Ascending to Heaven

– A Self-Improvement Checklist –


Ascending to heaven takes hard work and discipline. One can’t simply walk through the gate. Before she can even begin her ascent, there is preparatory work to do. There are seeds of character she must sow and water in herself. There are faculties in her soul she must develop.

Before you set out on your journey, then, before you go explore the higher realms of possibility, let’s awaken those faculties that lay dormant deep within your soul. Let’s strengthen, brighten, and bring to life your inner world.

The Spiritual Seeker’s Checklist

  1. Reverence for The Divine.Where to begin? As all who have traveled the spiritual path know, and as the core tenets of all the world’s religions demonstrate, you must first orient yourself towards the Divine — to God, the Cosmos, the Eternal, Awareness, or whatever else you wanna call that which encompasses all things.

Without this piece, all things will be empty. Each thought will arise without being rooted, at bottom, in a connecting foundation. Your life will be fractured, disconnected, illogical. The sum of your knowledge will consist of nothing more than maya (or illusion). You will therefore have no solid foundation to build your morality upon.

Once you recognize the greater whole to which you and everything else is a part of, however, you will have found the Cosmos’ only true purpose: Love — beauty, goodness, harmony, and justice.

Moving forward, then, Love will guide your every step. It will be the motivation for all your thoughts, words, and actions. You will become a student of Life, and be filled with a deep reverence — a veneration — for all beings.

“Understanding is what I seek. Compassion is what I do. And Love is what I am.”

  1. Discipline.Having a conceptual understanding of your moral aim — your direction — is one thing. But it is an entirely different thing to actually put that understanding into practice.

As habitual creatures who carry with us a whole range of habit energies — many of them which are connected to our baser desires and aversions as well as our culturally inherited belief systems — it takes tremendous discipline to carry out your commitment to ascend the heavens.

But, if you continue to make decisions out of Love, and can keep that intention in mind, your desire to transform your resolutions into actions will only strengthen. More and more, you will gladly offer up your energy — your thoughts, words, and actions — to the World. With an open and willing heart, you will increasingly sacrifice yourself, commit yourself, to the service of all beings.

Steadfastness stands higher than any success.”

  1. Honesty.Without honesty, there is no path to Truth; no understanding. And without understanding, can we say there’s anything at all? I’m not sure who or what you would be, or how you could understand things, without an unyielding commitment to honesty.

Honesty goes beyond simply not telling lies. Yes, honesty requires that you be truthful to yourself and others. But it also requires that you think, speak, and act in a way that uplifts yourself and others, that brings people together, not discourages and tears them apart.

How often do you gossip? How much of your speech is divisive? How much of it is rooted in hate, greed, and nonsense? Does this speech feel honest to you?

Everything unfolds from understanding.”

  1. Optimism.If you are to dwell among angels, it is your duty to remain an optimist. Only when you have forgotten the Whole — i.e., God, the Cosmos — can you be pessimistic. Only when your thoughts have become illogically fractured, ungrounded, can you be a victim.

The optimist sees himself in everyone and everything. He therefore does not blame you or me or this or that for any of his misfortune. Rather, he lifts himself out of his narrow story and takes responsibility for carrying out his Cosmic role: Love.

He is like Nelson Mandela, who after being released from serving 27 years in prison displayed nothing but love, understanding, and compassion toward those who put him there and then spent his life bringing peace to the country. The optimist never pouts or feels sorry for himself. He acts; he seeks resolutions out of Love.

Victimhood does no one any good at all. That’s not to say we can’t identify injustice when we see it — whether it be racism, sexism, elitism, hatred, violence, etc. — and work toward a resolution. It means that we see each of these from a higher perspective — that we understand that nobody gets to pick their genes or circumstances; the family, neighborhood, nation, or belief system they’re born into.

The optimist knows there are reasons — chains of events — that brought everyone to where they are now. She knows, then, that to hold hatred or contempt for those who have wronged us or others is to be blind to the whole Truth. It is to continue in ignorance the patterns of hatred, violence, injustice, and disharmony. For her, the borders between ‘Self and Other’, between ‘Us and Them’, have dissolved.

The optimist can see the seeds of love, beauty, and goodness that reside in everyone and therefore commits herself to water those seeds. She is optimistic because she knows that she has the power within her to bring about the Cosmic will: Love.

“It is my duty to remain an optimist.”

  1. Openness.The intellect is necessary for anyone who wishes to explore the higher realms of possibility. It is what allows us to hold the Cosmic whole in front of us and string together our thoughts, words, and actions harmoniously — logically and consistently; without contradictions.

But the intellect can also become one of our biggest obstacles to progress if we’re not careful. Too often we imprison ourselves in walls of our own making by casting concrete conceptual judgments.

Christians close themselves off to Hindu teachings and Hindus to Christian teachings. The religious close themselves off to scientific claims and scientists to religious claims. Republicans to Democrats, Democrats to Republicans. Parents and teachers feel superior to children and students, feeling they have nothing to learn from such a naive mind. Children and students feel that their elders are outdated and have lost touch with the new world order.

Convicted, we stand tall with our chests out, eyes shut, and ears closed. ‘What can I possibly learn from you?’ we think to ourselves with arms folded. And so, rather than listen with open hearts and minds, trying to understand the person across from us, we remain imprisoned in our own minds, divided and shut off from the other.

Learning never stops for those of us on the spiritual path. Everyone, everything, every encounter, every moment is an opportunity to learn. You are a student of the Divine — that without beginning or end.

“There is no end in knowing.”

  1. Concentration.It’s no secret you can’t accomplish much without…squirrel! The ability to maintain one-pointedness — or awareness on a single object — for extended periods, then, is simply a must.

Without concentration, you will be dragged this-way-and-that by the gentlest breeze, day in and day out. Your baser desires — or lower animal — will have control of you. You — your life, your experience, your being — will amount to little more than a distraction, to chaos, to sensory enslavement. You will have no freedom.

“My freedom demands concentration.”

  1. Courage. Fear is paralyzing. Find yourself deterred from some aim and it’s almost certain fear is nearby. Now, fear serves a useful purpose, of course. This feeling evolved to alert us to danger. And we don’t want to be reckless with our lives. But often fear stands in our way, not because there is imminent danger to our person, but because our ego feels threatened or is vulnerable.

Spiritual ascension requires us to be courageous about our honesty — to stand firm in our convictions, despite the external pressures. It’s easy to fall in line with the masses, to simply do what everyone else is doing, to be cut and formed by the same cultural cookie-cutter as everyone else. Individuality, on the other hand, requires incredible courage.

Nothing can be given to you from the outside but dry, lifeless concepts. Truth, goodness, and beauty can only be found within your own soul. For concepts to come alive, they have to be felt — actually experienced from within you.

Your decisions, then, your morality, your intentions, your beliefs, can’t be given to you by other people, cultures, books, etc. Sure, they can point you toward things, but you yourself must then go and find them within yourself. And only then, only after you have seen them for yourself and listened to them with an open heart and mind, can you understand if anything is good or right for you.

“I have the courage to stay true to my self.”

  1. Curiosity. It’s no secret that curiosity pushes outward on every wall of a child’s being, expanding him in every direction. Don’t lose this wonderful gift! and grow content, or disinterested. Stagnation is death. Continue your ascent and exploration of the inexhaustible Divine with the beautiful curiosity of a child.

“Let curiosity, wonder, and awe fuel my spiritual journey.”

  1. Ataraxia or Equanimity. To see and feel what is really there — to witness directly your own mind, unclouded and untainted, with true insight — you must first learn to tame the grasping and aversive ego; you must be able to look at your experience from a place of true equanimity.

Only after you can pull your self out of your thoughts, out of the stories you tell yourself, will you be able to see the impermanent nature of all feelings and perceptions. And it is only after this — after you transcend the small, conditional “I” — that you can engage in Divine Cosmic thought. It is only then that you can become a free citizen of the World; a free participant of the Cosmic unfolding; a free Creator of Love.

You are not, and cannot be, a transitory thing. When you look passed all your appearances, you will find that you are Divine — unborn and unformed, perfectly still and open.

“I am Eternal.”

More Articles

what is mindfulness

“The Art of Bare Attention”

Today we’re going to talk about the ancient Buddhist practice vipassana, or insight meditation. Now, just to be clear, this is an entirely secular practice. It doesn’t require you to adopt any dogmatic beliefs…

the faceless seer

“The Faceless Seer”

How do you hold your love? Do you hold her from stillness, with nowhere to go, with nothing to do? How do you hold your love? Do you hold her with acceptance, with open hands and arms, with unabashed…

Awakening Your Heart

“Awakening to Your Heart”

What do you think it’d feel like if you committed your time, energy, and awareness to alleviate the suffering all around you? How would it feel to wrap the world in a caring attention?

everything changes

“Everything Changes”

It’s no secret everything changes. Your experience this morning isn’t your experience now. Yet how many of us act like we really understand this? How often do we grasp onto the illusion of things…

the divine connection

“The Divine Connection”

How do you hold your love? Do you hold her from stillness, with nowhere to go, with nothing to do? How do you hold your love? Do you hold her with acceptance, with open hands and arms, with unabashed…

the divine connection