Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom
Excerpts about Practice
Practice is not Limited to Formal Practice
And practice is not limited to formal practices—meditating or inquiry, praying or concentration—but includes all that we do. Practice, which is how Total Being expresses itself, includes our daily actions, communications, and interactions. It even includes our thoughts and feelings and attitudes. We are at the same time true nature expressing itself as the totality and as the individual through which the totality is expressing itself. At some point, it might be possible for us to recognize that the individual and the totality of all that is are exactly one and the same. But even though they are one and the same, they are also distinctly two. When we gather and practice in groups, our work gains power and intensity because it is the same true nature practicing, one true nature expressed through the collected total practice of all its organs as the totality of the field. Practice becomes total, becomes the practice that is realization, when we have the attitude of devotion and reverence, when we are committed, when we are expressions expressing the commitment. When we are not expressing the commitment, when we are not expressing the reverence and love, when we are not expressing the intelligence and clarity, we are not practicing in a total way. Our practice is not as thoroughgoing as it could be.
The Alchemy of Freedom, pg. 104
Practice that is Just Presence with Awareness
Over time and with practice, we become more skilled at seeing, recognizing, and understanding these reactions to our experience—the rejection, the resigned acceptance, and the grasping acceptance. This makes us more and more able to be with our experience as it is. That’s why we say that our practice is just presence with awareness. Presence with awareness doesn’t reject, but it doesn’t grasp either. When we are simply present and aware in our experiencing, we can begin to recognize the true condition that is arising. We notice our inner attitude becoming simpler and more subtle as we are being with our experience. We begin to feel an openness, a vulnerability, an allowing that has a sense of subtle contentment and satisfaction. The fact that our presence is arising in this way reveals the experience to be an expression of our True Nature. This quality in our consciousness does not arise because something specific is
happening that is to our liking. True acceptance arises on its own as a result of our being present with our reactions—our tendencies to reject or grasp—without being run by them.
The Unfolding Now, pg. 95
Practicing is Not Only When You are Chanting, or Doing Spiritual Exercises
Think of life and its evolution—does it have an end? Is there some place it is going to get to? Does a human being have an end beyond which there is no more change? A place where there will be no more evolution of different forms, different ways, different capacities? None of the theories of evolution posit a stopping point. In other words, reality is not teleological. It doesn’t have an end toward which it is working. Reality is spontaneously alive and naturally intelligent, and it is always revealing unexpected possibilities. Why would the realization of reality be any different? What does that mean for you right at this moment? You might see that reading these words and receiving this teaching are a form of practice. Practicing is not only when you are meditating, or chanting, or doing spiritual exercises; it can be all the time. As you are receiving the transmission, feeling its impact and exploring it, you are practicing. What else do you think you are doing? This is reality realizing itself as you reading. So as I am expressing this to you, reality is practicing. As you are receiving what I say, reality is practicing. We are interacting, and this interaction is reality practicing and revealing some of its possibilities. Is it you who is doing it, or is it me? You might think, “Oh, it’s the transmission and I’m just sitting and receiving it,” which is true. But you could also say that your taking in of what I am teaching is developing the potential for reality, and that too is true. Yet another way of saying it is that reality is manifesting some of its possibilities through me and you and everyone who reads these words. So you might see that the spiritual journey is not a matter of going someplace—it is a matter of opening up to the possibilities of exactly where you are right now.
Runaway Realization, pg. 89
Total Practice Means that the Totality of Who We are is Practicing
When we consider everything that is happening in the world, we see that Total Being can express itself in all kinds of ways. But practice is when true nature is expressing its purity, and it becomes total practice when it marshals everything we’ve got—our devotion, our understanding, and our action. Total practice means that the totality of who and what we are is practicing. There are many degrees of recognizing what this totality is. It can be the totality of our present experience, the totality of the individual, the totality of being, the totality of all and everything in all times and all space. This is, in some sense, the secret of practice, and we need to learn this in practice. We need to learn it not only conceptually, but experientially as well. We need to see that when we are practicing, we are acknowledging true nature and expressing our devotion to and reverence for true nature, and we are putting into action our commitment to serve true nature—all of which is at the same time true nature expressing itself as that. This is one truth looked at from two sides: the side of the individual and the side of Total Being. And this is different from the oneness of classical nondual experience, which is a unity that subsumes difference in sameness, subsumes the individual in transcendent reality.
The Alchemy of Freedom, pg. 103
True Nature Needs the Individual in Order to Know Itself and Experience Itself as Enlightenment
True nature as Total Being expresses itself, and its expression of itself can be seen as its practice, and its practice is realization because it is illuminating itself and waking up to itself. The individual can recognize that enlightenment is nothing but true nature revealing what it is and what reality is. And true nature needs the individual in order to know itself and experience itself as enlightenment. Maybe true nature also wakes up to itself through animals and stars and planets. I don’t know about that. But we do know that it does it through human beings. Even if the stars are not aware of themselves practicing, they are nonetheless the expression of true nature because true nature as Total Being expresses itself as all and everything. Nothing is excluded. True nature expresses itself not only through our formal practices and our daily life, not only through our thoughts, feelings, and actions, but also through this book you’re holding and the chair you’re sitting on and the house you live in. It expresses itself as the oceans, mountains, and sky, as the galaxies and the universes—including all the possible parallel and quantum bubble universes.
The Alchemy of Freedom, pg. 105
True Nature, as Total Being, Practices through Us as Individuals Practicing
There can come a time when we see that we cannot as individuals do the work of waking up; we don’t have the requisite capacity. We are totally helpless and incompetent in the face of what is required. But even when we understand that only true nature awakens, this doesn’t mean that we can be lazy and take for granted that awakening is just going to happen. We still need to practice and to exercise the intelligence, the heart, and the will that true nature is expressing through our consciousness. We do this not to get somewhere but because true nature as Total Being practices through us as individuals practicing, meditating, and inquiring. We can’t loaf around and idly wait for true nature to bestow her gifts. That attitude doesn’t express the purity of true nature. True nature expresses its purity when we are in the mode of practice and the attitude of practice. This means that we are experiencing and expressing true nature through the three centers: as commitment to continual practice through the belly, as love, devotion, and reverence through the heart, and as discriminating intelligence through the mind.
The Alchemy of Freedom, pg. 101
When Feeling Useless or Helpless is True Illumination
Reality first appears dualistically as somebody who is practicing, somebody who doesn’t know what enlightenment is or what true nature is and is trying to find out or to seek it as if it is something else, something far away. However, if our practice always remains dual, it can become repetitive and mechanical, keeping us on the same horizontal plane. We need to apply ourselves with sincerity and devotion and reverence, so this dualistic process can begin to open up in such a way that true nature reveals itself as the force and the light behind the practice, as the intelligence that makes it possible for practice to happen at all. All kinds of issues might arise as we realize that even though we need to continually practice, we cannot do anything and all of reality is the self-illumination of true nature. We might feel that we are useless or helpless, that we don’t have the power or the capacity to do anything. And for a while, we might think this is a bad thing. But it is actually true illumination: The usual self that we ordinarily tend to take ourselves to be can’t do anything. And as we experience how helpless and incapable we are, true nature is waking up—its light is getting more intense and more brilliant.