"Truth is one. Paths are many."
who drive us crazy, can be our teacher.”
― Pema Chödrön
So much for that plan.
I wish it was always that easy.
I think for a lot of us, the notion of "breaking free" from the incessant busyness and demands of life and heading to the hills to escape from the myriad responsibilities that seem to tie us up in our own knots seems quite appealing. For some of us geezers who had experienced that widespread Spiritual Awakening of the 60's, "the hills" often meant heading to the ashrams and monasteries, or the hermit's huts and caves to find someone that would provide us with the Ultimate Answers to Life.
I, myself, had made a number of such journeys over the years as I stumbled ahead. My tour of duty at Zen Mountain Monastery was, I think, the final time I barked my shins on the way up the wrong tree. Once again, I realized in a fundamental way the true spiritual journey for me was one of integration, not separation from, the "full catastrophe" of Life. To borrow another notion from Jon Kabat-Zinn, I finally realized that wherever I went, there I was.
This doesn't mean that I don't think there are Teachers and Teachings and Spiritual Communities that can provide us with a degree of support and guidance along the way. The opportunity to engage in intensive meditation retreats and spiritual communal life is a blessing, and I am so grateful to have been able to dive deeply into days, weeks, and months in such settings over the years. I honor and respect those who have dedicated their lives to these efforts and will continue to sing their praises. In fact, I highly recommend that you attend a meditation retreat if you haven't yet. Even a full day or a weekend can be transformative.
|My Beloved Betsy and her Granddaughter Abby|
If we discern that our deepest yearning is to love and help out as best we can, Mindfulness Practice unfolds as both the means and the end of cultivating the clarity, kindness, understanding, compassion, and equanimity to do that. With Practice we learn to be more fully Present, to engage life with all our sensory apparatus functioning. Rather than sleepwalk through our lives lost in our thoughts and daydreams, we awaken with a full and open heart --ready to rock!
At that point, everyone and everything becomes the Teacher and the Teaching!
What more could one wish for?
(*Several years later, Ryushin resigned and left the monastery and his marriage. )