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OPENING THIS MIND - Common Spirituality

First of all I want to say that I’m not much convinced that Spirituality and Religion are separate, or separable. It’s fashionable to say if you don’t engage in some group ‘I’m not religious’ and take the view that its separate, but since every person on the planet holds an opinion, even the opinion that they have no opinion on a thing, then they take a position however innocently they may try not. If taking a position, joining a group of like minded opinion, like action or such is religion then everyone has a religion, even the Atheist belongs to the ‘religion of Atheism’. Is everyone spiritual, that’s not so universal, in a conscious sense. Even in religion as most people think of it, there are those who have minds more like clerks than Holy’s.

Certainly I think there is much conflict through the ages even passively between the Holy and the pragmatic. It was once said that the Artist Michelangelo Buanorroti, who we all know for the David, the Sistene Chapel and other works was “the Holiest man in Christondom”, not bad in contrast to the Popes and Cardinals who commissioned many of his great works for their projects.

For me, you might think my yard stick might be found within my own tradition, do lots of zazen, or do lots of ritual, I’m not sure. I look actually back to the Paleolithic. We can’t yet be sure, the data is always improving as more discoveries are made, about our ancestors, what they actually believed or did in Spiritual rites, early Religion. So it’s somewhat supposition, but I’m sure it’s informed supposition to say that spirituality was quite personal for early humans. Yes there probably was identification with belonging to the group, there probably was identification with a sense of rite of passage, but I think there’s a lot of remnant evidence to suggest that for early People personal contemplation and expression, not just ritual empowerment played a big part.

Note I say early People, not just early Humans, because this Spirituality is in whatever form it took, the beginning of being really Human, not just taking a tool and using it, but expanding the life outlook of the individual.

For me that is the sugar test. How connected to contemplating yourself and this world are you? In a healthy way, not obsessed, that’s a kind mental health issue if your obsessed, nothing gets done, no improvement, just lots of thinking. I mean contemplation that expresses it’s self in your creativity, in your life. Creativity can mean physical, but it can also mean relationships too. All aspects of your life that grow.

Two dubious forms of spiritual practice to me are the introverted reductionist, and the extroverted reductionist. Commonly I encounter people trying to learn meditation for example to introvert themselves. Adopting a position that if they can reduce their mind everything will be fine, the problem is my Mind. Imagine pulling the blind over a window and convincing yourself that because you cannot see the outside world, it is not there. For the extroverted reductionist it’s reducing the outside that is the answer, ‘If only we all ate the same, prayed the same, dressed the same, lived the same’. Both have a problem with selfish Nihilism. Killing their own lives, in the case of the later taking others with them. Both are surprisingly convinced they are so sure and right.

Neither sees the fact that their existence depends on those who don’t share their reductionist values, or they argue against it in their chosen world view. Typically they see those who don’t are keeping themselves and others from paradise or making noise outside the window instead of ‘Noble silence’.

Here is another view, and our Paleolithic forebears would have identified with this, Spiritual practice as Mind, should not reduce self, and it should lead to contributing to the world not being in conflict with it. I think that is what you see expressed on the cave walls of the Neolithic, it’s what is expressed on the ceiling of the Sistine chapel , and the gardens of Muso Soseki*. It’s neither expression for expressions sake nor rite, nor introspection.

In Zen jargon we would say expressing Zenki, expression outwardly and healthily the development within. That is where I think Spirituality/Religion should be. That’s the spirit of Michelangelo and Soseki.

*For those unfamiliar with Muso Soseki, 1275 – 1351, was a Rinzai Zen Monk and Artist. His works ranged from Zen teachings to Paintings and Landscape Gardens, many of which survive and are noted among the greatest ever produced.

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