It seems to me that everywhere I turn these days there are epic stories of spiritual growth. Someone on the left of me is being filled with so much light that they shoot lasers from their sparkly eyes, someone on the right of me is bravely travelling inward to visit their "shadow sides". I cannot open up my iPad without inspirational memes sprinkling down on my head like so much happy word confetti. And I love it and I find myself inspired by others journeys and I am hopeful that perhaps humanity is reaching a tipping point where we will finally wake up to our interconnectedness and stop all the hateful harmful rhetoric of "them and us". But at the same time I'm gonna call bullshit on the whole thing. The pretty bows we tie around the spiritual journey these days are strangling us. If I took my guidance from what I see around me I believe I could take 7 Steps in 30 days and become enlightened and this is an insult to my soul. An insult to all of the actual work it takes to "wake up".
If a human being has decided to primarily focus on their body and chooses to be an athlete they may blog about their victories and injuries but rarely write about the millionth time they did a bicep curl. But no one becomes a great athlete without those million mundane moments of boring work. If someone decides to lead a primarily intellectual life and become a PhD they may share when they graduate or complete a grueling assignment, but no one shares about the hours and hours of reading, writing and falling asleep over their books, because its boring just as the million hours of bicep curls. But you see, intuitively humans know that to excel in athletics or academics there are years of mundane, boring toil that go into these endeavors. We know this and that is why we celebrate our athletes and scholars. But when a human being decides to dedicate their lives to spiritual growth there isn't a lot of evidence out there chronicling the million boring moments of growing up. I suspect that we even think that "enlightenment" can be bestowed upon someone just if they desire it enough. If we just pray hard enough maybe a fairy will come in the night and sprinkle us with "mindful dust".
But the truth of it is spiritual growth is made up of a million boring moments of "now".
We must be present when we feel our hearts expanding, we must be present when we feel our feet grounding so deeply that our energy roots down into the center of the earth. But we also must be present in traffic, we must be present the multitude of times we wash dishes, cook dinner, do laundry.
We must slog our way through the muddy meditations that make us sleepy. We must anchor ourselves through the meditations that we're so scattered we think we might fly away. Like any physical endeavor or intellectual endeavor that rises above mediocrity spiritual growth is repetitive and boring and often unglamorous. Spiritual growth is work just like digging a trench, it is hard, it is often dirty and for every transcendent moment of "aha" there are a thousand moments of bringing yourself back to the mundane present.
I have not been inspired to blog lately, because the very human desire to make my journey exciting has stood in the way. I don't want to put anyone to sleep with the truth of "tonight for the thousandth time I remembered to exhale and softened my irritation by 10%. Who wants to read about "tonight I did the dishes again but when I felt my feet on the kitchen mat I had a brief moment of gratitude for the hot soapy water". No we want epic stories about transcending the mundane and rising to the top of the mountain. But today I just wanted to blog to remind you fellow spiritual seekers that there are a lot of steps required to get to the top of that mountain and a lot of them are boring. But when it all comes down to it at the end of this life I would much rather have "been here" for the million boring moments than have spent a lifetime lost in the disconnected wanderings of my mind. So, maybe next week I'll levitate or something and have a great story for you, but today I just want to encourage you to keep putting one foot in front of another.
Tuesday, February 2, 2016
"The public have an insatiable curiosity to know everything, except what is worth knowing" Oscar Wilde
There is nothing more worth knowing than your deepest self, the self beyond the monkey mind. I recently heard a talk by a very senior teacher describing his intent to lead students to their own inner wisdom. As he fumbled for the right words he said "I am trying to get students to discover, no to recover, no to uncover their inner wisdom" As the deepest truths are so hard to articulate his struggle to communicate resonated deeply with me. There is something inherent in humans which is wise, which is love, which is constant. But somehow we have covered it up. What we are searching for, we already have. Like fish swimming in the sea asking where the water is we are following outside teachers asking where the peace is, where the wisdom is. In the storminess of life we have forgotten that at the eye of a hurricane there is a quiet calm place. Our lives may never slow down, but that doesn't mean we have to be tossed around by the waves of life. But we may need to do a little inner excavating to remove the covers from our calm center.
The first cover is the belief that all of our wisdom resides in our brains. Our brains are wonderful for holding and organizing knowledge but it is the body that holds deep wisdom. Intuitively you know this, when you are in an uncomfortable situation your shoulders hike, you might make fists or clench your jaw, your body is telling you your not safe. But when we come to a place of comfort our chest soften our breath slows, our body is whispering to us "relax". We must come home to our bodies before we can uncover their wisdom and we come home to them by paying attention and being curious and humble. When you are working with your body in a format like exercise have you ever taken the time to notice if your body is trusting you or not? When you make up your mind to lift that weight, do that run or jump on the mat does your body tense or eagerly energize? Our first step to uncovering wisdom is to simply familiarize yourself with your bodies subtle signals.
The second cover to our wisdom is self bullying. So you decided to go for a run and you felt your whole body tense up in a "no please" and you said to yourself "suck it up" and you do it anyways, your inner bully thinks that this is the way to become better, stronger, faster but that inner voice is wrong. We become stronger when we listen to our bodies. Our bodies are made to move, look at our structure, I am not saying no running. What I am saying is do not override your somatic signals. If the idea of a run tenses your body then do something else. Walk, nap, go swing on play ground, but do not force activities on your body unless you wish to dampen your inner voice and stifle the wisdom within. Your body is wise and it wants healthy movement, but when we force stuff on our bodies they often end up shutting down.
The third cover to our wisdom is thinking we know stuff, making assumptions about our bodies. Rather, a fundamental truth about your body is that it is constantly changing,from birth to death we do not stay the same, you are new every moment.When you assume limitations are permanent you contract your abilities and when you assume strengths are permanent you are moving away from truth. In dealing with the body curious compassion will take you deeper. If you do want to challenge yourself to run faster, lift more, whatever then inch by inch move towards that goal with somatic awareness, curiosity and compassion and your body will begin to sense you are its ally. To complete the inner journey to our highest selves we must truly befriend our bodies. Be as nice to your body as you might be to your dog.
So this blog post is nothing revolutionary I know. But it is truth. We cannot continue to live in our heads and expect a peaceful existence. We cannot continue to look to outside sources for our own wisdom. I know its a bad business move as a teacher to say I have nothing to teach you, but it is true. You already contain truth, peace and wisdom. Perhaps though we can sit quietly together for a bit and you will