In Part I of this blog-post, I wrote about the need to seduce people into the practice of meditation techniques and right prayer, so as to bring about the conditions needed for more fruitful negotiations of intractable conflicts.
James Hillman, a well-known Jungian psychologist, has said that a person comes to the earth “knowing” what he is to do here. Joseph Campbell echoes this sentiment when he talks about “following your bliss” (for to do so implies your “bliss” exists inside of you).
The model of the archetypes (that each of us tends to be more of a king, a warrior, a lover, an artist, a businessman) sheds more light on this concept. In my own life, it seemed to me early on that I was here to be an artist.
The interesting thing about meditation, yoga, tai chi, right prayer and the like, is *anyone* on any life path can engage in these activities, with more or less the same effect. The result is that a loosening happens. I discussed this loosening in Part I with regards to ideas, beliefs and bargaining positions. But the loosening also happens around so-called “soul-purpose.” If a person starts out on a warrior’s life path, meditation can eventually lead him in another direction.
I experienced it as a lifting up. Imagine my artist’s life is depicted as a bicycle moving along on a road. When I began meditating, it was as if I began to become detached from the bicycle, and started to float above it. The bicycle still had momentum: it continued along its artist’s way. But “I” was free from the path. I could make other choices in my life. And I did. Slowly, slowly, the bicycle lost its momentum, because I had stopped pedaling. And then I had many more options in my life.
It is precisely this state (the state of having many options) which is useful to resolving intractable conflicts.
If we assume that each of us is merrily strolling along on our life paths, following our bliss, what is needed for an individual to decide to meditate? My spiritual transformer has suggested three conditions are needed (kudos to my friend and fellow traveller for sharing these with me [http://www.shunyo.org/]).
First, a person must understand that s/he is going to die. Not just mentally, but in a deep way. The moment one really grocks this fact, the big questions arise: why am I here? Who am I? What is the purpose of life? And the various spiritual practices are known to offer doorways into these questions.
Second, a person must come to know that the endless stream of projects and purposes which the mind creates will ultimately lead nowhere. With the multitude of projects available to us (from home improvements to making our own YouTube videos) this is a difficult thing to see. And yet, I know from my own experience it is true.
To find out, ask yourself: what am I hoping to gain by completing the projects I am working on? Certainly you need a small income for the basics. But beyond this, what is the underlying goal? If you are like me, the goal will have an inner component: I want to be happy, to be content, to feel good about myself.
If you keep looking, eventually you will see that doing the outer-world thing does not deliver the goods. (Don’t take my word for it! Have a look inside…)
I spent a long time looking for the most meaningful career for myself. I chose music composition. After a performance of one of my works, sitting exhausted in a cafe, I suddenly realized that no matter how many pieces I wrote; no matter how many awards I won; no matter how many people came to see my extravaganzas; I was still going to have this hole inside of me. I was still going to be miserable.
This is the insight that is needed.
The Buddha said there exists suffering. And — desire is the root cause of suffering. A corollary to these words is, no amount of trying to fulfill desire (and that, in the end, is what “doing projects” is about) will alleviate the suffering. The way is in.
Once I saw that composing wasn’t going to reach the core of my wounds, I looked for a deeper solution. This search led me to spiritual discipline.
The third thing that is needed for a person to discover a practice is a person needs to begin to learn from his mistakes. My transformer used to say, as I remember it, make as many mistakes as you like, but only make each one once.
The great thing about this simple guideline is it leads a person into many different life choices. And as a person explores all the outer world has to offer, living as intensely and joyously as possible, she will eventually discover the truth of axiom number two: nothing in the outer world, ultimately, is going to help. (An aside: it might take a bit of introspection to notice that one is, in fact, repeating one’s mistakes.)
We now have more information to guide us in our quest toward spiritual practice. We can remember, in a deep way, that death awaits us. We can attempt to stop duplicating our mistakes. We can examine the deep purpose of each activity we undertake. We can say no when the TV invites us to watch another episode of “My Favorite Show,” and instead give our loved one a long, heart-full hug.
And then, we can spend a few moments in the “Spiritual” section of the book store or newspaper calendar, and see what phrase catches our eye, whispering gently, come, come…
As Rumi put it, “Walk out into the indications of where you must go.”