Yet despite all of that, while I would say that I have been a very spiritual person and achieved a state of great calm most of the time, and eventually started this blog and wrote several helpful books, it is only relatively recently, in the past two years, that I have reached a different plateau in my practice.
And that has happened because of the happenstance of my partner buying several books that we have been reading together at night before we go to bed. It is the teaching I have received from those books, and my further meditation on those teachings and application of them to my life, that has made it possible.
In both Seeking the Heart of Wisdom by Jack Kornfield and Joseph Goldstein and The Art of Being and Becoming by Hazrat Khan, the importance of knowing what’s most important to you, what you value most, and having the intent of doing whatever is necessary spiritually to achieve that is stressed. One must keep this value and intent at the forefront of your mind at all times. (See my post, “What Is Most Important To You?”) The Tibetan Lojung also talk about the importance of forming an intent.
In many ways, forming the intent is possibly the most difficult part of the entire process, the highest barrier. Because forming an intent to take any spiritual step raises the ire of the ego-mind. Whether it’s showing everyone loving kindness, whether it’s accepting things as being as they are, whether it’s embracing all aspects of your being and experience … the ego-mind says “are you crazy?” to these suggestions.
It takes a powerful motivator to give us the will to say “no” to the guidance of our ego-mind and so form the necessary intent. As expressed in my previous post, “Changing Your Reactions,” those motivators can be hitting rock bottom with your suffering or knowing that your reactions cause someone you love much suffering, much agitation. Clearly just being aware that your feelings and emotions cause you suffering is not normally sufficient to counter the power of the ego-mind.
Once you have formed the intent, it is then in one sense a rather straight-forward matter to implement that intent, although often still easier said than done. Never underestimate the power of the ego-mind.
In doing the exercise described in the post, “Imagining in Meditation,” there are several tools that I have learned to use, some from these recent teachings one from old, in developing a spiritual way of responding to events or people, rather than my habit energy.
One way is to react to the event or person as, “It’s just the way it is.” I received this teaching perhaps 20 years ago, but I became aware of its full impact only many years later, as explained in my post, “It’s Just the Way It Is.” I have imagined situations that would agitate me very much, raise my righteous indignation. But when I said, “It’s just the way it is,” I was able to see how to react to that situation with dispassion, and so with my mind undisturbed I was open to receiving all that the present moment had to offer, be grateful, and find happiness in the moment.
After reading a teaching in What If the Buddha Dated, a friend suggested that I open my heart and embrace all aspects of my being and experience. What happened when I did that is described in my post, “The Heart’s Embrace.” It was a transformative moment that changed some especially deep-rooted habit energies of mine.
Finally, another tool I have used often as an adjunct to the previous two comes from Emmanuel’s Book by Pat Rodegast and Judith Stanton. They advise you to test every guidance your receive. And if the guidance is not “right” for you, which in my case means that it pulls me away from peace and happiness, then it is your responsibility to reject that guidance and return to your heart. See my post “Test the Wisdom of What You’re Doing or Thinking of Doing.”
Once I knew that what I wanted most was to be at peace and happy, that became my touchstone against which all guidance was evaluated. If I felt agitated in any way, that was a red flag that either what I was doing or thinking was not skillful, or I was approaching it in a way that wasn’t skillful. In the former instance I had to stop whatever I was doing; in the latter, I had to find a way to approach an otherwise skillful action with equanimity. See my post, “How to Desire Yet Not Crave.”
Underlying all these practices, and essential to their fruitful implementation, is a deep and abiding faith that your true self is your heart, and that all will be well regardless what life throws your way because you will always return home to your true Buddha nature, your heart, and be at peace and happy. This faith and these teachings in concert have allowed me for the most part to truly be at peace and happy. I feel very blessed. Each day presents new challenges. But now I am better prepared for what life will throw at me.