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Spiritual University: Repetition and Formula

Author: Stewart Bitkoff
Posted: May 8th. 2011
Times Viewed: 2,741

One of the characteristics of the way our mind works is to create order, categorize and use repetition to help establish a sense of security. Additionally, this tendency toward repetition is one of the aspects of the physical universe. Repetition exists within nature and helps formulate and create our worldview. This tendency serves a number of important functions and would be simplistic to say- although partially true - it is a reaction against the chaos in the universe and our own eventual physical death.

The ancient’s recognized great cycles within the universe and natural world, aligning aspects of their lives around these naturally occurring patterns. For example, in parts of the world there are four seasons, 24 hours in a day, 12 months in a year and three meals, daily. The term of pregnancy is considered nine months and each person is born, lives and dies. These natural cycles with their repetitious pattern brings order to our lives and helps formulate our worldview. Sometimes we react strongly when events do not adhere and coincide with our expectation.

Consider the construct of time or 24-hours in a day. A song calls out the lyrics, “does anyone really know what time it is?” When did humans first begin keeping time? When did time actually start? For dolphins swimming beneath the ocean surface is it really 12 o’clock and time for lunch? If we travel to a far away planet and meet little green people, will they all be wearing Mickey Mouse watches and waiting until 7 p.m. to watch their favorite show on the Disney Channel? Probably not.

Some might assert, man created the concept of time based upon certain naturally occurring patterns in the universe and this concept is useful in many ways. However, like all things this construct can be over worked and lose effectiveness. For example, consider the common situation of an office worker with private refrigerator who is hungry at 11:30 am and it is not time for lunch. That is- it is not 12:00 p.m. and he walks around hungry for 30 minutes until it is time to eat from his own brown bag lunch. At 11:30 a.m., what is stopping this fellow from having a bite of his own sandwich: An ingrained adherence to a construct or pattern. Traditional office convention states it is not lunchtime and it is too early to eat.

For the spiritual traveler, it is important to recognize the effect of repetition upon higher learning. Repetition can be both useful and limiting. Consider the possibility that some religions use historical and traditional prayers, exercises and formula that have for many followers outlived their inner vibrancy.

In contrast, other frameworks state that in order for a teaching to be vibrant and alive it must be updated from time to time. Circumstance and people vary. Ideas, customs and formula that were created for one culture do not easily translate to another time and place. Yet, due to an over-riding need for tradition and repetition, worn out methods remain in use, and are not supplemented with newer material.

Fortunately, each person has an inner voice that helps him or her discern when this may be occurring. Unfortunately, many do not learn to trust their own inner wisdom, bound to worn traditions that lack personal meaning and inner usefulness.

Numerous traditions operate within the framework of a living teacher who updates the teaching for each student, time and place. Within this structure, the world is never without exemplars and their function in part is to be living proof of the tradition’s viability. Older formula, prayers and instructions are superseded and the present way is offered.

In the field of spiritual studies, as in any endeavor, the traveler must be an educated consumer. False and authentic teachers exist. To make matters more complicated, often false teachers do not realize they are using worn out or incomplete methods. Often these teachers present specific formula, instruction and constructs in the same way for years and for each individual student.

For example, follow 10 Steps to Enlightenment. Say this prayer 5 times a day and you will reach journey’s end. While each of these learning exercises may have inner usefulness, for a time, they are not complete systems. In an authentic school, repetition is used for specific purposes, is not a dominant aspect and each student is given an individual course of study that is perceived and monitored by the teacher. In higher learning, repetition and our need for comfort and formula can be a limiting factor, particularly if this is all we are taught.

People have both heaven and hell within their heart.
We are all creators of a vast universe- ourselves-
And must continuously remember to choose higher.

Often people are reluctant and fearful
About acting in their own best interest.
Even when the negative pattern
Has been repeated hundreds of times.
This is the universal tendency toward repetition
Pulling against a new opportunity.

Much of human activity can be explained
Through observing our personal excitement need.
Daily we seek stimulation and attention.
These two basic needs drive us in all kinds of directions.

Many seek a spiritual path that will be both stimulating and exciting,
Forgetting they should be looking for a path- that works.

Each person’s consciousness is a series of repeating patterns that are like the rooms of a fine house. Each room is decorated with paint, curtains, furniture and other pieces. While these adornments reflect the owner’s individuality, the room is a bedroom, dining room or kitchen. It has a function that combines with the others to make-up the house.

Often we become jailors, content to live our lives in these rooms only. We never consider there may be another world beyond these walls. That is why each house has a door. The wise learn to use it.

How does one learn? We are taught by parents, by school, by religion and by society. This is how we learn to make choices. We choose based upon what we are taught to see.

How do we break free of this patterned thought and existence? Why do we want freedom? Foolish one- it is our destiny to learn to see beyond the world of appearances.

There is a yearning within that cannot be stilled- until the bird of the soul soars free.


Stewart Bitkoff

Location: Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania

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