Jerry Katz
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The wind carves shapes into the beach sand

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Highlights #622

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Thursday February 15th

Thank you all for your comments. It is interesting to see how people
hear and respond to this question.

The goal I refer to is Self-realization, not a particular experience
or outcome. I believe that is why we are born in a human body and
that we will all eventually 'get there'. It is difficult to speak
about spiritual matters because of paradox and because we are trying
to put words to something that is not on a verbal level.

Still, in this body, in this life, for most of us, something stands in
the way of realizing the Truth. Whether we call that realization of
no-self or the Divine or whatever doesn't really matter to me. What
keeps us from abiding in the Truth at all times? It is one thing to
say there is no barrier, there is no path. We have only to realize.
Partly, the path is the how (to realize there is no path). There are
many paths up the mountain.

Contemplating the thought that there is no mountain and there is
no path may help me to realize. We can learn from many enlightened
sages, from their example and experience.

We all have choices about what we do with our minds and hearts. We
have karma, samskaras and vasanas (grooves and patterns of the mind)
which give a certain momentum. If I were to lay on the couch eating
ice cream and chocolates and watching Julia Roberts movies for a week
that would affect me in a different way than if I was to spend a week
in silence, going within. Our focus and choices affect the momentum,
strengthen certain grooves and weaken others.

For me, my meditation practice is a way of strengthening and
purifying my mind and heart so that I can see more clearly. This too
works on so many levels. Love, faith, trust, devotion, yearning for
Truth - these help me to open to grace. It's not a mechanical process
and it's not something I 'do', even though there are systematic steps
and techniques to follow.

I can cultivate this awareness or I can turn my face away. This
can be very subtle at times, and I think this is the 'spiritual
apathy'. It takes courage to face ourselves, to be honest, to allow
more and more of ourselves into our awareness. To let the ego go, to
let my construct dissolve. There are many ways to slip off the
razor's edge. One is by doing things in life that are not conducive
to staying awake. We can blunt our awareness with food, movies,
drugs, talking, etc etc.

My teacher talks about abhyasa and vairagya. Abhyasa is practice,
sustained effort, sustained attention or awareness. Vairagya is
non-attachment. Both are needed.

We don't see what we don't see. Having guidance from a teacher and/or
sharing with others can be helpful because sometimes they see
something we can't. Sometimes they're full of it too. :) And it's
a comfort and inspiration to know there are others on the 'path' (so
to speak).



...Each word carries its own truths, just look into them and there is
nothing that is not "self-realized". This sentence: "the goal I
to is Self-Realization, not a particular experience or outcome", is
interesting, in that it sets out a "goal", but then refutes the idea
of a goal by stating, that the goal is not a particular experience or
outcome. I believe that by definition, a goal is an outcome, and is
usually considered to be an experience. So in this way, you
illustrate that spiritual matters are difficult to speak about, but
with a certain clarity, and with, perhaps, more time and with precise
definitions of all terms, understood by all persons, then it is not
difficult. (I sense what you are getting at with your first
statement, and use it simply as an example of how our use of language
might be the problem, not necessarily the translation of "what is",
into language).

...Nothing keeps us from abiding in the Truth at all times. There can't
be anything but abiding in the Truth at all times. But if you call
that life, or problems or barrier, then it becomes that for you. If
you call it abiding in the truth at all times, then that's what it

...But for a person, there is only the path, the truth and reality of
their "path", their being, so there is only one path.

...In some sense, there are no enlightened sages. On a moment to moment
basis, what is appearing is "what is", and all persons, things,
situations are aspects of that, and so each person speaks, acts,
bears and embodies the truth. With this mind, everyone is a teacher.

... There are certain aspects of consciousness that
seem to take place at a level that may not be accessible. The
grooves are not apparent except through activity, and observation, but not
knowable as some object--something happens, it "goes into the groove"
and the response comes up. By this process, we can know the groove,
because we can study the response. And probably deal with the
But this set of grooves, can we know them?

...Many people are not
remotely interested in spiritual practice. That might be apathy.
Perhaps what you describe, even the turning away, is cultivating
awareness, in that you know the difference between one kind of
activity and another. I say above that it is all "abiding in the
truth", but abiding is abiding, and non-abiding is not abiding, and
there is a kind of discrimination around that.

Just a few thoughts. Terry


What does it mean to have a (spiritual) practice? Would you say you
have a practice? Is it possible to have one? Is it possible to not
have a practice?



....practice is simply remembering that just as everyday the body must be
fed food, the mind fed words, the heart fed sensations, the spirit must be
fed love (eros, storge, philia and agape)...the body and not body are not
the self...the mind and not the mind are not the self....the heart and not
heart are not the self...the spirit alone is is spirit itself
enfolds all of these including itself in an integral embrace of love
embracing love and unfolding love itself...this is what my daily practice
has taught me...not as to what and how each of us practices...there are many
dharma doors...many paths ...many ways...but they all end at the top of the
same sacred mountain.....^^~~~~~

further up and further in,

white wolfe


The natural mind which is present in everyone is already enlightened.
This need not be taken on faith but can be understood directly if one stops
the things one is continually doing. A practise is a way of stopping doing, of
not-doing. It's a way of being detached; from knowledge, from mental states...
Detachment is not what it's all about, understanding is.
It seems to me that there are stages one goes through in practise, one might
start out with a goal in mind, then after a while, one might no longer have a
but still keep practising for the pleasure of it and the benefits like calmness
clarity it seems to imbue, and finally one might just practise for no reason,
it just
being integral to the day's being. This seems to be the case whatever the
practise is.



ºWhat does it mean to have a (spiritual) practice?

I couldn't possibly know how it is to have such a practice
but during life I met a few practitioners of Hatha Yoga,
Tibetan Buddhism, "renegade" Tibetan tantra, and Hare Krishna's...
And as a "strong" figure of speech, "I would rather be dead" than
having to live with the "results" of such practice...
(The practitioners weren't particularly happy despite long practice...)

ºWould you say you have a practice?

I didn't have a practice, being "thrown into awareness" without
prior knowledge of anything called "spiritual". An analogy can be found
in the "Asterix" cartoons - the case of Obelix...

ºIs it possible to have one?

Of course - it would be a sensible approach to "undo" the involuntary
conditioning, one has been exposed to since birth...

ºIs it possible to not
ºhave a practice?

Yes - that happens when conditioning wasn't accepted but only "acted when
and the greatest one (saying "this" but doing "that") didn't enter the mind...



Some want to become enlightened. They seek this not to find the truth
of who they are. Rather, they wish to become the next buddha or the
next christ. Once this exalted state is reached they plan to save the

Ahem... there can be only one!


Peace - Michael


What a dumbass thing to say. Only one - HA!

OK - wise guy - which one is it?

EVERYONE! hooha!

Peace - michael


Now you see it now you don't.

Abacadabra and hocus pocus.

Tag! You are what you seek.
Who? Me?
Yes, dear, you!
But I'm so ordinary!
Yes, just another divine thing.



Peace - Michael


James Bean sent this:

The Light of God is Within Everyone

Spending time daily in
silent meditation helps us
commune with our true self and the Divine
Power that created us. Those moments are
filled with bliss, peace, and love. As we
enter the inner sanctum of our hearts, we
find that there is Light within us. That
Light is the Light of the Creator. The
realization dawns on us that the same Light
that is within us is in all other human
beings. We start to recognize that Light
within others. Then the outer differences
that separate us start to dissolve. We no
longer see a person's hair color, eye color,
or skin color. We no longer see the way
people dress or speak. Instead we see one
Light expressed by many different outer
coverings, each beautiful in its own way.

-- Sant Rajinder Singh, from, "Living Human Unity"


Dear Jerry,

A spiritual practice is a prayer/meditation discipline
which one does regularly, like daily. Practice
differs from person to person. It also varies with
various stages of a person's spiritual path.

Mine for about a decade now has involved praying the
Liturgy of the Hours each early morning almost without
fail. Not that that is a personal triumph to be proud
of. But my life does not "hold together" if I skip
the discipline. The Psalms, said very slowly and out
loud, lead me into deeper listening to my True Self,
my God in Christian terms.

After my January two week retreat with the Camaldolese
at Big Sur C A, I have begun to use their sung office
of Vigils and Lauds each day. So rich to slowly
sing, with deep breaths between each psalm verse, the
poetry of the sacred literature of the
Judaeo-Christian Tradition.

I have developed the practice of "journaling" in the
margins of my Liturgy of the Hours book. A psalm line
or word will bring to mind a person or an
event/situation for which I pray - including me and my
own "situations" - and so I jot down a name and a
date. Now. a decade later, it is fascinating to see
my life and my concerns held together in my prayer and
to realize how God's Way was worked with that

So, Jerry, you asked about practice and I hope my
sharing some of mine has been helpful to you and
others. Perhaps others will be specific about their
practice in the Merton Group.

Patrick Collins, Group Moderator

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