When amidst companions one is approached with requests
in the house, and where one stands, walks or wanders.
Seeking independence which is undesired by others,
one should live alone, like the horn of a rhinoceros.

Interruptions are the assassins of spiritual repose. Coming from every which way the one seeking an independent spirit is mauled at every opportunity, afterwards being left to recover from the assaults which always drains one’s vital energies. Some intrusions of the Recollective Resolve are unavoidable, like certain familial responsibilities. If I may, allow me to note my own ongoing situation.

My mother has been afflicted with the dreaded Alzheimer’s disease since 2012. Her present state has left her no better than a vegetable. Once a week, on a Saturday, she is transported from the Nursing Home to my father’s house where we as children meet consistently at such time to support my equally aged and ailing father who turned 87 this past Thursday. Hence, this is the appointed time away from my urban hermit existence to be present to ongoing family concerns. Saturdays are thereby designated as such. But I also need to note that at such times I need to be cautious not to be overly drawn into other family member’s issues which can readily, if one allows them to do so, detract from the eremitical hermit’s main task of cultivating one’s own spirit. This is not meant to be a callous remark. I recollect writing in the Lankavatarian Book of the Dead series how my own spiritual path reflects that of ancient Taoists wherein they state that one ought to embrace familial and social commitments (like my own embrace of the duties of the exoteric church) when they are young, but that when they reach middle-age and beyond (I’m now retired at 61 due to ongoing health issues) the “inner-path” (or inner-light) needs to become the primary focus. During those years of active ministry spanning a 30-year career, I actually baptized, married, and buried over half of my family members. My association with Tozen and his teachings began in late 1999 and throughout the ensuing years I had to balance my new found spiritual freedom in Tathagata-garbha Unborn Mind Zen with my Church responsibilities, which in later years also included a Pastorship. I will not mince words in stating that the inner and outer struggle between these two spiritual paths were a drain on me physically and mentally, but the stronger of the two won out in late 2011 and subsequently I have been free to live my authentic-spiritual lifestyle since retiring from the Church. Being disabled does have its drawbacks since I live alone and have to attend to the shopping and cleaning and washing and attending to the needs of my two Tonkinese Cats by feeding and daily cleaning out their litter-box , ect., all the while being disabled as everything takes twice the time-frame to complete. I love my two cats, but there are times when I am interrupted by them at inopportune times, like being in meditation. The arrival of my new Hermitage outside my main residence in August has been a godsend since it has afforded me the opportunity of being totally alone and sheltered from any outside disturbances.

Whatever your own living situation may be, if you are in earnest about progressing in spiritual health and freedom then you need to assess those ongoing disturbances in your own life and those which need to be curtailed lest you fail to responsibly take ownership over your spiritual-life and destiny. Today’s verse is very clear: if you don’t assert your spiritual independence then outside events will continue to dictate and determine the rest of your time-frame here on earth. Time is short. One knows not when the bell will toll, thus it is of vital import to seriously be about your practice lest another diurnal round of samsara springs upon you unawares. Be continually mindful and ready. Libera!

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7 Responses to Intrusions!

  1. Vyartha says:

    Very useful post, thank you.
    These ‘intrusions’ are a major struggle in my life.
    Especially when it feels like not letting them intrude would be perceived as cold.
    I reckon it takes many years to find the right balance in these things.

  2. Vajragoni says:

    I hear what you’re saying, Vyartha. Sometimes people can also consider your need to be apart and alone in your practice as being selfish–that you’re putting that above their wants and needs. One needs to be mindful not to fall into their trap. I remember one summer back in the ’80’s taking a course at Catholic University in Washington, DC, called Clinical-Pastoral Education or CPE for short. It was an intensive course where we would all sit-around a circle in a room and literally tear-each-other-apart in what what we were doing wrong in our expectations concerning ministry. Some guys were left a weeping mess! It was lead by two Lutheran Ministers and they were ruthless in their assessments. I remember them saying that the desire to be present to all people all of the time was falling into the trap of burning-out early. They would say things like, “Don’t let people suck on ya”, while grabbing hold of their own breast. It sounded very callous at the time but they were so on-target. Some people will take-advantage of you all the time and suck your energies dry like a vampire if you allow them too. So, don’t allow others to suck-away your time when for instance being alone in practice. Assert yourself in your own respective need.

    Also, many times people consider someone sitting alone in meditation as being useless, even lazy. They say things like, “Are ya workin????” That’s a most often used phrase, “Are ya workin???” Like someone’s life is not worthwhile if they are not incessantly busy. Other times they just can’t comprehend that apparently “just being” is something totally worthwhile, even healthy. The other day my hair-stylist, a woman, said has she always does when I come in a for a hair-cut, “So, what have you’ve been up too? Nothing much I suppose, huh??” Well this time I turned and tried to explain to her that my life was now about being inward centered vs being outer centered. As she looked perplexed I said, “You’re not there yet, are ya?” And, of course, she said that she wasn’t, that being active going snowmobiling or hiking or going Kayaking in Summer is what she needed to be about. She’s in her late 30’s-early 40’s. I’m not saying that those things aren’t fun and healthy, they are (I enjoy walking during the warmer months), just don’t be judgmental of someone who holds different values as well.

    All in all, remember my friend that people will just not be on the same page as you are. But if its an incessant annoyance hearing them criticize and intruding upon your time, then by all means let them hear you and put them in their place. It’s your own rightful dignity.

  3. n. yeti says:

    Even though you are both right, and I also feel upset when interruptions arise, nevertheless someone has to scold you (us). Even though it seems like the very Maras are delighting in every obstacle put in our path, as with everything else that happens in life we should view interruptions to practice as simply the way it is without taking it too personally.

    As advised by Bodhidharma: “First, suffering injustice. When those who search for the Path encounter adversity, they should think to themselves, ‘In countless ages gone by, I’ve turned from the essential to the trivial and wandered through all manner of existence, often angry without cause and guilty of numberless transgressions. Now, though I do no wrong, I’m punished by my past. Neither gods nor men can foresee when an evil deed will bear its fruit. I accept it with an open heart and without complaint of injustice.’ The sutras say, ‘When you meet with adversity don’t be upset, because it makes sense.’ With such understanding you’re in harmony with reason. And by suffering injustice you enter the Path.”

    Obviously we should take every measure to ensure such evil karmas do not arise, such as adhering to the precepts especially as regards idle chit chat. Second, recall the Buddhas and Mahabodhisattvas who have gone before, and their vows, particularly in this case Avalokitesvara, who hears the cries of the world. It may not seem like someone knocking on your door or some other noisy triviality while you are trying to meditate or study scripture is a cry of lament, but even if it isn’t, you can treat it like it is. If we have waited and practiced endless kalpas to get to this point, we can put up with an interruption and even possibly learn from it.

    • Vajragoni says:

      “Someone has to scold you (us)?” Really??? How old are you, three? Oftentimes you remind me of Mr. Rogers, N.Yeti, a little too much moralizing. I’d like to see the human side of you from time to time, particularly during this series…why not get out your head from time to time, as you do have a tendency of being oddly cerebral.

    • n. yeti says:

      Fred Rogers may have been branded a moralizer, but he also spoke deeply of the importance of solitude and quietude. In fact he sounded a lot like you:

      “Most of us have so few moments like that in our lives. There’s noise everywhere. There are some places we can’t even escape it. Television and radio are probably the worst culprits. They are very seductive. It’s so tempting for some people to turn on the television set or the radio when they first walk into a room or get in the car… to fill any space with noise. I wonder what some people are afraid might happen in the silence. Some of us must have forgotten how nourishing silence can be. That kind of solitude goes by many names. It may be called “meditation” or “deep relaxation,” “quiet time” or “downtime.” In some circles, it may even be criticized as “daydreaming.” Whatever it’s called, it’s a time away from outside stimulation, during which inner turbulence can settle, and we have a chance to become more familiar with ourselves.”

      “I don’t think we give that gift anymore (the gift of silence). I’m very concerned that our society is much more interested in information than wonder. In noise, rather than silence…how do we encourage reflection? Oh my, this is a noisy world. I get up every morning at least by 5AM. I have a couple hours of quiet time, reflect about what it is important. What can we do, to encourage people to have more quiet in their lives, more silence? Real revelation comes through silence.”

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