There is a great paradox in spiritual work. It is the paradox between seeking and being.
First, lets look eclecticism since this is common in the west, especially where many of us are not brought up in a particular eastern tradition, but we are drawn to them and their more non-dogmatic spiritual elements. This is a big part of our seeking.
In the west, a spiritual aspirant is exposed to just about everything you could imagine. When you go to the bookstores in the spiritual sections there are sometimes hundreds of books. I remember back when I started seeking. I used to go to the bookstore and there would be this small little section, maybe called “Metaphysics”, or something like this. Now, there is New Age, Metaphysics, Psychic, Buddhism, Hinduism, Sufism, Occult, etc.
So we are exposed to all of this, which is good. And then, of course, it can be overwhelming to have so many choices. We can get spiritual indigestion. There is so much to take in, and where does each piece fit? What order does it go in?
We just take something here, there, and everywhere. We read a book, it leads us to a teacher or a teaching, and all of a sudden we are over here now, and we are learning this practice, and doing this practice. But, actually, the core teachings from most long traditions have a more systematic approach designed around a gradual path.
Of course there are exceptions but I would say the majority of enlightened beings have followed a gradual path. Take the Buddhist tradition. It has been turning out enlightened beings like an assembly line for thousands of years. It is an organized gradual path. It has a beginning, middle and end. There are practices designed for each stage. There are several other traditions of course that share the same trajectory.
This is not to say we have to follow just one set of teachings, the important piece is to be aware of what we are doing. Are we seeking just to seek or are we seeking to collect the necessary tools to experience and be with who we are?
If we are aware and committed to experiential knowledge then we can dance within different traditions and still keep grounded and focused.
Our seeking can become the path itself if we are not careful
Without structure we can become addicted to seeking and can become unclear on when to rest in our being-ness. I was listening to athlete who had just acquired a new fitness coach. He said he used to train on his own and he was always worried that he had not trained enough. So he either over trained or he was worried that he may have not done enough. His new trainer had a proven program, so he trusted him.
He said now he could relax. He could get his training done, and then just be; move on with the rest of his day.
Our practice needs to be like this. We need both of these elements. We need to know what do, and how to do it. But we also must know when to abandon the instruction and sit with the experience of who and what we are.
From seeking to being
This process is like a musician, for example. This person may be born with the raw talent of being an amazing musician. If that musician never practiced, would they be able to achieve greatness? Or an athlete that never had a proper coach or practiced the fundamentals of their game, could they ever be at the top, reaching their full potential? Not likely.
It is like this with us. Within us are the seeds to our true limitlessness, but if we don’t cultivate what is innately there, we wander in other directions. In short; we need seeking, we need effort.
But we also need to just be. Like those musicians, those athletes, when they are at the very top of their game, they have studied and trained for all those years, and what do they do at the very end? When it is time for the performance, the game?
They forget everything and move on instinct.
They forget everything that they have trained for and they just are. They are in the zone. When the athlete gets in the zone or the musician, they are not thinking about technique, about those ten thousand shots they practiced and all those things that they learned in music theory. They are living it, in the present.
But there is the paradox. They couldn’t let go and just be without all of the practice. So, the simple answer is both. We need both until the veil of separation is lifted.
It is like this in our practice, in our meditation. In every meditation, the technique is there to be dropped. The technique is there to be forgotten. If we meditate on the breath, it is just to stabilize the mind, and then we sit.
We already are what we are seeking
The greatest paradox is that we already are what we are seeking. We seek until we find out what we have been seeking has been here all along waiting for us. This is rarely a final event; we can go back and forth continually. Learning, striving, then resting. Knowing, forgetting, remembering.
The key is to practice. Sit. Meditate. Be still.
Give yourself the opportunity to know the teaching experientially, beyond the intellectual. This will lead to a natural unfoldment of innate being-ness. Effort will turn into effortlessness, seeking mind will meet non-seeking mind, you will go from a human-doing to a human-being. All of it is the path.
Adapted from the talk “The Great Paradox” Oct 3rd 2014, by Cayce Howe, Sacred Roots Healing Center Long Beach CA.