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October 30, 2020

Making Our Way

by Seijaku Roshi

O! my heart now feels so cheerful as I go with footsteps light
      In the daily toil of my dear home; 
And I’ll tell to you the secret that now makes my life so bright—
      There’s a flower at my window in full bloom. 
It is radiant in the sunshine, and so cheerful after rain; 
        And it wafts upon the air its sweet perfume. 
It is very, very lovely! May its beauties never wane—
        This dear flower at my window in full bloom. 
Nature has so clothed it in such glorious array, 
      And it does so cheer our home, and hearts illume; 
Its dear memory I will cherish though the flower fade away—
      This dear flower at my window in full bloom. 
Oft I gaze upon this flower with its blossoms pure and white. 
        And I think as I behold its gay costume, 
While through life we all are passing may our lives be always bright 
        Like this flower at my window in full bloom.

— Lucian B. Watkins

Spirituality can be defined broadly as a sense of connection to something higher than ourselves, something larger than simply the mundanities of everyday life. This is not to be understood as something separate from the mundane, quite the contrary. We are called to live and find that divine connection in the everyday mundane activities and challenges, in our world as it is, and not as we might expect it to be.

Watkins poem begins, “O! my heart now feels so cheerful as I go with footsteps light In the daily toil of my dear home;  And I’ll tell to you the secret that now makes my life so bright—There’s a flower at my window in full bloom.” It points to the presence of “the flower at my window in full bloom,” as the source of joy for the observer. However what it does not consider is that it is the “observer” in the poem who is “able” to notice the flower in all its glory — “As I go with footsteps light In the daily toil of my dear home.”

The sense of transcendence, experienced in spirituality is a universal experience, but one which requires much more than imagination, (which so often can be misleading), or chance. Thomas Merton reminds his brother and sister Christians, “The fact remains that our task is to seek and find Christ in our world as it is…”. The saying, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” speaks to the fundamental “practice” of living spiritually in the world. “The secret that now makes my life so bright,” is that I have developed a way of seeing the world that allows for joy, for faith, for confidence, for steadfastness, for love and for personal fulfillment. My sense of fulfillment is not a function of what is in the world but, of “how I see what is in the world”. “The Secret,” is in how I approach “the daily toil of my dear home”. It’s never about “how the world is,” it’s always about “how I am approaching the daily toil of my dear home.”

Living Spiritually is a shift from depending on the world to be this way or that way for my happiness to, realizing that my happiness is completely dependent on how I live in the world. Beauty is everywhere, but do we have the eyes to see it. Love pervades the entire Universe, “Revealing right here right now.”

Developing the “Eyes to See, and the Ears to Hear”

“It is almost impossible to overestimate the value of true humility and its power in the spiritual life. For the beginning of humility is the beginning of blessedness and the consummation of humility is the perfection of all joy. Humility contains in itself the answer to all the great problems of the life of the soul. It is the only key to faith, with which the spiritual life begins: for faith and humility are inseparable. In perfect humility all selfishness disappears and your soul no longer lives for itself or in itself…In humility is the greatest freedom. As long as you have to defend the imaginary self that you think is important, you lose your piece of heart. As soon as you compare that shadow with the shadows of other people, you lose all joy, because you have begun to trade in unrealities and there is no joy in things that do not exist…In humility is the greatest and only true freedom.” — Thomas Merton

“One has to be alone, under the sky, Before everything falls into place and one finds his or her own place in the midst of it all. We have to have the humility to realize ourselves as part of nature, as part of something larger than ourselves.”

The late Charlotte Joko Beck once wrote that, “Enlightenment is growing up.” Living Spiritually, living authentically, demands the most heroic labor; it demands an unyielding faithfulness to what is true, to what is essential, and an unprecedented purity of consciousness. One enters into a new sphere — a new way-of-being in the world. One which is grounded in a sense of one’s personal place in the universe and how one’s singular responsibility is authenticity which inevitably leads to benevolent service, compassion for oneself and others, and love as a force of nature and not just some sentimental or romantic notion.

Back to The Future

There is a great deal of chatter about “getting back to normal”. I ask, “What normal?”

“Our pre-corona existence was not normal other than we normalized greed, inequity, exhaustion, depletion, extraction, disconnection, confusion, rage, hoarding, hate and lack.”

The present moment is a function of individual and collective ways-of-being which includes our priorities, choices, and actions in the past. We did not just show up here. We’ve been heading here for decades. The only course of action which will lead us “through the valley of the shadow of death” and to the “promise land,” is to change our current course of action.

If we are ever going to recover, if we are ever going to successfully create a more enlightened, loving, compassionate, and inclusive society, we need to stop lying about the past, we need to own our mistakes and then; Forget the past, especially the one you think existed. Let it all go! This is how we begin to heal from this pandemic and all the pre-existing suffering it brought out into the light.

“We have been given the opportunity to stitch a new garment. One that fits all of humanity and the whole of nature.”

No matter who occupies 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue come January 2021, if we return to the normalization of greed, hatred, and indifference — the only thing that will change are the actors and we will see suffering far greater than what we are witnessing today. Not only do we need new actors we need a new script, a new direction, a new way-of-being in the world. One which reflects “our place in the universe,” “our designed purpose for existence,” “our true-nature,” which reflects Nature’s way-of-being.

The first step toward recovery and reconciliation is to own the problem and the source of the problem. While I wholeheartedly agree it is necessary to VOTE so much more of us is required toward bringing about personal and global recovery and healing. We cannot just expect the actors on the stage to bring about this recovery. “We the People,” each and every one of us must own the vision for the future.

We must say, “No” to “Greed, inequity, exhaustion, depletion, extraction, disconnection, confusion, rage, hoarding, hate and lack,” as an acceptable way-of-being in the world. We begin by taking inventory and recognizing how these behaviors have defined our own lives or way-of-being in the world.

“Living Spiritually, Living Authentically, demands the most heroic labor; it demands an unyielding faithfulness to what is true, to what is essential, and an unprecedented purity of consciousness.”

We begin right where we are. Without criticism or judgement, we merely make necessary corrections in the way we think of ourselves and others; the way we communicate love for ourselves and others, and the way we behave, especially during the most difficult and challenging times.

The Buddha taught, “We become what we dwell on.” (Para) If we are always dwelling on “how bad the world is,” we become fearful, suspicious, and mistrusting. If we are only focused on what needs to be done to correct the world, we become judgmental and critical. If we are focused on thinking and communicating what is needed to heal ourselves and others, we become Bodhisattvas.

The Way of The Bodhisattva

“You who see that experience has no coming or going, Yet pour your energy solely into helping beings, My excellent teachers and Lord All Seeing, I humbly and constantly honor with my body, speech, and mind. The fully awake, the buddhas, source of joy and well-being,
All come from integrating the noble Way.”

“Right now, you have a good boat, fully equipped and available — hard to find. To free others and you from the sea of samsara, Day and night, fully alert and present, Study, Reflect, and Meditate — this is the practice of a Bodhisattva.”

“Don’t engage disturbances and reactive emotions gradually fade away; Don’t engage distractions and spiritual practice naturally grows; Keep awareness clear and vivid and confidence in the way arises. Rely on silence — this is the practice of a Bodhisattva.”

Living a Meaningful and Purposeful Life is the Only Life Worth Living

“While the understanding of spirituality differs across religions and belief systems, it can be described by finding meaning and purpose in life…Seeking a meaningful connection with something larger than yourself can result in increased positive emotions. Transcendent moments are filled with peace, awe, and contentment—emotional and spiritual wellbeing overlap, like most aspects of wellbeing.”

Shall we begin?

I Love You,
Seijaku Roshi

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