It’s not a great picture but it does capture my feelings lately.  There’s a sense of something being just on the other side.  Or maybe it’s more a sense of something being right here in my face and it’s keeping me from getting to the other side.

What’s fascinating about this construction of self and shore is that I would even feel a striving to get through, beyond, onwards.  It’s not like I wake up and say to myself, “Yup, today would be a good day to get across this river of suffering.”  Or, “Time to slice through this mesh that keeps tearing up my pretty wings.”  Perhaps all good practitioners do that.  Commit each morning, dedicate the day to transformation and traversing the waters of dukkha.  Even in the times I have done so, all intention is lost by the time I get out of the bath and realize the weekend’s clean laundry is still sitting in the baskets collecting creases.  

Still, there seems to be within each of us a seed that can grow to a realization.  We have a sense that there is an incongruence between the things that make up the ideal spiritual life (or life, period) we strive for and the one we experience day by day, moment by moment.  When that divide is small, we feel contentment.  When that divide is large, we feel dis-ease.  And we know this without needing to be told.  Unfortunately what happens next diverts us from the skillful action necessary to restore balance, close the gap.  We panic.  We respond to the felt sense of being separated from the vast spaciousness that we identify as liberation.  It’s a mesh, a roaring river – a barrier to our belief that liberation lies on the other side.  

When I can see that this is simply a belief, an assumption, a trigger-finger reaction to what is happening in this moment, I have a chance.  Practice has taught me that I can rest in this moment, right here, on this mesh, on the edge of this river.  And in that resting, a sliver of clarity can arise.  I begin to see, truly see, my environment.  I begin to connect with it, to experience harmony and amazement at the intricacies of all the relationships it contains.  

Even in difficult circumstances, stopping and resting in an observer’s stance can reveal astonishing details about the interweaving of personalities, desires, and desperations.  This is the core of practice for me: to see that congruence can arise even in unwanted experiences and that such experiences must be included as part of my definition of what makes up an ideal spiritual life (well-being, path).  Unfortunately, we don’t tend to include the difficult and unwanted experiences as part of our checklist of what comprises the ideal spiritual life.  Time to do so: the mesh, the roaring river, the difficult relationship, the worry and fear, restlessness and remorse, seductions and sorrows – list them all.

If not, my actual experience is skewed terribly and always found lacking against a set of constructs that are inherently unrepresentative of life as it is.

11 thoughts on “congruence

  1. great photo, and I love this enso, this watery movement. ah yes, all our expectations of how the spiritual life should be, our subtle pushing away of what does not fit this picture, the strength of our habitual tendencies. This is the spiritual life, as you point out but we fall in and out of this recognition. This morning I am seeing the movement in everything.

    Part of your post reminds me of this quote I have used in several pieces of art: “Each morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most.” attributed to the Buddha. Perhaps it should be “each moment”?? Happy August to you!

    • Happy August back to you! I am enjoying your paintings too. One of these I shall have to attempt something challenging (for me) like painting a Buddha!

      This week’s series arise from an unfortunate incident with the lid of my ink well… oh… there’s a title for a post! Yesterday’s was an accident but the rest of the week are what I call “constructed accidents.”

  2. I have never been able to truly balance the ideal of applied mindfulness with the realities of every day life, although I have thought about it a lot. Over time, I have gotten closer to living my life mindfully as much as I possibly can, but this particular essay seems to resonate with me in a big way. Definitely something for me to think about and put into practice. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Sometimes – frequently – when I work with a kong-an, I sense the thin film, gossamer, that flutters between my answer and the correct answer. Sometimes the “live” words are just beyond the tip of my tongue, hovering in anticipation while I slowly give in to some old mind-habit.

    Then comes the frustration . . . which I suppose is just another old mind-habit, and of course arises from my wanting.

  4. Pingback: an unfortunate incident with an ink pot « 108zenbooks

  5. Have been “away” for a few days, so am catching up on reading blogs. I love the butterfly picture actually! I sometimes feel this sense of veiling myself, as if right at a threshold, but there is also this sense of separation – if only in the mind.

    I resonate with how you describe your experience and the observation that you can rest in awareness of it. What you call “congruence” I experience as the deep Stillness of Being; probably the same thing, as you can’t experience ‘congruence’ without *knowing* that Stillness – seeing that nothing is actually separating us, and that everything is included – as you say… Great post! Love the ink bottle ensos!

    Bows – Christine

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