Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Spiritual Toolbox

This piece is another variation on a an image transfer of a Buddha photo taken in a garden on Vancouver Island and some recycled prayer flags with a little hand stamped text tossed in for good measure.

I have spent a lovely weekend at the home of friends on Gabriola Island in the company of my friend the monk. Yesterday we were treated to some fabulous art at an outdoor venue, a favourite artist of mine, Sheila Norgate was there and someone whose work is new to me and struck a chord was that of Ann Gaze.

We enjoyed coffee and sun and were treated to a late afternoon show down at Sunset Point put on by some passing killer whales. Today we were awash in the Dharma. Our monk gave a talk to a local meditation group and then few people joined us for more Dharma and afternoon tea.

What was so apparent as I watched people was their hunger for spiritual teaching, for a spiritual solution or approach to their problems. The questions reflected the need for a "spiritual toolbox" to assist with those broken, slightly rickety spots in our lives. One woman asked about how to deal with the angry people around her in a loving way. Another woman wondered how she might know what was the right thing to do, should she move, should she change jobs?

And our friend the monk offered her always helpful advice. First, there are no generalizations. We must always work on the specifics of here and now. We must look at every situation individually to determine "what is it good to do?"

Next she suggested we use the 3 pure precepts to guide us. 1. Do no harm. 2. Do only good. 3. Purify your heart.
To use this as guidanceshe suggested we need to examine our intentions. We don't want to come from anger in any case. And this can be especially tricky if we are dealing with angry people. We don't want to give up reason and logic but we do need to look into our own hearts. If we are feeling angry, now is not the best time to act. We may need to take some time for contemplation and for the heat of our own anger to pass before we decide the best course of action. And as always it is a slightly experimental process. We come with good intentions and as skillful means as we can muster. We decide on course of action and move from there, adjusting our course as necessary.

And when we are wondering about life paths to take she pointed out that we can never know for sure what is the best choice but that again we need to examine our actions. Do we have some habitual pattern? Are we changing jobs or moving on a regular basis? What's that all about? We want to look at our lives with the curiosity of a stranger to see what we are getting up to. We are in essence trying to get to know ourselves. Are we avoiding something? Are we choosing the devil we know? We need to be honest with ourselves and willing to look. After we have examined our motivation we take action but truly we can never know how things will turn out. We are not in control. And she pointed out that we are acting on faith, faith in something greater. When we have listened to the still small voice within we then trust that we will get what we need. (Didn't The Rolling Stones sing about that?) That doesn't always mean we will get what we want, that things will work out as we imagined. But she pointed out that her teacher said "everything that happens is for my good".

As she offered the spiritual screw drivers and pliers and hammers and nails I could see people's faces light up. I could imagine them rolling up their sleeves to tackle those personal projects that had been languishing on the puzzling to-do-list. Maybe there is a way to relate to my ex-husband. Maybe I can find a way to speak with my mother. Maybe I have a new way to think about my work.

At the end of the day all the little tool boxes were packed up and carried off by new Dharma carpenters, many smiling faces and no banged thumbs (so far!)

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