Common Sense

According to the dictionary common sense is practical wisdom.  Practical wisdom is the ability to apply knowledge to a situation in order to gain a favorable result.  Courtesy is a form of common sense, like saying please and thank you, eating with utensils instead of fingers (unless that is cultural), or acknowledging greetings from other.  Sometimes there isn’t a lot of agreement on what is common sense.  However, let’s explore some ideas about common sense in spirituality.

The-sacred-lifeThe dharma of Amaraji Maha Marai is based on the belief that each individual is a spark of divine light, that all beings arise from One Source, that humans have been gifted with the ability to imagine and analyze situations in order to respond to them.  Humans, therefore, are blessed with the inner need to express love, joy, peace, light, and life.  These are qualities not emotions.  The path of spirituality arises when an individual seeks to expand, understand, and share these divine qualities in whatever way is possible under current circumstances.  This drive to embrace our divine nature constitutes souls’ imperative to seek union with a Higher Power.

 Let’s look at some common sense objectives for a spiritual seeker. When we are attempting to find something it helps to have a general idea of where to look and where to not get bogged down.  That’s the idea on the spiritual path.  The first thing to do when taking a journey is to create an inventory of what you have and what will be needed then we acquire things along the road.

  1. We know our personal ethical code and adhere to it even when it’s inconvenient and we are tempted to do otherwise.
  2. Take inventory of one’s benefactor qualities and do an honest assessment of one’s harmful and detrimental behaviors. Then accept that both these things are true about the self and while modifications can occur we will never really be rid of either of these things.  In other words accept all of what we are as a human being.
  3. Accept that there is no utopia and never will be. Life is not fair.  There is no way to create a perfect life, a perfect relationship, work with the perfect teacher, or belong to a perfect community.  Instead, we grow, evolve, forgive, and try again many times.bigstock-Child-sitting-on-a-rooftop-and-12160391-300x209
  4. Find a reliable teacher to assist in expanding your promise, your gifts, as a soul. But don’t expect the teacher to be perfect…if you’re lucky the teacher will be a full human being who has learned from his/her mistakes and wants to help you learn from yours.
  5. Ash-E-Tah needs to be a daily practice. Ash-E-Tah means accepting what is and looking for the sweetness that is also available even in the midst of horrible events.  We all live life between one challenge and the next upsetting event…however, there is usually quite a lot of time (hours if not days/weeks/months) between difficulties.  Our life can be lived by focusing on the space between the tiger and the dragon.
  6. The human brain is hardwired to problem solve. When we perceive a challenge the brain kicks in to figure out how to survive, even if it isn’t our direct problem.  Over exposure to tragic, horrible, disastrous, emotionally draining events that we can do nothing about is detrimental to our physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.  Common sense dictates that we limit our exposure to bad news and focus on helping where we are actually able to make a difference. This keeps us strong in difficult and dangerous times instead of depressed and burned-out.
  7. It is common sense to accept that we are not indispensable. We may be important in the lives of many people but they got along somehow in the world before they met us and they will get along somehow if we are no longer available.  It’s ego to never take a regular time out for rest, play, and sanctuary because others “need” us to be there for them.  As Gandalf said, you are just a little fellow in a very large world after all.  We have been chosen to offer our gift…but so has everyone else.  Our job is to do what we can and let others take care of the rest of the problems.tumblr_mlipahaKVj1qhmhdfo1_500
  8. Because we seek enlightenment we are bound to acquire some sooner or later. Most enlightenment is about our behavior, habituated choices, cultural conditioning, and coming face-to-face with personal entitlement.  This is why true enlightenment often results in our saying- Oh, shit!  The common sense of discovery is to see or recognize what was and make a plan to free/liberate ourselves from that suffering.  So, retroactive guilt, guilt that comes from feeling bad because we were ignorant and did harmful things is not useful.  If, however, we continue the behavior after we know better guilt could assist in making positive change.  By and large, however, guilt is not helpful.  Shame is not helpful.  Deciding to make a new plan, a new life, a new attempt to do better- that’s helpful!

This is a short list of a common sense approaches to spirituality.  There are undoubtedly many other items you could add to this list.  Perhaps the most important advice of all is- ask questions, try things out for yourself to see if they work for you, and remember this is your journey to the ultimate union with the Higher Power.  Others have left a trail, a path, even a road…make sure their way is the best way for you

Decisions in Wisdom

Life is an experience. There is no way to avoid the experiences life presents. We are affected by the weather, by what we eat or don’t eat, by having a home or being homeless, by the quality of the air, the water, and the thoughts in our minds. We are affected by the news, social media, movies, books, the games we play, the conversations we have, and the communities to which we belong. Interdependence is a truth and there is nothing we can do about it other than develop skillful discernment.

GalaticAlignEyeSometimes we get the impression that being wise means being perfect or not making any mistakes. Striving for perfection is considered a sound business goal, a necessity in education, and a religious ideal, but that striving in and of itself is unwise. Many times, it seems we have only two choices- be 100% right or guilty and a failure for being wrong. Neither of these choices are particularly logical.

Everything changes. What was wonderful and beautiful one day might be on the compost heap another day, like the flowers from a birthday or anniversary. Wisdom comes from the ability to respond to life and adjust our response when the results require it. Life has cycles. Sometimes we have lots of energy- physically, mentally, or emotionally- and sometimes we are unmotivated and just plain tired. Wise decisions come from seeing what is needed where we are.

Of course, the modern world of work and family, doesn’t allow for cycles. If we enter a time of low energy we are expected to find a way to bring that energy up to the level we are being paid to uphold. If we enter a time of quiet or contemplative thought people are asking us what’s wrong. When someone is experiencing grief, there is an expectation that it can only last for so long and then it needs to be gone. And if old memory upsets arise we are told the past is past and needs to be forgotten. No wonder so many modern people end up with a drug or alcohol problem.Wisdom-Quote-10

So, what can a spiritual person do? The first possibility is noticing if we are responding to life or reacting to life. When shit happens we probably have an internal reaction to that shit. This is called an emotional arising. If we act on that emotion it is often a mistake. To respond, we must develop a pause. Whatever emotions we experience, even the most desirable and wonderful kind, like love or joy, require a pause before a decision is made. The pause can be three minutes, three hours, three days, or three weeks. It needs to be long enough that we can emotionally move out of arising into contemplation. We enter contemplation to ask questions. How does this opportunity fit into my overall life goals? What will I need to change to engage this energy, and will those changes be beneficial over the long haul? Sometimes, we might ask what does this (thing, idea, emotion) have to do with peace? How will this create more love for everyone? We can even ask- What would Jesus do? Or Buddha? Or any Great Being that we admire. Or perhaps use my personal favorite- Will this matter after I’m dead?

wiseAn excellent way to determine wisdom in decision making is a simple statement- Results Matter! If we don’t like the results we need a better plan. If a better plan doesn’t do it we need to drop it. We can have the best of intentions and then discover that the results have created suffering for ourselves or others. That means we made a mistake. Most mistakes are not fatal. Life is about learning by trying and doing and making lots of mistakes along the way. When we truly understand this, we can begin to be with what is. This is wisdom on the spiritual path.

I vow to be with what is:
if there’s a cost, I choose to pay it.
If there’s a need, I choose to give.
If there’s pain, I choose to feel.
If there’s sorrow, I choose to grieve.
When burning, I choose heat.
When calm, I choose peace.
When starving, I choose hunger.
When happy, I choose joy.
Whom I encounter, I choose to meet.
What I shoulder, I choose to bear.
When it’s my birth, I choose to live.
When it’s my death, I choose to die.
Where this takes me, I choose to go.
Being with what is, I respond to what is.

Wisdom is often confused with knowledge. We are taught that if we know facts and lots of them we will be happier and wiser. Knowledge that is not practical and that doesn’t help us to be better human beings doesn’t lead to wisdom. Sometimes, it’s even unnecessary information. Maybe it’s information that we are unable to do anything about like the suffering of people in war zones around the world. Constant knowledge of those facts can lead to emotional suffering or the callousness to feel nothing. How much news or social media we chose to expose ourselves to on any given day requires a decision in wisdom.

Sometimes facts are irrelevant. Let’s take the example of a Hindu yogi who lived most of his life in a small forest monastery and was much sought after for his holiness and spiritual wisdom, but didn’t understand that the Earth was round. “It’s always looked flat to me,” was his response when told this fact and he was uninterested in changing his mind.

blessed_620Often the wisest person is the one who has a simple formula for life. We can adopt one of these for ourselves or create our own statement that keeps us steady on the Path of Wisdom.
“Even the smallest person has a contribution to make.”
“Love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart and your own mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
“Give to others only what you are willing to receive yourself”
“Today, I will do what I can.”
“My actions are my only possession. I am the heir to my deeds. My deeds are the ground on which I stand.”
“The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.”

Spirit’s Job

To be a worker of the light a preparer of the way it’s helpful to focus on one of three energies:  love, joy, or peace.  Pick the one you think will be easiest or the most desirable in your life.   In order to prepare the way for one of these energies, you need all of them, but pick just one for identification purposes.  I am a being of love.  I am a being of joy.  I am a being of peace.

main-qimg-3bd3f2b1bb3591151590a059ca5f4305Think of it as a job description.  Once you understand what the job is, you must learn how to demonstrate it successfully.  Wherever you find yourself daily in life is the place for practice.

Create a symbol to remind you of this energy – wear it, associate a color with it, write it on your mirror, post it on the refrigerator, or write it on the dashboard.  Do whatever it takes to remind yourself of this energy that is your special job as a light being.

As with a job description, write down the activities, thoughts, behaviors, gifts, and ways to express a demonstration of this energy.  List the job’s goals.  List specific activities and details.  E.g., to bring joy, smile; to bring love, show compassion and bring comfort; to bring peace, work with interfaith activities, such as the Habitat for Humanity.

Don’t choose joy if you think of yourself as shy and retiring or need lots of approval.  If you are too fond of another’s approval, you won’t be able to demonstrate love, either.  You must be bold to demonstrate love.  It requires courage to forget about you.  Peace is about bringing people of differing ideas together for the greater good, such as sharing food with those who are hungry.  By the way, mark your calendars for each Sunday to remember to bring food donations for the food bank.  Give away is part of preparing the way for peace.  But if you are too busy or feel unworthy, peace is not for you.

Uh, oh.  Looks like you can either learn this job as a way of life or be guilty, angry, frustrated, and disappointed.

Add I am a preparer of the way, a light being of ______ and I accept this truth into my life now to your daily prayers or meditation practices.hqdefault

You are going to have barriers.  So what?  When you really want something, you find a way to get it.  You manage to create whatever is important to you in your life.  Mostly demonstrating these energies costs nothing.  Smiles are free.  Compassion is free.

However, being a preparer of the way will cost you your pride.  Fear prevents you from being a being of light, from being a spiritual master.  Get over yourself.  Little self is of no value.  Eternal life is freedom from all the little deaths created by fear.

Notice, I am not giving you a choice to not be a preparer of the way.  Which if the three energies will you choose?  If you need to, “fake it till you make it.”  Eventually it will become real.  Be bold!

Why Be Monastic?

Time and again people ask us, “Why on earth would you want to be monastic?  Are you trying to escape from the world, or what?”

481567479-56a0c46d3df78cafdaa4d775Becoming a monk or a nun is a vocation.  It’s a calling from Divine Spirit to lead a life of prayer, immersion in the dharma teachings of a spiritual pathway, and an opportunity to live in community.  Living in a monastic community means living with people who may, or may not, be your friends, which then creates an opportunity for acceptance and compassion. Monastic community creates a society dedicated to the common purpose of thinking, praying, meditating, working, and living for the benefit of all beings.

True Prayer and meditation is the ability to harness Divine Mind (the One Mind) to declare and know healing, peace, light, harmony, generosity, and compassion for the needs of others.  The monastic life requires hours of focused attention to being awake in the moment.  When we are awake in the moment it’s possible to choose compassion, kindness, generosity, fearlessness, and hope.

suffering.jpg.e0ba387663cfd689d3b50b560c59a3e0Every day billions of humans on this planet are THINKING!  They are thinking into the One Mind of infinite possibilities.  And from all that thinking decisions are made.  It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what the majority of humans are putting into the One Mind, and into action.  We see it in the news, on Facebook, and in the public marketplace.  Anger, hatred, contempt, despair, hopelessness, violence, and domination are the ugly manifestations millions of humans are constantly projecting into One Mind, no wonder the spiritual teachers tell us this world is hell.  No wonder so many are suffering.

Yes, there are good people, kind people, and generous people everywhere!  But even good people are often filled with anger and despair at the state of the world.  Stress and anxiety has been determined to be the number one disease of the 21st century.

Monastics train, daily, hourly, to send thoughts of loving kindness, peace, healing, and compassion into the One Mind generator of action.  It is a life dedicated to creating light in the darkness of world mind.  Throughout the ages humble souls, dedicated souls, sensitive and generous souls have given up the things of the world (money, possessions, power, prestige, family, and relationships) to devote their lives to prayer, meditation, and service to those in need.

Monks and nuns do not run away from the world.  They chose to renounce ordinary life and enter a world of devotion, to become a Bodhisattva in hell.  Perhaps we should honor their courage, their sacrifice, their unremitting determination to free all beings from suffering!


Spiritual Seeking

Youll-be-thatDuring the last one hundred years there has arisen a longing to understand the nature of reality, genuine humanity, and the true nature of the Divine, often referred to as God.  Spiritual seekers have arisen across cultural, ethnic, and educational backgrounds searching for an answer to the “Great Matter of Life and Death.”

For thousands of years humans had mostly been content accepting definitions and understandings of the Great Matter through organized religions.  A spiritual seeker investigated Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, or maybe Shinto religious texts and teachings discovering which faith group seemed to resonate within their soul and became a member of one of the various sects associated with that belief system.

But, as people lost confidence in organized religion there arose a movement toward a new understanding of who we are, why we are here, and where we are going.  There developed a demand for innovative and even firsthand experiences of the Divine.  The most important questions a spiritual seeker asks has to do with our relationship with the Divine Spirit within.  We ask and answer many, many times, discovering greater depths with each exploration.

Who am I and what is my purpose for being?

What does it mean to be awake?

What legacy will I leave?

Am I connected to Mother Nature and all life?

What and who inspires me?

How can I serve life and spirit?

How might I find peace and live it?

Who benefits from my life?

How can I cultivate compassion, generosity, and a loving heart?

27C6BC6800000578-3046897-The_number_of_schoolgirls_at_risk_of_emotional_problems_has_rise-a-4_1429525696475Unfortunately, with modernistic thinking, spirituality has gotten mixed up with emotional needs, and self-fulfillment.  So, people decide to judge a sangha or spiritual circle on the basis of how good one feels belonging to the group.  So the questions tend to take this form:

Are these people welcoming and non-judgmental?

Are my opinions valued and implemented?

Am I feeling happy and uplifted?

Am I loved unconditionally?

Am I being healed from my childhood traumas?

Can I trust these people in an intimate relationship?

Do I feel respected?

All of these are excellent questions, and yet…is getting our personal needs met the responsibility of a spiritual teacher or a sangha?  The members of a spiritual learning circle are unlikely to be perfectly loving, kind, welcoming, and totally focused on us and our needs at all times.

When we say we don’t want to be judged- does that mean we can’t accept correction, suggestions, or teachings that don’t make us feel good?

When we say we want our opinions to be heard and implemented- does it mean we expect others to do what we want regardless of whether we know what we’re talking about or if our judgment is helpful or in line with the vision held by that group?

Isn’t it a personal responsibility to learn how to be happy and uplifted regardless of how others treat us or what is said in a dharma talk?

If we are loved unconditionally- does that translate to “don’t tell me how my behavior affects you, because it will make me feel bad about myself?”

Trust happens when we share a vision, a dream, a work, a life.  Trust isn’t something people have to earn from us, it’s a gift of accepting diversity of thought and focusing beyond our childlike emotional neediness.  And respect comes from self-acceptance. It’s not a permission given by someone outside of ourselves.

dark-light-wallpaper-005When we find a true teacher or spiritual circle we will discover that the things we thought should be provided for us are the very energies we need to make available for self and others.  Opening the door to our Divine Nature will shatter our delusions of desire, need, and self-indulgence.  We will stand before the mirror of Truth and begin to understand that we are born to contribute.  We will discover that we have been given a precious human life to imagine and create a world without war, hunger, and greed.  Ego-naked before Divine Source we are challenged to be greater than we ever thought possible, to forget the little self, and become a burning light in the darkness of hell.

Practical Duality or Delusional Duality

dualityWhen we incarnate we enter a world of duality, an experience of separation.  In a realistic sense this is important.  We are able to recognize objects, people, and animals as distinct from ourselves, we interact with our environment and the entities and objects within that environment.  We learn that fire burns, animals can bite, and rocks are hard.  We also learn more subjective identifications such as- good and bad; right and wrong; happy and sad; beautiful and ugly.  Duality is the existence of pairs of opposites.

In metaphysical spirituality, we are taught to strive for oneness with all things, to let go of separation, and understand that we are interdependence upon one another.  Teachings often speak of the importance of emptiness, that thoughts and things do not have independent origin but arise from other things.  Sometimes we are told that this world is a delusion and that nothing that happens here matters because we are destined for heaven, nirvana, enlightenment, and bliss.

Left or right on handsDuality is both illusion and reality.  How can that be?  Well, let’s take a pragmatic approach.  In life on a day to day basis it’s important to know left from right, up from down, forward from back, hot from cold, and open from closed.  If we can’t tell left from right or up from down we have a cognitive disability.  If we can’t distinguish between hot and cold we can injury ourselves physically.  It’s also helpful to know if a door is open or closed.  So, duality in this respect, has a utilitarian functionality.  Even fully enlightened beings still need to maneuver in daily life, just like everyone else.

Then, there is the duality of Delusion.  This can be extremely subtle and is the true cause of suffering.  Great Spiritual Teachers have told us that suffering has a cause and discovering that cause allows us to find the path to liberation from suffering.  The duality of delusion arises from opinion, beliefs, attitudes, and judgments.  For example:  good and evil, right and wrong, neat and messy, beautiful and ugly, whole and broken, or happy and sad, man and woman, us and them, etc.

'Cleanliness is next to 'clean room' in the dictionary.  Look it up.'I am not saying we shouldn’t have opinions, beliefs, attitudes, and discernments.  What we want to examine is how some of these things lead to suffering for ourselves and contribute to the suffering of others.  Let’s start with neat and messy.  As a child, or as a parent, we were probably exposed to this concept.  If the parent has a standard of neatness that has to be met…or else.  What happens?  Angry words.  Tears.  Resentment.  Feelings of not being loved.  All of these are a cause of suffering.

In relationships, these delusional dualities or opinions can cause tremendous suffering.  Example:  A young married couple with two small children appear to be very happy together.  The husband works hard and long hours so that his beloved can stay home and care for their two young children, keep the hearth, and make a home just like in his childhood.  The wife is happy to be with the children and loves her home.  She’s grateful that her dream is possible and she doesn’t have to leave her children with strangers.  Then, one day both children become ill, and she also becomes ill.  She isn’t getting any sleep, can’t eat, and needs help from her husband.  He becomes angry and storms out of the house and doesn’t come back for a few days.  This is the duality called wife and husband.  Both those words have a world of idea, belief, and story behind them.  Our ideas work as long as other factors don’t come into play.  But other factors have a way of showing up.  The result?  Suffering!

One more example:  I work hard for a living, seeing people, problem solving, organizing events, and serving my spiritual community.  Therefore, my delusional belief is to come home to a neat and tidy house.  That is a neat and tidy house according to my programmed, conditioned expectations.  Sometimes that just doesn’t happen.  Irritation, self-pity, and entitlement creep into my thoughts.  If I share those thoughts everyone is challenged.  If I don’t then only I am challenged.  But this is suffering and for what?  Because things were not the way my judgement-self thought they should be?

wallpaper-2450469Liberation from suffering comes when I am able to see through the delusion of what should be and allow myself to be OK with what is at the moment.  Watching thoughts, we begin to see our aversion and attractions: I like it, I don’t like it; It should be, it shouldn’t be, and on, and on, and on.

But we do not need to decide for the whole world what beauty is, what happiness is, what love is, what the correct dress or behavior is, or any other ideal that is only a matter of opinion or cultural conditioning.  Let us strive to recognize our causes of suffering and let go of the wheel of fire. Liberation awaits those willing to release attachment to delusional duality!


In Honor We Hold Ourselves

868be8e27122c1683a068bd950546df1As we look at this statement we understand that it’s about holding all life as sacred.  We love the earth, the creatures, and being outside in nature.  We see the value in preserving life on earth and we try to honor others who are think differently than we do.  Perhaps the challenge of this statement is accepting and honoring ourselves as who we are.

“The primary task of spirit is in discovering and knowing the value in yourselves.”
 Maha Amma Ilowan

Within earth energy, all things serve a purpose.  Think about mosquitoes, while they may not be valuable to you, they are valuable to birds, frogs, lizards, snakes, and other insects. All life is intertwined.  Everything has a place and a purpose. Everyone matters.  We can observe the pain and suffering when certain people or entities are singled out as unimportant.  It’s easy to want to get rid of something or someone who seems threatening to us.  But that is not the way of Compassion.

When we look at a tapestry or even a piece of cloth we can see that every thread has a purpose.  When some threads are missing it creates a hole in the fabric. We all have a purpose for being here and we don’t necessarily have to know our purpose for our contribution to be relevant to others.  Bees, birds, cats, dogs, and multiple other animals don’t know their purpose but their contribution is relevant.

Beings always matter.  When someone dies, they leave a space – a hole in the tapestry of the lives of friends and family, but they may also leave a hole in the lives of people they didn’t even know.  Your life, as you are, who you are, where you are, has value no matter what your life looks like. There is a perception in our culture that one person’s worth and contribution matters more than another’s. This is capitalism – where one’s value is measured by productivity, possessions, power, and prestige.  In capitalistic machine-mind consciousness, a machine can be created to do a human task.  The machine replaces the human or animal who is then cast out and left to starve.

“Life is a privilege that has been gifted to you as a human being in order to create love, compassion, generosity, and kindness.
Maha Amma Ilowan

Consuming KidsWe are taught to be good consumers and the more we consume, the more value we have. We are taught that if we have more things, we will be happier.  If we believe those lies a problem arises which creates a tendency to compare and contrast what we have – and don’t have – with what other people have and don’t have. We might think that what others have is better than what we have. Sometimes we even want to change places with another because that person seems to be and have everything we want. There is a line in a song that says “Desire is the fire of creation.” But desire can also be the suffering of grasping the fiery wheel of samsara.

Consider: “Is a squirrel greater than a tree? In size, yes. Yet, each holds a fullness of being and purpose that is neither greater than, nor less than. A tree and a squirrel understand what they are and each finds a way to share their gifts.”

Reflect: “You have a responsibility to the earth, family, community, and life itself.  Be the greatest YOU that you are capable of being.  Share your skills and talents. You are here to use yourself up in service to Life.”

Contemplate: Some people think that having a role is binding, a limitation, but to have a role means we are of value to ourselves.  If we know our role we can be a gift to those around us and contribute to the whole. Example: Being a mother or father to small children is a role.  If we refuse to offer that role and make it a special gift, we create pain and suffering that can last for generations. To give to others is not only important to life, but to our soul.”

In this culture, we think that being busy, over-obligated and stressed brings value to our lives.  But if we serve only our task list, constantly run errands, keep so busy that we don’t have any time, or live life according to the dictates of electronic devices, how is this creating value?”

DNA-Sequencing-Is-As-Beneficial-And-HelpfulTruly we are ONE essence with all other life. Science tells us that we share 95% of the same DNA with all other life forms. This means we belong together. Our spirit’s purpose is to create a life to share with Life.  We must learn to celebrate interdependence instead of independence.


“We were brought here to give, love, and share. This is all that really matters.”