Looking & longing
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.
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. It implies the deepest longing of the heart: to go home.
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, and develop the gift of writing.
Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom ― John O'Donohue
“Your soul knows the geography of your destiny. Your soul alone has the map of your future, therefore you can trust this indirect, oblique side of yourself. If you do, it will take you where you need to go, but more important it will teach you a kindness of rhythm in your journey.”
“Once the soul awakens, the search begins and you can never go back. From then on, you are inflamed with a special longing that will never again let you linger in the lowlands of complacency and partial fulfillment. The eternal makes you urgent. You are loath to let compromise or the threat of danger hold you back from striving toward the summit of fulfillment.”
“All the possibilities of your human destiny are asleep in your soul. You are here to realize and honor these possibilities. When love comes in to your life, unrecognized dimensions of your destiny awaken and blossom and grow. Possibility is the secret heart of time.”
“The world rests in the night. Trees, mountains, fields, and faces are released from the prison of shape and the burden of exposure. Each thing creeps back into its own nature within the shelter of the dark. Darkness is the ancient womb. Night-time is womb- time. Our souls come out to play. The darkness absolves everything; the struggle for identity and impression falls away. We rest in the night.”
“The Celtic mind was not burdened by dualism. It did not separate what belongs together”
“All through your life your soul takes care of you...your soul is alive and awakened, gathering, sheltering and guiding your ways and days in the world. In effect, your soul is your secret shelter.”
“The heart of the matter: You should never belong fully to something that is outside yourself. It is very important to find a balance in your belonging. You should never belong totally to any cause or system. People frequently need to belong to an external system because they are afraid to belong to their own lives. If your soul is awakened, then you realize that this is the house of your real belonging. Your longing is safe there.”
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