An Unexplored Country

The Buddha taught the principals of emptiness and interdependence as a way to free ourselves from suffering.  On the spiritual path and especially in a monastery it helps to have a basic understanding of these two principals.  Empty_bookEmptiness is not the absence of things…it is an understanding that nothing exists outside of a context.  We exist because we have a context: gender, age, family of origin, a job, an education, a set of beliefs about the world and how it works, and an environment in which we live, i.e. a town, a country, a geographical location.  All these things are the context in which we function.  Because we are not independent of existence outside of a context we are empty and interdependent upon that context.

In our context, our story of life, we have the ability to act and react, judge and respond, ignore what makes us uncomfortable and strive for those things that are pleasing, to avoid danger and create safety.  quality-friendsThis is what we are doing every moment of every day…acting and reacting to the circumstances of our lives both inwardly and outwardly. We become dependent upon controlling our outer or inner experiences so they will be what we need and want them to be. In this pattern we forget that we have a choice about how to think.

Another challenge that gets in the way of community living is when we feel responsible for the emotions of others and need to placate distraught individuals in order to be safe- but disaster is usually the result of this emotional enslavement.  Living the monastic life means that we will have ample opportunity to experience our gloomy, addictive emotions because we will be living with people who are likely to trigger our childhood memories and responses. vpc_clinging If we learn to accept what we feel- knowing it is only a feeling– not a truth- we can begin to free ourselves from suffering.  When we are not blaming those around us for adverse emotional experiences we can free ourselves from suffering.  This is a difficult journey.  It’s difficult because we are already addicted to our favorite childhood strategy and reach for it without thought.  But on the passage to enlightenment we discover that it’s our clinging and attachment to these tactics that cause our suffering- not the people around us.

To climb a mountain we must be prepared for reaching the top.  If we are climbing Mt. Rainier or Mt. Everest we can follow the pre-existing trails and reach the top with determination and planning.  But if we are climbing in unknown territory we must forge our own trail.  When we go trekking into unexplored country we have to assess what resources will be required- mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.  As we begin this journey toward our compassionate heart we will need to assess our beliefs, values, survival strategies, karmic patterns, and unconscious desires. DSC09401

Every day, every individual has to engage in activities during which he is determining what he thinks, feels, and wishes to do about a situation or relationship.  Every action we take, every decision we make, and every thought we think consciously or unconsciously is based on our ideals, values, and beliefs.  We create our life story by these methods, solve our problems through these measurements, choose our friends and enemies by these ideals, and construct our karmic future with each decision we implement.  It’s essential that we are moving toward something, not creating another way to feel less-than, guilty about, ashamed of, or create new fodder for inner self-hate dialogues.   Let’s remember that karma is a core value- something we have identified as essential to our well-being.

Karma cannot bind us if we change our mind.  We learn to change our mind by examining our habituated feelings and our interpretation of what those feelings mean.  We may always have the same feelings when we are hurt, frightened, angry, upset, or stressed…but we can choose to interpret them in a new way. Earth-4039 We can discover what need is not being met and what values are not being expressed by ourselves so we feel that we have to react to outer circumstances. Instead of repeating old habits that lead to suffering we can give ourselves permission to acknowledge our values and find ways to express those values even in difficult situations. We may also discover that in attempting to seek out a special someone or place that seems to contribute, grant, or provide us with pleasant emotions will become unnecessary because we can allow ourselves to provide what we require in order to thrive.

Once we understand the responsibility we have for creating our emotional context we will have more energy, ability, and motivation to experience the reason we are in the monastery in the first place.  Remember we chose to enter a monastery to create a life of Prayer, Pohwas, and Peace for the benefit of all beings.  We understood that we wished to be the face of Great Mother, Great Father, or Great Weaver within the world.  We wanted to learn to respond as a Great Being would respond.

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Patience

Patience is a spiritual discipline.  It is the ability to move forward wen when we appear to be going backward.  Patience is trusting in Great Spirit even when things change. secret_of_shamballa_by_myxxo-d4jh6pa It is releasing the way things have always been or the expectation of what should have been.  Patience is kindness to yourself and others when mistakes are made.  Patience is what Great Mother and Great Father give to all of their children.

Everyday we look for, and expect, to receive gifts from Great Spirit.  Waiting in patience means honoring the truth that we are the Beloved Children of the Great Mother and Father…and they will give to us everything we need…even if they don’t give us everything we demand or want.

We often hear that anything we can imagine we can create.  Of course, we also know that it is important to have a plan.  What are those plans being based in?  strategic-plan-cycleAre we spending our energy in avoidance of pain, fear, or disapproval?  Are we trying to get everything everyone else appears to have?  Maybe it’s time to spend time planing how to create more joy, love, peace, and compassion in the world around us.

What does Great Spirit want for my life?  What saint or great being do I wish to emulate?  How can I be strong in love and forgiveness?
How can I make choices that lead to a joyful life of service and loving kindness to others?

In order to work successfully with the Great Spirit of All Life we must practice the art of detachment.  The more attached we are to the manifestation of something we want…the harder it is to allow it to happen.  Detachment is the non-emotional and compassionate ability to see through our little self desires to something worthy of a Beloved Child of Life.
So if we pray, affirm, and know love is ours …there is nothing else we need to do.  There is no need to get so excited about seeing if it has happened yet…and how it has happened.  That puts us in a state of “doubt”…”Are we there yet?”   Instead we practice saying, “Great Mother and Father help me to plant my seeds and learn to wait patiently, with detachment, until they grow to harvest time.

Manual_harvest_in_TirumayamGreat Mother,
Help me to be understanding with all the people in my life.
Teach me to listen instead of trying to be heard.
Show me how to merge myself into the wholeness of life
So I do not become puffed up and think of myself as unduly important.
Great Lady, grant me your loving patience that I may understand others
even as I desire to be understood.

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Great Father,
I bow to your wisdom.
Help me for I am prone to trust myself instead of You.
Many times I have tried to leave behind old habits.
Many times I have failed.
Let me take your hand, Great Father
for with you there can be no failure.
Together with you miracles shall unfold.
Together with you I shall learn to be patient
with myself and others when mistakes are made.

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Great Weaver,
I recognize and accept the good, the beautiful
and the loving gift of life within me.
Help me so that
When my inner self is hungry I can feed it with love-
When my inner self is angry I can find a way
to return to peace and safety-
When my inner self is sad, help me
find comfort and assurance-
When my inner self sees lack
show me my blessings-
And when my inner self sees failure-
show me my successes.
And. Great Weaver, above all help me
remember to share these good things
with the people around me.

Surrender

Surrendering means something more than to devote ourselves to a cause, or to the will of Great Spirit.  It is more than giving of ourselves to others.  It is even more than abandoning our life to Spirit.

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True surrender is to die to everything and everyone.  It is to continually keep our heart and mind turned toward Great Father, Great Mother, and the Great Weaver of all Life.  We no longer seek self-satisfaction in anything but the words, the heart, and the mind of Great Spirit.

It should be added that self-surrender means following the path of detachment from people, places, things, and even from a natural desire to be noticed, appreciated, and loved by our God(dess).  It is to accept everything that happens as a gift.  It means to submit our life to being guided by a Higher Power- without argument, or exception.

Perhaps you think this is too difficult.  Do not be deceived.  There is nothing easier to do. tumblr_mmx1blnVL21s9rnz8o1_500 Nothing so sweet to practice.  The whole thing consists in saying:
“Beloved, I wish to be entirely yours.  Please accept my offering.”

Everything is an opportunity to serve the Light.
By incarnating in the physical world we decided to have an experience.  We have the power to imagine, decide, create, and change.  When we practice surrender we agree to accept life as it is.  We can always count on Great Spirit to help us have a little bit of everything.  Let us give thanks for the potluck abundance of our experience of life- instead of whining that we don’t like and want certain things.  Abundance is a full heart.  Not a full refrigerator, garage, or wallet.

tumblr_mlipahaKVj1qhmhdfo1_500Great Spirit
I abandon myself into your hands.
Do with me this day according to Your will.
Whatever happens today or any day,
May I give thanks for the blessing of life.
I am ready to accept all people
And to let only your love, joy ad peace be expressed to them.
Into your hands I lay my life.
Guide me in the ways I am to go.

Give me the relationships that will best serve You.
Allow my hands to do work that is a blessing to Your Name.
I surrender myself without reservation
And with boundless confidence
Because I know You love me!

Service

When we observe a problem in someone’s life we often react by trying to fix it through advice or suggestions.  We call this response, compassion when actually it is sympathy.  One of the important qualities necessary to a worker of the light is detachment about our needs, our desires, and our contribution. Detachment is the ability to see another in pain and ask them if they want or need our help.  Detachment is accepting the answer- “No!” Detachment is also letting go of what we cannot change and working to change what we can- about ourselves.

A gift given grudgingly or with the expectation of how it will be used or received is no gift at all.  When we are kind to people we believe are inferior, or less than ourselves, what we offer is condescension, not compassion.  We are taught that there is merit in serving the poor, the downtrodden, the helpless, and the hopeless.  But if we perform  those same acts of kindness, assistance, and service because we see others as our brothers and sisters such service becomes an Act of Grace.

Perhaps the greatest wrong of our culture is to see people in pain, and throw money at them to make them go away.

May we remember that we were sent here to make the world a better place than it has ever been before. At the center of the Spirit Path is a loving heart that wants the best for every person. Anything we can do to help foster the intellect, spirit, and emotional growth for our fellow human beings, that is our job. Those of us who hold this great vision must continue against all odds. Our life does not belong to us…it is given to us to make of it a gift to all beings.

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May we become at all times:
A protector for those without protection-
A guide for those who have lost their way-
A ship for those with oceans to cross-
A bridge for those with rivers to ford-
A sanctuary for those in danger-
A lamp for those without light-
A place of refuge for those who lack shelter-
And a servant to all in need.

Your heart is calling…Great Spirit is calling…will you answer the call?

ImageGreat Spirit, may I learn to go about my ordinary activities
sowing the seeds of happiness.
If others don’t seem to appreciate my heartfelt sharing,
let me release those seeds to the Winds of Spirit
trusting that they will eventually find a place to grow.

My heart hurts when I see the pain of the world,
And I want to do something to make it go away.
Teach me how to drown my pain
in the joy of Great Mother’s song.
Teach me to accept with grace the things
I cannot change.
Help me to understand what I truly need,
and what others truly need.
Help me to humbly serve You in those around me.
Show me my job
and assist me to do it fully.

Great Spirit, help me to be the best worker of the Light
You have ever seen!

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