Friday, April 22, 2011

A Vision for Practice


I find that when I’m engaged in an email class I have little inspiration—not to mention time—for writing a blog. I love email classes. I love the back-and-forth, getting to watch what arises in me in response to what someone writes about their practice. I love the feeling of Sangha, all of us practicing together. I feel the same way about Open Air and even the tweets, though tweets don’t have that groovy two-way communication. I can just imagine everyone out there reading and seeing and smiling.

The recording and listening email classes—named “It’s Time to Feel Good” and based on our newest book What You Practice Is What You Have—began in November and, with a short break during February and March, will continue until the end of April. Somewhere out in the middle of the last one, and continuing through this one, I began working with our new “business coach” on a retreat that will be made available only to those who have completed a recording/listening email class.

I just had a birthday* and birthdays are often an opportunity to consider mortality—especially at my age! It has occurred to me that it might be of some assistance for me to articulate my vision for practice, given all these new features in our practice.

I still see the foundation of our practice as the Not What But How work. Having a sense of how a human operates via learning to direct the attention, meditation, and the five processes (beliefs and assumptions, aspects of the personality, projection, centering, and disidentification) is core work, so much so that I still teach that retreat once a year at the Zen Monastery Peace Center. The There Is Nothing Wrong With You retreat, the follow-up to Not What But How, brings clarity—and usually profound transformation—as the role of self-hate in a person’s life is dissected.

The next huge piece of practice is recording and listening. As many of you have heard me state, I’ve never in 30+ years of offering this practice seen anything bring the level of transformation that recording and listening is providing. The unique and astonishing piece of it is that people are able, usually for the first time, to experience that 1) they are not egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate, and 2) they can have immediate, direct access to the wisdom, love, and compassion that animates us. Not “get that,” or “understand it,” but have a direct experience of. That is truly life changing.

However, I’ve not found that people can reach that depth of experience either by reading the book and following the directions, or even by doing a day-long workshop. The resistance from egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate is simply to big and too virulent for most people to move through unsupported. So, until we figure out another way, doing an email class to gain the support for getting to that direct experience seems our only avenue. I commit to offering the It’s Time to Feel Good email classes until we come up with that alternative teaching/supporting method.

When a person has completed all those elements of practice, they will be ready for the new 8-day retreat that, to me, reveals egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate in a way that is stark and unforgettable. I predict this retreat will be as transformative as There Is Nothing Wrong With You and, as such, requires a participant to be well-steeped in every aspect of practice. This stage is for the very committed practitioner.

Then, the people who have these practices under their belt will be invited to participate in a project that I, cock-eyed optimist that I am, think is going to change at least our society, if not the world. The reason I’m hopeful about that is that when There Is Nothing Wrong With You came out—nearly 20 years ago now!—the concept of self-hatred really didn’t exist in society. “Voices” were something the “mentally ill” heard. Now there are few therapists who don’t use clarity about the role of voices and self-hatred in their practices, and those notions have even slipped into most spiritual practices.

However, it’s not changing society that is my ambition, it’s maintaining support for Sangha. We all know that if practice isn’t right in front of us, it’s easy for egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate to begin its stealth slither back into our lives. How do we stay connected, focused, supported? I think Project Next is all that and more. Stayed tuned, please.

*This from the Zen Monastery Peace Center Guestmaster:
Cheri recently had a birthday and one of the monks gave her the gift of the commitment to hold ZERO tolerance for self-hate the entire day. Both Cheri and the monk were pretty excited about it, and Cheri asked us to pass along to the whole Sangha that she is open to late birthday presence (couldn't resist!). If you would like to join in, choose a day and commit, midnight to midnight, no matter what happens, no matter what the voices say, no matter what "unskillful" things occur, to NO SELF-HATE! You can do it--it's actually fun! If you would like to let us know how it goes, post a comment on Cheri’s Practice Blog.
In Gassho,

PS Remember that deciding “no self-hate” does not mean there will not be any. It will likely be even louder than usual. It means you are not going to participate with, talk to, resist, or in any way engage with it.

Thanks to each of you who take our monk up on that invitation—eager to hear how it goes. And, for a little inspiration before you start your no self-hate day, take a look at the youtube video of Bob Newhart on MadTV doing a routine called, “Stop It.” (Choose the long version.) So Zen!

In Gassho,