriad of emotions—mostly frustration and irritation. Frustration and irritation, however, are merely flavors of a more insidious feeling—anger. I ruminated on my anger until I uncovered what I was truly angry about. Check!...I got that out of my system, right? The residue of my feelings remained for another hour or so, so I decided it was best I go for a walk to further contemplate my feelings in the hopes of expunging my anger over the past events.

As I approached a busy downtown intersection, a pickup truck was moving through an intersection at a snail’s pace, due to heavy traffic at this intersection. The pickup truck was forced to stop without having progressed all the way through the intersection. As a result, the truck was blocking the pedestrian crosswalk. A pedestrian, frustrated at the truck blocking the crosswalk (impeding them from crossing the street), decided to take their frustrations out on the truck. The pedestrian started to hit and kick the truck. Loud bangs could be heard as the pedestrian struck the truck with their hands and feet.

The driver of the truck, startled by the sounds of something striking the truck, climbed out of the truck to realize a pedestrian was hitting and kicking the truck. The unfolding exchange between the pedestrian and the driver of the truck quickly escalated until the pedestrian and truck driver got into a fist fight in the middle of the busy intersection. As the fury on display escalated, a small crowd of people gathered to cheer and jeer, depending on the person whose ‘side’ they were taking. Traffic was now stopped in all directions.

As I watched the scene unfold, a great peace came over me. I was being shown my anger; all its fury and ugliness was on display for me to witness. It had never been more clear to me that my outer world was merely an expression of my inner state of being. Because I felt a great sense of peace, I blessed the scene and all its participants, as I gently walked away.

The anger I had felt from the meeting earlier in the day was the feeling I was carrying around with me. The anger manifested itself as an outward expression of anger between a pedestrian and truck driver. The pedestrian and truck driver were simply the mirrors on myself, and the teachers who chose to show me in that moment the ugliness of my anger.

Robert Meagher has been ordained as an Interfaith Minister and certified as a Sacred Attention Therapy (SAT) Therapist. Robert is the Founder and Spiritual Director for Spiritual Guidance and Co-Founder of the Center for Human Awakening.

The Spiritual Seeker vs. The Spiritual Adept

by Robert Meagher on 11/02/19

I have always enjoyed cooking and I have reached various levels of proficiency with my cooking through the years. But a recent transformation to a vegetarian diet (partially vegan), has gifted me with a renewed interest and enthusiasm for cooking.

Even with my renewed enthusiasm for cooking, I would not claim to be a chef. I do admire those people who can guide themselves, without assistance from a recipe or cookbook, to create a meal based on their sense of what foods, spices and other ingredients go together, complement each other, and come together to create a gourmet feast.

Even though I have been cooking for many years, I still need a recipe to guide me toward the desired meal I want to make. I do not have an awareness of what ingredients go together and complement each other, the proportions to use, and other elements required to create the outcome I desire. I have a sense of the basics of cooking, but not the ‘essence’ of what makes good food. What has been missing from my culinary journey is desire, dedication and discipline.

I enjoy cooking very much, but I don’t have a burning desire to become a chef. Because I don’t have a burning desire to become a chef, I have never dedicated myself to the pursuit of achieving a certain proficiency in the culinary arts. Basically, I have not cultivated a discipline when it comes to cooking. I can do what I’m told (vis-à-vis a recipe or other instruction), but I have not advanced enough on the path of cooking to claim any mastery of the art.

As I was joyfully cooking some meals recently, it dawned on me that the difference between a cook and a chef is analogous to the difference between a spiritual seeker and a spiritual adept. The spiritual seeker is the ‘cook.’ The spiritual adept is the ‘chef.’

The spiritual seeker uses recipes and instructions to attain a place or state they search for and / or strive to attain. The spiritual seeker does not have an awareness of what ingredients go together and complement each other, the proportions to use, and other elements required to create the outcome desired. To become an adept, the seeker must have the desire, dedication and discipline to obtain a proficiency in their chosen or desired practice(s).  

The word adept—from the French ‘adepte’ or Latin ‘adeptus’—means “who has achieved.” Wikipedia defines an adept as “an individual who is identified as having attained a specific level of knowledge, skill, or aptitude in doctrines relevant to a particular [discipline]. The adept “stand outs from others because [his or her] abilities.” More specifically, the spiritual adept is a person advanced enough on their spiritual path that they have become a master. The spiritual adept has an awareness of what ingredients go together and complement each other, the proportions to use, and other elements required to create the outcome desired. The adept has gone beyond the basics of their practice to understand the underlying ‘essence’ of the journey. The spiritual adept has demonstrated their desire, dedication and discipline in their chosen practice.

Robert Meagher has been ordained as an Interfaith Minister and certified as a Sacred Attention Therapy (SAT) Therapist. Robert is the Founder and Spiritual Director for Spiritual Guidance and Co-Founder of the Center for Human Awakening.

Are Shortcuts Worth It?

by Robert Meagher on 10/02/19

Last month I took one of my day-long cycling adventures. I had not ventured on this particular route before so I looked at the map before I ventured out to determine the best roads for cycling. As I examined the map I noticed a route that I thought would result in reduced car traffic on the road and make the ride safer for me. I also noticed that the proposed route cut through some backcountry and resulted in what looked like a bit of a shortcut for one leg of the journey. With an anticipated 100km+ round trip cycling adventure, I didn’t mind cutting off a few kilometers along the way.

As I arrived at the point where the shortcut began, I joyfully turned off the main highway and began my trek. I felt somewhat relieved for turning off the main road because the car traffic was heavy. After only a few minutes of cycling on the backcountry road, lines of cars started to pass me. Car after car, after car after car. I realized the route had no less traffic than the main highway. I was to realize after 10km that the reason for the heavy car traffic was a ski resort that turned to a summer amusement park was attracting a lot of families on this beautiful Saturday.

Did you notice I mentioned ski resort??? Where there is a ski resort, there are hills. And as I approached this ski resort, the topography became more and more undulating. Said another way…the cycle became more and more of a challenge. A few of hills were among the steepest I had ever descended and ascended. The descents were thrilling, but the ascents were grueling! I carried on, however. Shortly after I passed the ski resort, the terrain levelled out and the next 10km were quite picturesque and pleasant to cycle. I eventually came back out on the main highway that I had left 25km ago, feeling a bit smug that I had cut off some time from my adventure. After 7 hours of cycling, I arrived back home.

I had enjoyed the adventure so much that I vowed to make the trip again. So a couple of weeks later, I ventured back to the same route. But this time, I decided not to take the ‘shortcut’ and stayed on the main highway for the entire trip. I was pleasantly surprised that the longer way around was a much more gentle ride, compared to the very undulating terrain the supposed shortcut had offered me a couple of weeks earlier. And this time the round trip took me an hour less!...even though I went a longer, overall distance! So…

Not only did the supposed shortcut result in a much more grueling and difficult cycle, it actually didn’t save me any time at all! As it turns out, it took me longer to get to where I wanted to go! I laughed at my foible and the symbolism in the experience.

Are shortcuts worth it? In my cycling adventure, the supposed shortcut wasn’t a shortcut at all! I expended more energy than the long way around and it didn’t save me any time. It actually took me longer!

Robert Meagher has been ordained as an Interfaith Minister and certified as a Sacred Attention Therapy (SAT) Therapist. Robert is the Founder and Spiritual Director for Spiritual Guidance and Co-Founder of the Center for Human Awakening.

Who Are You Pointing Your Finger At?

by Robert Meagher on 09/03/19

I was recently blessed with a blatant example of finger pointing and the blessed teaching in this act. When we point our finger at someone, it is crucially important to be aware of who we are actually pointing our finger at. There is a beautiful teaching that says, “When we point our finger at someone, there are always 3 fingers pointing back at us!”

After a recent weekly study group gathering, a relatively new participant, and devout Christian, came up to me and shared their dissatisfaction that the gathering had begun with another participant chiming a Tibetan Singing Bowl during the opening meditation. This disgruntled participant shared that the playing of the Tibetan Singing Bowl was an ‘idol’ (i.e., a distraction to connecting with Source/Divine) and had no place at the gatherings. Furthermore, the new participant shared that he felt the playing of the Tibetan Singing Bowl would be confusing for other participants and detract from the teachings shared during the weekly study group gatherings.

The very next day an interesting article came into my email ‘inbox’ from a spiritual-oriented news-feed. The article was about a Christian monk who was on an extended retreat in a Buddhist monastery. The monk recounted his difficulty with accepting some of the rituals of the Buddhist community, including the “incessant chiming and playing of bells and bowls and the praying to statues of Buddha.” The monk went on to criticize the Buddhist faithful for worshipping “idols” like bells, bowls, and Buddha statues, and denounced the practices as “a distraction from direct union with God.” Toward the end of the article, however, the monk revealed how he was graced with the awareness of his judgements and that he too had his own rituals and idols he placed before God, including the worshipping of his faith tradition’s prophet, Jesus. The monk knew that if he called for someone else to drop his/her idols, he would have to drop his.

Will the relatively new participant at the weekly study group gatherings have the same awareness as the Christian monk in the Buddhist monastery? Time will tell. The new participant may have indeed been concerned that other participants would be confused by the playing of the Tibetan Singing Bowl, but is it possible that they themselves were the confused one, and were merely projecting their confusion onto others?

And so it is with finger pointing, we are only ever pointing a finger at ourselves. Any grievance expressed toward another is merely a projection of a grievance toward ourselves. Look carefully at what you accuse the ‘other’ of doing, and you will find that you are accusing yourself.

Robert Meagher has been ordained as an Interfaith Minister and certified as a Sacred Attention Therapy (SAT) Therapist. Robert is the Founder and Spiritual Director for Spiritual Guidance and Co-Founder of the Center for Human Awakening.

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Shanti, Namaste, Agapé,

Rev. Robert Meagher