Saturday, February 27, 2010

After Ecstasy, The Laundry

In his book, After Ecstasy, the Laundry: How the Heart Grows Wise on the Spiritual Path, Jack Kornfield discusses how our expectations of enlightenment and insight can become obstacles that prevent us from actually knowing these experiences. As he explains, "It is easy to get caught up in the notion that there is a goal, a state, a special place to reach in spiritual life. Accounts of extraordinary experiences can create ideas of how our own lives should be, and lead us to compare ourselves with others."

He offers a testimonial from a Buddhist meditation master that might be helpful in our own times of impatience, frustration, or doubt about such practices:
Here I am, a teacher for hundreds and hundreds of students, some who have experienced powerful meditative openings. But that has not been my way. For a long time this was the hardest thing for me to accept, that "nothing happened." I'm not a person with big dramatic experiences. For thirty years now it's simply been a process of practicing without being caught by my own ideas of discouragement or success. I would go for months of intensive training and no spectacular experience would happen. This was especially hard for the first ten years, but at least I never got trapped into believing I was a special spiritual person.

Yet somehow something did change. What most transformed me were the endless hours of mindfulness, giving a caring attention to what I was doing. I learned that the inner dropping of burdens was not going to happen for me all in one piece, but again and again. I simply dropped the burden of my judgments, of my fear, of distrust of myself, of tightness of body and mind...Oddly enough, some of my friends tell me I have become more and more like myself. They say there has been a very big change in me, but it wasn't produced by any special event. I guess it is just the fruit of being present over and over. It's that simple.
...And that difficult...


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