Monday, December 13, 2010

Mysticism part 3: Resonsibility in training.

It is so cool to see the discussion that has sprung up around the first two articles in this series: part one, and part two.

Basically, a lot of it has come down responsibility. Or, as we say in the School of Cultivation and Practice "Response-ability", the ability to respond or act in a situation. The question is "Where am I putting the responsibility?" The main worry that has be posed by many of my school brothers is that mysticism puts the responsibility "out there" and on "something bigger", instead of placing the focus on the individual.

I really learned some things in doing these posts. For one, words have baggage. A word is just a symbol representing a concept, and part of how we understand language is the assumptions we all make about those representation. If I want to use the words in a different way, there's gonna be a lot of work involved in bringing people along with me. For example, words like "religion" and "mysticism" might as well be the cargo hold of a 747 for all the baggage they have on them. I got seriously frustrated by what I saw as an essential misunderstanding of "my" use of these words as I was attempting to define them, but really, next time I will expect it.

This goes back to the idea of responsibility. My definition of religious mysticism, as a process, is the process of connecting with a direct experience and awareness of reality. This process, in my experience, is connected with a sense of wonder at the amazingness of everything, from every steel train bridge to the bum taking a dump in the street to the sun shining down through lake Michigan as a float in it. Inherent in this definition is one's personal responsibility. We have a saying in Wujifa "you are where you are, and that's where you start". We also value what is practical and direct, as well as concepts. In fact, without the practical and direct, concepts are just shadows, and they are separated from direct experience.

It's real, and it's direct, and it's practical. I could say I'm having a mystical experience of my laptop right now, as I am connecting with it through my fingertips and I am experiencing this connection. As I notice how beautiful and amazing it is to be able to communicate with friends who may be in different parts of the country in this way, I am filled with joy. As I allow myself to notice more about it, I am filled with a sense of wonder. It runs on electricity that comes through a little cord from a plug in my wall which comes through the power lines, originating in a power plant somewhere which runs on oil, most likely. This bad boy runs on dinosaurs. Tell me that's not cool.

Monks meditate, mother Teresa serves the poor, and the Dalai Lama works out international relations. Very practically, they actively apply their beliefs. It is these actions that bring their beliefs into the real world.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Mysticism and Imagination (continued)

After discussing my last blog post with my school brothers, I realized how many ideas of mine (and others) were in there, and how little personal experience it contained. In order to supplement my last post, I will elaborate here on how I came to some of those ideas, and the experiences which have led me to an appreciation of what might be called "mystical" experience.

Much of my upbringing was Catholic. When I was young, I went to church every Sunday. Surely, some good advice was shared in the sermons, but I never really had an "experience" of something more than myself (other than the community, and even that felt disconnected). I fell out of this practice, and began searching for a personal connection with "something more".

Meditation was the next step for me. From where I started, this practice narrowed my focus and tended to remove me from context. As such, I ended up delving deeply into subjectivity, and lost track of how I fit in, but gained some interesting insights into my personal responsibility for my thoughts and feelings, meaning that I could have some choice in this area.

So right now, I'm experiencing more of the "re-connective mysticism" I talked about in the previous article. What happens is, when I do my practices in the woods or in nature (I'm sure these experiences aren't contingent upon the setting... that's just where it happens for me now) sometimes I have a wonderful feeling of belonging, and my thoughts focus on my relations to everything around me. There is also often an accompanying sense of beauty and wonder. For example, noticing myself standing in relation to a tree, or trees, or blades of grass, and feeling like I have a place along side of, and in connection with, those things as part of the grand scheme of life. It feels like a connection with truth in some way, and an appreciation of "things as they are". I got this feeling walking down the street one day, and I saw a street sign and thought about all that went into it... the miners who harvested the metal, the refiners, the people at the sign factory, the installers... and I appreciated how that sign was not just an object, but the result of work and humanity and cooperation. Occasionally, I've even thought the silliness of calling anything that exists "unnatural". Even a car came about by processes of nature. Nature created people, people created cars, ipso facto - nature made cars.

Anyway, there may be more thoughts and experiences on the way about this, as it really is such a rich and important topic to me.

I also am really curious about other peoples' experiences of "something more", and I would love if you would share yours in the comments. Thanks so much!