Vocation Not Vacation: Spirituality was never meant to be a means of escaping the world, but rather a means for entering into life more deeply and profoundly.
Apr 30, 2017 09:23PM
By Seijaku Roshi
Spirituality is not a vacation but rather a vocation. Meditation and yoga were never meant to be a means of escaping the world, but rather a means for entering into life more deeply and profoundly. While both the monk and the pilgrim may retreat from the world for a brief period of time, it’s not to escape but rather to train, renew and reconnect in order to re-enter life more skillfully, and with understanding and clarity developed while in retreat, learning to “be in the world more fully, intimately, and without reservation or self-preservation.”
The contemplative is not interested in novelty or variety. He or she seeks a deeper meaning of life than the cultural or social definition acceptable by a majority. We train in the spiritual practices to “not be daunted by the things of the world," so that we can be present to our lives as they are including our families, friends and neighbors; to the world as it is, and to the endless evolving and ever-changing circumstances of life, not as a victim of change but rather as a healing and reconciling force of nature.
Often I refer to the late Pierre Teilhard de Chardin who wrote that, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings immersed in a human experience,” “We are to live our lives or (engage life everyday in every moment) as if our limitations do not exist.” While most of us experience ourselves as human beings constantly in search of that spiritual experience that will bring us more wealth or security (which is another misrepresentation of the meaning and purpose of spirituality), Chardin’s words confirm that this has never been the meaning or purpose of religion or the spiritual practices.
St. Paul writes, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” When I was a younger man I desired both “novelty and variety” as a means of self gratification, as I matured I realized that, “It didn’t matter if the water was cold or warm if you were going to have to wade through it anyway.” If we are ever going to fully realize the full gifts of the ancient practices, we need to give up our attachment to pleasure and comfort, and certainly to this false sense of self. Pema Chodron writes, “One of the main discoveries of meditation is seeing how we continually run away from the present moment, how we avoid being here just as we are,” and life just as it is. Authentic spirituality is about waking up from a lifetime of ego-delusion, from our conditional and futile efforts to spending our lives trying to construct them in a way that we avert the truths about impermanence. We need to stop creating spirituality in the image our false sense of self, and learn to allow the stuff that taxes us to teach us.
The only way I ever learned about the power and the benefits of fire was to get burnt.
I love you.
Seijaku Roshi is the founder and spiritual director of The Zen Society, Pine Wind Zen Community, at 863 McKendimen Rd., Shamong, NJ. He is a Zen-Buddhist Monk, parent, author, life coach and Abbot. For more information, visit PineWind.org.