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February 2024 Musings

The basic idea of Zen is to come in touch with the inner workings of our being, and to do so in the most direct way possible, without resorting to anything external or superadded. Therefore, anything that has the semblance of an external authority is rejected by Zen. Absolute faith is placed in one’s own inner being.
— D.T. Suzuki
We’re deeply conditioned to follow the compulsion of conditioned karmic patterns of thought and behavior, lulled into a conviction of the “rightness” of our obedience by the authority of familiarity. More so than “external authority,” it is this “inner authority,” the command center we rely on to navigate the “world,” that stands in the way of experiencing “one’s own inner being.”
In the marketplace of voices that is our internal landscape, “inner authority” (conditioned mind) is almost always in opposition to “inner being” (still, small voice). Even if we are aware of the unhappiness of being perpetually at war with ourselves, we are very often unable to choose “inner being” over the conditioned compulsion to consult the “inner authority.” This recognition that “I” am not at choice is humility.
Humility prompts us to seek guidance. All learning begins with an admission of “not knowing.” Spiritual practice is no exception. Intuitively, we sense that there is wisdom in consulting someone who has already made the journey, someone who can show us the way, and so we seek a Guide.
Before the spark is lit there is no witness to perceive the difference. The person may be conscious, but is not aware of being conscious. It is completely identified with what it thinks and feels and experiences. The darkness that is in it is of its own creation. When the darkness is questioned, it dissolves. The desire to question is planted by the teacher. 
— Nisargadatta Maharaj
Guidance is an invitation to be aware of being conscious, to question the darkness by looking from awareness. While guidance is usually offered in terms of the content that the practitioner brings to it, the Guide’s real reflection is always, “Do you see who you authentically are?”  
Most likely, the practitioner has to work through many layers of ego identification before arriving at an answer to that question! But it is understood, by both the Guide and the practitioner, that awakening to the truth of our True Nature is an ongoing dialog. It is within the protocol of guidance, in listening to the “outer guide” and looking for the resonance within, that the practitioner trains to calibrate to and trust the direct experience of “inner being” over the “inner authority.”
But seeking guidance doesn’t mean the “inner authority” won’t resist the “outer authority.” The hubris of the ego often gets in the way of the humility necessary to stay the course.
With spiritual practice, the starting premise is that those who seek guidance are looking for assistance to see what they cannot yet see—their own Buddha Nature. The teacher can see the practitioner’s Buddha Nature; the practitioner is training to arrive at the teacher’s clarity.
However, from a conditioned orientation, any disparity of clarity creates a hierarchy. Guidance is seen to come from a “spiritual authority” and is (mis)understood to be sacrosanct, inviolable and absolute. It is assumed that obeying guidance is not optional, whether one agrees with the guidance or not. In fact, almost everyone’s conditioning leads them to believe that violation of guidance is viewed by the external authority (Practice/the Guide) as making a choice for the dictates of egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate, as making a choice to perpetuate suffering, as making a choice  against Practice. Non-compliance, one fears, may result in the direst of consequences—the disapproval and disappointment of the Guide, the expulsion from the Practice, withdrawal of support, love and wisdom on the spiritual journey. 
The results of this orientation are predictable. Fear of the consequences of not following guidance becomes the reason to follow it. Resentment builds towards the Practice as guidance almost always thwarts the “inner authority,” which reacts by blaming the Practice structure for “not being allowed to do what it wants.” This leads to one of two outcomes:

  1. quitting the Practice so “I” is free to do exactly what “I” wants without needing “permission”
  2. being selective about what is brought into guidance

Over time, “my” practice is dictated by the very process that I sought to overcome, but since my identity as a spiritual practitioner is so well established, it never occurs to me that practice is being done on ego’s terms.  
But what if guidance is not viewed the way we are conditioned to view it? What if guidance isn’t telling us what to do or not do? What if guidance is seen as a loving invitation to be curious about what binds us, to dispassionately comprehend what perpetuates suffering? What if we can sidestep the immediate ego reaction to “making it all about me”...
Do I like it? Do I not like it?
Do I understand it?
Do I agree with it? Do I disagree with it?
What should I do about it?
Can I question it?
How do I act on it?
Can I follow it? What if I don’t want to follow it?  Does that make me the wrong person?
It’s not what my “intuition” is saying. Does that make the Practice wrong?
I should be able to do what I want. It’s my life after all.
...and instead explore our reaction to the perspective being offered? Because if we did stop and look with curiosity at “what reacts to guidance,” we are bound to see the fantasy of inner authority that guidance is attempting to reveal. 
A myriad bubbles were floating on the surface of a stream.
'What are you?' I cried to them as they drifted by.
'I am a bubble, of course' nearly a myriad bubbles answered, and there was surprise and indignation in their voices as they passed.
But, here and there, a lonely bubble answered,
'We are this stream', and there was neither surprise nor indignation in their voices, but just a quiet certitude.
— Wei wu Wei
Resistance to following guidance appears to stem from the confusion that guidance negates us rather than expands our definition. Staying with guidance allows us to recognize that nothing is given up in surrendering identification with being a bubble. The quiet certitude that “we are this stream” is still experienced by a bubble for whom there is no contradiction in being a bubble AND a stream. In fact, it is in abiding by guidance, practicing the choice for inner being over inner authority, again and yet again, that we grow in the freedom to be unique expressions of ourselves. 
So what is “abiding by guidance” as we grow in recognition that the spiritual trajectory is towards the deepest call of our inner being (thy will be done), while the compulsion of a karmic destiny (my will be done) fights to fulfill itself “externally”?
We are not here to create and cling to beliefs. We are here to pay attention. We are here to use everything in our experience to see how we cause ourselves to suffer so we can drop that and end suffering. 
— Short Recitation
Desire, the root cause of suffering, the compulsion to follow the “inner authority” and do “what I want,” is, apparently, not transcended by suppressing or eliminating the compulsion. As the Guide suggested recently on Open Air, we’re here to have every experience—desire thwarted, desire fulfilled, fears confronted, fears avoided, doing what we want, avoiding what we don’t want, until we prove to ourselves that the happiness we seek isn’t the result of following the inner authority. 
In other words, as we say in the short recitation, we will choose suffering until we see the futility of choosing it! In the interim, we can support ourselves to follow the foundational guidance of Awareness Practice and “pay attention.” We can practice bringing conscious awareness to whatever we do or do not do. By choosing to direct attention to Awareness as we live our lives, we deepen our intimacy with “inner being,” with the awareness that we are, discovering in the words of Rupert Spira:
Only that which is always with you can be said to be your self, and if you look closely and simply at experience, only awareness is always ‘with you’.
Some other considerations:
Guidance is never given unless it is solicited.
Guidance isn’t prescriptive; it is always an invitation.
Guidance isn’t a directive to act; it is an encouragement to be curious.
Guidance merely points the way. The practitioner makes the journey.
Guidance isn’t enforced. It is up to the practitioner to keep the dialog going, to clarify what isn’t understood, to share what is being seen, to report back on the exploration.
Guidance doesn’t judge a practitioner for having an ego or getting identified with ego. However, there is a projection that the practitioner is grateful when ego is revealed, no matter how resistant the ego is to surrendering to guidance.
Add your own….



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