Finding Spiritual Direction
“… As far as Buddha Nature is concerned, there is no difference between sinner and sage… One enlightened thought and one is a Buddha, one foolish thought and one is an ordinary person.” – Zen Patriarch Hui Neng
Finding and developing a spiritual practice including meditation, mindfulness, and Buddhism is not an easy, effortless, simple path. Each one of these three aspects asks us to pay attention on purpose to the instructions given, who is transmitting them, and committing to follow them while discerning their effect upon us.
The first and most essential thing we need to be aware of is, if we are attracted to this spiritual direction, if it offers well-being, ethical honesty, kindness to ourselves and others, and clarity of mind and heart.
Beneficial traditions like “Kalayana Mitta” or a spiritual friend, from the Theravada or Insight Meditation lineage of Buddhism provide a context for creating equality, safety, relationship to a guiding facilitator, mentor or teacher, connection and fairness for oneself and among a group of like-minded people.
In a Path with the Heart, Jack Kornfield says “The problems of teachers cannot be easily separated from communities around them. A spiritual community will reflect the values and behaviors of its teachers and will participate in the problems as well. Because spiritual community is so important, only when our community life is made a conscious part of our own practice can our heart and spiritual life become integrated and whole.”
I know this well because I spent eighteen years of my life in a ‘cult-like’ spiritual community which left me with much confusion, thoughts of betrayal, feeling rejected and traumatic fears. It took five to ten years to unwind these difficulties and suffering and I needed the assistance and expertise of a therapist trained in Somatic Experiencing to help “untangle the tangle”. I am so happy that Insight Meditation recognizes these contemporary psychological issues. It also recognizes what is known as “Spiritual By-Passing’, a way we do not directly face our difficulties in order to heal the wounds of a misguided path approach.
“During the years I was living in an ashram, I went through periodic bouts of mistrust and anger at our spiritual teacher and felt guilty about not being a totally devoted student…I felt shame for all that negativity … Some wise part of me whispered, ‘Let it all be here, let all these feelings belong…’ With whatever was arising, I thought, ‘This too…this belongs.’ ” – Tara Brach