Skip to content

More notes from the "Zen Lent" Theology on Tap session . . .

The three stages along the spiritual road: purgative, illuminative, unitive. I have no doubt that they accurately describe the road. But I guess I've never found them helpful or useful. As I've gotten older, I guess I've come to realize I don't want to read about the spiritual way . . . I just want to get on it. Related: I don't want to think about it . . . or look at it . . . or strive for it. In this, I think some . . . most, all . . . spiritual masters would agree. But they're in a hard place: They want you just to experience it, but having trod it themselves, they want to lay out a road map to make it easier for you . . . But they also don't want you to look at the road map. Just get on the road.

I am finding that it's far more important simply to work with the tools than to look at what you're trying to build.

I think the act of looking at what you're trying to build is much of the affliction of modern life. It is the source of chronic stress, which is a huge problem and one not known to our ancestors. It doesn't stress me out to haul a half ton of compost and spread it out . . . it does stress me out if there's a storm coming, and I need to

get it laid out today, because if I don't I won't be able to get my seeds in the ground tomorrow, and then I have to leave on vacation, and then they won't germinate, and then my July harvest is screwed and !!!!!!!!!!! panic. I've gone from spreading the compost to thinking about the impact on the harvest in six weeks . . . AND IT OFTEN HAPPENS IN ABOUT THREE SECONDS!

That's why we need the tools of the spiritual life. That's why the Zen adherent meditates. That's why we pray. To keep mindfulness even when we're not meditating or praying. I eat now so I have fuel for the day. I don't have to keep on eating. The same with prayer. But you have to return to the plate . . . and to the kneeler.

Zen would say, and I might agree with it, that you should NEVER look at what you're trying to build . . . that very act of looking destroys every effort of the tools. Just use the tools.

Just pray.
Just serve.
Just love.

Without ever thinking about the praying, the serving, the loving. And definitely not thinking about how you're kicking ass at praying, and serving, and loving.