It’s Summer at Great Vow: Discovering Practice, Embodying the Way

Its Summer at Great Vow
17 new residents
Bursting, bright, blushing, bold
Unprecedented Exuberance for Enlightenment
Every breath a Newness
Thank goodness
The peak of Jizo Mountain is Broad
Supporting all beings
with the heart to practice.

The Search

For many of us, spiritual practice is not something that we have inherited from our families of origin, but something that calls to us from inside our lives as we mature. Perhaps we have childhood memories of awe, curiosity and wonder at the sheer miracle of life, and perhaps we are in touch with these memories on some level as we begin the spiritual search.

What is it that stirs the heart towards deeper knowing? What is it in you that awoke to this call for spiritual practice? What are you looking for? What do you most deeply want?

When people apply for residency at Great Vow they are asked to write a Spiritual Biography. To look back at their lives through the lens of always being on the spiritual path, marking moments of key transformations, insights and struggles that prepared and weathered the soul for this next leg of intensive spiritual practice – of heart/mind training.

Two to three years later, if you are considering ordination you are asked again, to write the same kind of essay. To look back at the same life, but now through the eyes of heart more steeped in presence, more aware of/aligned with intention and purpose.

What is amazing is that though the hard facts of one’s life, the events/situations, have not changed – the way we reflect on them does. In a practice life, the past is just as malleable, uncertain and mysterious as the present/future. As our minds expand and hearts open, grudges fall away, past hurts are forgiven. People are freed from our judgements, we are freed from the practice of regret/ill will. As the past is liberated from our self-centered story about it, we see more about what was actually happening, the circumstances that led to great hurt, disappointment, pain and thus, relationships are healed.

It is probably true for most of us, that what we originally thought was our motivation for practice – is not quite the whole truth, is always changing, has never really taken form in words.

Jogen Sensei has been asking this Summer, to our new group of 17 residents, as well as the rest of us “longterm residents”. Why do you practice? What is your motivation? Who do you want to be? What do you want to manifest?

We all have first thoughts that come to mind. Be honest, do the first thoughts get at the root truth? Or is something deeper going on? When have you last asked yourself/reminded yourself why you practice? If you were in touch with your deepest intentions for practice, how would you practice?

The Path

For some of us it may feel like we are stumbling, that it is difficult to get our footing, and when we do, we are uncertain where to step. We may feel like we are constantly walking into the ditches, stopping to smell the flowers, getting caught in the brambles.

But what if we have always been on the path, what if we cannot deviate from the path, what if every step we take is the path?

So what makes your path dharma? What makes your feet the Way?

We are capable of deluding ourselves. We are capable of innumerable irritations, of inexhaustible desires, of continuous confusion. And yet, our humanness, all of it – the ditches, the flowers and the brambles – is the path. And transcending our humanness, cutting through our delusions, shining the light of awareness through this smokescreen of a self, becoming intimately the clear, bright mind of perfection – is the path. May we always walk straight on this crooked Way together.

The Buddha Way is unsurpassable, I vow to become it.