There's probably no more comprehensive system for truly Becoming than that enumerated by Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras. The basic idea can be found in virtually all cultures, but I feel the need to summarise it with real, concrete modern examples. It covers all three stages of conscious awakening as enumerated by my friend Tom Montalk.
All right, here we go!
I've already written about ethics in a recent article, but I'll recap:
There are objective ethical principles. However, each principle can only be applied relative to the situation. If you're stealing because you want something, that's wrong. If you steal to feed a starving family, that's imperative.
In general, don't lie, don't steal, don't cheat, and especially practise nonviolence.
Be clean, for one. Nobody likes a stinky person.
More importantly, don't be a kvetch. Be happy with your existing material possessions. I know I'm guilty of violating this, but most people are. Don't feel bad about it, just fix it. As Father Mouse said in 'Twas the Night Before Christmas: 'It's not enough to be sorry; when you've done something wrong, you have to correct the thing you did.'
Next up is using your energy. Don't waste yourself in frivolities; do something worthwhile! Art, study, exercise, etc. are all good. Not being a couch potato. Also, it's necessary to pay close attention to oneself at nearly all times. When you can study yourself, you can know yourself. And of course it is necessary to celebrate all the highest ideals—God, the universe, brotherhood, humanity, etc.. Without being in touch with the wonders of being, there really is no being.
This may catch some people off guard, but it's true. Good posture enables the energies of life to flow through the body, and as such connect the material body to the spiritual aspects of oneself. Hatha yoga is one method, but qigong, Reichian exercise, and various other methods (even Pilates!) have been developed through the ages to help with this part.
- Breath work
Respiration is one of the hallmarks of life. However, most people don't breathe correctly. All I can say about it is that Éiriú Eolas (condensed here) is the best, most scientific method I've come across
- Outer observance
Now, what I mean here is not investing yourself in either the things happening around you. Psychologists have known this at least since the cognitive-behavioural boom in the '70s. Simply feel what's happening around you without identifying it with yourself.
- Inner observance
Also tying in to cognitive-behavioural theory, this is more about your internal state of mind. Psychologists have noted that it is possible to not identify with your emotions. Emotions are good, don't get me wrong; but when you invest yourself in every little feeling, you lose yourself. What you want to do is, again, to feel your emotions without thinking that they're 'you'.
This corresponds to Tom's 'stage 2'. At this point, you have to lose yourself in meditation. Whether you're meditating on God, Jesus, Allah, Brahman, or even a potted plant, the aim is to really connect with your heart. This doesn't even have to be sitting or lying down; what's important is that you're acting from the heart. This 'grooves' your consciousness to what Fourth Way teachers would call the 'higher emotional centre'. And without the higher emotional centre, the heart, there's no true development. Make sure that you have an uplink to your higher emotional centre, and you're set.
This is the Golden Child of spiritual development. Not only are you in a positive flow, you combine this with lucid awareness. This is total self-actualisation; complete integration. It corresponds to Tom's third stage of awakening. At this point, you're in positive lucidity. Don't make the mistake that this is a state where you just sit on your ass 24/7 in an incomprehensible bliss. Now, the incomprehensible bliss is there, since your higher emotional centre is active, but your higher intellectual centre is also active at this point. You have a real 'I'.
So you actually have tons of energy, and you put that energy to good work. 'Enlightened' people don't just sit around in caves all day, neglecting the outside world; no, they're out there trying to ensure that everyone can develop to that point. An enlightened person devotes verself to the physical and spiritual well-being of others, realising that as we are all One, truly ensuring their own well-being is dependent on the well-being of others.
Of course, this is a 'beginner's course', but it's all true, as far as I can see. It's universal and practical knowledge that should be the day-to-day lifestyle of every self-respecting spirit.
As some parting words: 'Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.' (Luke 17:21)