Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Practice You Need

Collage August 26, 2012
My goodness, here it is Sunday and I haven't posted here since Tuesday.  You don't even want to know why, the chaos around here.  It's a new day, and I have awakened with optimism.  For a long time I have seen Sunday as a free day, a sort of sabbath to rest from the things I feel responsible for, not even demanding of myself that I meditate or exercise, though I do have to follow my elaborate pill schedule and drink enough water and brush and floss and wear my compression sleeve and leg things and shoes with insoles.......Yes.  And glasses and hearing aids.  Just to stay alive. It's not easy being me.  However, Sunday is my day off from all the rest of the catastrophe.  As much as is practical.

A while back a reader asked me to write about my practice.  I'm wary of being specific about it, because my practice suits me in my circumstance and this body, and after this many years along the Buddhist path.  So for now, to start with, I want to more generally talk about what I think that path is - in other words, the overview of the practice.

Based on the prescription attributed to the Buddha that is called "the Noble Eightfold Path," I have three goals:
understand reality deeply
be fully present
Zen compels me to point out that I can't fully explain what I mean in words.  Furthermore, these three aspects of the path aren't separate. If you are entirely present and aware in a situation, that means you understand its nature, and the large nature of all reality, our interconnection, karma; and that means you will  try not to do harm by your speech and actions. These actually all point toward one goal, to practice being awake.

So maybe this is the point to use the word "enlightenment."  When I started on this path, that's what I wanted, and I understood it as a condition of no more suffering.  Of being relaxed and clear and free of stress and all those negative emotions like fear and anger, transcending pain.  I was suffering a lot then so I worked very hard, and after a while had a grand spiritual experience.  But the bliss and ease it rolled in with was eroded by the drip . drip . drip . of  life. I had a lot to learn about my own behavior, how I thought and what I did that made me suffer more than necessary.  I also had to learn that I was not going to be entirely free of suffering, that no one is.  If you read the Buddha's story/myth, he continued to suffer, too.

That learning came about through "spiritual practice," and I have done many kinds, through which I have chipped away at  my delusions and inched toward clear seeing and doing less harm.  I think I'll stop here for now.  It is Sunday, and I want to make it to coffee hour at church.  One of the things I've learned is that you have to have a community in which you feel valued and which shares your values.
p.s.  Had a delightful lunch after church with good friends and getting to know each other better.  But Panera's charges a bit much for a bowl of soup.  And you don't want to know how many calories are in a pastry.  Really.

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