The mind can go in a thousand directions,
but on this beautiful path, I walk in peace.
With each step, the wind blows.
With each step, a flower blooms.
…..Thich Nhat Hanh
there is a night wind that haunts all of us…..a certain past, family, ritual, religion, curiosity……intrigued by a new way, we juggle it all, feigning our deepest convictions….maybe we would do well, to sit quietly with it all, not be so triggered, not be so attached to our beliefs…..
Teachings may be life-altering for us, yet the person giving it may not yet embody it himself or herself.
When we learn a tradition, we get concepts thrown at us: big ideas, theories and other people’s experiences. It’s a jungle to navigate, and if we are not used to the jungle, it can be quite confusing. “This is it,” they all say. “This” for us, is still a “that”.
For us to bridge the gap between us and “that”, and realize the depth and truth of a principle or a teaching, we usually have to take what seems to be a big detour.
This is where we ourselves gain experience. Not a single generation will be able to escape this part of awakening to one’s self, yet our evolution builds on the previous generation’s trek. The detour is not a detour. It’s all we have. It’s our life story.
Does anyone have it figured out?
I personally don’t think a single human has it figured out — why we are here, what the meaning is, what will happen after this life-experience — no matter how awake they are, no matter how authoritative they are, or how many workshops on spiritual practice they have taught.
So many teachers look over a crowd instead of at the crowd.
The ideas and traditions are all mere attempts to describe something that is so near to us that we will never be able to understand it, let alone describe it using language.
If we take life’s big questions to the very point of demanding an answer, “What is the purpose of life?” for example, no one knows.
You will get many answers. But no one knows. Simple as that. It’s beyond our capacity to understand. It may always be.
It’s easy to get lost in someone else’s description, yet we really need someone else’s experience to find our own. It’s real-time evolution because when we have been taught a structure, when the brain theoretically knows something, it will shape our experience.
This is where lineage, heritage, plays it’s part: to re-shape our personal world.
Learn the sequence, then forget it.
When we hear something for the first time, most often it has nowhere to land.
We may react with a “This is simply not true, at least not to me,” or “How dare this person say or write this or that?”
We rebel against the unknown. We know it potentially has the power to get us unstuck. The reason we eventually come to terms with the risk of getting unstuck is this: the only thing scarier than being unstuck is staying stagnant in this place we are presently calling ‘reality’.
Reacting to what is new is not wrong, it is a reaction. We react from our conditioning, our previous life story. So, to break through, we have to consider the reaction as possibly being untrue.
Even if we feel strongly, even if is suits us to uphold this specific pattern, even if we are afraid, let’s consider the reaction and see what happens if you let it be only that — a reaction. Not the end. Not the beginning. A reaction.
Either what you heard is simply not true or perhaps a new perspective — a door-opener, a negative trigger that triggers understanding.
Of course, the opposite may also be true. You may have a recognition of something new and it immediately resonates with you and reveals a deep understanding. It happens. But mostly we challenge the new.
It needs to be challenged to see if it holds, otherwise we may just say Yes to someone else’s vision of the world. And if we look at the history of the world, that’s just a bad idea. Bad shit happens when we follow, without questioning, the leader or the leading ideas.
As seekers, we deeply care about freeing ourselves from the unhealthy stories we tell and live our lives by. It delights us when we start to see more clearly, getting to know that which was never, and will never be ours, yet is the only thing we have.
It is easy to become dogmatic, crediting a system or tradition for showing us a map by naming it The One.
A tradition helps us to focus, relax and understand the flow of thoughts, feelings, and the movement of spirit; yet each and every tradition comes up short.
When we have reached the end of our journey with a certain school of thought or movement (which is usually not directly after your ‘this is simply not true’ reaction to your first encounter), then you yourself put on the captain’s hat.
We are human beings, having a human experience. We will still be humans when we awaken to different parts of existence. Being human is what we are. It’s the gift we’ve been given. Why all this effort to tame the very nature of who we are? It’s a natural question to ask.
It seems we lose our ability to understand something when our energy is too scattered. When thoughts are all over the place and are too many at once, we have no chance to discern what needs our attention and what does not.
Lineage gives us tools to collect ourselves, but it doesn’t know what is really going on. It can’t. What it can do is provide one angle, one explanation out of many.
I would love to hear a teacher say that this is what it’s all about — life — right here! This is the only real we’ve got. Are you going to deny the in-your-face-here-I-am-this-is-your-life part of life and only theorize?
Seclude yourself while teaching that this life is so full and we should all be in full engagement with each other?
My practice leaves me in humility, humble before the shortcomings of myself and my teachers. It’s okay to not have it figured out. Some are into the theory, some into the application of the theory to one’s life, some into both. All of us are needed, and whatever place we are in our explorations is perfect.
Your detour will add to the collective wisdom and become part of the evolution of a tradition. Your opinion will be rebelled against by next generation who will be looked down upon by the generation after that. It’s how we grow, how we learn. It’s the gift of a lineage.
It gives a boundary, something to consider, rebel and grow against.
But never comply because someone else told you so! Or because I told you so…
May you go into the night blessed,
May your soul calm, console and renew you.