Originally Published: APRIL 27, 2014 BY REMINGTON COONEY
Spiritual practice is the method whereby we rebuild what has broken in a way that is loving and compassionate. When you develop a strong practice: whether it be a yoga practice, a meditation practice, a lovely art practice, a music practice, a good dish-washing practice you begin to rebuild the parts of you that are broken in a way that is loving. Life is a constant process of rebuilding. This is due to one principle: impermanence – nothing lasts forever, and thereby, in its inherent nature, it is already in some way broken (if not now then later on in life). If we can approach life with the attitude that we know this will occur at some point or another, we are able to no longer fear and avoid that breakdown, and further, can treat the rebuilding process with caring compassion until the point where we can rebuild no more.
As I wrote in one of my earlier posts, the Taoist is skeptical of the boxes that the ego so neatly stacks because he/she understands that life is not so neatly packaged. Just when you feel like all your boxes are in line, one on top of the other, one slips off the edge and knocks the others down. A common attitude is that we have achieved true success when our boxes are the highest and the mostly neatly stacked; but the real achievement comes when our boxes tumble down and we are able to start re-stacking in an entirely new configuration, all the while with love and compassion for oneself, and also, for others. Conjuring up positivity in times of adversity is not easy for anyone, but it is the practice of a Taoist to behold that strength at those times.
I write this because at the start of this year, the boxes I was so independently focused on neatly stacking, tumbled down upon me. I was under the impression that even spiritual practice was a matter of neatly stacking boxes upon boxes – as if I was achieving something solely through the various courses and study I was doing via the practices of yoga and meditation. Actually in a sense, I was achieving something; however, my achievements did not lie in the momentarily well-stacked boxes; my achievements lay in my ability to eventually recognize that when boxes come tumbling down, that’s when things really come to life. Because our viewpoint on life is forced to open to panoramic proportions as we re-configure the stacking of boxes.
In other words, only when we are able to step outside the neatly categorized, but narrow casing that the ego creates, do we get to see life for what it’s really worth. And it is also in those moments that others really come into our viewpoint as well and we get wholly appreciate what they are really worth to us. Don’t get me wrong, the ego is a wonderful device that our mind’s create, as it helps give us our independence as beings. But if we are so busy stacking boxes and looking up to see how tall they have gotten, we forget to take time out to look at all those standing around us. It’s often only when everything comes tumbling down that we take that moment to look around and see that others too go through life stacking and re-stacking after things have fallen as well. When we look to see others going through the re-stacking process we can then assist them and, in turn, they can assist us.
I’m not saying our lives are destined to be like that of Sisyphus: a Greek king cursed by the gods to roll a rock up a hill only to watch it roll down the other side, for the rest of his existence. But if we don’t take time out to look around us and see that others are also stacking boxes, and that we can help each other (perhaps even stack boxes together!), we end up living a bit like Sisyphus. Why? because – harking back to impermanence – at one point or another, our boxes do eventually come tumbling down, and in this moment the ego is forced to step way out of its comfort zone. In those times it’s comforting to know that there are others arounds us that we can call upon to help us. The key difference between us and Sisyphus, is that he was alone. We are not.
So take some time out to look around and see how other’s might need assistance in re-stacking boxes, and somewhere down the line they might help you. Allow your spiritual practice, whatever it may be, to show you the joys in the stacking, tumbling, and re-stacking process.