Tag Archives: spiritual practice

Doing Spiritual Work Alone-Together

It is a truism that ultimately, spiritual work is the work of one. When it comes down to it, each of us is responsible for putting in the time and effort required to grow, because no one can do the work in our place. No one can meditate for you. No one can serve in your place, or make your choices for you. Your freedom of expression may be restrained by means of aggression, but how you respond to any given set of circumstances always rest squarely on your shoulders (Philosophy of Existence 101).

Though ultimately the work of one, any individual spiritual practice that does not consciously include both the feedback and participation of others is bound to seem incomplete. While no one can do your work for you, the role of others on the spiritual path is integral in the deepest sense of the word. Our spiritual lives are embedded in social contexts that may be repressed or consciously ignored, but never truly escaped.

Including others is messy. Fellow travelers may provide helpful support and guidance when we need it most, which I’m sure we would all agree is beneficial to our respective practices. We also find ourselves having to deal with disagreements, setbacks, and other frustrations that arise in relationship and seem to get in the way of the things we would rather be doing for the sake of our own path. It can be difficult to find the motivation to help our neighbor work through their shit when we have enough of our own shit to work through.

But…

Here’s the funny thing about shit: it’s fertilizer. The very stuff that we don’t care to mix into our lives is the stuff that helps each of us grow and mature spiritually. The moments of our lives which you might regard as a waste (pun intended) of your precious time and energy are some of the most useful for your development. Difficulties can become the sustenance you need to make the journey; the fuel that powers your vessel onward.

In this day and age, when and where intimate involvement with others is nearly unavoidable by most, it makes practical sense to include others in our spiritual work in a conscious and intentional way. The responsibility to engage in your work is still yours and yours alone. Given the circumstances, don’t sell yourself short by going it alone. Instead, I suggest going it alone-together. This doesn’t mean that you simply need to learn to tolerate others enough to get by. It means that there is a potent well-spring of energy waiting for those who learn to consciously and deliberately tap into it. What better way is there to mobilize your efforts in a pragmatic and responsible way? These days, I’d say there isn’t one.

Regardless, of course, the choice is yours.

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Filed under Existentialism, Meditation, Psychology, Religion & Philosophy

Meditative Progress is Within Reach

I am providing the follow excerpt as encouragement for those of us who meditate not as ordained monks, but as householders…

Though a monastic lifestyle might be more conducive to enlightenment than a busy life within the world, when it comes to individuals rather than models all fixed preconceptions collapse. Some lay people with heavy family and social commitments manage to make such rapid progress that they can give guidance in meditation to earnest monks, and it is not rare at all to find sincere monks deeply committed to the practice who advance slowly and with difficulty. While the monastic life, lived according to the original ideal, may provide the optimal outer conditions for spiritual progress, the actual rate of progress depends on personal effort and on the store of qualities one brings over from previous lives, and often it seems individuals deeply enmeshed in the world are better endowed in both respects than those who enter the Sangha.

 Lifestyles and Spiritual Progress, by Bhikkhu Bodhi

This is not to suggest that the monastic training is irrelevant to the practice of meditation. The monastic setting may provide an optimal setting for progress on the spiritual path. However, as the familiar disclaimer states, individual results may vary. The particular setting of spiritual practice matters less than the traits of the individual, just as with music, or dance, or any other discipline worth developing.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this: don’t think you are unable to make progress in your meditation practice simply because you are unable to devote yourself to extended periods of monastic style training. If you wait to begin a practice until the optimal setting becomes available, you will more than likely never begin at all. So, learn to make the most of what you have, and know that real progress is within reach.

 

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Filed under Buddhism, Meditation, Personal Development