Monthly Archives: July 2012

Breathing as Practice

Buddhist teachers recommend using one’s breath as a way be aware and mindful. I’ve been using this as a meditation for some time.

Yesterday I was reading about how freedom and happiness require that we neither cling to nor reject any aspect of reality, but only notice, embrace and let go.

It occurred to me that my breathing practice encompasses this idea. When I breathe in, I am not clinging to or clutching the air, simply pulling it in for a momentary embrace.

When I breathe out the air, I am not rejecting it or recoiling in distaste, I am simply letting it go away naturally.

My breath can now remind me of this lesson so that I will continue to learn from it.

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98%

At this point in my life, I feel like 98% of me is practical, hopeless, rational, uninspired, duty/drudgery-oriented.

This part is a tool and should be used as such.

The 2% that still believes in magic, love, hope and dreams, the 2% that knows how and wants to laugh and connect with others, that part should be running the show.

So Big

Sometimes I surf the internet, like bein’ at the seashore, and I realize that, wow, this ocean is so freakin’ big. I’m just a tiny wave makin’ my way up the beach. Raising even tinier waves.

It’s just so big.

Unitarian Universalism

I have made lots of excuses as to why I haven’t actively pursued this group.

But I have been reading the book A Chosen Faith by John A Buerens and Forrest Church, and this morning I read something that pretty much clinched it for me, in terms of this being the perfect “institution” to align myself with in hopes of satisfying my desire for spiritual community and regular gatherings.

I did not know the idea that “universalism” stood for until I read this:

Standard Christian theology divides the saved from the damned. But universalism is the teaching that ultimately God will save all souls: universal salvation. It finds the notion of permanent damnation to an everlasting hell incompatible with faith in a loving God.

Exactly. Just like the Buddhist vow to leave no man behind/not to enter Nirvana until everyone enters Nirvana.

It also just occurred to me that, even if I decide I don’t want to join the nearest UU church, that doesn’t mean I can’t be UU. The closest church is not the only opportunity in the world for fellowship and guidance on the UU path.

News flash. Sometimes my head gets stuck in a rut and that’s the end of me. That’s why it would be helpful to have people in a similar frame of mind to give me feedback and support.

Further Realizations

My Mom helped me with an analogy last night when we were talking about my deep urge to find a spiritual path. When I talked about what Jack Kornfield said about needing to “take the one seat” and dig one’s well deeply, as opposed to flitting around sampling nectar from every source but never making any real progress, she said that a river has many tributaries.

I could tell from the moment she said it that this analogy would make for some delicious brain food.

In some truly insightful ways, a spiritual path is like a river; flowing to the Oneness of the Sea; following the terrain by taking the lowest position; feeding, washing, healing and inspiring beings along the way; becoming deeper, wider and calmer as it moves along; finally to lose and find itself completely in the Ocean of the All as One.

And is any river fed by only one source? Does any river purposely dam up the inflow from any particular spring, creek or brook? Does it refuse to accept rain that has blown in from a certain area, or reject melted snow for its chill?

I can see how Kornfield’s recommendation to follow one path deeply rather than many paths shallowly is another way of saying to be a river, to have a course and a way rather than to simply spread oneself thin until one is just a scattered collection of puddles that evaporate quickly in the midday sun.

But each of us must travel our own path, and so to give it a label is deceptively simplistic. “I am a Christian.” “I am a Buddhist.” Does that really mean anything at all, other than what the listener assumes it implies based on their own personal understanding?

In the book A Chosen Faith by John A. Buehrens and Forrest Church, D. H. Lawrence is quoted on the subject of religion: “A person has no religion who has not slowly and painfully gathered one together, adding to it, shaping it; and one’s religion is never complete and final, it seems, but must always be undergoing modification.” This resonates with me deeply, having begun my gathering in earnest at age 13 and never having settled or called my basket full. I bristle at the idea of being choked into unconsciousness by a label, church or path that does not allow for my full participation with eyes and heart open.

The authors then summarize Lawrence’s opinion as it relates to traditional concepts of religion vs. this more fluid approach: “For him, religion has little to do with a body of beliefs or practices; it represents a gradual process of awakening to the depth and possibilities of life itself.” And indeed this is also my view; religion has to move with the terrain also, has to respond with compassion, be informed by humility, and participate in harmony. Anything that attempts to be a rock in the way of the flow will be worn down, turned to sand, and washed out to Oneness with everything else.

I am water.

And yet I desperately crave fellowship, guidance and validation (or thoughtful challenge). I see others who take on labels finding such things. But what does a person have to give up to belong?

Have to Choose

I found a wonderful book called A Path With Heart by Jack Kornfield, a psychotherapist who trained as a Buddhist monk.

I just finished chapter 3 which deals with the importance of going far along one path rather than simply dabbling. His analogy: “It is as if we were to dig many shallow wells instead of one deep one.”

He is very careful not to judge any path as better than any other; “…it is crucial to understand that there are many ways up the mountain — that there is never just one true way.”

His criteria for choosing seems to be contained in this sentence: “We need to choose a way of practice that is deep and ancient and connected with our hearts, and then make a commitment to follow it as long as it takes to transform ourselves.”

I completely resonate with his advice and his approach to spiritual growth, but I always end up in the same place – what to choose? According to his suggestion one’s discipline needs to be “ancient,” which precludes making something up. Unless what was made up was composed of ancient elements.

But none of the established spiritual paths sings to me. I do not feel called, drawn, welcomed, inspired, beckoned, or otherwise pulled or pushed, either by an outer or an inner force, in any particular direction far enough to call it my path.

I can recognize that in my life, I’ve dug many, many shallow wells. None has struck any more water than can allow a brief taste of sweetness. I want to dig a deep well, beyond roots and rocks to the fiery core.