Updated: Feb 2
As I have been working on practicing the Steps to Awakening that I wrote about in my past post, what has emerged is more of a dance than a sequence. The first four steps are about my relationship with my greater power (which I choose to understand as the All.) I find that this relationship forms the foundation of my practice of the other steps, the foundation for self-transcendence. The remaining 8 steps are about my relationships with myself and others, as guided and inspired by my greater power.
My practice starts with morning prayer and meditation. I like to have some lemon tea while reading a spiritual text until the tea is gone. Then I pray – I express gratitude for whatever I’m feeling especially thankful for, and ask for guidance in areas where I feel a need. Then my prayer-meditation is a mantra meditation. I use the mantra, “Thy will be done.” It is a prayer in that with these words I surrender everything to the All for today. It is a meditation in that I use the words as a mantra, to return to again and again as my mind wanders. I do this all while relaxed in a recliner. No strict meditation poses for me.
What often happens in my meditation is that at first some inspiration comes – ideas that feel right about what to write or what to do today. And then after that, as I continue returning to the mantra, deep peace and rest come, and sometimes I feel energy moving in my body. It feels so good that I sometimes meditate for an hour, though I have no set time goal for my meditation.
I call my experience with the steps a dance because what comes to me, in both meditation and throughout the day, can be any step. One day I feel guided to practice step 12 and give something away. Another day I am given a deeper understanding of an unhelpful ego pattern or resentment I am holding on to as described in step 6, and I surrender it to the All, as in step 8. One day I feel guided to call someone to connect with them, or I see a way I can make amends for a harm to myself or another, as in step 9. Another day I am reminded of and practice deep present moment acceptance, as in step 10.
It feels good to have a regular spiritual practice again. My Zen teacher, Genpo Roshi, recently wrote: "When we take on a practice we take on the willingness to learn and to grow, and to see it all as teaching. Before we have a practice we don’t see life as a teaching or as dharma. We see it as happening, events and so forth, and all the emotions that go on with it; but we don’t see it as a practice, as a training, as a way to help us evolve and to grow and mature. So everything becomes kind of empty, because it doesn’t have any real meaning or value. Because we don’t see it as a practice."
I have no future goals or step-by-step path with practice. It is a one day at a time practice, and what the practice means each day comes to me that day. It feels like something good is happening in my life, like I am finding myself after being lost for a long time. I feel happier and freer and more alive than I have for a long time. Each day small revelations come, about what to do today. I feel guided to what to read, and find just what I need next. My morning prayer and mediation are satisfying and meaningful, and at times I feel myself going deeper in meditation than I have before. I do them because I want to, not because they are on a list of practices I have made a commitment to. Natalie Southgate wrote, "Within each of us there is a sacred place that is always at peace. Try and spend at least a few minutes each day travelling to this inner sanctuary. Close your eyes...and rest in this gentle, peaceful place within. It is like a holiday for your soul." That is what my morning mediations feel like. I experience peace, love, and the feeling of energy moving in my body. All feels right with the world and in my life. Whatever step is applicable seems to come to mind at just the right time. It is becoming a beautiful dance.