Self study

 

Looking

 

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 the ‘unlearning’ of logical thought so as to arrive at what meditation teacher Shunryu Suzuki called ‘beginner’s mind’. Gradually we let ourselves be intuitively directed from within on our journey home, the way a salmon always somehow unfailingly finds the same river bed it was spawned in. It is the lonely journey we all make, together. 

 

The word monastic comes from ‘monos’ and means single or alone, often interpreted only to mean celibate living in community for professional religious. But actually we are all alone, and in some sense everyone is a monk. Spirituality could be described as quasi-monastic because it has some semblance to the proper monastic orders. It is built on the experience of aloneness, including that of ‘secular’ people living busy family lives in the world.

 

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

 

 

Writing

 

A valuable exercise because it is the expression of the relationship with yourself and the expression of your point of view and as such the first building block of friendship with 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.

 

One possibility is to choose to write on a koan from the an ancient Chinese collections. Koans are anecdotes or sayings from traditional accounts of meditation teachers and student monks. 

 

Today, koans are no longer to the private domain of monks. They are now available for anyone to read. They provide a proven starting point on the road to enlightenment.

 

While the traditional way of working with koans (a personal interview with the teacher) leads to insight, there is much room for misinterpretation. Monks today are also asked to write on their understanding of a koan story. This gives the teacher the opportunity to read how understanding has been integrated into everyday life situations.

 

There is no correct answer in writing on koans or their western equivalent - only the willingness to share, free from spiritual clichés, something from the heart.