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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Deepening


When I was younger, I believed that I would deepen and enrich my inner life by voracious reading, by participating in conversations of a certain lofty type, and by living my life according to the precepts I found in those books and (sometimes) also in those conversations.

As I grew older I began to realize that deepening was - in some fashion - much more related to "muscles" that grew and strengthened as I practiced loving kindness, awareness, gratitude, mindfulness, patience, and compassion in daily life. I also began to realize that much as I had to stretch muscles of another kind in the reading or perhaps the conversations, a totally different kind of stretching took place when I practiced loving kindness, compassion, and so on.

I began to understand that the people who spoke the language of loving kindness and compassion could just as easily be individuals who had - also - spent a great deal of their lives reading and conversing, as they could be individuals who scarcely read at all, and who perhaps spoke of mainly simple and mundane matters.

My younger ego yearned for the admirable heights I thought I had attained (or would eventually attain) by such reading and conversing, but my older self recognizes that by having begun the arduous process of divesting myself of the ever-clamoring ego, I was able to reach places that were unattainable before. And that I was able to reach these places by the simplest of things: being mindful as I watched a sunrise or a child at play, being filled with gratitude as I smelled the aroma of blossoming jasmine, being able to be patient in a situation that would have brought me to the brink in earlier years, finding loving kindness and compassion within myself more and more frequently (but not always - it's a difficult process), when faced with certain people or events, and of course, even just in my thoughts.

Perhaps the deepening became much more a part of me as I began to realize that my thoughts led the way. It's one thing to behave a certain way on the outside, and quite another thing to have thoughts that run on parallel lines with the way you've just behaved. Often our thoughts run in entirely different directions and we hide them from the world. So when I was able to bring those thoughts to a place that was congruent with the conscious desire to behave this way or that in the external world, I glimpsed the beginning of the real deepening.

This is a challenge. And it's a choice. And I believe - despite growth and evolution that we may have experienced in that direction - that it challenges us to choose deepening every day. We do not stop growing until we are gone. And then, perhaps, we grow in entirely new ways ...

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