“Dreaming after all, is a form of planning.”

A Living Sharpness

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I’ve been experiencing an interesting convergence in my practice in recent weeks:

  1. As distractions dwindle, I feel more collected and focused.
  2. The short visit, at the end of practice, in maha-mudra is becoming more of a stay.
  3. I am settled again in a quality pranayama practice.
  4. I am experiencing more stability in my mind and so am able to sit peacefully.
  5. I’ve started to learn chanting and have added voice and chanting exercises at the end of my practice.

Arriving at maha-mudra used to indicate that the practice is nearing its end. Now it marks the beginning of an increasingly subtle part of practice. What used to feel like the core of practice is feeling more and more like a preparation and gradual movement into the “core at the end” of practice.

After almost 20 years of practice I am amazed that I can still experience such an expansion. Though it does also raise a question of why does it take so long? The answer … Life!

When I moved to Bhudeva I started using wood cutting tools like chisels and power saws in the workshop and especially a chainsaw for firewood. I had a REALLY naive assumption that the saws would keep cutting forever. I was wrong. All cutting tools need to be sharpened (or replaced) more or less regularly (depending on how much you use them). With every cut, blades get duller, with every sharpening, sharper. It is a continuous cycle. I missed this for most of my life when all I had to content with were kitchen knives. It struck my awareness bluntly with the chainsaw.

Practice is like that too. I feel that every practice session is an act of sharpening / tuning. In daily life I apply my edge and it gets dulled (sometimes less, sometimes more … life!). My overall well being is a sum-result of these motions. If I over-use myself or if I don’t tend to myself enough I get dull (and sometimes ill). If I tend to myself as much as I apply myself I end up with a steady state.

Things take on a different flavor when I can get past that steady state … when the edge isn’t just maintained but gets sharper and sharper. I had that experience coming out of last winter. Then life peaked … and now, again, I am beginning to sense that different flavor. The addition of chanting introduces another dimension of practice which extends and deepens the overall subtlety and depth of practice. As winter sets on, days get shorter and there is less work to do outside, I move inwards (into the house and into myself).

I can only imagine that if one lives in a monastery where distractions are kept to a minimum and life itself comes into service of practice, that this exploration can be somehow accelerated. Yet I also feel that this exploration gains a quality or depth, that it is somehow tempered differently when it is immersed in life itself. I imagine it to be like the difference between a fine sword that is displayed in ritual and kept in pristine conditions at all other times, compared to a sword that has seen battle and has been worn down but sharpened over and over again … a living sharpness.

 

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