Thursday, May 19, 2011

Why Practice?

Of Being Itself, the Mystery

Something exists and seems to be identified with both body and mind. I come to know this because the body delivers sights, sounds, smells, tastes, movement and touch. My mind experiences present sensations and combines them with all my previous experiences as thought. The owner of this process I call my self. Normally as I interact with others who resemble me, our thoughts mirror one another through our faces and our postures. This mirroring becomes the basis for the sensations in my chest I call my heart: the symbol for my emotions and connections with others.

Normally, as others and self exchange thoughts through language, I notice there are many intangibles that my mind projects. This is the sacred imagination, and the place or plane where this projection occurs, I call the soul. It is underneath or at the center of the self and the mind. In the soul occur all those intangible things that keep me in my culture, such as dreams, imagination, creativity, and interactions with art.

Belief – Experience – Belief

Perceptions arise from sense processes of my body and mind. Perceptions move through the filter of my beliefs, chosen from past experiences. My beliefs (or cultural context) create my reality. Changing my beliefs, or context, changes my reality. This change can occur all at once or over a long period of time, and when it brings me into closer harmony with others, I call it enlightenment.


Enlightenment is getting at a deep level my true nature and relationships. This body-I-mind-self discovers it’s different than first (or recently) experienced, and I change my thinking to identify with a wider context. Whether experienced suddenly or over time, enlightenment brings with it the desire for practice.

Sudden enlightenment shocks the body-I-mind-self into a new vision, often accompanied by blissful sensations. Inevitably this pleasant experience fades, and the enlightened one is left with “every-dayness”. A felt need for practice arises.

Gradual enlightenment arises when body-I-mind-self falls into a context that increases the ability to perceive true nature. The gradual practitioner may feel a kinship when hearing about sudden enlightenment. Both sudden and gradual practitioners have a need for one another. Thus a Way of Life arises, based on practice and enlightenment.

Practices Set the Context

So whether sudden or gradual, enlightenment experience calls forth some practice, such as satsang, shikantaza, constant prayer, singing and chanting, or getting into the zone. While such practices are not enlightenment, they set us up to experience or re-experience the blissful moment when the body-I-mind-self gets a new context in a moment of clarity.

Balance and Prepare

Thus the practice of enlightenment involves a continual investment in the body, mind, heart, and soul. Keeping the body strong and flexible is the foundation for a mind that operates clearly. Receiving and then giving love brings growth of emotional intelligence and capacity, the heart. And with the expanded heart, the sacred place within becomes prepared to experience the ever-present light anew.