We talk about reincarnation. Which is completely ridiculous. We’ve never been incarnated the first time. How can we expect to be RE-incarnated? We have to BE incarnated before we can be RE-incarnated! BEING incarnated is exactly the work that is before us.
Incarnation is the work of soul. It is the spiritual journey, path, task, quest. The search for the Holy Grail is about our incarnation. It is the work of bringing who we are to life in our lives. It is easier, by far, to go through the motions of living, and leave the work of being alive, the work of incarnation, for someone else.
Spirituality is the work of being alive. It is the work of incarnation. The nature of that work is not what you might expect. But, that is exactly what you might expect. That is to say, we might expect that spirituality would be something other than what we would expect, that it will require us to do things differently, and it does.
Spirituality is not about thinking, or believing, or professing. It is not about changing the way we think, or believe, or what we profess. It is about changing the way we live. Spirituality is about living. It is about the way we live our lives. We cannot be more spiritual than we are if we continue to live like we are living. If we are going to be spiritual, we are going to have to live different lives. But, this isn’t different the way we would normally think of differentness. It is entirely different. It is different in the sense of , “Boy, she, or he, is different!”
Usually, when we think of living entirely different lives, we think of living differently the way everyone lives differently. We think it’s the way of turning over a new leaf, changing our reckless way of living, leaving our fickle past behind us, and crossing over the bridge. We think that it is the way of repentance and re-dedication. That it’s the way of new beginnings and fresh starts. That it’s the way of reforming ourselves in the ways of purity, and honesty, and up-rightness and all the qualities that the right kind of life is supposed to have. In this work to be different, we are guided by New Year’s Resolutions, the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, the Boy Scout Oath, and the Moralisms of Countless Mothers. So that every day we work hard at getting better and better in every way. This is not the kind of differentness that spirituality requires.
The different way of living that spirituality requires is the work of aligning ourselves with who we are, not the work of achieving our ideas of who we are supposed to be and of we want to be. Spirituality doesn’t have anything to do with what we want. Wanting, desiring, wishing, dreaming are the first things that go. The things that come are stillness, emptiness and nothing. When we get into nothing, we are getting into the difference that makes a difference.
The old way of living differently is a strategy for achieving our idea of what life should be. That is to say, we should be happy and have everything we want. The spiritual way of living differently is a way of assisting the unfolding, the emerging, of what life needs to be. It is the work of incarnating who we are in the service of life. That is spirituality. Not thinking, not believing, not feeling, but simply living aligned with the right order of things, with the way things truly need to be.
In order to live this way, we have to see what is opening before us in each moment. That is true seeing. What are the possibilities for life, here, now? How might we take this old, dry, stale, dead moment and turn it into life? This is the alchemist’s task: Turning a base moment into a precious one, bringing life to life in this old here, this old now. It is a work that is worthy of us.
Eyes that see, ears that hear, a heart that understands—these are the tools that do the work. What do we need in order to develop the tools? A certain quality of spirit, a certain attitude of mind, a certain perspective of soul, a certain shift of being—a certain openness to the possibilities of the moment. The primary ingredient in that openness is a concern for what needs to happen, regardless of its implications for us, personally.
At stake here is a deep interest in, and concern for, what is truly important, and an equally deep desire to serve that, no matter what. This does not mean we have no concern for our own interest: “Eat when hungry, rest when tired.” Our needs and interest are very much a part of the picture, and we can either serve them or set them aside, depending upon our determination of what needs to happen, of what needs to be done.
In other words, everything is equally on the table and off the table in each moment. We are completely free to decide what needs to be done and to do it without regard for what is supposed to be done, for how we are supposed to be, or what is supposed to happen. The only viable “should” ever is that we should do what needs to be done, and we are the ones who decide what that is. If we are wrong, we are wrong, and can rectify that in the next moment, or the one after that, if it can be rectified, and if not, oh well. The freedom to decide what needs to be done and to do it implies the freedom to be wrong. Implies the freedom to be disappointed and to be a disappointment—to be disappointing.
We make poor choices from time to time. We might think we are hungry when we are not, or tired when we are not. Or worse. Well, when that happens, we apply the same strategy that got us there to get us out of there: We look for what needs to happen now, and do it. We always strive to see what is opening before us in each moment. That’s all there is to it. Of all the things that can happen now, what is most important? What needs to happen? What needs us to do it? We can be wrong, but we cannot let being wrong keep us from doing what we think needs to be done. The freedom to act implies the freedom to act wrongly, and to keep acting wrongly (with awareness and acumen) until we get it right.
So, we only need to be as open as we can be to what is opening before us in the moment of our living. We only need to do what we think needs to be done in this moment, and do it again in the next moment, until we figure out how to know what needs to happen. We don’t have to be right. We don’t have to know. We are perfectly free to guess our way along. We will become better guessers over time. Or not. We are perfectly free to guess badly all our lives long, to be wrong forever. We cannot allow that to keep us from doing what we think needs to be done, from serving what we think is important. If we are wrong forever, oh well. We cannot let the fear of being wrong keep us from living toward our best guess regarding what needs to happen. We can improve our chances by being quiet.
In the work to know and do what needs to be done, silence saves us. In the silence we can hear ALL the voices. When we hear ALL the voices, we then only have to decide which one, or ones, we will listen to. In hearing them all, we find balance and sanity and perceive The Way as it opens before us. The Way is to perceive the way that opens before us, to know what is important, and to do what needs to be done, now—understanding that the best effort may not achieve the desired result.
What needs to happen rarely happens exactly as it needs to happen. Occasionally, things come together to produce a moment that is exactly what that moment needs to be, perfection, grace, wonder and beauty and truth coming together to stun and amaze. But that is not often the case. Usually, we can only produce an approximation of what needs to be done in any moment, and are less than satisfied with our efforts. Then, what needs to be done, is to make our peace with our inability to do more of what needs to be done than can be done. But, we do what we can and let that be that.
There will always be something in our way, in the way of The Way. Our Way and The Way become confused and we grow increasingly hell bent to force Our Way upon the world. Our Way must give way. We are forever standing aside, giving way, stepping back, making adjustment, accommodating ourselves to whatever is in the way of The Way. We don’t remove one obstacle before another is springing up to take its place. “It’s like swimming through a sea of vines.” When we become like the water, we find the way of The Way, even through a sea of vines. Take what you are given. Do what you can. Always the task is the same: See what needs to be done, now, in this context, in these circumstances, and do it, as it needs to be done. And, let that be that.
The service of the vision requires us to see what needs to be done and to do it, insofar as that is possible. Just continuing to see what needs to be done. Just continuing to do what needs to be done. No matter what. Whether it is received, or resisted, or ignored. Just see in each moment. Just do what is needed in each moment.
So, it is only left for me to tell you how to get to the place of making the shift necessary to see, and hear, and understand. I know of only one short-cut: Don’t kill yourself! Now, there are a number of ways of killing yourself without ending your biological existence. When I say don’t kill yourself I’m taking all of those into account. You should make a list of your favorite ways of killing yourself, and stop doing them. Once you stop killing yourself, then, it’s only a matter of time.
Until what? Enlightenment, of course. Seeing, hearing, and understanding. Right seeing, right hearing, right understanding, right knowing, right doing, right being. Seeing what? Hearing what? Understanding what? What is truly important. What needs to be done in each moment of living, and the way it needs to be done. That’s all there is.