A Gathering of Yellow... Northern Maine
Today's Saying: The more important matter in spiritual practice is not the practices you choose but consistency in your practice.
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How do we encourage persons to walk a spiritual path that demands patience, stamina, and dogged diligence, when we live in a society of egoic entitlement and, with it, instant gratification? How do we encourage spiritual depth when shallowness is the norm? How do we, living where spirituality is turned into a marketplace to purchase what suits personal fancy, maintain spiritual maturity arises with sacrificing our egoic preferences? The best answer to these questions is: Choose yourself to live a life of sacred depth; say no to the shallowness. You may get little encouragement in this choice, but choose anyway, and keep choosing depth over shallowness.
Trifles and dainties attract the passing people,
while the Tao [Way] goes unnoticed.
When looked at, it is not much to see;
when listened for, it can scarcely be heard;
but when put into practice, it is inexhaustible.
The world will go to those who seek the Tao;
they will find contentment, peace, and rest.
*Lao Tzu. Tao Te Ching. "35 Seek the Tao," Trans. Sam Torode.
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A United Methodist bishop sat before me. Under a prior ordination in a different sect, I served as a contract pastor of United Methodist churches in Florida for ten years. He said, "Brian, I've thought about you. Your pastoral style does not fit Florida. Your style needs a more stable culture. This is a strip mall culture. ..."
My reflection afterward...
I interpret, as I sense his meaning - right or wrong: "Brian, the churches of our [Florida] Conference do not have the patience for the kind of pastoral leadership that takes seriously that spiritual unfolding takes time, perseverance, and dogged patience."
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Depth takes time. The gradual process of maturation was evident in my upbringing amid farmers. My family raised cattle and almost all our food. Nature teaches us about spiritual maturation and what it requires from us.
We may have profound spiritual experiences, but there is no shortcut to a life of spiritual depth. With patience, we grow into that we are. We uncover hidden treasures breath-by-breath, moment-by-moment, and grace-by-grace.
When we begin each day again, we become each day anew. Yet, again, the Way, while all here, means to get here; getting here entails persistence, patience, and practice.
Two truths guide us in spiritual growth. The absolute truth says, "There is nowhere to arrive to. There is only one shore - this shore." The relative truth teaches us, "The other shore is the other shore. By moving in that direction, you get closer and closer to the only shore - this shore." So, see, we have nowhere to go, but we will not get there without diligence and a stick-with-it attitude.
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In my mid-twenties, I stood in my living room. I had run for several years. I would not run regularly, however. I would start and stop. Seeing this, I knew I had to decide, "Am I going to do this or not?" I was exhausted with the inconsistency, with the excuses. That day, I resolved to run regularly. I stepped out of the apartment and began the run for the day. For the next twenty years, I ran every other day. Even when working two jobs and going to school full-time in Ph.D. studies, I kept running. I would run day or night. I ran in cold, cool, warm, or hot. When sick, if possible, I ran anyway. Over those years, I often did not feel like running, but I did it regardless. After running, I began cycling. I cycled for over ten years. Now, I am walking regularly and enjoying it. The exercise has shifted over time, but not the yes made that day in my mid-twenties. That yes was a hinge point, and the door opened and has stayed open.
The resolution that day is comparable to walking the spiritual path. We have to decide to do this consistently or not. If not always, we miss the benefits. When we choose to keep with it, no excuses, we enjoy the fruit of our devotion to the Way. Often, it is a matter of, "Just do it."
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*© Brian K. Wilcox, 2021
*Brian's book, An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, can be ordered through major online booksellers or the publisher AuthorHouse. The book consists of poems based on wisdom traditions, predominantly Christian, Buddhist, and Sufi, with extensive notes on the poetry's teachings and imagery.