After boarding a plane for India on February 20th of this year, I’ve been on such a ride. A ride that above all, has been about moving towards a more fearless way of being. A ride that has made me bolder. A ride that has taught me trust. A ride that has been as much about creating a future as it has been about letting go of the past.
I went through my photos of this journey thus far and tried to pull one image from each album. The collage above is what resulted. The reason I decided to do this now is because almost 5 months to the day, I’m getting on a plane again and leaving Nepal for a short bit and headed to Norway. From a developing landscape filled with spiritual devotion, chaos, pollution, and crumbling infrastructure to what I can only imagine is quite the opposite. From the sound of it at least, Norway seems to be a social democratic land of incredible order, cleanliness, natural preserved beauty, and wealth.
The only reason I’m going to Norway now is because I made a last minute decision to attend a dharma teaching in the village of Bir in the Himachal Pradesh region of northern India. Unexpected and welcome ripple effects I could have never predicted like that have been occurring a lot on this ride. Before I left on this journey, I told a dear friend of mine that I had “…yet to learn how to jump into the current and fully give myself over to it.” I wanted to stop clinging to the rocks at the bottom of the riverbed of my life and I wanted to take my swollen, tired hands and just release them into the current—into the direction of a call that obviously knew something that my rational mind could not fully comprehend. That current was my heart and it’s intuitive knowledge. Those rocks were all my recycled beliefs telling me that if I just kept holding on, that I would be okay—unfulfilled and unrealized—but okay.
I have since learned that there is a lot to be said for finally giving myself over to the current. Far from being a chaotic mess it has been a surprising, gracious, refining, stimulating ride. I heard in a teaching once that leaving our comfort zone or facing any phenomena that causes an initial sense of discomfort is like rubbing sandpaper against our spiritual body. It wears down the gritty, uneven, aspects of our being into a consistent, polished, illuminating surface. It shows us how strong we actually are. It shows us how compassionate and wise we actually are. It shows us how penetrating our sense of clarity and equanimity really is.
The point of spiritual training is not to turn us into hyper-fragile, high-maintenance yogis. But rather, just the opposite—spiritual training creates incredibly durable beings. Spiritual training increases intimacy with our condition and thereby increases intimacy with the human condition. It cultivates insight, flexibility, endurance, one-pointed focus, and discipline. It allows us to fully embody both, solitude and societal engagement with a brilliant fluency. We will more readily celebrate kindred connections on a similar path while reveling in the diversity of this wild, beautiful, and sometimes terrifying consciousness that creates what we perceive as life.
Spiritual training will decrease and eventually eliminate an “us and them” attitude and the self-righteous, reductionistic, dehumanizing effects that fear-based, isolating perspective brings. On the contrary, spiritual training will show us essentially, vasudhiava kutumbukum—that the whole world is but one family—because we are all interdependent, interconnected, and at our “base”, made of the same intelligent energy that guides this entire universe. And perhaps, if we go far enough, experience that there is no objective reality at all. That this thing we call “our life” is the subjective play of our own consciousness. Karmic seeds ripening and settling and ripening yet again playing out in front of us in this samsaric current of a movie. How well we surrender to the current, perhaps determines how much better the movie gets.
This is what I’m exploring now.