I have several friends who have mastered the art of finding peak spiritual experiences. Whenever I talk to them, they have been to another class, led by another guru through whom they have found the answer to the proverbial question of the meaning of life. They always have some fascinating insight to share about the way in which they have been able to transcend their own personal brand of suffering. As they speak of it, their eyes shine and their skin glows.
Sometimes I get jealous. You see, this never really happens to me. All of the progress I have made in my life has been through a gradual hacking away of the spiritual jungle surrounding me. Sometimes, when my back is turned, those pesky weeds start sprouting up again behind me. Hack. Hack. Whack. Perspiration. Progress. Back slide…ugh. If only I could just pay some guy in funny robes to clonk me on the head and make it all okay.
It wasn’t until one of these friends moved away and I spoke with her much less frequently that I began to notice the less shiny subscript to her tales. Seemingly, each time she gained “new” insight, it was to the same set of problems and in much the same way each time. Listening closely, I heard the same phrase repeated in every circumstance, “What I realized is…” “I suddenly recognized…” followed by the same set of generic new age wisdom that has been recycled thousands of times in many “systems”.
More sad was in recognizing the desperation in her search for inner sustenance. She appears to be convinced that inner peace is something she can buy or that it is something she can have injected into her by some wise individual. She demonstrates no faith in her own ability to find answers from within.
I am immensely curious about different ways to approach spiritual development. I explore the relevance of energetic work and healing and enjoy trying to understand the contributions science is making to our understanding of the infinite. Regardless of the perspective I am considering at any given time though, I keep coming back to the recognition that it is up to me to make sense of it all.
Courses and workshops are great, but only I can integrate what they have to offer into my spiritual schema. I may make three steps forward and two steps back. It may take the rest of my life to go ten steps in all, but at least I know those steps are mine to keep; not on loan from the glow of a single brief inspirational contact.
As in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, it seems that by the time we know the answer to the question of the meaning of life, we consistently forget what the question is. Perhaps I’ll share with my friend Douglas Adams’ inspirational mantra: 42, 42, 42. I’ll be interested to see what she does with that.
It’s funny that the first post in a blog about Buddhism isn’t going to talk about Buddhism at all. I’m not going to talk about how much I love Pema Chodron or expound on my insights into life. Instead, I’m going to honor the spirit of a man who recently passed away and who was for me one of the most inspirational people I have come into direct contact with – Arthur Lessac.
For those of you who don’t know of him, he is one of the great voice/movement/expression teachers of our time. And “our time” is expansive in this sense. Arthur Lessac died at age 101, only a few days after teaching an extensive course in Croatia.
Arthur Lessac (see URL below)
I met Arthur Lessac last year at a course with speech-language pathologists and singing teachers (of which I am both). One hundred years old at the time, he bench pressed a 200 pound man, led us in movement and dance exercises and spoke in a voice as clear and strong as anyone I’ve known. He exuded a joy in the exploration of life that was both genuine and inspiring.
Walking to work this morning, I thought about him and remembered how he used to encourage us all to walk as if we are dancing. Energy (NRG) will carry you in a way you wouldn’t expect. I thought about his demonstration of that last year and some clips of him in memorium that I watched yesterday. So, I started to dance to work, copying his bouncing and circular arm and leg motions and I was instantly consumed by joy.
This was the most intensely genuine emotional experience I have had in quite some time. It was akin to my experience in sitting meditation with a Zen group, when they asked us all to turn around and face the wall – WHITE. That was it. Today; JOY. That was it.
So, that is why I decided to write about everyday Buddhism. See you soon!
To learn more about Arthur Lessac’s work, visit: http://www.lessacinstitute.com/index2.html
Now buy the Book!