“Relax Into Perfection” is an expression that my teacher used to say to me from the very beginning. I have those words written on a card that has been on my altar now for over four years, and today they symbolize the whole path for me. They also hold a special place in my heart. In the very beginning, when my agitated mind had a difficult time sitting quietly for even 15 minutes, they definitely were more of an annoyance than a comfort. Now they bring everything I have learned to mind.
After much studying and practicing, I know that what we need most of all is relaxing around all of life. Relaxing is a release, a ‘letting go’ of sorts. Stress causes tension, which stays in our bodies and if not released in some way, continue the downward spiral which leads to dis-ease of all kinds.
So for starters, if we can find some way, some activity, that allows for space in our lives that is where we should start. Space for a ‘gap’ so we can ‘hear’ what is truly important to us. Like anything we want to get good at, we need practice. It doesn’t have to ‘look’ a certain way or take a long time. Start small…but start somewhere. If you cannot ‘meditate’ right away…walk, sit, lay down and look at the ceiling…whatever. Even 5 minutes of quiet every day is better than 1 hour one day a week. Consistency is the key. And, as we are able to create a small ‘gap’ we can create more of a gap in time, so we can begin to see what to adopt and what to discard.
I am immensely grateful to my teacher for suggesting that I try a practice for 28 days. 28 days is a full lunar cycle, which they have found to be a good time frame for us to ‘know’ if something will work for us or not, and for it to become a habit. Without that initial experience, and seeing the benefits of it, I don’t know where I would be today. Having my practice, gives me a daily check-in with my body, speech and mind, which helps me set a tone for my day, and in turn a direction for my life.
It is so important to be careful picking a spiritual teacher. We research any person that we wish to do work in our homes, help us with legal or financial advise, or good schools for our children. Why is it that we so easily go along with any person or ‘new’ philosophy that looks good at first glance?
Like the Buddha said: “Don’t believe something just because I say it. Test it against your reason and experience, and if it works for you – great! If not, put it aside.”
A knowledgeable teacher should be one who is in a legitimate spiritual tradition. One who can trace the disciplic succession back to the original Teacher. How else can we come to understand the meaning of the teachings, if our teacher is doing their own interpretation, and not having a correct understanding him/herself?
I have recently learned a big piece of the puzzle, when it comes to the meaning of teachings. It has to do with idiomatic expressions. These were expressions that the specific audience could relate to. All cultures -and sometimes even groups of people- use idiomatic expressions. When I first came to the United States and people would say things like “Are you pulling my leg?”…or “that is a piece of cake”… I would look at them funny and wonder what on earth they were talking about!?
Well, the same thing applies to the original spiritual teachings. They were spoken with idiomatic expressions, and in a language that people of the time could relate to. We say that you always have to take into consideration the time, the place and the circumstance.
Before I heard the explanation of the Short Pure Land Sutra, this text sounded to me like a dreamland, a ‘perfect’ retreat place that I would like to go to and stay at forever. Well, all the ‘jewels’ and ‘ponds’, and 5 this and 7 that…relate back to the specific teachings of the Buddha. We could conjecture, like they do in the news all the time, but truly understanding what they mean, we need a teacher who knows the intent of the original Teacher in his/her tradition.
In Buddhism we speak of the “Three Jewels”. That can be applied to any spiritual traditon. All that means is: The Teacher, The Teaching, and the assembly of Advanced Practitioners.
There is no ‘one’ way to enlightenment – the important thing is to find a reputable Teacher that can give you the instructions that will actually lead you there.
Love & Light!