You can have a group of people hang out with the same teacher, or perform the same mediation practice, and their outcomes will be determined by their individual intentions for participating in the common practice.
I haven’t found a more influential factor of a practice’s outcome than one’s intention for performing that practice.
Peter’s comment at BATGAP
Peter’s comment, which I love, brings to mind a story of a local meditation teacher who one day, aggravated with her students told them, “You do just enough to feel better.” Meaning, they wanted to simply do the bare minimum and escape into the feel good airy-fairy.
Why do you bother with your spiritual practice? What is it that you really want?
Community? Stress relief? Self improvement?
Has it become mere habit?
Or, has it slipped beyond any personal choice, to become a force beyond yourself?
I find it rather presumptuous to assume that I know why anyone meditates. And I find it useful to periodically look into my own motivations, because, as Peter points out, intentions have a direct effect upon outcomes.
When I was with Adyashanti this summer I noticed that he spoke of three practices: Meditation, Inquiry, and Contemplation. I liked seeing this as it seemed to bring some new balance, order, and perspective to terms that float around inside my head.
Now, he is giving away a booklet entitled “The Way of Liberation” which you can download for free for a while. It’s a really simple, straightforward explanation of these three practices. I love the sparseness of the language, like his Summary of the Teaching:
Question every thought.
Contemplate the source of Reality.
There it is: meditation, inquiry, contemplation.
If your intention is liberation, it’s good to know the bases.
In The Way of Liberation, Adya begins by suggesting you address your aspirations (intention by any other name…) and he states it almost as a warning:
To clarify your aspiration means knowing exactly what it is that your spiritual life aspires to, not as a future goal but in each mo¬ment. In other words, what do you value most in your life—not in the sense of moral values, but in the sense of what is most im¬portant to you. Contemplate this question.
Do not assume that you know what your highest aspiration is, or even what is most important to you.
Dig deep within, contemplate, and meditate on what the spiritual quest is about for you; don’t let anyone else define your aspiration for you…
Very few people have Truth or Reality as deep values.
They may think that they value Truth, but their actions do not bear this out.
Generally, most people have competing and conflicting values, which manifest as both internal and external conflict.
Where am I going with all this? I am not sure.
But, more and more I understand how important it is to truly value what is true.
What is it that you REALLY want?
I was reading The Seven Story Mountain recently. In this autobiography, Thomas Merton said something that simply stunned me as if I’d never before heard truly heard such a teaching. He said:
If what most people take for granted were really true – if all you needed to be happy was to grab everything and see everything and investigate every experience and then talk about it… I would never have entered a Trappist monastery
Question every thought. Question all assumptions and the rules that get drummed into you.
I don’t want to miss out on Life and yet, I do not even know what there is to miss and how best to use my time.
A friend and I compare notes.
I worry that I will waste my life by not being engaged enough with others.
I fear I am too content to sit upon my back porch and watch the sky.
And then my friend worries that she will waste her life by always being addictively too busy.
There is no such thing as a path to enlightenment… What you can do is to remove any and all illusions, especially the ones you value most…
Adya, The Way of Liberation
I read these words this morning at the breakfast table and made these notes upon the page margin:
How do I recognize illusion?
When I feel resistance to what is… when I feel separation…
What illusions do I most value?
I am in control… I exist as an individual, born and will die…
Are not illusions my most persistent thoughts?
I could do better… I’m not loved… I am a silly mess… I have failed… If I were enlightened all my problems would be solved…
I hope you will ask yourself a similar inquiry. I found it somewhat surprising and it began an opening of perspective until I heard a voice from the radio behind me shouting:
Are you crying?
Are you crying?
There’s no crying!
There’s no crying in baseball!
Tom Hanks, A League of Their Own
The Library of Congress is inducting this film and these words into the National Film Registry for its contribution to American culture. Somehow, that seemed just perfect, just perfect and the end of any commentary I might offer.
Meditate, Inquire, Contemplate. My intention is upon discoverying what’s true, despite all appearances.