Building The Ecosystem

When I returned to my spiritual practices after a too-long break, I found it was hard to put things in their proper “place.” I’d be interrupted in my practice, distracted, and interrupted by things that were irrelevant. Nothing like deciding to get back to really deep spiritual activity then getting incredibly pissed about things like getting your chore schedule in order.

Reflecting on past experiences and interests, I came to the realization that a lot of spiritual practices (theistic, non-theistic, humorous, etc.) involve a mental ecosystem. Meditations, magic, correspondences, and so on align with your job, ethics, and perhaps even furniture placement (hello feng shui?). Your spiritual work of whatever kind really makes progress when your life ties together.

In my own work, which is informed by a mix of Taoism and syncretic practices, I took the following activities:

  • I read a few passages from one of my copies of the Tao Te Ching each night. The TTC is a philosophical document, and it led me to think about my life and my activities.
  • I read about one of the Hexagrams of the I Ching each night from some of the books in my library. The I Ching is deeply tied to many Chinese philosophies, and many commentaries and interpretations add even more thought. It’s mix of the cosmic and the human help me think bigger.
  • I continue my usual devotional/religious work around chosen gods, but think about how I embody them and why they matter to me. Where do I fit into the big picture and all these organic processes?
  • I ask questions about my media consumption and relaxation. Ironically it seems the answer is “I probably need more.”

In about a month I’ve found my viewpoints changing. My spiritual activities aren’t alien to my life or vice versa, but the two are more connected. I’m getting a “bigger picture” sense of what I’m doing. It’s also nothing self-aggrandizing, it’s more everyday things like how I lead at work or what I eat (chocolate,pizza, burritos – the signs I’m stressed).

And it’s all some reading, contemplation, and regular activities that help tie my life together into the bigger picture. It’s honestly nothing special, it’s probably something most anyone does to one extent or another. It’s just conscious on my part, with my fascination of using myself as a kind of laboratory.

I’ll doubtlessly write more on this. But if you’re finding your spiritual work and life don’t line up, consider how you can align yourself a little more. Some reading, regular thought about issues, some schedules, might help you connect the dots.

Nothing major here. Just a few observations from someone else on the path.


Duration of Sin And The Unbuilt Building

At least weekly – often daily – I read about some scandal or another at a church or religions organization – usually, Christian, as I live in the United States. These are sometimes very highly-placed people, and the scandals are of an obvious nature. You know the kind, the person doing them had to know they were wrong. You really can’t keep doing the same horrible things for years without some idea you’re awful.

But so often the organizations go on. The followers follow. Someone goes to jail or get sued, but they often go on. The rest of us go on because it’s just another scandal, and we’re all used to them because tomorrow there will be another.

And I wonder, who thinks of the theological repercussions of this – again for the mostly-Christian audience in my country. Why did their God (god? “god?”) allow such horrible things, abuse, scandal? Why didn’t anyone do anything at supposedly holy organizations?

I don’t understand how they go on.

A long term series of horrible acts show whatever Church of organization is just . . . a group of people. There’s no holy structure, there’s no divine order, there’s not even an organization, just a kind of group of people like anything else.

It’s really a reputation of most people’s very orderly idea of a monotheistic universe and warrants some pretty deep personal and theological contemplation.

Of course people don’t want to admit that they trusted the wrong people, that the organization won’t protect them. The people in the organization don’t want it to end for their own reasons, from belief to they’d be out of a job. So everyone just sort of goes on, maybe fiddles with theology, and it all continues.

Then there’s another scandal, and another.

What’s strange is that every scandal has to eat away a little more faith that people have. Each one is just another sign maybe you chose wrong or believed wrong and the divine order you want is not something you access. But to give up on that? Well that’s too hard, even if there’s really nothing there anymore.

I wonder how weak some religious organizations are. How much their scandals and failures have been patched over in people’s minds so often they might be close to breaking. I wonder what happens when things break and what reforms. I wonder what has broken that I just didn’t notice.

And in the end, I think all those people lying to themselves, trying to persevere, not admitting to themselves how messed up their church is, they all have to hurt. What’s it like to have things so repudiated, to be so betrayed, what does it take to go on? How much of you is left after you lied to yourself enough?

I don’t understand.

I guess I wish I did understand. But what does scare me is maybe there’s nothing to understand. Maybe at some point you just go on no matter what because stopping means you’ll have to look back.


Moving At The Speed of Self

I’ve talked about meditation in previous writings. On a simple level I do breath and simplified energy work mostly derived from Taoist sources. These are things that can be described in a sentence – or not described completely in a book. In the spirit of that paradox I’d like to share a deep slice of an insight I’ve had over the years – the role of speed and self.

More than a sentence, less than a book.

Most meditations I do involve a certain level of slowness – of breath, of feeling the bodies energies, etc. The slow even breath in my beloved Cleary translation of “The Secret of the Golden Flower” or slowing so one senses the bodies energies all involve some form of calming, focusing, and not running around in your brain. In these modern times it can almost be shocking to just slow down for a few minutes.

As you may know from your own works there’s a peculiar point in meditations where you slow down and suddenly you’re not you. In fact you might not be there at all.

All the chatter and sensations, dialogue and tensions just sort of goes away. I mean you’re there but you aren’t there. Somehow when we slow down, “we” goes away – which is quite disturbing sometimes as who’s doing all of this?

Thinking over these experiences – without trying to grasp them too hard – I’ve come to realize how much of ourselves, our identity, is a matter of speed.

Thoughts racing ahead in a relay race. Desires we grasp as soon as possible. Tensions that rage through the body as soon as triggered. There’s so much of our identity that relies on fast reactions and immediate thoughts that to slow it even a bit feels like we’re falling apart.

Perhaps that’s one reason relaxing can be hard for some people – even a moment of slacking and you’re falling apart in your head because so much of you is speed. Relaxation for a harried person might feel like an existential threat.

It’s an interesting insight. When you’re used to meditation, going to therapy, etc. it’s easy to see ourselves as complexes. We are thoughts and reactions and memory, crystalline memories on an erratic web, like rock candy on a string. It’s not hard to see yourself as bits and pieces when you do any form of self-exploration.

But the speed? I think that’s harder to see. You can see all the bits and bobs of your identity, but the connections and the rapidity of them? That’s a different thing to observe – moreso when it goes away in a slow breath or graceful meditative movement.

If you’re one thing because of speed – who are you in slowness?