Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The roots of Being, part VI: exactly where I am

Another specific point of understanding that came up earlier this year. 

A person I know spoke about how confusing it was to them that they lost their work whenever they weren’t in a set of formal conditions where they were with other people pursuing spirituality. 

This is such a common condition; we come to our idea of our spiritual life with a lot of theories and ideas, which are much higher than what we can actually achieve, and then we're surprised when we get out into life and it doesn't work out so well.

It's easy to be spiritual when I'm sitting on a meditation cushion at the Zen retreat or the Lake Conference Center. It's easy to be spiritual when I'm in church or at home in prayer where no one is bothering me. But these places are the places where it is in fact the greatest waste of time to be spiritual. My soul, my spiritual nature, urgently needs to be out there in the world where it's tested and asked to contribute its energy to others — not in here where it just wants to—please excuse the irreverence—suck on God's teat. It's fine to nurse at God's bosom up to a certain point, and it's necessary, but there's a point where I have to be willing to become an adult and become more responsible. I have to get out there, outside myself, and take risks and engage in forms of growth that are much more difficult. It's really easy to become an infant that breast-feeds at the heart of my work, whatever it is, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, what have you, rather than going out into the world in a different way.

I have to become more responsible; and truly, really, it's possible to spend nearly an entire lifetime without doing that. 

If I become dependent in this way, of course I'm confused; I want the rewards of effort, but without paying for them. When I become excessively dependent on the crutch of my spiritual form and my spiritual organization, the inner muscles I need never quite develop the strength they require in order to help me walk. To come back to the analogy of the plant, it's like leaves and branches; they have to grow upwards and expose themselves to wind, to risk breaking, in order to develop the strength that will support them so that they can grow and expose themselves to sun. 

I need to risk breaking parts of myself off in order to help them become strong enough to receive what is necessary for inner growth.

Well, anyway, let's not rely excessively on this analogy of plants, perfect though it is in its own way. The point I'm trying to make, once again, is that I can't be a philosopher. My ideas and my philosophy about spirituality always exceed what I'm actually capable of, and I fall into delusions about who I am and what I can do.

Another example that came up earlier this year was that of being in direct and conscious relationship with another person, which is a very simple moment and not hard to reach. Yet I'm not in that moment much, even when I do grow roots into my Being. 

That's because a simple moment like this is actually a very high form of work and it's terrifying. When I look into another person's eyes directly and with honesty, and with an awareness of exactly where I am, the branches are exposed and the wind is high. Everything in me might break; at that point that's exactly where I ought to be. 

I don't do this very much, because it's scary and I have to actually admit in a practical way that I perpetually live in the midst of the unknown when it happens. 

Yet all of the love that my feeling parts have the capacity to receive is available in just such moments; that love is everything, and I ought to be willing to risk everything to receive it. Grace wants to be within this moment. I need to see that much better. 

The problem is that I think I am capable of very high and lofty kinds of work, whereas really, the most basic proposition is quite difficult for me. If I saw this better, there would be more humility. To tell you the truth, the humility even needs to come first; because if the feeling part develops a humility, an organic shame, it increasingly develops a willingness to suffer moments like this — and that is where real work could begin.

 It wouldn't, in this case, begin on the Zen cushion; it would begin at the checkout counter in the supermarket, or on the subway train.


New Book.

This subject will be of interest to those interested in studies of the enneagram and the question of why Gurdjieff said man has six—and not five—senses. 

Click the link below to buy a copy of the monograph.

The Sixth Sense

Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

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