Contemplate in the morning.
Pull weeds in the afternoon.
The joys and labor of a single day
Are part of a whole journey.
If all you want is spiritual realization, it isn’t that difficult. For the average person, a dozen years under the guidance of a good teacher will probably give it to you. That’s shorter than what it takes to be a good musician, athlete, or artist. It’s even shorter that the time it will take you to collect your pension. If you have the good fortune to study with the right person, you can succeed in a relatively short amount of time.
But after you get it, then what? Many of us place such an emphasis on attaining realization that we may forget to put it in context. What actually matters is to walk Tao, maintaining vitality until we meet our end in a timely way. Spiritual realization is essential, but it is not everything.
A starving person dwells inordinately on the thought of food. Likewise, a spiritually hungry person can only think of realization. One who has food can place it in the right context, just as one who has understanding can place it in the correct perspective. Followers of Tao therefore do not emphasize enlightenment as an ultimate goal. For them, realization is a means, not an end. Their emphasis is on the act of living. They use the word longevity, not because they want to live forever, but because it symbolizes their determination to live the entire course of their lives well.
I like the image of the cake with ereference to the starving person – let them eat cake!
I think a lot of Americans are starving spiritually. The religious experience of most Americans is limited to Sundays at church, maybe a Christmas Eve service, the occasional wedding or funeral. Most americans don’t think about their spirituality on a daily basis, ands those who do are often misguided about what that really is. I remember finding one of my mother’s journals to God, praying for God to answer her. I was sad, thinking if only she had sought her answers within herself, she might have found them.
I try to find the spiritual in the everday and the ordinary. My garden offers the best consolations, my pets give unconditional love, my family my greatest joys. I like to think we are all a part of the same thing, the Tao if you will, and the life we live is at its best a joyous celebration of that. I like the idea of funerals and wakes being a joyous celebration of a person’s life, rather than the mourning of the loss we feel. I think if we focused more on that, it would be easier for us to deal with death and loss.
I’ve had my share of death and loss, and gotten over my fears of death and of losing others for the most part. I’ve gotten over my fears of abandonment, my own ego’s desire to be the center of everything and the reason for everyone else’s care and concern for me. Now I have the freedom to care and be concerned for myself, and others, without the fears and jealousies that held me and others back from life. I enjoy the people who come my way, but no longer have the need to hold onto them, to force them to be with me or notice me. It is so much more about choice, my own and others, to do what is right for us. I suppose some can call that selfishness, if they like, but to me, it is the most selfless thing of all.
Living well is indeed the best revenge. It doens’t mean living a long time, or being rich. It means you live your life being in the moment, moving with the flow ofd Tao, and enjoying your life, whatever it brings you. it doesn’t mean you won’t ever be sad, but it means you know sadness will not last, and there will be joy again – if you let that joy return to your life in whatever ways it can.