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October 2016 Musings

In sitting with what to write for the October Musings article, it drops in to look up the word “musings.”
 
Synonyms for musing include meditation, contemplation, and reflection. 
 
“Meditate,” says the still small voice.
 
“Yes,” says the practitioner and moves to the cushion.
 
Sitting on the cushion, there is an awareness of quivering excitement in anticipation of the magic that always happens when Life is ready to instruct.
 
The breath moves in the body...attention shifts to awareness...and into exquisite stillness the inspiration for a Musings article drops in.
 
“Look at the teaching hidden in the October schedule” was the suggestion.
 
Laughter bubbles up. Life’s sense of humor is delicious!
 
Muse on “what is so” in October and hey, presto, you have an October Musings article!
 
So what does the October 2016 schedule have in store for us in terms of practice events?
 
We kick off the month with a “There Is Nothing Wrong with You” (TINW) retreat at the Monastery. On the 15th is the Ruby Anniversary of the Bridge Walk, followed by Precepts Renewal Ceremonies, and then a workshop with Cheri titled “Too busy. Not enough time!”
 
Each of these events embodies a core teaching of Practice.
 
There Is Nothing Wrong with You
“Why are you unhappy? Because 99.9 percent of everything you think, and of everything you do, is for yourself—and there isn’t one.” ―Wei Wu Wei
 
This notion of “no-self” is so contrary to our habitual orientation that we often reject it outright.
 
“Wait a minute! There is no ‘me’? Nonsense! Of course I exist! In fact, if you ask me, I can rattle off a narrative of my history, attributes, preferences, opinions, pet peeves, circumstances and experiences along with a long list of what most assuredly is wrong with me!”
 
It is at a TINW retreat that we are introduced to the extraordinary possibility that there is no “me” for something to be “wrong” with. 
 
In a crucible of compassion, we are guided to see the “I” as an aggregation of beliefs and assumptions forged by the collision of karma and conditioning. It is only because the attention is on an incessant, often self-hating, conversation in the mind that a sense of self exists.
 
Once we catch a glimpse of egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate as a process of identity maintenance, we open to compassion for that which suffers from the self-hate being leveled at it.
 

Transformation lies in the movement
from
identification with that which suffers
to
that which IS compassion.

 
In embracing the human incarnation in unconditional love and acceptance, the “self” dissolves into the joy of recognizing our nature as conscious compassionate awareness.
 
 
There Is Nothing Wrong
The Buddha taught that ignorance of True Nature is the root cause of suffering.
 
“The nature of ignorance,” says Katagiri Roshi, “is to lack deep communication with nature or the universe. It is to separate, to isolate, to create discrimination and differences, so that we can no longer communicate as a harmonious whole.”
 
In ceasing to attend to the process that divides the world into self and other, good and bad, right and wrong, we discover the harmonious whole of “there is nothing wrong.”
 
The Africa Vulnerable Children Project is the practice offering through which we embody our recognition that “separation” is really the illusion, and Life is a web of glorious interconnectedness shining with lovingkindness, generosity, and goodness.
 
We participate wholeheartedly in the lives of a community on a different continent as an acknowledgement of an awareness of our shared, mutual, interconnected True Nature. It’s not a coincidence that the acknowledgement is a celebration. The joy of Intelligence knowing itself wells up from within and spills forth in dance and song and laughter and, yes, tears of gratitude.
 
 
There Is Nothing
“Fear, worry, anxiety--these form the central core of individualized selfhood. Fear cannot be got rid of by personal effort, but only by the ego's absorption in a cause greater than its own interests. Absorption in any cause will rid the mind of some of its fears; but only absorption in the loving and knowing of the divine Ground can rid it of all fear.”  – Aldous Huxley
 
In the absence of “I,” “me,” and “mine,” attention is here. Contrary to conditioned belief, thisherenow is not empty, it’s not “nothing.” It is no-thing, or All That Is.
 
It takes practice to live in the awareness of All That Is.
 
“Taking Precepts” is the practice offering through which we commit to train to live in the awareness of all that is,
         by eschewing the “authority of the voices” and
                  by surrendering to the guidance of the Intelligence That Animates All.
 
The Precepts become our guide to living in alignment with the heart, and The Truth, the Teachings and the Holy Order become our refuge. Through this process we commit to the “absorption in the loving and knowing of the divine Ground” as our primary focus, and in doing so take a giant leap forward on the spiritual path.
 
Practice becomes less about ending suffering and more about living in freedom. It becomes less about ending “my” suffering and more about “ending suffering for all beings.” Or as the Guide offered recently, we trade having a lifelong relationship with ego, attempting to transcend it, in exchange for having a love affair with Life.  
 
The ritual of renewing Precepts annually is a powerful practice structure that trains us to keep in awareness that in each moment we are choosing to be here, awake, and present, in love, with life, instead of being behind the veil of a conditioned conversation, identified with an illusion of a separate self.
 
There is... enough
“Spiritual awakening is the difficult process whereby the increasing realization that everything is as wrong as it can be flips suddenly into the realization that everything is as right as it can be. Or better, everything is.”  –Alan Watts
 
No matter how committed we are in our love affair with life, it is the nature of egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate to assert itself and seduce us into the byways of ignorance. We can know we are back in the world of suffering when our experience of “what is” is “too busy, not enough time.”
 
The title of the workshop with Cheri is code for resistance. “No” is simply the ego’s response to life, its maintenance strategy of defining itself in opposition to what is.
 
When we encounter resistance, we use the ego’s tactic of no against it. We redouble our practice efforts to say yes to Life and no to ego. “There is enough” becomes our mantra of acceptance.  Before long that mantra may turn into “there is plenty.”
 
As we drop into thisherenow, we notice ALL there is. This orientation of everything is allows us to experience the “deep communication with nature and the universe” where “there is nothing wrong” or “everything is as right as it can be. Or better, everything is.”
 
Practice Tip
Whether or not you are involved with or participating in any of the scheduled events for October, make a commitment to practice what each event represents.

  • Practice noticing the negative messages of self-hate and turn to the Mentor instead. Record and Listen to what wisdom, love and compassion has to say.
  • Perform a random act of lovingkindness and experience dissolving “self and other.”
  • Commit to dropping the conversation in conditioned mind for a week in October. Take refuge in the Intelligence That Animates by making a recording of what is True, what you love about Practice and the gratitude you feel for the support of Sangha
  • When you hear the refrains “I don’t want to, I don’t feel like it,” “too busy, not enough time,” practice doing what ego resists!

Record and Listen
 
Please note: the practice opportunity we did not include is the Oct. 25-Nov. 17 email class on Communication. It will possibly be the subject of a future Musings article or even our next book. We hope to see you in the class!

Gasshō
Ashwini