1 March 2011

Radical Spirituality

My footprints along the beach at Pondilowie Bay mark my long walk to the end of the bay.
An hour later I retrace my steps.
We come, and we go, and leave temporary footprints on the earth.
Until the ocean absorbs all traces of our journey.

How do I feel after the weekend away camping?
The immediate words that come to mind are: clean, clear, pure and calm.
Two days in a tent and all sticky debris that had collected in my eyes, under my skin, in my body, through my aura and in my spirit has been washed away.
Inside and outside I’m washed clean, the same clean I experience after a Vipassana retreat, the same clean I used to feel after surfing.
Although this non-physical feeling of being washed thoroughly clean is difficult to describe, it is a genuinely felt sense.

Leaving the city, I drive north to the tip of Spencer Gulf, then curve around its apex before heading south along the eastern coast of Yorke Peninsula down to Pondilowie Bay, a part of Innes National Park at the very southern tip of the peninsula.
I stop only once during the 4 hour drive to visit new acquaintance who lives in a shack on a remote beach about halfway down the peninsula. I lived in a share house with Ian and a few others about 35 years ago and a chance meeting last year led me to visit him on my way to Pondi last month. He lives off the fish he spears and whatever he can grow in pots by the seaside.
He gets a little work here and there, but not much.
Ian is uncomfortable in our consumer society, he has retreated to the seaside, he builds boats, he repairs boats, he crews on boats, and occasionally he sails to isolated and exotic locations.

But mostly he just bums around the beach shack, trying to survive outside of all the systems that society binds us to…a romantic ideal, but a difficult one to live.

My own wild urges for a liberated life have not dislodged me from the city...yet.

For now, they are finding an outward expression in these solitary camping trips to outback bushlands and deserted sand dunes.
But inner liberation is a raging fire.

Ramana Maharshi said "Spiritual teachings are like a stick used to stir a fire and keep it burning. Once the fire is raging and needs no tending, you can throw the stick into the flames and let it burn as well."
This approach to the spirit is where I am at.

I brought two books with me this time that I hurriedly borrowed from the library on the way.
Wake Up Now by Stephan Bodian and Synchro Destiny by Deepak Chopra.
I read Wake Up Now from beginning to end and said yes, yes, yes to every page.
This gem on page 71 jumped out of the page at me:
"In any discussion of spiritual beliefs, the New Age deserves special mention for its tendency to take fundamental spiritual truths and enlist the in the service of the spiritual ego. Read an author like Deepak Chopra, for example, and you'll find the most profound spiritual principles articulated with utmost clarity - until you get to the part about how you can use the techniques and teachings he espouses to increase your wealth and maximise your longevity. Suddenly the nondual teachings have been turned into a treatise on self improvement, which is fine if what you're looking for is a better, healthier, wealthier you."

There has always been something about Deepak Chopra that made me very uneasy. Someone called him 'the rock star of the new spirituality'.
I have often wondered if he is related to Oprah Winfrey.

Needless to say, I didn't bother with the Synchro Destiny book. Even the title smells like candy floss. What was I thinking! It will go back to the library unopened and I shall breathe deeply, knowing my mind is cleaner and healthier for not being tempted by spiritual candy.

On the other hand, Wake Up Now was a book I needed to read.

Without a spiritual teacher to guide me back to my centre when I veer off course, I rely on the universe to give me just the right book to provide clear directions.

Radical spirituality (as Stephan Bodian calls it) is outside all systems.
Stephan draws upon his long years of study and practice in the many Buddhist systems, especially Zen, also the teachings of the non-dualistic Advaita Vedanta tradition.
He believes that spiritual seekers do not have to follow any 'progressive' systems to awaken to their true nature. Progressive systems are those that have practices that support the idea you have to practice continuously, gradually purifying your mind and body to become enlightened. He says we are already an embodiment of the Truth and we need only realise it - which I’ve heard many times. It has always struck me as absolutely true.

Yoga is a progressive system, Buddhist meditation is a progressive system.

The paradox is that we have to explore these systems to get to the understanding that we don’t need them.
I think Stephan himself admits this somewhere in the book.

I've been struggling to maintain a regular yoga and meditation practice over the past two years, not realising that they had past their use-by date.

"The maps used to traverse the journey towards awakening can only take you to the threshold, the precipice, over which you must fall in order to awaken an then you must be 'taken' by the truth itself in a moment out of time."

I sense I have fallen over the precipice. I'm free falling and floating.
There is no ground beneath me.

And this is not a metaphor, its a very real place in which I find myself.
I’m living a ‘normal’ life fulfilling work and family commitments, but simultaneously existing outside of these confines, in an expanded state of awareness.
Most of us traverse the surface landscape of our lives with a sort of tunnel vision, unable to see into the multi dimensional realities that underpin and inform and create the surface. When deep shifts occur in the substrata of our consciousness, crevices open up exposing us to the timeless mysteries of existence, crevices that, when explored, lead us deep down towards the core.
Radical spirituality is when we tunnel into those crevices, following the path that hasn't been travelled before because that path is unique to our own journey.
There are no longer any maps to follow - I am led by the flame in my heart and a deep commitment to truth.

As Stephan Bodian so eloquently puts it…“We move through life on the horizontal plane of time and space. There is a vertical dimension we can awaken to that is always infusing and informing the horizontal. Every moment is an intersection.”

One day in the future I’ll recall this period of my life when I regularly drove through deserted landscapes to isolated places to spend endless days in a tent, alone.
I will remember it as quite beautiful and mysterious.

The most ordinary experiences are aglow with spiritual significance.

And I am living in this mystery right now.

Crossing sand dunes to get to the beach at Pondilowie Bay


Bruce said...

Hi Nobodhis,

Nice post. I too like the idea of Radical Spirituality, at least until I find myself in a heated argument with someone I love, and that, among other things, gives me an appreciation of my progressive system. I'm a Shambhala Buddhist practioner and what really got me about the Shambhala perspective was the idea of being a warrior in the world. That's our term for being a Bodhisattva that, as you said, uses every opportunity to wake up.

Personally I've found that doing too much spiritual shopping is not beneficial for developing depth of practice. For example, in my practice where there is sometimes a requirement to complete "x" amount, on more than one occasion I've found myself wanting to go find another practice because I was getting bored or other resistances were coming up for me but, ultimately I would make it through and get a better understanding of the state of mind that that particular practice brings about and my own particular points of resistance to those states.

One of the greatest benefits of following a spiritual tradition for me is having a community. As you probably know, in Buddhism we call the community the 3rd jewel as it is a source of great kindness and love as well as the irritating rub of the human condition that is so perfect for helping us recognize the places we are holding on to ego.

If anything I've said resonated with you I'd suggest check out the Adelaide Shambhala Meditation Group. You will find others who struggle with their practice while still holding the view that they as well are fundamentally awake and just need to let go of the overlay.

Of course there are many great spiritual traditions and possibilities and I wish you the best on whatever you feel is right for you.

Best of luck on the path,


Sarah said...

Yes. Yes.
Mostly I think we are stuck in caring what happens, for all kinds of reasons, telling ourselves (& each other) stories and using these stories to help us see better, feel more or less. In this, progressive practice helps loosen us, focus us. Pry my fingers away from the map - or just let it slip over the edge - and here I am.

I ordered the book.

nobodhi said...

Sarah, with your gentle wisdom and insights you could write the book.

And thanks for your comments Bruce. 15 years on the Buddhist path doing the practices has helped bring me to where I am now. I just looked up the Adelaide Shambala Group, and they meet on Monday evenings which is the night I work, but who knows...