The results of the survey are in.
Thank you to everyone that submitted their feedback.
And there is a lot of information for me to see trends, and as I gave space for you to provide feedback in your own words also, there are some really nice and frank thoughts provided.
This too will help me move forward.
It was heartwarming to read the feedback.
The biggest trend that came flying off the page as I was collating the data was that you would like shorter articles/emails. Indeed over 90% of you wanted shorter articles.
I hear you. And I will try my best to be more economical with my words.
There are some topics that will need more. But let’s see how things progress moving forward with shorter pieces.
All in all the survey was a useful exercise and I loved hearing from you all.
What I’ve Been Thinking
The life of a contemplative should be a life of learning to live well.
What do I mean, exactly? For this might sound a little too hedonic to be taken seriously by anyone that is spiritual.
But if you read anything hedonic in that statement then you read it wrong.
Let me explain.
A spiritual life, regardless of tradition, is a life of moving from an unenlightened experience to an enlightened experience. It is about leveraging all our activities as means of developing true joy independent of any and all physical stimuli.
The joy that comes from inside is genuine and what we are working towards. This is then articulated in various ways, such as the love of God, oneness with God, freedom from suffering, enlightenment, and probably a couple more but for the sake of brevity, you get the point.
Now, because of this some people, including myself at one time, tend to ignore their physical embodied life. This is a mistake.
Do not conflate a spiritual life with a life that ignores embodiment.
Here is the reason: Anxiety is something many if not all people will suffer from at some point in their life. It is the very core of the samsaric experience. If you think you do not have some level of anxiety then you are simply ignoring your own situation.
Now, overcoming anxiety and depression is not disconnected from your bodily experience. Indeed, there is mounting evidence to suggest that the course forms of depression and anxiety are closely linked to diet. And that what you eat plays a large part in the development and sustaining of these mental states. This shows the high interdependence between the body and the mind. It is not a top-down, nor a bottom-up system at the course level of consciousness. Both are needed. And if you can unlock your “system” such that anxiety is reduced then it is easier to develop a deeper meditation practice.
See where I am going with this?
If you are high in anxiety and depression it will be hard to develop a genuinely deep meditation practice. For the anxiety won’t allow you to relax your mind to the degree that stability will arise. And depression will prevent clarity of mind from naturally emerging from that stable state of consciousness itself.
Therefore, if you have persistent anxiety and depression then do not ignore it thinking you are being spiritual but doing so.
Now that does not mean, stopping meditation altogether. You need to continue to practice; indeed the practice will help with anxiety and depression.
But coming at the problem from the inside only is not enough. Look at the external factors too. Do not ignore these.
A spiritual life is both an inside and outside job.
I will have more to say about the three-phased system of developing deep meditation in future articles but for fear of this becoming too long I will stop here.
What I’ve Been Reading
I picked up a book this week that is an investigation into the spiritual phenomenon known as the Rainbow Body.
It was written by a Catholic priest with a long history of interfaith practice and Tibetan Buddhism. It is well researched and from a little bit of skimming it is thorough. But, word of warning, it is also academic, which means dense and terse.
Still, it is an interesting subject to be sure.
Having said all that, Father Tiso’s book looks like an interesting read as its main goal is to better understand his own faith, and in particular what happened after the death of Jesus.
The reason why this is important, particularly given what I wrote above about not ignoring your body, is that at the end of the day, deeper states of consciousness are the very foundation of life itself.
The body is a support to a contemplative life. But it is also just that, support.
And therefore is needed in order to truly be spiritual.