How To Progress On Our Spiritual Paths
Then, on the evening of September 7, the Kadampa Meditation Center of Georgia finally opened, welcoming about 100 people for a weekend of teachings and meditation.
The moment I crossed the threshold, it was as if a bliss bomb went off in my heart; I was suddenly filled with a joy that lasted throughout the weekend.
Those in attendance were privileged to receive teachings from Kadam Morten Clausen, a visiting teacher from Manhattan. So much wisdom poured forth. Allow me to share a few nuggets in the hope that some of you will nod, smile and whisper, “Yes.”
Anyone who meditates knows that sometimes it can be challenging; monkey minds run amok and distractions get the better of us. And we fight ourselves: “Stop thinking!” we silently scream. And we judge ourselves: “What a horrible meditator am I.”
And all the while we know better; we know that neither response is positive nor helpful. Clausen shared some thoughts that help in this situation.
In these moments, he says, we are relating to a limited view of ourselves; we see ourselves as we normally do, as human beings, limited and flawed by nature. What we need to do is to identify with our higher selves—Brahman, the God within, our Buddha nature—and we need to connect to this feeling before meditating. We may still get distracted during meditation, and when we do, we should reconnect with our higher selves before refocusing on our meditation object.
When meditations go well, peace of mind arises, which is the basis of happiness. “Deep contentment arises naturally from within,” Clausen says, stressing the word “naturally.” This is key: Peace is our nature. It reflects our higher selves, who we really are, not the mishmash of characteristics and attributes we impute upon an “I” that does not exist.
When peace arises, observe its nature, Clausen suggests. Note that it has no physical form, no boundaries and thus, by definition, it is boundless. When we are in “I,” we feel as if that which defines us is bounded by our bodies, but when deep contentment manifests, although it arises from within we often perceive it radiating beyond our physical bodies.
Clausen also spoke of faith, of which there are three kinds: admiring, wishing and believing. When we use the word “faith,” most of us think of believing faith—I believe in this or that. But Clausen asserts that just believing in one’s head without deep feeling doesn’t advance us on our spiritual paths. That’s why admiring and wishing must proceed believing. As the first step, admiring faith is, in a word, “wow!” We admire the virtues of others, and then wish for those qualities ourselves.
Clausen opened the celebration with one question: Do you feel that your meditation practice is moving you toward enlightenment? His purpose throughout the weekend was to help us make sure this was the case, and with his teachings he created a virtual, self-generating spiral: Identify with your higher self; observe the boundless nature of your peace; rejoice in your peace; admire your peace and rejoicing. Then what naturally emerges is a growing belief that we are our higher selves and not that flawed and limited “I” that we have been protecting and defending at all costs for longer than we care to admit.