This is Week 5 of our online spiritual retreat: Beyond Self 2012. As most of you know, my goal is to provide Zen-like prompts each week (through December) for journal writing, meditation, and personal reflection. And I’ll open comments at the close of this retreat for those who want to share the details of their internal journey. Following a spiritual thread over the course of time can be revealing in many ways. I hope your “practice” is going well and that you’re discovering more about your spiritual essence. For instance …
- Are you finding ways to go beyond self?
- Are you noticing how habitual thought patterns often get in the way?
- Are you getting a sense for the need to devote time and energy to your spiritual practice each day via zazen or whatever is meaningful to you? Remember, this is something no one can do for you. Taking consistent responsibility for your own spiritual growth is a big part of this retreat in SunnyRoomStudio.
- Where are you at in terms of your spiritual evolution? What goals do you have for yourself along these lines? What areas seem difficult, maybe impossible? How does your spiritual perspective impact your day — does it bring you greater peace? Are you actualizing your spirituality or still just talking about it — still intellectualizing spiritual concepts or creating excuses that allow you to postpone the next step? Last week, for instance, did you take the initiative to find a Zen koan to meditate on? What habitual points of resistance can you try to break through this week?
- We are all learning together … we are all at different points in our spiritual evolution. There are very few “spiritual masters” in the world, even when we include recorded history.
WEEK FIVE: Beyond Self 2012
Week One: Extend Your Gaze
Week Two: Always Evaluating
Week Three: Being Brevity
Week Four: Entanglement
In my study of Zen and related concepts this summer, I read a book by Thich Nhat Hanh called Being Peace. What a wonderful title, because peace doesn’t need to be an abstract concept in our lives — an idea that merely sounds appealing. What does peace mean to you on a practical, everyday level?
And how do you know when someone else isn’t at peace when you engage with them? How does that impact you? Are you still feeling peaceful or do you get pulled in to the drama of the moment, quickly losing your focus?
- What predictable issues cause you to feel less than peaceful?
- When are you “surprised” by how agitated you feel?
- Are you extremely attached to your knowledge; do you cherish your opinions?
On a symbolic level, might this lovely autumn tree represent one opinion or many, given the number of leaves?
From the book mentioned above: “Guarding knowledge is not a good way to understand. Understanding means to throw away your knowledge. You have to be able to transcend your knowledge the way people climb a ladder. If you are on the fifth step of a ladder and think you are very high, there is no hope for your to climb to the sixth. The technique is to release. The Buddhist way of understanding is always letting go of our views and knowledge in order to transcend. This is a most important teaching. That is why I use the image of water to talk about understanding. Knowledge is solid; it blocks the way of understanding. Water can flow, it can penetrate anything.”
This week, if you’re pretty sure you haven’t reached the level of spiritual master (yes, smiling), see what you can do to transcend your “knowledge.” Remind yourself that it is never “complete,” never “true” in the way you want it to be true. And consider the merits of transcending your views and knowledge. If you find yourself feeling unwilling to communicate, cooperate, or coordinate with others, is your ego attached to a “position” … to an assumption of old that you stubbornly cling to without full understanding?
In some situations–or challenging relationships–it can be difficult to arrive at understanding. You may let frustration get the best of you. And, at times, if you have done all that is possible to open the doors of understanding, but no genuine feelings of peace are in sight, you may need to withdraw for a time. Some people dearly love to argue, regardless of the topic or reason, and if you are committed to “being peace,” you will need to decide what is in your best interests. Meditation is always a good place to begin … for most lasting answers are found within via silence.
Quiet your mind this week … are you comfortable with peace or do you actually need drama, controversy, and conflict to feel alive?
Blog by DazyDayWriter @ work in SunnyRoomStudio: all rights reserved.