Friday, November 1, 2013

It's Easier Than You Think!

Seth Auberon, Ashley Wells, Wisdom Quarterly; Sylvia Boorstein (It's Easier Than You Think)
IMS: a retreat monastery for lay people in rural Massachusetts (
Waking Up is Nonsectarian
FREE. Narrated by author (
Every religious tradition I know talks about waking up to the truth. Every path I know promises that the direct experience of truth sets us free, brings us peace, compels us to compassionate action in the world. Knowing the truth brings happiness.

Practicing mindfulness and metta (loving-kindness) is not religiously challenging. This makes them accessible tools for meditators in all traditions. Awareness, clarity, compassion, generosity, understanding -- these are in the middle of everyone's spiritual road.

SCENARIO: In my early retreat experience I was part of a large group, perhaps 100 people, doing intensive mindfulness practice in a monastery in Barre, Massachusetts. Retreats are held in silence, so apart from costume differences, you can't tell who anyone is.

The Buddha reclining into final nirvana with artistic license, Bangkok (Clay/Mud Boy/flickr)
Days passed as we lived and practiced together in silence. I saw Theravadan monks in orange robes, Zen people in traditional Zen clothing, and Tibetan monks and nuns.
There were women in rose colored sari-style robes, and I guessed they were part of a Hindu traditional practice. Some people wore red clothes and beads, which meant they were followers of a certain Hindu teacher. One man wore a Franciscan monk habit. I liked passing near him because the long beads and crucifix that hung from his belt made a pleasant clicking sound as he walked.
On Friday evening, I entered the dining room and saw that someone had lit two candles on a small table in the corner of this communal room. Next to the candles was a sign that said, "These are Sabbath candles. Please do not blow them out. They will burn down by themselves, and I'll remove them tomorrow after sunset."

I looked around and thought, "Here we all are! Our vegetarian diet presents no religious challenges, so everyone can be here. We have a liturgy of silence, so everyone can be here. Each of us, in whatever religious context we live our lives, is trying to wake up. Practicing mindfulness -- we can do it together."

How Cruise Ships Fill Their Unsold CabinsThe maps in this book are definitely Buddhist maps. They are clear and useful and nonparochial. Truth is truth. Mind-tangles and suffering are universal, and the desire for happiness and the end of suffering is also universal. More

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