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Three Categories of Spiritual Practice
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Three Categories of Spiritual Practice (25 min.) MP3
Transcript of a talk delivered by Brother ChiSing
October 20, 2013 - Dallas, Texas

So tonight, I would like to teach on 3 different kinds of spiritual practices. As we are practicing our spiritual practices, I would like for us to mindfully use our minds in understanding our spiritual practices, why we are doing those spiritual practices, what those practices do for us and others, and also maybe to see what kind of practice it is in these categories.

So, I like to categorize spiritual practice into 3 categories, although in actuality, there is a fourth one because the fourth one is basically that we are all in physical bodies, and so we also need to do practices that nurture our bodies and nurture our physicality. So this is applicable in all circumstances, of course.

So, several years ago, a mantra came to my heart for me to use, and every couple of years I get a new mantra sometimes. This one is, "I am home." And I like to use this mantra as an example of how it corresponds to these 3 spiritual practices. So when I say, "I am home," one meaning is that as I am practicing meditation and other spiritual practices that help me to kind of come back to the here and now, to relieve my stress, one of the meanings is that I am slowly but surely coming to be at home in the here and now. I am starting to feel at home in this body. I am starting to feel at home on the earth. I'm starting to feel at home in my own skin and at home in my practice and at home in the present moment.

So, "I am home" in this case has a meaning of I am becoming at home here and now. And so, part of our spiritual practice is stress reduction, becoming centered, becoming grounded, becoming present, and also healing our hearts and our minds. So the kind of meditation here is simply basic meditation of being present here and now and letting go of stress and worry. Other spiritual practices besides meditation would be things like psychotherapy, things that help us to heal our hearts and minds, to heal our sadness or our fear or our anxiety or our anger.

Also, if you are in a 12-step recovery program, that is also a form of healing, and so that can also help us to really look at our hearts and minds and heal, to start to really come back home to our bodies and take care of ourselves here and now. I am at home. And of course, all of us have addictions of one sort or another. We might be addicted to distraction or all kinds of things that we use to distract ourselves, because we are not wanting to be at home in the here and now, we do not feel at home, so we are always trying to escape into something to distract us. But our fundamental practice is to come back home to the here and now.

And as we practice, we start noticing that there is another dimension to our practice. Meditation is not just for stress reduction, although it does have that effect many times. But sometimes meditation practice is difficult and challenging and we may feel bored or we may feel fidgety or we may feel it is very difficult to just sit nonjudgmentally with our crazy monkey minds or different sounds in the room or whatever is going on. But it is so important for us to persevere in the practice even when we are not necessarily getting that blissful feeling that we like from the stress reduction aspects.

Sometimes we have to keep disciplining ourselves in the practice so that we can also practice the second dimension of our practice, which is to wake up from the small self, to wake up from delusions, to wake up to wisdom, to wake up to our true, vast nature. In Buddhism sometimes, in Zen we call it Big Mind, versus Small Mind. So here, we are dealing really within normal Small Mind in the first part of the spiritual dimension of practice. We're just trying to deal with our human self. We're trying to calm it down. We're trying to help our human self to feel at home in the here and now, to be healed in mind and heart.

But, there is another dimension, which is not only to deal with the small self, but to wake up to the Big Mind, the Big Heart, the Buddha nature, our true self. And so if you want use the mantra here, the mantra "I am home" would have the meaning I am the home. I am not just this human, limited, small self, but I am the vastness, the infinite, the Home with a capital H. I am that Buddha nature.

Now, some of us who come from a Christian background, it may be a little bit more difficult for us to grasp mentally saying, "I am the home," because that would imply I am God. And that is okay if that is a little too far for you; you don't have to say it that way. You can just say, "I am at one with God." I am one with God. So I am one with the home. If total identification is a little bit too difficult for you mentally, that is okay. You do not need to go there. You can just say, "I am one with the home."

But I have to say, the mystics of all of the different traditions, whenever they have this experience of waking up to their true nature and the vastness of their infinite true self, most of them do not have problems saying things like, "I am divine," or, "I am God." Actually, there was one Muslim mystic who was so ecstatic and full of joy when he had this experience of waking up to his true self, he kept saying, "I am Allah. I am Allah," and then he got stoned to death. But you see, when you're in the true state of consciousness, you realize the oneness. There is so much oneness. There is no more separation, so you can say I am Buddha. I am God. I am Allah. I am the One, the Infinite. I am at home. I am the home.

So, this second aspect of our practice is that our meditation is not just about stress reduction but about waking up. But it takes perseverance and discipline to allow that opening to take place. Now, it does not always happen through meditation practice. I will give you that. Sometimes it can happen through different ways or sometimes completely spontaneously; however, meditation practice will still help you to understand that experience and to fully open it up further, and it will help you to go to the third aspect, which is to embody and manifest it more fully in an integrated way.

So, yes, meditation will help you wake up, but sometimes the waking up experiences can happen outside of meditation practice before or after meditation. That is fine also, but that doesn't mean that meditation practice has no value. It will still help you to deepen your understanding of the experience of that oneness. So, you know, some people have had that experience, like Byron Katie and Eckhart Tolle. They were very depressed and suddenly at the depth of their lows, in their darkness, suddenly the next morning they woke up and they had woken up. So sometimes suffering will actually lead us into that waking up experience, and I have heard of other people going on a mountaintop, hiking, and then climbing the mountain, and then at the very top for whatever reason, they suddenly open to the vastness of the cosmos.

So I know that can happen also, and some people doing some psychedelic something or other, they might open up also. I would not recommend it, but it can happen. That can happen. But I still believe that meditation is still of value, even though it may not have been meditation that helps you to wake up in that moment. Meditation will still help you to allow that waking up to expand further. Otherwise, you just only woke up for a few seconds, and then you are right back down to your human self, and you don't know what happened or what hit you. But meditation practice opens up further, and it also helps you to embody it over time and to be able to know how to express it and be helpful to others.

That is actually what Byron Katie and Eckhart Tolle did. Yes, it was a spontaneous experience, but then afterwards, they meditated in their own different ways for many years and then started to share their insights. The reason why they can share it so powerfully is because meditation practice is sort of the energy that gives them the wisdom to know how to say things in just the right way, in just the right time for people. So meditation practice is very important.

There is a third aspect of our spiritual practice. So meditation for stress reduction, meditation for enlightenment, waking up to your true self, but there is also meditation to help us to manifest. Now, going back to the second aspect, certain kinds of spiritual practices can help us wake up—and there are more than just meditation that does that, although I still believe meditation is very important. And of those meditation practices that help us, I think that some of the more traditional Eastern practices are the most powerful, like Zen or Vipassana or certain Tibetan practices or Pure Land practices. It is all very powerful.

But there's also a third kind of meditation, which is the kind where you visualize. You can create a visualization, a kind of meditation where you hold an intention and you put energy into it. You allow it to manifest. You can combine meditation with affirmations and other aspects of practice to help make it more powerful. So in this case, the mantra "I am home" would mean I am becoming a home for others. So, we want to manifest not only external realities around us, but our very life is our manifestation. Our very own personal human life is our project, is our work, not just the external things that we do in writing a book or creating a CD or creating a family or whatever it is that you're wanting to manifest. That is also part of it, but fundamentally, it is our own life that we are manifesting.

So, we want to learn how to manifest our lives in such a way that we become a home of love and wisdom and nurturing and empowerment for ourselves and for all those that are connected to our lives, all those who are influenced by our lives. Because otherwise what happens is if you're stuck in just the second dimension of spiritual practice, which is the vast infinite, that is not full enlightenment. That is just initial enlightenment, initial awakening. If you want full enlightenment, you've got a take it to the next step, which is to manifest that insight into the truth and then utilize it in practical ways in your human life to help create the Pure Land on Earth, the kingdom of heaven on earth, to make your life a true home for others, for all beings. So, to make a true home on the earth for all beings.

So, don't be stuck in the second dimension only. You have to move forward. That is full enlightenment. And the same is true with the first dimension of spiritual practice. It is important because if you start trying to do these other dimensions of practice, and you do not have a very solid foundation in this first dimension, you will have some problems later on, and you'll have to come back and revisit this. All of these, we are all going to do them in different orders, a different way. We're going to do them over and over again, but make sure that in your spiritual practice you have all 3 dimensions covered in some way, that you are taking care of your human self psychologically and emotionally, mentally and that you are doing things that are also going to help you wake up out of the small human self into the vastness of who you really are.

Otherwise, if you're just doing the first dimension, it is good that you're going to your meetings, you're going to your therapist, you are doing all these wonderful things to help calm down and reduce your stress. But you are still in the rat race, right? And the problems never end. The issues never end. Your mother issues, your father issues, they're always going to be there until the day you die. Really. You're going to be seeing them forever, you know? But that is why we also need to wake up and realize that yes, the human self is always going to have its issues, but there is another aspect of who we are that is so much bigger than the drama of our human self, and that is vastness and our Buddha nature.

When we realize and open up, even if we just wake up for a few seconds to that reality, it is just everything, and it puts all of our human drama into perspective. We still have our human drama, but it does not seem so big of a deal anymore. It is still there, but it just doesn't have to overwhelm us all the time. It is put in perspective. And of course, we have to realize that all of this spiritual practice of becoming at one with our peacefulness and realizing our true vastness, as we do these things, there is a purpose to it. It is not just for our selves alone.

It is not just so we can feel good, but it is so that we can help be a part of a movement, a great spiritual movement, across vast centuries and the vast lands, that the whole purpose of all these spiritual practices is we are here to co-create the kingdom of heaven on earth, to help co-create the Pure Land of the Buddha here on earth, to help create this world into a world of love and harmony so that all beings, human and otherwise, can live together peacefully. So that is what we're trying to create. That is why we are here. So we also need to learn how to manifest that.

So, besides meditation practice, there are so many other things that help is manifest. You might want to look into some of those things. If you look and examine your life from these 3 points of view, see if you are a little bit weak on one of them and therefore put a little bit more emphasis in the next few months on to that particular practice. That way you can be more balanced in your spiritual practice.

And of course, you are always doing these practices in a body, so make sure that you are doing your yoga or your qi gong or your tai chi or your exercise and eating right and taking care of your body, being in the sunshine, drinking enough clean water, all of these wonderful things. These are also important. If we do not take care of our bodies, it will actually have a negative effect on the rest of our being. Our bodies are important.

So, thank you so much for listening to me on this short little teaching on the different dimensions of spiritual practice. Let's see if there are any questions or comments about any of this.

Female: I was interested in a little bit more about how the practices or if the practices for each of those aspects might be different. Or is it just an emphasis on how you're looking at what you're doing?

ChiSing: Well, there are also different practices that correspond. For example, the first dimension of practice, you know, I gave you some examples already. The second dimension of practice, usually that is what we associate with Zen and Vipassana and very, very hard-core meditation practices that help us to break out of the shell of the small self and have an opening into our Big Minds. But then manifestation, you hear a lot about that, creating vision boards and bringing the intention and visualizing creatively or using affirmations. There are other kinds of practices: New Thought, Science of Mind, all kinds of things like that are very helpful in manifesting.

So, I am just giving you an outline. I'm not telling you what all the spiritual practices are. I'm sure we can create more spiritual practices, but I just want to bring to your attention that spiritual practice can be categorized into different kinds. And I just want you to see are you having a full balance of spiritual practice in your life or are you really only strong in one and may be weak in one or two of the others? I just want you to be mindful to try to put some emphasis on the areas where you may not be putting emphasis. Okay? Because I have seen a lot of people out of balance, including myself at times. Some Zen people all they know is about Zen, and they need to go see a psychotherapist also, I think. And I know other people who are great at manifesting, but they are so egotistical. They have not woken up from their small, human self, you know?

And then I have seen some people who are always going to 12-step meetings every day of the week for all their life, even though they are already pretty much over the addiction, but that is all they know. They don't ever go beyond just the 12-step program, that there is so much more than 12-step available for our spiritual growth. And I'm not blaming them. I mean, obviously, if you like something, you should do it as much as possible, but the same is true for people who go to a certain church. That is all they have done their whole life for decades.

My advice is why not see if there are also other things available besides your particular church because maybe there is more that could be also helpful. But you are just so in your own small world that you do not see that there may be other things available also.


Female: I think particularly with 12-step, there can be an element of fear in there, because part of the teaching of 12-step—I mean, you never stop going to 12-step once you start. And so, I guess I can understand why a lot of people just stay in that, because it does take up a lot of time, and if you're doing 12-step every day, it is hard to go do other things.

ChiSing: Right. And I think there is value in what they're saying, but see, people apply it differently. Yes, if you want to get a 12-step for the rest of your life, great. But you do not have to do it every day for the rest of your life. You could do it once a week or something like that so that you can make more time for other things, you know? I remember dating someone a few years ago who was in a 12-step program and never had time for me. I was a little frustrated with that. But we must be careful that we do not turn our spiritual practice into an excuse not to live a life. That is also a danger and not just with 12-step, but with anything, even with meditation. Any spiritual practice, we have to be careful that we are not using it as in this case from dealing with people, dealing with work, dealing with our everyday lives, dealing with what we need to be dealing with.

Female: We are out of balance.

ChiSing: That is right. That is out of balance. So I am not saying anything bad about meditation or 12-step or psychotherapy or anything. It is all good, but we have to make sure we keep things in balance. Yes?

Male: I was just going to say I think that is a really good point you brought up about doing new things and reaching out to new communities and adventures, because it's kind of like a tree. We are on this still foundation, this Zen foundation, then we can have these branches of different things we do like tai chi or laughter yoga or different things, you know? And it's like a blessing that we have the opportunity. Just be fearless and play. Don't be so hard on yourself. We're all students of the University of Errors. Enjoy your problems, you know?

ChiSing: Mm-hmm. Right.

Female: I'm glad to hear that it's cyclical.

ChiSing: Yeah.

Female: Because I thought it was like, Point A, Point B, Point C. Voila. And then I found myself back at Point A again, and I thought, oh my goodness, I'm a failure.

ChiSing: Yeah.

Female: So it is good to know that you can cycle.

ChiSing: Mm-hmm. And it is not always in the same direction either. We do it in all kinds of crazy ways. That's what makes us all unique in our spiritual journey.

Thank you everyone.

Transcribed by Jessica Hitch