Thursday, January 05, 2006

Such Connoisseurs

(please click on each photo to see this amazing sky)
I joined a reading group. First, let me say that I haven't participated in a group since I quit Girl Scouts in 1963. I'm not a joiner, but here I am in a group. We're only reading one book, Jack Kornfield's A Path With Heart. That's not too burdensome (I say that now). We're meeting in a house that is in walking distance, and we're meeting during the day. All of this is well within my comfort zone.

I went to the first meeting on Monday. There are only four of us right now. Two of us don't have the book yet. So we all introduced ourselves and said a bit about what draws us to a spiritual life. An interesting quandary for me because I haven't actually determined if I am so drawn, in the traditional sense. Is there a traditional sense? I have just followed my mind assiduously down that path that it wanders. I have followed my heart hoping it wouldn't lead me astray.

having read, years ago, a zen aphorism attributed to Wu-Li -- "before enlightenment, chopping wood, carrying water; after enlightenment, chopping wood, carrying water" -- quoted in, i think, some book by gary snyder, at a time when i did actually chop wood and carry water to live, i figured i was on the path. then i read that seeking enlightenment is a sure way to fail at finding it. hmmmm. so there is a path, but apparently one must pay attention only to each step lest one goes astray from peering ahead. sort of a paradox. maybe a koan. zen practice suggests that contemplating a paradox may befuddle the rational mind so that one may see a larger reality, if only dimly and temporarily. i can't contemplate the big picture while i'm minding my steps. i stop stepping every so often so i can look around and see where i am. hasn't worked yet.
I felt insecure about not having the book so before the meeting I googled Jack Kornfield and found an interesting interview he had done a few years ago. I printed it and brought that to the first meeting. We read the interview out loud, which was really fun because he said some laugh-out-loud funny things.

When asked what is the greatest misconception about the spiritual path, Kornfield answered: One is that enlightenment will come to us instantaneously and remain permanently. Another is about certitude, that we eventually become "the wise person who knows about everything."

That made me laugh.

RD may know her own neuroses well enough to gain personal insight by contemplating them. i can scarcely say that i have no neuroses, but i am more familiar with my addictions. You could say I'm a connoisseur of addictions, so i'm thinking that any self-knowledge lies there. i go for mood altering stuff, or perhaps attitude adjustment. imbibe, ingest, inhale. oh yeah, i inhaled. so i listen to my inner dialogue about whether to have more, or sometimes any. whoops. there's a funny concept. "inner dialogue." i'm talking to me, silently i hope, and i'm listening and replying, still silently i hope. the conversation is a koan of a sort. i'm not sure if this watching is helpful (with what?). i am provisionally sure that minding the wood and water, or the current equivalents, and appreciating the process of securing same is conducive to a peaceful mind. to be satisfied with a peaceful mind seems at least a mini-enlightenment.
When asked if anything about the spiritual path truly surprised him, Kornfield responded: Oh yes. For one, I thought that if I worked with the big difficulties in my life – my fears, arrogance, neediness, anger – then they would go away. That I could somehow uproot them and they would be gone. But they aren’t gone. That was a really big surprise. At the same time, my relationship to my imperfections has changed. Now, there’s a lot more spaciousness and compassion, and a lot more humor. I’ve become what Ram Dass calls “a connoisseur of my neuroses.” I had thought that if my practice brought a true mystical experience – which it did – it would then transfer to the other parts of my life. But it turns out that those experiences simply gave me a road map of the heart. It’s up to each of us to apply that map to our lives.

none of this is to suggest that i am not mortified by our president and most of congress, ashamed of our nation's foreign policy, or that i don't yell at various talking heads and politicians through the tv.

That's what really made me laugh. A connoisseur of my neuroses. Yes. That's it, that's my spiritual path. I've been that connoisseur for years. This could be a very interesting reading group.

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