Burning brightly

    —
May 15, 2013

Is it necessary to make a commitment to study and practice within one tradition? When I first started meditating, I was introduced by Burmese meditation master S.N. Goenka to the old adage, “If you want to find water, don’t dig many holes. Dig deep in one place.”

And recently in a discussion with philosopher Ken Wilber, when asked this question in the context of a discussion about the future of spirituality, Ken responded by quoting a Japanese saying, “Try to chase two rabbits at the same time, catch none.”

But is this universally true? In our contemporary context, is it necessary to commit to studying and practicing within a singular spiritual tradition if one wants to radically grow and transform? Although I see the value in this perspective and the depth of realization it can bring, I am not convinced.

As an interviewer, I have now met some highly accomplished and wise teachers whose life experience tells a different story. I have spoken with spiritual teachers who have not followed any formal path at all and whose hearts seem wildly open and whose lives seem truly devoted to serving other people. I’ve also interviewed teachers who have simultaneously studied in several different lineages and who actually recommend such an approach as an opportunity for checks and balances (so to speak) as one matures on the path.

Having now met people who come from such a wide range of different spiritual backgrounds and paths of practice, my current view is that it is not the path that matters as much as it is the heart fire of the individual. What I mean by heart fire is the commitment and intensity of love and devotion that lives at the center of our being. When our hearts are lit up to the max—lit up with a dedication to opening fully and offering our life energy for the well-being of other people—there is a torch within us that begins to blaze with warmth and generosity. The real question becomes not are we on the right path but are we fully sincere in offering ourselves to the world? Are we whole-hearted (a word I learned from meditation teacher Reggie Ray) in letting go of personal territory? Are we whole-hearted in our desire to burn brightly and serve, regardless of the outer form our lives might take?

What I like about turning the question around like this is that now our finger is not pointing outward at some consideration of path or tradition or what other people say or have done or are doing. Now our finger is pointing directly to the center of our own chest. We can ask ourselves questions like: Am I hiding or holding back for some reason? What am I holding back and why? What would it mean to risk more so that the fire of life could shine more brightly through me? How could I live in such a way, right now, so that my heart is 100 percent available to love and serve?

My experience is that when we start investigating our own whole-heartedness in this kind of way, we don’t have the same need to judge and evaluate other people and their paths. There are a multitude of options, valid and viable. What becomes important is the purity and strength of the fire that is blazing within us.

candle

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Get it here: https://www.soundstrue.com/store/book-of-beasties.html

 

 

 

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Get it here: https://www.soundstrue.com/store/yoga-friends.html

 

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WIN OUR NEW RELEASE BUNDLE:The Integrity Advantage, Daring to Rest, Breathe and Be, Leopard Warrior, and Things That Join the Sea and the Sky

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  • Rocio says:

    Agree! Thanks Tami!

  • Rudy Siegel says:

    Fr. Thomas Keating’s Snowmass Inter-Religious Conferences provide an important insight to this question. And in a presentation with Ken Wilber titled, “Spiritual but not Religious,” (Avialable in YouTube) Keating describes the world’s religions as a necessary path to individual awakening. It can be argued that many religions do not promote individual spirituality (convenient, perhaps for the corporate compliance with institutional dogmas), but Keating says that each religious tradition plays an important role in lighting the path to awakening. Once one is “awake,” then it is crucial not to abandon one’s religion, but rather to enrich that same tradition with the “common patrimony” found in the unifying experince of mystical encounter. Even science today is finding this fundamental unity that mystics of all traditions have understood since the very first moments of spiritual encounter.

    I personally find unity in two orders of contemplation. One is to trace our common “substantial lineage”–of stuff, material cause–to our personal, causal roots; following the river of being to its self-sufficient, non-contingent radical source. We wind up today, through scientific endeavors, at the Big Bang, perhaps the ultimate form of ecumenism, both physical and spiritual, and whatever preceeds the Big Bang in a factual, causal relationship. The second order is to contemplate our peprsonal fact of “I am.” At our most radical roots of awareness, we find this Descartian fact of being in quiet contemplation. From that point, then, we turn from the inward “nothingness” to the outward “everything,” appreciating with a boundless expansion that we are personally part of a whole. We each begin as a seedling that struggles to be and to understand, but we grow to become part of a forest, an ecosystem of humanity, that in spirit truly knows no bounds. As Keating suggests, our challenge today is to identify the common roots, the common patrimony of many faiths, and learn to love one another within the convergent paths ahead. As Kahlil Gibran said, the many religions are the many fingers of the one hand. Pax, Rudy

    My Blog: “Woods Walking”
    http://excelsisdeoomnibus.wordpress.com/2010/08/06/hello-world/

  • Sharon says:

    I agree. There are many ways, all you need is the will.

  • Monica says:

    I love this article and am so grateful for your commitment to the inner-fire and sharing!
    Thank you 🙂

  • cathy says:

    Thanks, Tami, for this post and for all the wonderful work of bringing so many great programs into being.

  • Sandy Lee says:

    I would say it doesn’t really matter. Once awakened, enlightened, present, all “traditions” are the same. I don’t believe the question is relevant to an awakened being.

  • Steve says:

    Thank you Tami. I have struggled with this as i reflect on my own spiritual/growth/awareness path and have come to the place of agreement with you on this. The only thing that I found myself wishing you would have included is a comment along the lines of having a relationship with a teacher and its importance to growth. I personally feel that I have benefited more, grown more, and “stayed on course” (completely personal and relative meaning) when having someone to be completely open to; one who is able to be the mirror you need at the proper time. The difficulty is finding the teacher who is able to be open to this idea of using an eclectic approach. Thank you for all you do at Sounds True …….. be well.

  • Grayson Towler says:

    To me, this is one of the many ways that the creative path and spiritual path overlap. If you’re pursuing an art form, you can choose to study deeply in one school, practice an eclectic mix, or forge your own self-taught path. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.

    If you follow a specific school, you can tap into the full resources of one deep tradition. You’ve got support from teachers past and present, a road map for the whole journey, and a clear picture of what success is. On the other hand, you risk being an imitator all your life. A tradition can lock you into a certain way of thinking and being that has little room for your own creative expression.

    If you go for the eclectic mix, then you get a much broader view of the world and the possibilities of your artistic form (or spiritual practice). You can pick and choose what suits you best. You also risk staying at a superficial level of understanding–jack of all trades, master of none.

    Forging your own path can seem like the most creative and authentic way to go, but it can be very tough going. You end up having to reinvent the wheel a lot, struggling to do things that a school or tradition has already figured out long ago. And it can be a very lonely way to go.

    I don’t believe there’s any one answer. We all have to find our own way, and our strategies may shift over life. For me, whether in art or spirituality, the question I keep asking myself time in again is “Why am I doing this?” If I can’t find an answer within that comes from this place of passion, what Tami calls the heart fire, then it’s time to reevaluate and see where that inner light leads me.

  • Nancy says:

    Well said and I would like to applaud the women teachers who are out there. I don’t know if it is an ego thing or what, why there are more men teachers than women teachers. Looking within is a good practice. I do lose focus tho, a lot. Btw, self acceptance project is really helpful. Thanks, Peace, Nancy

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