Conduct and observance

Saturday, December 2, 2006

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Saturday, December 2, 2006

On being ordinary

As human beings, we're all terrifically attracted to the extraordinary. Nothing satisfies us more than the amazing: breathtaking landscapes, extraordinary music, fantastic artwork, profound literature.

Perhaps above all, though, we're perversely attracted to what is both amazing and horrific at the same time: disaster positively fascinates mankind. As if mother nature wasn't already capable of providing enough of it for us (today's photograph is a view of Mt. Vesuvius from a field of poppies at Pompeii), we engineer it for ourselves with great enthusiasm. There's nothing more fascinating than violence and death. And if we can't deliver it in cold, hard, grim and bitter reality, no problem.

We use special effects and film it.

Our media feeds on this need for input excess. The whole information age is a massive paroxysm of never-ending, 24 hour a day overstimulation. Even serenity itself has become something which is pushed at us and sold in excess; yoga, for example, has become an industry pumping out an endless series of catalogs filled with special products. It's not a spiritual discipline any more; it's an exercise regimen or a fashion trend.

We show our dissatisfaction with the ordinary in other ways, too: the whole world thrives on the "vacation" industry, which basically consists of all of us rushing off to different places that are somehow supposed to be better than where we are. More interesting. Groovier, more important, more spiritually feeding. And more often than not, when we get there, there are still things wrong anyway, because where we are never seems to be quite good enough, no matter how much we rush around and how much money we spend doing it.

What's THAT all about? How come the ordinary, everyday life around us isn't satisfying?

We're built inside out. We're trying to drink in satisfaction from outside, and it doesn't work that way. Satisfaction has to begin inside us, and then find its relationship to the outside of us. If we form a better inward relationship, then the most ordinary routines in life begin to become very satisfying indeed. Pencils can become as interesting as the Taj Mahal. In this regard, inner satisfaction is the great equalizer.

All of this has to begin with an interest in ourselves: how we are inside, the way the parts are connected. If the parts in us don't begin to function in a better, more whole relationship, we could become billionaires and acquire tremendous power and there would still be something missing. This comes back to the idea of in-formation, the idea that we must become responsible for forming something within ourselves that is stronger and deeper than the outside world. We need to acquire an inner gravity.

All of the equipment to do this is in there, but, generally speaking, we're so utterly taken with the outside world that almost no one stops to examine themselves very carefully. Modern life is just too damned fast and too damned complicated. We've turned it into a freight train and tied ourselves to the tracks, because it's so darned exciting!

In order to begin from a different point of view, we need to STOP and apply the KISS principle: Keep It Simple, Stupid. Slow down. Remember our breathing. Take an inner inventory: how am I right now? Am I physically tense? What's my relationship to my body?

Or, to sum it up, as my own teacher once asked me:

What is the truth of this moment?

Ordinary, daily life provides us with every bit of material we need to begin understanding what a path of inner satisfaction could consist of.

This is an act of "world creation," and we cannot engage in it if we consistently let the outside world dictate the terms of the creation of our inner world for us. Those of us in spiritual works are, collectively, engaged in the process of trying to form and maintain an inner solar system.

I'll write a bit more about this tomorrow.

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