Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Mid-Practice period - Refinement

We have about three weeks left of the Clouds in Water Practice Period.  This is an individualized at-home practice period of our commitments in spiritual life.  It is a revision of what the traditional practice period was like.  Traditionally, the practitioners would commit to a certain schedule that would be done communally, all together in the zendo.  It was definitely a stretch of our usual practices, usually more sitting, and more study and a surrender to travel time to come to the Center.

In some ways, the old style was an external structure that you surrendered to and in exchange, you received the support of the whole group doing it together.  If you weren’t in your assigned seat at zazen, everyone knew that you didn’t show up.  This was a great incentive to keep your commitments – peer pressure and teacher pressure.

The way we are doing practice period now is also hard in a very different way.  It is an internal structure with the power to accomplish our commitments coming from inside.  No one knows if we don’t do our evening zazen.  No one knows if we haven’t said the morning gatha for three days.  It is entirely integrated with the rest of our lives, our home life, our work and our families.  It is NOT compartmentalized at all.  In this sense, it is quite a difficult practice and can be particularly strengthening to our mindfulness and our inner commitment to spiritual life.

But, because there is not so much accountability, it is easy to fail or slack off or even to quit.  So mid-practice period is a time of refining our commitments, forgiveness of our failings and looking for a boost of energy to reapply ourselves to go to the end, which in this case is Sunday April 26th.

It’s very important to learn to practice with failure.  It is one of the 8 worldly winds blowing through our life of appearances constantly.  Success and failure.  How do we deal with a failure and in this instance, perhaps, a failure to adhere to the disciplines you set up for yourself at the beginning of practice period.

May I be at peace with success and failure.

There is a great spiritual song that expresses this:  “When I fall down, I get up.” I dust myself off, and try again.  This is the spirit of practice and Resilience!  Perhaps our commitments need to be refined.  Our ideas at the beginning of practice period did not actually fit the conditions of this time.  They were too grand or too small.  Now, mid-practice period you can adjust to fit more clearly the circumstances.  Refine your commitments so that you can finish practice period with a sense of accomplishment.  After all, we are not doing this for other people.  We are doing this to strengthen our over-all surrender to spiritual disciplines and to strength our commitment to see life through Buddha’s eyes.  Whatever amount of practice that we can do, which continues with our goal of strengthening our practice, is worth it. Don’t succumb to discouragement and give up.  If you need to refine things to fit circumstances better, do it!  If you need some outside encouragement, get it!
Get renewed energy from:
·      Coming to the center on Sundays.  April 5th we are in our new space on Farrington.
·      Help with volunteering to put together our new space
·      Call a friend in the sangha; to encourage yourself, to share your refined commitments and to encourage them

·      Make another practice meeting with your teacher and share your successes and your failures.