Sri Ramana, Maharshi
The Power of Words, 11/29/17
"Since That which has come in the Form of the Sadguru(true spiritual teacher) is nothing but the all-pervading -- like the sun-light -- vast Space of Supreme Jnana (Realization), the noble attitude of giving no room [in that vast Space] to the rising of the individual mind ['I'] is the worthy worship to be performed to the Sadguru. Thus should you know."
Sri Ramana, Maharshi
Taking it Off the Mat
There are and always have been those who are interested in self-development but who are also committed to worldly affairs: families, jobs, commitments, investments, etc... The aspirant in such cases can't shuck everything and become a Uchideshi, spiritual disciple, or renunciant, yet their higher desires and drive for self-improvement are still strong. I understand this because it is the path I have taken. Following this path, the life of the householder-yogi, the citizen-warrior, is tough in a different way from that of the renunciant or Uchideshi, but the rewards are still available. We each receive the fruit we reach.
This path is tough because we are surrounded by those who don't share our path, who don't understand our peculiarities, our need for training time and quite time, our unusual diets and interests. At the same time, we have to engage with this world on intimate terms. We are not called to change them or challenge them, nor to be changed or challenged. We have to accept what is in front of us on our terms, and let others do what they will with it.
And while we need hours of meditation and self-nurturing practice, sparring partners, shalas, ashrams, zendos, and dojos these things may not always be available to us. We have to say our prayers between diapers and peanut butter sandwiches. There are days when the only time I get for Taiji form is when my coffee is being re-heated in the microwave, the only meditation is as I'm falling asleep at night. But there is no call for frustration or depression. Instead we should look at these challenges as broad opportunities to practice. A day that is too full for Taiji form or Yoga asana is still ripe for developing compassion for myself and others, for working with equanimity and acceptance. In all cases, the first move is to see things clearly without judgment. Otherwise, we can never move forward.
In the end, we need to ask what it is we are practicing, what we are training for. In the case of the householder, it is this: (fill in the blank). Most of us will never use our martial training in a real combat situation (thankfully). And Nirvana is typically not found on some far-off mountaintop, and even if it is the newly-awakened still has to come back to town eventually, whether Nirvana comes with him/her or not. For most of us, enlightenment is found and will be experienced in the moment, and the next, and the next one again. At a certain stage of practice, one begins to have glimpses of something greater whether in quiet moments of meditation, the depths of Neigong, or walking around the block. The key to this path is to take those glimpses with us when we leave the mat. If we find them in the dojo or the Ashram, they are still properties of big mind and are with us always. They don't belong to the space we inhabit, they belong to, indeed are, that which inhabits the space. The height of practice and training is to find them in peanut butter sandwiches and traffic jams as well. Further, to realize that which we glimpse is not limited to brief interludes, but is in fact all that is, the one who glimpses and that which is glimpsed. One doesn't need to live in a cave in the Himalayas to realize that.
This is all the more reason to embrace this path. Anyone can find peace of mind sitting on a meditation cushion. The key is in keeping it when you are faced with losing your job, major illness, the death of a loved one, or bad traffic. Anyone can strike back if attacked. The true warrior neutralizes and moves on with equanimity. Regardless of where we start from, what we have to work with, what challenges we have, there is always a way to train. We just may need to get creative in the meantime.
Rodney J Owen