by Helene Dunkelblau
me·thod (methd): an orderly procedure for doing things
This is going to begin as a personal story.
Before I came to Cafh, I had a yearning, a deep longing to give myself to something greater than myself, to find meaning in life that went beyond all of the activities that made up my day-to-day existence. I couldn’t articulate this yearning clearly at the time, because there seemed to be no words for it. I just knew that I wanted to have a way to offer my life completely to what I would call “the greatest good”—to give myself through love.
I had been very interested in spirituality and meditation for a number of years. I had tried different types of meditation techniques and had read books from many of the major religious traditions, both Eastern and Western. I had also studied the ideas of the more current schools of thought and dabbled in “new age” ideas. Throughout all of the reading and study that I did, however, the one thing that always stayed with me was the idea of giving oneself completely to the Divine. But what did that mean? Somehow, there was always a gap between what I wished to do and the reality of my daily life. Once I got up from my meditation chair or put down my spiritual book, “life” always seemed to rush in, and the silence and peace that I might have experienced and the beautiful ideas that I read about would vanish, to return only when I once again stopped to do some spiritual reading or to meditate.
At this time, I was lucky enough to have a few friends who were also drawn by spiritual ideas, and I would meet with them from time to time to discuss what we were reading or to sit in silent meditation together with them. Yet, there was always something missing. No matter how much we shared and meditated together, in the end spiritual life and daily life remained two separate worlds for me. I began to feel that I was in front of a huge iron door behind which was the answer to a great mystery—if I only had the key to open that door.
Then one night I had a very clear dream which I remembered completely when I awoke:
I was sitting in a radio station studio waiting to go on the air as a guest speaker on a then-popular program about spirituality and spiritual life. I was going to be interviewed about my own spiritual path. The host of the show had not yet arrived, and I was all alone in the studio looking through a 2”-thick pack of index cards in my lap. On each of these cards was written some aspect of my spiritual practice. As I sat there waiting for the program to begin, I realized that my notes were totally disorganized, out of order, simply a jumble of ideas. Although a lot of information was there, I would never be able to express it in a coherent way. At the end of the dream when the host of the show finally came in, I apologetically told him that I could not go on the air and left the studio.
Shortly after having this dream I entered Cafh and found what I was so desperately searching for. Being in Cafh helped me “organize” the various elements of my spiritual life and, most important, offered a method with which I could continually work on myself, become more conscious of who I was and how I was relating to the world around me. Being part of Cafh gave me the tools to begin to work on integrating the small moments of my daily life with my deepest intention of offering and love.
Cafh is formally described as “a reunion of souls that seek their inner liberation through an individual external method.” Cafh’s method is an individual work because each of our lives is different. However, there are common elements and practices that every member of Cafh is exposed to and has the chance to incorporate into his or her life. These practices are suggestions to be tried out and experimented with. No one is ever asked to believe in a dogma.
The method that we follow is first of all based on the idea that in order to unfold spiritually, we must be conscious of who we are. With a measure of consciousness, we can then work on changing our attitudes, thoughts, feelings and behavior and expand our notion of who we are in relation to the world that we live in. Becoming conscious is an ongoing process in which we seek answers to fundamental questions such as:
- How do I relate to the people around me—my family, friends, acquaintances, workmates?
- What is the effect of what I do, think and feel on others?
- What is my connection to the world at large, to the billions of souls with whom I share this planet and yet don’t know personally and will never meet?
Asking questions such as these compels us to observe ourselves more clearly. It also turns daily life into the raw material of our spiritual work. We do not have to be in any special life circumstance to devote ourselves completely to this work. We do not have to go on long retreats, leave our job and family or move to another country. All that we need is right here before us in our life, just the way it is.
We all know that wishing for something does not make it so, and this is certainly true in spiritual work. If we want to be conscious, we need to have the tools to carry out the work. Cafh offers these tools in the form of exercises practiced every day.
One is a meditation exercise, which has a strict, basic framework, yet leaves open the topics we use so that they reflect what we are currently working on.
Another exercise is called the retrospective examination.. We do this exercise just before going to sleep, and it helps us to see ourselves clearly and honestly as we review the events of our day. Performing this exercise allows us to discern the details of what we have to work on in ourselves to bring our life closer to our spiritual ideal.
Part of the method of Cafh is to attend weekly meetings which consist of meditation, a time for dialogue and sharing, and a time to listen to a teaching on a particular topic. We study topics that span the spiritual spectrum from inner reflection, silence, presence and prayer to self-control, perseverance, routine and manual work. The focus of our discussions is to share how we try to incorporate what we learn into our lives in a systematic way.
One practice that I learned very soon after I entered Cafh is called hallowing the day, which consists of making one’s first thought upon awakening reflect one’s spiritual ideal and intention. I have always found this to be a most valuable practice because it helps me to remember my deepest intention from the very moment that I wake up each morning.
Receiving spiritual counsel on a regular basis from someone who has had many years of experience in Cafh is also a part of the method. With our spiritual counselor we have the opportunity to discuss aspects of our life that generally don’t come up in everyday social discourse, even with the people who are closest to us. We receive guidance in meditation and in our own spiritual work, and can talk freely about the unseen, the inner part of our life—our relationship with the Divine. Personally, I have always found spiritual counsel to be a great gift, and an invaluable tool that helps me stay firmly on the course that I have chosen for my life.
Having walked the road of Cafh for over three decades now, I can say that to have a spiritual ideal is not enough. To have the longing to give oneself completely is not enough. There has to be a way to actualize this longing and to turn it into something concrete and evident. For me, the method of Cafh has opened the way towards bridging the gap between daily life and spiritual life and has given me the key to transforming my deepest intention into reality.