There are four principal pathways that lead to self-realization. Mysticism is the hidden way.
The mystic practices the art of intentionality. Intentionality is the awareness of being in all of its profundity and a gentle humor, a not-so-serious view of our existence, a pure love of life in both its finiteness and its infiniteness.
The path of love seeks to unite us with immortality through love of God. The path of selfless giving seeks to unite us with immortality, with nirvana, through action. Love is passive; self-giving is active. Jnana yoga, the path of discrimination, seeks to unite us with eternity through knowledge. By pushing away all illusions of the self and coming to know who and what we are, we become conscious of our own infiniteness.
Mysticism uses power - the utilization of power to unite us with our eternal self. When we practice mysticism, we deal with two sides of ourselves: that which is seen and that which is unseen. The part of our being that we see is the island of the first attention. The part of ourself that we're not conscious of is the ocean of our second attention.
The first step, really, is to understand where power comes from and increase it within ourselves, because without power we can't do anything, we can't be anything.
Imagine that you're standing on an island right now. This is the island of your awareness. You can explore the island; it has many parts, many sides. This is what you see and feel in your day-to-day life. But around the island, surrounding it, is something else - an ocean. Within the ocean there are different creatures; some are friendly, some are not. Out in the farther reaches of the ocean, the farther shores are found, other realities, other eternities. But in order to go to those other shores, to reach them, we have to leave our own island and journey through the ocean.
Mysticism is the study of our own island, the island of our first attention, of our awareness in this world. It's the study of the ocean, its currents, its winds, the life forms that exist in it, methods of travel. It's also the study, in its more advanced stages, of those other islands, other continents, other worlds, and of the nature of being itself. It's a very structured study.
When we start to learn about mysticism, we begin by assessing our being. Step one is to consider your island. Your island is probably not in the best of shape - part of it may be overgrown; the palm trees are not healthy; the paths need to be cut; there's a jungle that has to be pruned back and made orderly. This is not something that you do once, but as long as you're alive you have to do this. You have to keep up with it, just as you have to keep up with your yard. If you have a yard around your house, you may cut it every other week. If you let it go, soon there'll be a jungle. So, in mysticism we turn our attention to our life and we bring order into our life by constantly cutting it back - through analysis and awareness and the skillful utilization of power.
During the Arab oil embargo, those of us here in the United States became much more interested in being fuel-efficient. With the price of oil and gas soaring, particularly in the colder regions of our country, people began to become aware that they were losing a tremendous amount of energy, that they were wasting energy.
Pictures were taken with infrared film of homes in the colder regions. Infrared film is a heat-sensitive film and it records where heat is being lost in a home. A photograph would be taken of a home and the photo would reveal by coloration where heat was being lost - around the windows or the doors, through the chimney or wherever. With this knowledge, the owner of the home could then insulate those areas and conserve heat, conserve energy.