“You are an alchemist; make gold of that.” ~William Shakespeare Alchemy was popular in Europe from the 16th to 18th centuries. While many today believe it to be a superstitious attempt to transform lead into gold, in reality it was as much an art of inner transformation as it was the precursor of modern chemistry. … Continued
As we practice, we gradually discover what this core orientation is for us. It need not be simple, it can be multifaceted and hard to pin down. In the yoga tradition, this ideal is known as the Ishta Devata, the desired/chosen deity. For atheists, this doesn’t have to be thought of as anything supernatural, it can be anything you personally see as having ultimate value. It might be the pursuit of truth through rigorous skeptical inquiry, the promotion of human flourishing, or the cultivation of beauty through art.
As we come into relationship with an ideal through our practice, we may find that it is not simply a goal to be attained but also something we love for its own sake. That love for one’s ideal can be transformative in itself. In the yogic tradition, the love a seeker feels for their ideal is called bhakti, which is translated at devotion. Bhakti/devotion is a special kind of a love directed not toward mundane pursuits and ordinary relationships, but instead toward something higher, whatever that might be for you.
At CEC, we’ve been working towards developing and embodying a pluralistic and inclusive model of spiritual practice. Our grand vision is to offer a place where all spiritual practices are welcomed in a big tent of exploration, dialogue and cross-pollination. Yet, we’ve struggled to integrate one prominent feature of many spiritual traditions: namely God. (shudder)
In mindfulness practice, we find ourselves noticing the habitual stories that play in our heads on a loop, often causing us great misery and pain. By noticing and getting some distance from these stories we can start to break free from their unconscious pull over us. As we start to loosen our attachments to those those old unhelpful stories, our minds become free to tell new ones.
Emotional complexity can arise out of a relatively ordinary situation. Our human capacity to feel and track emotions is somewhat ridiculous in its scope and power. It’s all part of our nature as intensely social creatures. The social world is our habitat, and emotion is the intelligence of social existence.