*Brian Wilcox. 'A Happy Couple'. Flickr
A continuance of dialogues with a sage who did not see himself as a sage, but others did; from Brian K. Wilcox. "Meetings with an Anonymous Sage."
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Walking the spiritual path properly is a very subtle process; it is not something to jump into naively. There are numerous sidetracks that lead to a distorted, ego-centered version of spirituality; we can deceive ourselves into thinking we are developing spiritually when instead we are strengthening our egocentricity through spiritual techniques. This fundamental distortion may be referred to as spiritual materialism.
*Chogyam Trungpa. Cutting through Spiritual Materialism.
We are not only saved by grace, we are paralyzed by it. We have lost any coherent view of how spiritual growth occurs. Our churches are dominated by a consumer religion that has nothing to do with spiritual growth. But within those churches, there’s a huge number of people who are hungry for spiritual growth.
*Dallas Willard. "Interview with Mike Yaconelli." The Door Magazine: May/June, 1993, No. 129.
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Yesterday, you said we would get nothing from the path. Additionally, you said we would miss out on much blessing if we did not remain faithful to the path. How can this be?
The path, being alive, has within it all the qualities naturally within the path. This is like food or drink. A particular food or drink has certain nutrients. If you eat or drink, you receive those nutrients. If you do not, you do not receive them. The nutrients in a food, for example, are not a reward for eating the food. Life does not reward you, neither does any god or goddess you might trust in. As some have said, "You cannot bargain with God."
So, you mean, like natural consequence, or karma.
"Karma" is a loaded term I prefer to avoid. But, yes. In Wisdom, natural law applies in all situations. So, if you want to be a spiritual being, you follow a spiritual way. If you want the benefits of merely being religious, an institution will be glad to provide you with a diet, and it may have some, or not, spirituality mixed in with a huge helping of institutional, doctrinal faith.
Yet, we do get something, we get the fruit of walking the path.
No. You get nothing. What you appear to get is only what is already present. When you think you got it, you got nothing; it got you, would be a better way of saying it. Also, the you that is seeking for itself is an illusion, a relative idea. No one can find that you anywhere. If you say, but it is me, then, I ask, "Who is identifying that me?" Me is not identifying the me. You can get nothing, for that you that entered the path to get, that is not. And, if that is not enough, to get is contrary to natural law. A getter ends up being a gotten. Getting arises from a subtle to gross aggression, of acquisition. The path is a path that gives, you are a receiver. The contrast is seen in seeing the hands as reaching out and grasping, compared to palms open. One is greedy, even if for good, one is receptive. Be like a flower that soaks in the Sun. It does not grab, it receives, for its nature is to receive, and so is your nature to receive. When you are focusing on grasping through spiritual technique ~ grabbing for God, for enlightenment, for liberation, for anything ~, you are using the path in a spirit of acquisition rather than using the path for surrender, and the usage the Tibetan Chogyam Trungpa coined for this is "spiritual materialism." Dallas Willard, a Christian and philosopher, who taught at the University of Southern California, spoke in a like vein of "consumer religion," which he said dominates the life of the church. Here, we utilize conventional faith to get what only can be received through surrender to God. In short, more than not, Christian religion is about seeking to manipulate God for the goodies God can give. God becomes the cosmic slot machine.
Could we say to receive from God we open to God?
Yes. Even more, in opening to God, you can receive only God, for what we see to be from God is all within God.
So, we do not get anything from God, only receive from God? or only receive God?
Yes. Using your reference to God, all spiritual practice, what has been called in the monastic tradition "tools," are engaged not to get anything but to open oneself to be blessed with a natural grace.
What do you mean a "natural grace"? I thought grace is supernatural, that is what I always heard.
I use "natural" for nothing is supernatural. No one can demonstrate that anything is not natural or more natural or less natural, for all things are natural in being part of Nature, which includes the seen and unseen. And this Nature is not merely the physical, but the subtle. When we say "supernatural," that tends to give it some other-worldly sense, and that removes it at a distance. Being more strict with usage, grace is grace, and no need to apply natural or supernatural. My use of grace, likewise, speaks of gift, for a grace is a gift. Grace gives graces.
Are there any practices to work with receiving?
All the practices of your path are to inspire and encourage receiving. Yet, one I find helpful is to stand with arms open wide, palms open, and face to the sky. This is how Jesus is depicted on the cross, and not without profound symbolic significance. Also, in meditation or when sitting anytime your hands are free, you can place your hands upward, palms open on your thighs. This implies you are prepared to receive, that you acknowledge all graces arise naturally as gift. These postures would be called mudras in Eastern religion. The idea is how we posture the body communicates deeply within the physical and subtle body and influences an inward posture.
What do you mean "subtle body"?
Let us keep that matter for another time. That is not essential for our sharing presently.
Okay, any other mudra for this receiving?
I will share one more, and one I use almost daily during silence. You lie down flat. Close the eyes. Place your hands on your chest, one hand atop the other. You may have seen this when looking in a casket at a body. This mudra is called the death mudra.
That does not seem to imply receiving, but dying.
Dying is receiving. Carnal minded beings see death as only a loss. That is one reason there is usually so much grief around death. We see unhealthy degrees of grief as normal, but it is not. And everything is dying and being reborn moment-to-moment. In the death mudra you are saying, "I surrender." Yet, you are saying, "I am here to be gifted with new, fresh life." Every time you meditate is an opportunity to commit to dying and being reborn. I have said surrender is all along the way. There is no path without surrender, again and again and again. And death, spiritual or physical, is the summons to surrender. And surrendering your felt-right to get anything is part of the opening for grace and graces, for fresh gifts of life. So, life remains fresh, alive, and vital.
*Brian Wilcox. 'Open to the World'. Flickr
(C)Brian K. Wilcox, 2019