Tag Archives: spiritualpractice

Make of your life a practice –

IMG_0792  Practice seeing, seeing the first blossoms of spring

How can I live my life as a practice, a practice of whole-ness, a practice of connecting with the infinite, the Holy, the Universe?

There is only this: practice, practice, practice…

The sages of all traditions knew this.  the Mother knows this, the monks in their cells in the hidden corners of the earth know this.  It may be that the person in the next cubicle knows this.  And you know it, too.  There is only practice, from one moment to the next, from one day to the next.

What is your practice, today?  In my life, my practice has often changed.  For a time, I spent hours every day in my car, driving from small town to small town in rural Wisconsin.  Then, I began this practice, this practice that has become my life.  I talked to God.  I talked out loud to God, crying sometimes, laughing, sometimes, and sometimes shaking my fist at God.  And I began to observe my life in its unfolding, as if I was looking at my life from another perspective.

Sure, I have had to make the choices we all make.  I have had to decide whether or not to go on to school, where to live, what to do on Friday night, whether or not this person was my friend – or not.  All of the external choices have been the same.  On another level, though, I have discovered that life is a constant of only this:  practice.

Practice is only my own way of connecting the Divine, to the Holy that is in me and is in you.  I have not been limited by my practice; rather, my practice has broadened my life, my experience, and even my mind.  Through my practice, I have learned to question everything I have been taught is true or real.  There are no limits to my practice.  Like the sea, which rolls onto the beach and roils into the deepest depths, my limits are limit-less.  Through my practice, I have questioned my deepest beliefs, and I have discarded some, and still question others, continuing to wonder what is true, what holds to be true not only for me, but for all of humanity, and all of creation.

I have learned that the Holy can hold all this, all my faltering practices, all my failures, all my ignorance, all my less-than-loving self.

I have prayed, an ever-changing, evolving prayer.  I have meditated, and I still do, two times a day, most days.  I have walked my prayers.  I have talked to the grass and the trees, and to my cat.  I have cried.  I have laughed.   I have nodded into a sky that does not answer, and yet is shouting  to me.  I have sniffed the sweet, wet earth, and smelled the sweet fragrance of lilacs and rosemary and lavendar, riches.  I have visited holy places.  I have worshiped in unfamiliar places, and I have honored those whose practice I have been privileged to encounter, although theirs might not be my own.  I nod to their Holy One, who may seem different than my own, but is not.  I honor that Holy One, by whatever name.  I have visited dark places, and I have arrived into another morning, giving thanks for nothing in particular, but for it all.

I have not only “tried” many ways to stay connected to All; I have practiced many ways to stay connected.  Some of the ways I carry with me now, like a bag filled with spiritual practices instead of groceries.  I reach into the bag and take out the one I need, now.  In any day, I use my practices to stay connected to Something More, Something Whole, Something Holy – something that is in me, that is me, and that is greater than I am.

Through my practice I have learned this:  I do not have to be good.  I do not have to do things perfectly.  I do not have to work to be worthy.  I do not have to know what is right or correct in any or all situations.  I do not have to understand to accept.  I am complete, here and now, just as I am.  This is what I have learned, what I am learning.

When I remember, I can still feel my little girl’s body on the seat of my first two-wheeled bicycle.  I can feel the strength of my Dad behind me, holding onto the seat, pushing me along the sidewalk, pushing me, holding on, and then, in some moment, letting go, until I felt the freedom of that ride, that long ride that has taken me to this time, to this moment, to this day.  Then, I was practicing.  Then, I had the safety of Dad’s strength and love and joy until I took off on my own.

As we get older, what we face is different than what we faced when we were younger.  What I have faced in my life – the choices, the decisions, the moments, the sadness, the losses, the small and great griefs – is changing.  It has always been changing, although now I am more poignantly aware that my choices are changing.  And I can honestly say that the only thing that has gotten me through, the ever-changing practices I have gathered and practiced and discarded, and even those I continue today, are the cornerstone, and the one constant.

Make of your life a practice.

Exquisite moment, this moment

Life is simply, in its purest form, one exquisite moment – this moment, this moment, this moment, this…

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A few days ago, I captured one shining moment, right here, in my own backyard!

I happened to go into the bedroom, just as the sun was bringing to autumn life this tree.  I saw it!  For that, I am grateful.  I was enraptured by this tree, this shining, exquisite partner in the creation.

From Thomas Merton:  ‘As if the sorrows of this world could overwhelm me now that I realize what we are. I wish everyone could realize this. But there is no way of telling people they are all actually walking around shining like the brightest sun.’

When I think about my life – our lives –  our one wonderful, pain-filled, deep and rich life, I sometimes have the glory of knowing that life is one shining moment after another.  Mostly, I don’t see the shining moment.  I am preoccupied.  My inner state takes precedence over what I could witness if I became present.  I am busy.  I have too much to do, and so little time.  I am sad.  I have better things to do.

Sometimes, though, I witness one shining moment, and I remember that all is “shining like the brightest sun.”  This is a joy.  I don’t want it to end.  It is rich and deep and – ordinary – all at once.  I can only be present to it.  That is all I can do:  be present.

How difficult!  And how simple!

After I took this photo, I ran to the front of the house, to see how “my tree,” that wonderful witness to my later years, was taking in the shining moment of the setting sun.  Her west-ward leaning branches were shining, too.  I almost left the room to hurry to the back of the house to get my iPad so that I could take a picture.  But I didn’t.  Because of the witness of that shining tree in the yard, I plopped down on the sofa, instead, and watched, as moment to moment, one leaf after another, shone, and then dipped into twilight.

Sometimes life is so beautiful that I can hardly bear it.  I am grateful.

Four Rules for Living, #4, Don’t Be Attached to the Outcome

The anthropologist and spiritual teacher, Angeles Arrien, is credited with these four rules for living:  show up, pay attention, tell the truth, don’t be attached to the outcome.

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Not one of these “Four Rules for Living” is easy.  Simple maybe, easy enough to understand (we think we understand, anyway), but not so easy to actually live.  If we are honest, and if we are looking to live a life based on our deepest self, we know these rules are not easy.  We find them challenging.  We know them to be a daily practice, a hard practice of letting go.  We know we do not choose to live our truest Self – instead, we fall into that Self, by letting go of ego.  Hard practice.  Hard – and life-giving, ultimately.

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Don’t be attached to the outcome.

Now, this is a tough one! “Don’t be attached to the outcome.” Do your part, speak your truth –  and let it go. In other words, do your part and trust. In other words, do your part and watch what happens. In other words, do your part.

This matter of “letting go” is so often misunderstood. We do what we can. Sometimes what we choose to do will have noticeable results, and sometimes what we choose to do won’t make a significant ripple. What we “let go” of is our ego-involvement. “Let go” of controlling the outcome. Let go of your ego-attachment to what happens.

Fall into it.  Don’t swim against the tide of your ego.  Fall into it.  And what you will discover is this:  when you fall, you fall into your Self, your True Self, the Holy.

So much of life energy has been wasted – and destructive – by forcing itself on others.  Tribes force themselves on other tribes, nations on other nations.  We are critical of Russia’s military action in Syria; Russia is critical of the military action of the U.S. in Syria.  We see this waste of life energy in our own lives, in the lives of others, and we see this waste of life energy in the world.  And we know this:  life is not honored, truth is not honored, life is not nurtured by force.  And yet – we are all complicit in this waste of energy.  Not one of us is better than another.  We all act destructively, even doing so in the name of love, or honor, or nation, or religion.

If we’ve each done our work, the work of showing up, paying attention, and telling the truth, the possibility is that our work will succeed, although maybe not in the way we’ve imagined.

So often when we have ego-attachment to our actions and choices, we look for particular results. We think we’re in control, so if things go as planned, they’ll go the way we expect them to go. In that case, we also think we know what is the best way for things to work out.  We are strategists, and life does not allow for strategists!  To believe so is a kind of insanity!

Trust is the word here. Trust as a tree trusts the earth it stands on. Trust as if your life depends on trust. Trust as if you understand that all the control in the world, all the care-ful-ness in the world, cannot assure the results you want. Trust that there is Something or Someone or Some-Other out there that is in charge of the results.  And that Something or Someone or Some-Other is not only “out there,” but animating you, bringing you to life – as you let go of your attachment.

This is the hardest work in the world.  More than ever, our world needs  people who have grown up, who have done their real work – which is the work to become adult.  And that work is the work of letting go, of “don’t be attached to the outcome.”

Trust as a tree trusts the earth it stands on. “Don’t be attached to the outcome.”

Improvising life

Products56523-1200x1200-82935Jazz great Miles Davis:

“There are no such things as mistakes in jazz. Every so-called mistake is an opportunity to create something different than you were intending.”

I suppose that, in a way, we all improvise our lives. No matter what we’ve planned for any day, life seems to have a mind of its own, and “the best laid plans” are often not the actually lived plans. That’s hard on some of us, and some of us seem to thrive on this reality. No matter what we’ve planned for any part of our life, life does seem to have a mind of its own, and the route we end up taking is never completely the route we set out to take. We have to find a way to improvise, to shift gears, to make changes in our schedules or in our plans. That’s the nature of things.

Many years ago, when I was in my 20’s, I clearly remember a friend of mine saying: “I have had a charmed life.” Being a thoughtful sort myself, I could not exactly relate to my friend’s perspective on her life. What did it mean to have a “charmed life?” Did that mean that there were no problems – ever? Did it mean that things always turned out the way she had planned? Did it mean that when she wanted something, it magically appeared? What did it mean?

Then, the next time I saw my friend was after her mother had died. The spark that had been in my friend was gone. She was depressed, for a long, long time. Did that mean her life was no longer charmed? I don’t know; I never asked. But I have wondered, from time to time, whether she thought differently about her life after that.

Deaths will happen, to those we love, and to us. We won’t always succeed, even at things we think we’re good at. We won’t get the promotion we think we deserve. Our children won’t be as perfect as we want them to be. Sometimes, our children will have problems, illnesses, difficulties we can’t imagine now. Our biggest dreams will never materialize. We won’t find the magic potion for life that will give us exactly what we want, when we want it. That just isn’t going to happen.

Take this on as a spiritual practice: begin to see your life as an improvisation. See what happens! Begin to watch your life “from the outside,” another perspective, another way of looking at it. Instead of things going wrong, see an opportunity for something new to enter. If the road doesn’t go where you thought it was going to go, enjoy the scenery you have in front of you now. Explore the opportunity you didn’t think was going to present itself, but does. Make music out of a few sour notes. Enjoy the people around you, even if you don’t like them. Or go looking for other folks, you like more. Make looking for them an adventure. See where the adventure leads.

We all know “the best laid plans” don’t always work out the way we thought they would. Stuff happens; the “stuff” that happens is the “stuff” of life. Make that “stuff” work, work in your favor, work for you. Be resourceful. Use whatever comes your way. Turn left instead of right.

And trust. That’s it. Improvise.

Make sweet, sweet music.