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Posted: Sun Apr 24, 2005 9:32 pm
Well, I like to think of myself as Gnostic, and "on the path".
Path of what? Presence in the Now, without deception. Compassion and Joy and Spiraling Laughter Light Supernovas...
Once my teacher said I need to "immerse" myself in a practice. I assumed this meant sitting in meditation or some other formal practice, on a regular basis. I assumed it meant "discipline".
That was too difficult. I mean, every now and then I sit on a cushion like a person would drink at an oasis. But every day? Please. I have things to do.
I immerse myself in my work. I mean, I have the good fortune to work somewhere that has sustainable values, tries to help the community and environment and global situation. So, I feel that I can work with love on a project for the greater good each and every day. I don't even consider my work to be the most important. I think socializing with others and helping them cope and deal with their jobs is just as important. And I feel that as part of being on the "path", I actively try to bring grounded peace and optimism with me. not just to work, but to everyone/everywhere I meet.
am I deceiving myself? Am I not immersed because I don't sit on a cushion every day? because I don't do Middle Pillar every day? (But I do think about it every day)
I guess I'm looking for validation of my limited formal practice from an outside source... But the only one that really ought to give validation is myself...
One's Aim and Noble Ideal
Posted: Mon Apr 25, 2005 5:06 pm
In the midst of modern spirituality and all of the talk of practice and the spiritual life, there is without a doubt a certain amount of self-deception regarding spiritual practice. However, what is "enough" depends entirely on one's aim and intention; there is a great difference between a sense of Spirit-connectedness and Self-realization, and in the process of actual Self-realization there are many and diverse gradations. What is my aim, what is the nature of the Spirit's call in me? This will determine the balance of my spiritual life and what is enough for me.
There are aims that do not require much immersion, there are aims that require moderate immersion, and there are aims that require a full immersion - it all depends.
As for what kind of spiritual practice, well that depends on what obstructions we might suffer from, and again upon our aim - it's rather like medicine, which we take it as necessary. Perhaps one of the values of a spiritual teacher is helping us understand the alignment of our aim and spiritual practice.
We can say this: If enlightenment and liberation came by thinking about it apart from actual practice there sure would be a lot of enlightened beings running around here!
We can say something else too: If not for ourselves, we practice to extend blessings and light to other beings - whatever the nature of that practice may be.
So, one can do as one likes, or one can do whatever it takes - all as one is inclined to do, and all in due season. In the end each of us must find this balance for ourselves, from within. The impulse must come from within; otherwise the stream will be poisoned.
May the Mother help us bring look and see what is good for us, amen.
Blessings & shalom!
Re: One's Aim and Noble Ideal
Posted: Tue Apr 26, 2005 10:20 am
You mention there is a difference between spiritual connectedness and realization. Often times I witness a person with good intent doing no spiritual practices. They 'think' themselves to be spiritually connected, but are not. They are in the larger context of things that we are all interconnected and interdependent, however in order to embody 'connectedness' isntead of think it, means spiritual practice MUST happen and happen daily, if not twice daily.
In the hindu circles I have witnessed disciples getting initiated and they mindlessly turn their mala all the time (thinking this is 24x7 sadhana), but at the same time will gossip, lie or slander another. Turning the mala is not spiritual practice when done like this and often disciples or initiates can approach their practice like this mindless turning of the mala. Learning to do spiritual practice with the right intensity is enornously important.
But it does come from the inside. My sadhana has been from a few times a week to 8 hours per day every day at times and there is NOTHING like doing sadhana alone for 8 hours or more per day. But no one made me do it. 8 hours came from within, my obsession to commune with God with no intermediary was my fuel.
There is no awakening without Shakti or Kundalini. If a disciple does nothing to prepare that awakening, it won't happen. Yogis prepare for Shakti minimum of 8 hours per day and often times 16 hours per day in India. It's neccessary for the realization to manifest. There is no getting around it. One cannot wish it to just happen.
So, for Gabriele, I guess you would have to cultivate a clear intention to what you really want. If you want Realzation, you must work very hard in your sadhana with discipline in order to get there eventually. It must be a burning desire so in order to not run out of fuel. If you don't want to be disciplined, don't expect too much spiritual experience.
I can be blunt at times. Don't rely on Grace to do it all for you. Grace comes only after hard work on yourself.
I was afraid you'd say that...
Posted: Tue Apr 26, 2005 12:01 pm
Why is speaking of discipline so much easier than practicing it?
Why do I find myself trying to understand discipline, as if by understanding it I will know it?
It seems I am lazy since I don't have discipline... Now the hard part of being lazy is I can think of all these other activities that prove I'm not lazy... such as working 3 jobs, reading 10 books, helping 4 people. All these things I do prove I'm not lazy, and yet I know, inside, that I lack the discipline to sit on a cushion for 1 hour.
It's just amazing how many distractions and urgent things come up when I sit down to practice.
Again, the urge has to come from within, so I examine if I truly want this, or have I had many people convince me that I want this?
Invariably after practice, the answer is "Of course! This rejuvenation of the mind! This is what I am missing when I don't practice!" But is this meditation for myself, or for others? It is truly only temporary bliss, not real realization that occurs after what I assume to be a disciplined, immersive, practice.
So it comes down to will. practice trains the will. Is that it? I need to flex this muscle to train it? no, i'm missing the aim again. the line I've learned is "for all sentient beings." I'm not interested in siddhis (is that the word for "magical powers"?)
Will. Why do we train the will? It makes us more effective, powerful, focused, able to actualize our creativity. Sounds good. Except when you don't have it, how do you train it? If you do have it, why not use it instead of training it more?
Sometimes, I naturally sit. This is more like it! no discipline needed. I just gravitate to a spot and sit for 1, 3, or more hours, practicing awareness, watching my mind wander, listening to my breathing. Am I deceiving myself when I think that this natural, sporadic, practice is as beneficial as disciplined practice? And for my benefit, or the benefit of all sentient beings?
The Practice of the Spiritual Life
Posted: Wed Apr 27, 2005 1:31 pm
It may well be that for some that first there is much work and only then a larger reception of Grace occurs; yet for others it may well be that Grace moves first and then much work follows – in any case it is perfectly true that we must do our part, cooperating with Divine Grace through a dynamic surrender of active aspiration: hence by taking up the spiritual life and practice. Of course, at the very heart of the spiritual life and practice is the cessation of the doer – the cessation of self-grasping, and the play of attachment and aversion, for in this Grace accomplishes everything. Whatever is needed to this end is, thus, exactly what we must do (pun intended!).
Now here is the common struggle with spiritual life and practice – we often take up the spiritual life and practice shelo lishmah, which means “not for its own sake.” In other words we take up the spiritual life and practice with ulterior motives and vital demands. Quite naturally, if our ulterior motives or vital demands are not met swiftly enough, then we will soon lose our desire for the actual practice of spirituality. Likewise, it may be that a person does continue to practice shelo lishmah, for example wishing to appear like a “spiritual person,” but it remains only on the surface – in other words, shelo lishmah can taint our spiritual practice, as well as cause it to be on and off again. In one way or another every practitioner will struggle with this – for we all begin shelo lishmah. We enter the path seeking this or that reward, with the Desire to Receive for Oneself Alone, and eventually must comes to lishmah and the Desire to Give.
Allow me to give a hypothetical example. Suppose a practitioner began thinking of him or herself as “spiritually advanced” – as something other than a beginner in the spiritual life and practice. Then imagine this person attempts to take up spiritual practice. Quite naturally this could only be a painful and disturbing experience, and it would invoke a vital revolt. You see, there in private, inwardly, he or she would know that kavvanah (concentration) and devekut (cleaving or union) did not come easily, and likewise that direct spiritual or mystical experience was not swift to transpire – in the face of this, how will he or she continue? If they are “spiritually advanced” but find that practice does not prove so easy or does not seem suited to them – ouch! Just thinking of this one’s heart aches for such a person – you see, this sort of suffering could go on for a long time and it is a very difficult klippah (husk of darkness or obstruction) to dissolve.
Now this example is just one of many – and we all enter into the path with one version or another of klippot/obstructions, and along the way we will encounter other struggles, so we are all quite intimate with this struggle.
Here is a question: Do I have to justify my struggle, or do I need to condemn another for their struggle? Isn’t one version or another of the struggle part and parcel of the spiritual life and practice?
This seems reflected in the name Israel, which is a term for the spiritual human being – one of its meanings is: “One who struggles with God and is victorious.” Whatever my struggle, the real question is: Am I willing to see it through until it is resolved?
One thing that is truly helpful is to look and see the real cause of my present struggle, for it is something deeper than what appears on the surface. If I’m struggling with practice, then the real issue is within and behind this apparent struggle. Seeing what the real struggle is about is the first step to resolving it – awareness itself can prove liberative, and once aware we can then consider the necessary medicine for our dis-ease in consciousness and life.
In terms of will, it is not that we “train the will,” but rather that we cultivate and exercise the will – in so doing the force of will grows stronger. Yet, will is not the only principle involved in the discipline of consistent practice, for as much as the will it is a matter of the heart – intention and desire go hand in hand, and faith is the real ground of the spiritual life and practice. Indeed, the sparking of sincere faith, this gift of Grace, is our real birth into the Divine Life; it is the foundation of everything – for apart from faith, who would actually take up the spiritual life and practice?
May the Mother grant us faith and heal us; May the Great Spirit lead us in the Way, amen.
Blessings and shalom!
Posted: Wed Apr 27, 2005 3:38 pm
I remember when I first started meditation. 5 minutes of meditation was hard, it seemed to drag on and I could have destracted myself with many other activities. But after several months of daily meditation my mind got used to being silent and I began to enjoy the time to myself. I beleive you should do meditation and other activities for the love of doing them. Not to get something but for the pure enjoyment of the activity. In the begenning it may seem far away, it is alot like hard work.
It reminds me of the jogging I have just taken up. The first week I started my muscles did not feel good, I really had to put my mind in a peaceful place and plug away. This week I am sailing, I feel graceful and my muscles are enjoying the motion of jogging.
I am sure you get my point. When you are starting something new things can seem uncomfortable. You might have many other priorities, looking inside will help you to find what is good for you. There are many ways on the path, to find your way you must look inside for guidance.
Posted: Sun May 01, 2005 4:27 am
Your question about will brings up the notion that we are endowed with free will. Yet, unless we exercise free will, can we really be said to have it? So I'm wondering if we must train the will or simply make a conscious choice to exercise it.
Perhaps instead of practice training the will, it is the exercise of will that enables us to practice!
Posted: Tue May 03, 2005 10:43 am
I made a "deal" with my friend concerning willpower. She hadn't been going to school, and I hadn't been meditating. So She would go to school if I meditated for 2 hours (8-10 am).
This worked well for one day, she went to school, I sat for 2 hours. The next day, I sat for 1 hour and 56 minutes. I just got up at 9:56 am and told myself "ah, that's good enough."
Tara quit the next day, neither of us had agreed to call each other again. I didn't meditate, she didn't go to school. In fact, she didn't go to her finals, and she was in her last semester before graduating!
Why did we quit when we were so damn close to our goal? Why did I justify 1 hour and 56 minutes as "good enough" when I had agreed to sit for 2 hours? Why did Tara quit school when she was so close to finishing?
Well, I don't beat myself up about it. I know that I will sit again, and I know that Tara will go to school again (eventually).
Thank you all! I send you lots of love from Boulder!
Posted: Tue May 03, 2005 1:42 pm
I can't answer exactly why she quit school or why you did not meditate the full time.
I can say that when I began to practice I would do it regularly for awhile and then stop. The reason was business... so many other things demanded attention right then. Once I stopped it was so easy to get down on myself and think I had failed and then not start again.
What I found with meditation and many other things... if I miss a time, don't do something to my fullest, etc. I need to let go of the feeling of failure and just keep going. If I see it as a set back, I find I don't want to start again because I feel like I'm starting over. When I realize it's just a pause I am able to start back again and know that I am right where I left off.
Posted: Tue May 03, 2005 4:13 pm
How much to meditate is such a practical question!
While it might sound somewhat poetic, I've come to entertain how literal is the intention of spiritual masters, Buddhist and Gnostic, when they'll remind us that the path IS the attainment. To even HEAR this question of how much to sit is itself a grade of the calling to the path, a grade of the enlightenment experience itself! So, I sit (when I remember) for its own delight!
So long as the body gets to experience this reminder everyday somehow, the value of sitting is accomplished. We're bundles of habits, held together by habits. It seems therefore that five to ten minutes EVERYDAY seems so much more meaningful than on and off. The pendulum of saint and sinner, on the cushion for 2 hours and off, can only invoke the Accuser. But what could the Accuser say if everyday, however briefly, we gave ourselves the gift of sitting?
My experience growing in the path reminds me when I forget that 1)brief, 2)everyday and 3)for its own delight, IS a grade of the enlightenment experience itself. It almost sounds too good, too simple, to be true!
Posted: Wed May 04, 2005 7:15 am
Amen Brother Michael!
I would also like to add with regards to this accuser, a good way we set ourselves up for failure with any activity involving self-discipline, whether it be practice or working out or anything, is that we try to move from 0 mph - 100 mph in a day. We expect to go from not working out at all, for example, to working out two hours, five days a week. Gosh, when body is screaming in pain, that sure is going to lend a lot of energy to the impulse NOT to work out! Thus, in our efforts to self discipline, we undermine our self-discipline. Better to keep it pleasant, for the simple joy of it, and enjoy what practice we do, and celebrate the fact that we practiced that day, seeking to gradually push the envelope.
Practice and Discipline
Posted: Tue May 09, 2006 4:21 pm
This is a very pivotal area of whether someone will be able to receive Gnosis or not. The person who sits for 2 hours a day in meditation may be in a destructive, self-help program orchestrated through egioc consciousness. Where a person who sits for 10 minutes every few days or so, but in service to the greater Good, may be much more aligned for Gnosis. These are just a couple examples to make a point.
In the Spring 2006 Parabola magazine, their is an interview with Peter Kingsley called "Common Sense." In this interview he makes an absolutely profound statement on the real purpose of meditation. He says this: "The usual idea we have is that meditation is to enlighten us, make us better, give us peace, or whatever. But for these people, meditation is not for oneself. It is an act of service for the sake of the cosmos. The purpose wasn't to get something out of it. It was to attune oneself to the cosmos for the sake of the cosmos."
These people he is talking about are Parmenides and Empedocles; two pre-Socratic Greek Philosopher prophets, but, his real message is for all of us on the planet. This kind of approach leads to "Knowing Beyond Knowing" which , to me, is another way of describing Gnosis.
Good-bye for now, Leslie.
Posted: Tue May 09, 2006 5:54 pm
I do believe you "hit the nail on the head," as the saying goes, for there is no goal in meditation - it is simply being, and in being we are naturally attuned to the cosmos, or to the source. Perhaps the greater key, though, is the nobel ideal of service - beautiful!
May we be blessed to be of service; amen.
Blessings & shalom!
Posted: Tue May 09, 2006 7:57 pm
YES! that is a wonderful point!
Posted: Tue Jul 04, 2006 12:39 pm
Just a simply acknowledgement that this particular discussion has been very helpful to me.
The harder I push myself to meditate, the harder I push back in resistance. Let inhappen and enjoy it for itself.