Today, like every other day, we wake up empty and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study and begin reading. Take down the dulcimer. There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the ground. Let the beauty we love be what we do. ~~Rumi
I love this picture, taken when the Christ the Redeemer statue was under construction. One of the New Seven Wonders of the World, it was built in Rio di Janiero in the 1920’s and is huge, overlooking the whole city. It captures how I so often feel on the path and I look at it from time to time to remind me of what it symbolizes to me in my own life….I often think of the words of Jesus telling me that the kingdom of heaven is within, that all is One, that we are safe and all is well. We are not abandoned here, we are not alone here, all we have to do is plug into that larger place within us that is unobstructed, open, free, full of peace and love. Pretty easy to say, much harder to really practice.
A lot of times I feel like that picture…there might be a Christ within, but it is under construction most of the time. My Buddha Nature is always available to me, say the teachers of the dharma, but I have to practice skillfulness in cultivating those seeds in order to really taste the fruit they bear. Anyone who has ever really tried to work with this knows there is a reason they call it a practice 😉
I have had enough training from teachers of many paths to have a certain perspective on things, a certain approach, my own beliefs and so on. I work with a lot of people on a lot of issues; there are a variety of reasons people seek out a coach or healer. But underneath the presenting reason, I believe we are all seeking healing which leads to union with God, with our true nature, with our essence. I wrote about some of this in a few posts on the Blessings Blog, about distance healing and how that works, spiritually and physically. True healing has evidence of the spiritual fruits and I believe taking daily bites of our intended fruit just scatters those seeds out into the collective to benefit all. But we have to be intentional about it in order to fully experience it.
It is my belief that how I feel or remember an experience has little to do with the qualities of the experience itself. Some people leave our sessions feelings relaxed or energized, feeling happy or crying as grief releases. I don’t see any of those as good or bad or right or wrong. It’s just how you feel in the moment. Healing and growth aren’t always comfortable, but they are always optional and not everyone chooses it. So how an experience feels in the moment doesn’t tell me a lot about the experience itself–not everything that feels good is good. Cocaine feels good in the moment and crying often doesn’t. But that doesn’t mean snorting coke is good and crying is bad. So we have to look for the fruits of an experience over time.
Buddhism and Christianity approach this in different ways, but work with the same qualities of discernment and fruition over time. You really can tell a tree by its fruits and pear seeds won’t grow into apple trees. Both traditions tell us that if we practice prayer and meditation, working with our own process around seeking that Light, that heaven within, your Buddha Nature, or whatever else you may choose to call it, then you can predict certain fruits.
The Fruits of the Spirit are Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-control…
~~ Galatians 5: 22-23
The limitless qualities of loving-kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity are your deep-down, ultimate reality, and those are qualities that can’t be improved upon. If you’re not feeling particularly kind, compassionate, joyful, or equanimous at the moment, take heart: the Four Limitless Ones are there like seeds, waiting to be cultivated through practice—and, being limitless, they’re rich enough to be worked with for a lifetime.
~~Pema Chodron, Dharma Teacher
I find this incredibly encouraging. I love that in every tradition, the teachers or prophets tell us we are good. People or bad theology may try to tell you something different, but that’s their own stuff–take it all with a grain of salt and look for the fruits. This is why having community and teachers or spiritual directors is so important, why we are meant to grow together in community, rather than just try to figure this all out alone–sometimes our own stuff gets in the way and we either don’t hear valuable feedback to help us grow, we have our own blinds spots, we can misunderstand something and turn it into a shame spiral. Other people can provide valuable feedback, but it is important to be discerning about those fruits as well. Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter what someone else says or does, what matters is how I respond to that and what I choose to believe about myself as a result.
Healthy spiritual traditions and practices tell me that if I am truly on the path, my love and compassion toward myself and others will grow, not diminish. So how it feels in the moment may be uncomfortable or make me face my deepest fears– and that can be a good thing. But pay attention to the fruits, because what I’m working with and looking for to discern if choices and experiences are good for me are the spiritual fruits. I am seeking to cultivate the seeds of spiritual fruits, but honestly sometimes I’m just nuts. So cocaine may feel good in the moment, but the fruits won’t be sweet over time. Crying, looking at my own reactions to things or facing some hard truths in life may be challenging and bring up a lot of grief or old feelings, but over time that can yield a lot of compassion, inner peace and joy. These things are predictable and proven methods of discernment.
It’s nice to know that on this journey so many have come before me and will come after me. It’s nice to know there are teachers, books, communities and practices to help me develop skillfulness, cultivate the fruits of the spirit and share that with others. It’s so nice to know every tradition tells us we are already good and really just expected to be nice, to love, to extend love and kindness, mercy and forgiveness. The Prophet Micah tells us,
He has showed you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God…
Yogi Bhajan reminds us,
Never compete, never compare and never confuse yourself with everything here. You have come from God. Be with your God and see the glory of God in all, big and small. God shall be with you.
Pema Chodron teaches on the Four Limitless Qualities, reminding us that our basic goodness, our Buddha Nature, what others might call that Christ within, is always available to us because we already have those seeds planted within, we only have to nourish them. I have a sign on my desk that reminds me, “Divine Peace and Love surround me and dwell in me. I am safe and trust the process of Life.” I find that when I plug into the Divine Peace which always surrounds me and dwells within me, that I feel safe and can indeed trust the process of life. But I have to practice it. I have to decide which fruits I will choose to eat from today, which seeds I will nourish and cultivate over time.
I have a variety of Questions I ask the Blessings Coaching clients. Here is a set related to these things….
Humans get angry or upset about a variety of things. What is upsetting to me may not be upsetting to you. What’s important to your spouse, boss, friends or family may not be important to you, or you may find a situation presents itself as the other way around. Hurt feelings and reactions often result from unmet expectations and the fruits can be sweet or bitter. Getting upset about certain things is human and normal—a full range of emotions is normal and healthy. It’s when we get triggered and go to extremes in our unmindful reactions that it creates problems for self and others. So as I sit with these Q’s, what comes up in me?
1. When I’m angry or upset, what do I do? Do I blow up or shut down? Do I just check out and run away—physically or emotionally leave? Do I make choices or behave in ways I later regret? Am I willing to take responsibility for this and change?
2. When I experience “negative” emotions about something or someone…anger, envy, jealousy, resentment, and so on, what do I do? Do I injure or harm myself or others? Do I punish them physically, emotionally or spiritually? Do I make it all about them? Do I spread gossip about them that is untrue? Do I slander them? Do I suddenly begin to speak ill of or blame someone I once praised? Do I ignore them? Make snide remarks? Engage in retaliation with destruction of property or something dear to them? Do I retaliate with destruction of their reputation? Do I lie to them in order to avoid them or my feelings about it? If in a committed relationship, do I run up debt or spend money we don’t have to get even? Am I willing to take responsibility for this and change?
3. If the uncomfortable feelings or negative emotions come into play and I am around children or animals, do I take it out on them? What about elders, children or people under my care or responsibility—do I abuse my authority and take it out on employees, helpless patients in a nursing home, students in a classroom or the clerk at the gas station? Do I manage my own energy and emotions well, or does everyone feel my moods change and take cover from the storm? Am I willing to take responsibility for this and change?
4. When I feel positive emotions like joy, for myself or others, can I celebrate that? Can I celebrate the good fortunes of another, or does it turn into envy or resentment? Can I celebrate my own good fortunes and my own life, or do I feel like I don’t deserve it and have to work harder than ever now? Do I have balance between my ups and downs, or am I dependent on external circumstances for my own moods? Am I willing to take responsibility for this and change?
5. What do I do with myself when these things come up in me? Do I run away, work more, drink more, eat more or less, hide in retail therapy or other addictions? Can I just sit with the uncomfortable feelings without lashing out or shutting down? Are the fruits of my experience bringing me to greater wholeness, or do they disintegrate me and create bitter fruit? Do my reactions and behaviors when I am stressed create problems in my relationships, at work, and result in self-hatred, guilt or shame for me later? Am I willing to take responsibility for this and change?
6. Am I willing to work on this, to take responsibility for myself and my life force? Am I willing to grow and change? If so, how? When? If not now, when?
These can be frightening questions, and are not meant to be worked through alone. Find a teacher, a coach, a spiritual director, good therapist or community as you try to work through these things. We are not meant to be here all alone, just working on these things for ourselves. We are born into communities and what impacts one impacts all. So know that working on these things and cultivating sweet fruit in life benefits not just you, but everyone. If you have questions or would like more info, feel free to make a comment or contact me directly.
Peace and blessings, have a great day!