by Alan Friedman

"You don't mess with antibiotics. The best course is to take the full dosage on schedule until the illness is eradicated. Anything less could cause greater harm by simply training (evolving) the organisms to become resistant to the drug.

Thus it feels also with spiritual Work. Sporadic or lukewarm Work seems to train my android (ego) more than my essence. I’ve noticed that such casual Work gives my android time to strengthen weak spots. To use another medical analogy, tepid spiritual Work is like giving the android a (weakened) live virus vaccine. The android then knows what to watch out for and how to strengthen its immune system to guard against further perceived threats of that nature. For instance, it learns that use of certain words and ideas may immediately be “pounced upon” in certain social contexts, and thus learns to avoid or rephrase them in similar contexts.

Often, study and discussion of spiritual concepts may be engaged in primarily by the intellectual center, leaving the emotional and moving/instinctive centers in the dark. Such learning seems to feed the android rather than the essence. The android then can become very adept at simulating them. Such an android is very slippery, very hard to shine a light upon. The danger of a slippery android's ability to fool others is almost irrelevant when compared with the damage done by its ability to fool oneself. My android memorizes the "right" buzzwords and phrases, feigns equanimity and compassion, learns facial expressions, and so forth in a diligent attempt to appear "spiritual". This certainly constitutes a danger to my practice, in that I could identify with, and come to believe, my own virtuous pose.

Various visitors at Tayu have given me good external demonstrations of intellectual bias. It has been difficult for me to make that distinction in my own actions, but recently I've more often (though only sometimes) had a better sense as to whether I was speaking from the head or the heart.

Speaking from the head feels like giving a lecture (whose success I'm attached to) while speaking from the heart feels as if the words are just flowing through me from a source greater than myself. It feels cleaner and without a planned agenda. Speaking from the heart feels more intuitive, and the words arise in that very moment without rehearsal. In a recent passionate discussion, I learned that the same identical words, if spoken later from my head when they weren't arising in my heart, seemed to be less true, more hurtful, and moreover seemed to fall upon deaf ears.

Thus it's important to involve the body and emotions in one's practice. Spiritual study without concurrent bodily involvement and emotional engagement leads to imbalance at best, to self-delusion at worst. It’s been better for me to mow the lawn with real attention than to attend a spiritual workshop with only my intellect present. MUCH better.

So it seems to me that my quest for awakening has been a race of android against essence. It's a matter of which part of my being gets the nutrients and skills. To move to a barnyard analogy, my essence has been stunted like a runt. My android has been feeding from the milk of life while essence was dimly surviving on the dribbles spilled by the android in its greedy haste to devour and interpret life impressions.

In the barnyard, one feeds the runts by scattering food in a chaotic fashion so that the dominant creatures cannot maintain control over access to the food. Similarly, one can feed the essence by deliberately experiencing a great variety of unplanned life impressions. As a practical matter, this means putting oneself in unfamiliar or challenging situations while being as spontaneous as possible, as truthful as possible, and remembering to "pay" attention. I got a good dose of this during the recent Mexico Tayu meditation intensive, but I'm finding it equally available at home as I change habits and stick my neck out in more honest communications with friends and family.

How can one increase the urgency in one's own practice? Two immediate examples from my own practice: I hope that writing this article will provide some pressure for me to "walk the talk" that I preach. Second, the Tayu booth at the Health & Harmony Fair has always caused fear to arise in me, so this year I have assumed responsibility for organizing it. But more can be done than arranging just external factors as in these examples.

Internally, one can cultivate a passionate, burning Intention to pursue spiritual growth with calm urgency. Not a desire, but an intent. Not an external "should" but an internal "will." A commitment of one's self to the process without an attachment to the fruits of that labor. Not a dreary labor, but a joyous commitment, like a marriage. A marriage to Universe/God/Nature/Life.

Then in addition, one can also create and benefit from external situations which generate heat and urgency. One might accept new challenges and new responsibilities in all aspects of life, particularly in serving others and in serving a spiritual school. One can move toward one's fears and dislikes. Take the steepest hill. Expose one's true feelings. Lovingly speak the deepest truth which one can access. Be vulnerable. Stick one's neck out. It has been my experience that God is more than ready to quickly answer prayers for assistance in this area.

To resort to a mathematical analogy, it seems to me that the potential for spiritual growth relates to the product of internal will times external circumstance. All the external trappings of being on a spiritual path mean little without an internal Will to Action. Also, I suspect, years of meditation and cultivated attention in an isolated hermit-on-a-mountain-top environment that lacked the vitamin of ordinary daily interactions and frustrations might amount to little. This perspective gives me an (admittedly limited) ability to welcome frustrations as wind in my sails.

Internal and external factors must be balanced, just as involvement of the three centers (head, heart, & hands; or intellectual, emotional, & physical) must be balanced, or "harmonized." And a sense of urgency must be pervasive. Thus, it serves us best to remember ourselves and honor our commitment to the spiritual path as often and as intently as possible during the course of everyday life.

Awakening has been likened to a phase change, like turning water to vapor. A teapot could simmer for decades without ever coming to a full boil, although its contents might dry up.

Stoke the fire!