Practicing

“We need to do practices with knowledge and awareness.” Amma also explained how
the Ma-Om meditation was discovered. When she was small, she used to walk on
the beach. The ebb and tide of the waves sounded like Ma and Om to Amma. Ma-Om
became like the breath, continuous and automatic. Thus, every step on the beach
was meditation.

Indicating that there is no point in changing the type of practices, Amma
pointed out how impatient we are. “People are so impatient. They jump into
sudden conclusions. A bird was sitting in a harbor and wanted to go to the other
side. It saw a ship and thinking that the ship will take it to the other side of
the harbor, flew to the mast and perched on it. The ship started on its course
and in some time was far out in the sea. As time passed, the bird got impatient
and started flying in the north hoping to reach land. After a time it got tired
and flew back. Later it tried flying south. It had to come back, it was getting
exhausted. The bird then tried east and west and seeing no land had to return
back to the ship each time. Only when the ship neared the other harbor, could
the bird see land, and shortly thereafter they reached the shore. If the bird
had been patient, it would have anyways reached the land with the ship without
flying hither and thither.

Amma concluded by explaining, “Likewise, true happiness is already within us. Be
steadfast in your practice. Practice regularly. When the awareness grows, we
will merge into that reality, that happiness within us.”

from http://www.amritapuri.org/8287/mantra-maom.aum

Recently, I was talking with a friend who, like me, has practiced meditation for many years.  We agreed that there is a point at which one begins to feel rather as if one has “gotten it,” and feels less of an imperative to practice “religiously,” keeping to a rigorous schedule and lengthy practices.  It is also true that, over time, we tend to find, more and more, the “guru within,” and we become gradually competent to fly “solo.”  In other words, we become our own teachers, and we feel–just a little–as if we are starting to know what we’re doing.  Let me hasten to add, here, that if the above isn’t really true, if one is being beguiled by the ego and not anywhere near this point, these feelings can be a trap.  This is but one of many reasons I continue to believe it is necessary to have an earthly teacher or guide, someone to hold up the mirror of truth that the sincere seeker needs to consult regularly.  And it can be a trap anyway, as my friend pointed out.  He said that if left to his own devices, he does indeed continue to practice, but that he gradually lets other things get in the way, and eventually finds himself getting in a good meditation session maybe twice a week.  He pointed out that it’s like living on interest, rather than increasing one’s capital.  Something like that.  I think he is quite right, and have found this for myself, because rebel that I am, I actually took a “sabbatical” of some ten years, from my spiritual community and my roles as both student and guide.  In theory, I didn’t include practice in my “sabbatical,” but I did indeed begin to slack off, and eventually found myself in pretty bad shape, because life will teach us when we don’t avail ourselves of an easier, gentler way, which to me is contemplative practice.  As Matthew 11 in the Holy Bible says,

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

My old friend Himayat Inayati used to say that Jesus meant that his “burden” is, literally, LIGHT.  Yes, indeed.  But I have had problems with faith throughout my life, which is common to children of hurt parents, and I tried to go it alone.  I was fortunate in that I had already been taken pretty far up the ladder, but there was still that hurt inner child that was afraid of the surrender necessary to go all the way.  And I suffered for it.  My life’s teacher, Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan, said that there is a fundamental choice that must be made by people like me:  I can either be pushed by the past or pulled by the future.  Ah, but how to get away from that eternal SHOVE and live into the lovely, thrilling, gentle tug that takes us on into the eternal?  It wasn’t easy for me, even though I already did have some capital in the bank.

Becoming very ill and disabled was a result, for me, of that ongoing push from the past, and it pushed me right up against….me.  There was nowhere else to go.

For several months now, I have been studying the teachings of Inayat Khan weekly with a good friend, via Skype, and that has been a new beginning for me.  It is really the Sufi practice of losing the false self first in the teacher, then in the Master, and eventually in God.  Through these progressive attunements, one makes oneself open to the teaching and then, to the very being of the One it all comes from.  A Light burden indeed!  And doing this led me to a re-commitment to practice, and I began giving myself over to practice at least twice a day, going right back to the beginning when it was like doing calisthenics for the beginner:  at first, you have to do them “just right,” and if you eventually trip up by not doing so, you have to go back and pick up where you left off.

It worked.  The Sufis have a profound psychological and spiritual practice as outlined in the 99  Beautiful Names of God, in the Dhikr that is the remembrance of the way God (we) really is/are.  There are various other practices with breath and light and sound, but these are the two central practices, and they work.

No, I have not levitated–yet.

Yet there are glimmers, in my own personal process of alchemy, that as I gradually give up my attachment to my temporal self, the one that jumpa up and down and clamors for this and that and feels oh, so hurt over this, and Grrrr!  So Angry!!! over that, that this push from behind that I spoke of lessens, and I can slide gently onward into the pull that awaits.

The spiritual path is easiest if there is not something pulling one from behind; and that force is the life in the world, one’s friends, surroundings, acquaintances, and one’s foes. Remain, therefore, in the world as a traveler making a station on his way. Do all the good you can to serve and succor humanity, but escape attachment. By this in no way will you prove to be loveless. On the contrary, it is attachment which divides love, and love raised above attachment is like a rain from above nourishing all the plants upon the earth.  ~~Inayat Khan

I sustained a great blow recently.  I realized that I had to end my relationship with someone I love very much (and her child, therefore), but who has problems with living and had long been in the habit of targeting me with her pain and sorrow over herself.  In a mistaken belief that I was somehow responsible for allowing this kind of treatment from this person, I had allowed myself to become so debilitated by her rage and misery that I was becoming more and more ill.  I had tried, for many years, to realize this–had known it all along:  that I was not helping her, nor was I helping myself in allowing myself to be scapegoated in this way, and I resolved–for about the 100th time–to end the relationship, at least in terms of our physical association.  It seems to me that there are times when this is necessary in the closest of relationships, for both parties, but it was extremely painful for me.  I thought I would die from the pain, in fact.

Pir Vilayat once said to a group of his students that if we really knew what love is–truly is–we would be annihilated in our understanding.  I think life offers us the opportunity to learn about love, even to these heights, if we desire to.  As my Murshid says above, “love raised above attachment is like a rain from above nourishing all the plants upon the earth.”  It seems that there are times when to love in this way means giving up one’s personal needs for affiliation, for closeness, for friendship…and the result is that at least one more roadblock in the path of love is removed.

So:  practice.  Practice deeply, ceaselessly, with devotion and without ambition.  It doesn’t matter what the practice is, what matters is to develop the soul-power, to grow the soul along with the body and the mind.  The rest follows.

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