What do they mean, “In the Zone?” Have you been in the Zone, doing what you love, or whatever it is you’re best at? Maybe it’s running, playing music, or maybe making stock trades. We can be so far into what we’re doing that we lose ourselves in it, so that the task seems to be doing itself through us, and we’re in kind of a high, even intoxicated as we observe it all happening. People have been looking at just what this is for a longer time than most of us know – from the early-ancient philosophers to the latest neuro-science research teams. What have we learned? How can we use it? Continue reading “In the Zone! Ooo-Wee! Mastery, Mindfulness and Wu-Wei.”→
“How can we know what the future will hold, Athair?” Æthelrad was confused. “What is my destiny, and how can I know who to marry? One is beautiful, one rich, and one virtuous, but which will be the wife for me?
“There is no ‘future,’ as you call it, child. Have I not taught you at all?”
“Yes, Master. ‘There are only possibilities, and we ourselves must choose which is to become.’ You have told me this, but how can we travel a path if we don’t even know where it leads?” Continue reading “Æethelrad’s Dice”→
We’re cleaning up now from what happens when a “tropical storm” shows up a few hundred miles inland. Even hundreds more from anything called “Tropics.” The idea of storms fills our minds with frantic struggles against frenzied winds. The real struggle is simply in sitting still. The winds rage, the rains lash down with unimagined violence. Holding to where we are is, ultimately, is the one way we can answer it. In our case, here in Georgia, that also wound up sitting still in a house surrounded by fallen trees and limb debris. We simply waited for the utility crews to put us back on the grid. Storms, and stillness!
Outer Storms, and Inner Peace
There is plenty of room here to draw parallels. What is “the storm?” What is the “grid?” What about fallen trees, or storm debris? Plenty of analogies, and plenty of ways to get really boring with this post. I could even talk about the snakes that hitchhiked into the house on some firewood. The main thing in all this is the stillness. With fewer distractions there is a lot more time to sit, to reflect, and just to be. Yep. Storms, and stillness!
Finding Peace, Creating Peace
“I can’t do this or that because…” Is that “because” story really true, or is it just something I assumed once upon a time and never really questioned?
“I need to do this thing because…” Do I, really?”
“When that person said that, they meant…” Did they, or was that my own impression from my attitude?
And how much time, really, have I spent just being still? The storms blow on by, and the debris just falls where it’s going to fall, with or without my help.
A wise man wrote, from his own contemplation, “Be still and know that I am God.” A smart man said, “be still and know who you really are.” Can we have the one without the other?
The, “grid,” is, ultimately, the Tao. The Tao is our connection to God. Connecting to this, “grid,” means connecting with our own, inner, self in the process. The Tao of Prayer gives us practical steps to take for being plugged in as we are meant to be. It calls on the wisdom, and practices, of sages throughout known time.
“Peace of mind?” From Boston’s classic hit to the Buddha’s discovery of mindful breathing there is little that compares with this one commodity. Inner peace comes wrapped in gelatin capsules prescribed by the psychiatrist, a secure relationship, or a walk in the mountain air. The drug, though, wears off, the relationship has, at least, its rocky spots, and our time basking in the mountain scenery gives way to either the traffic on the road home or the business of survival in the wild.
Some report having found peace of mind through some major decision. This might be a religious conversion, quitting a job, or proposing marriage. It matters little that the conversion was to a mind-control cult, the job market folded, or the marriage turned out a living hell. The decision experience brought its own euphoria.
This tells us something, though. Making a decision is taking steps, being in motion, into a slightly clearer future, or so we think. The spiritual paths are just that: they are paths, though we often treat them like parking lots or scenic parks. To make the best use of a road we travel on it, and discover where it leads. Ancient Brahminism or Druidism, Buddhism, Zen, Tao, Zoroaster, and the rest of the ancient paths each begins in the One, in Tian; Each finds its home in the Tao. As we travel we see this or that one converge with another, and we see side tracks and short cuts meandering off into nowhere. The Tao of Prayer offers a kind of road map, to chart the main roads, so our end will be enlightened, and our minds will live in peace.
How big is the universe? How big is the mind? How big is the human heart? Modern reasoning would tell us that the first is the largest, and the third the smallest. Is it, though, or might we be bigger on the inside? All the “secrets of the universe” are there to be analysed, categorised, and conveniently packaged by the human mind, so the mind must be greater. Likewise, the ancient sages, who have known the human heart most fully, tell us that the first step of prayer or meditation is to bring the mind into the heart. So, at least in potential, the greatest space in all of nature is the very center of our own being. You’re really bigger on the inside – the inner world, your own heart!
King David, of early-ancient Israel, wrote in a hymn of praise, “You have set my heart in a large place,” and, “You have enlarged my heart.” In the speech of that day wisdom was seen as having a large heart. Today, a friend is someone who has given us their heart, and we, ours, to them. First of all, in doing this we give that friend the gift of space, of the possibility to be truly him- or her-self, and as our hearts enlarge we discover our place in the universe, and its place in us.
The Buddha gave us lessons on how to be more mindful of the workings of our hearts. Lao Tse taught that the Tao, the way to enlightenment is found in all places. Zen teaching tells us we find that road we have found its destination. Jesus said, “the kingdom of Heaven is within you.”
So, the inner road is greater than any outward avenue. It is also harder find. This is the greatest frustration of our day. We can find maps in drugstores, truck stops, and GPS apps on how to get from New Orleans to Timbuktu. Finding the Way which leads to this Inner Kingdom remains a mystery to most of us. It’s not for lack of information. All kinds of such is out there. It’s just too confusing for many of us, though, when so many people publish maps, and none of them seem to agree. Some tell us our true destiny is a “self-discovery” that means nothing but embracing our own passions. Some take it further, and make it about business success or finding “true love.” Passions are just “what happens.” “True love” most often means finding someone who is willing to affirm us as we are. No change, no growth, no progress.
The Tao of Prayer is a guidebook to help us find, and follow, the real Way. Where the sages agree, they’ve got something. Where others insert throw in own opinions they lead us on side-roads to nowhere. This book follows the path of agreement – not just in what the map looks like, but how to follow it. Kind of like an ancient Waze to spiritual fulfillment. After all, we’re bigger on the inside!