Looking

 

There is nothing in this universe that doesn't follow the pattern of decay and death, and there is nothing here that can seemingly live without something else dying. The world is impressive until we learn to really look. We usually don't want to really look, not because it's not a pretty sight, but because the world is a cover over our unconscious thought system, of which we are not consciously aware. Fortunately, there is a way of looking at the universe that will help us to return to the true home we long for. 

 

Contemplation

The Latin word tueor, meaning to gaze or contemplate, forms the root of the modern word ‘intuition’. By educating myself in intuition, I can learn, in the words of the poet Rilke, to live from a deeper place. But this kind of education is more the ‘unlearning’ so as to arrive at what one meditation teacher called ‘beginner’s mind’. Gradually we let ourselves be intuitively directed from within, as we start the journey home, in the way same way a salmon unfailingly finds the same river bed it was spawned in. 

 

The word monastic comes from ‘monos’ and means single or alone, often interpreted only to mean celibate living in community for 'professional' religious. But are we not all alone, and in some sense, all a monk. Spiritual practice could therefore be described as quasi-monastic. It is built on the experience of aloneness, including the aloneness of ‘secular’ people living busy family lives in the world.

 

But here aloneness is embraced as a source of inspiration, the intuitive approach to life, learned and mastered by truly looking.

 

Writing

Writing is a valuable exercise because it is the expression of the relationship with yourself and the world. It is the expression of your point of view, your way of looking, and as such it forms the first building block of friendship with the self and the other. It is not impossible to write about something that has personal meaning, but it is often difficult to find a way to get started.

Keeping a diary is an excellent practice. Even a 'dream-diary'. Writing poetry is demanding but rewarding too. For years I wrote on koans from the ancient Chinese collections. Koans are anecdotes or sayings from traditional accounts of meditation teachers and student monks, and no longer the private domain of monks. They are now available for anyone to read. They provide a proven starting point on the road to enlightenment.