Wednesday, October 7, 2009

God in my eyes

At lunch the other day a friend of mine was talking about his daily spiritual practice and he used a paraphrased saying that he heard a Belgian woman named Niro Markoff say. According to him she said, “Discipline is the path to freedom.”

I have thought about that ever since.

I understand the concept and I agree to a point, but then another part of me thinks that you can become trapped in the discipline and the actual practice becomes nothing more than rote repetitions. I remember as a child, the priest giving me the rosary as my punishment for my transgressions and once he assigned three repetition of it! It was arduous and not very helpful. I wasn’t heartily sorry for my sins, I was bored to death and felt nothing other than anger at the priest for being so zealous.

Yet, I can see that discipline could very well be the path to freedom.

So, where does this leave me?

Honestly, I’m not sure. After my friend told me that quote, I decided that he was correct, discipline might just be the path to freedom and I began a spiritual practice of my very own, with the help of a little borrowing from my friend’s daily practice. I decided to make use of the mala that I bought in India and I would say, “Yes, Lord,” one hundred and eight times as I made my way around the beads. It just didn’t resonate with me. Then I changed to saying “Om nama shivaya,” one hundred and eight times. That was better, it suited my Catholic upbringing to say the words first spoken by someone else.

I vowed to say this twice a day, like my friend, once upon arising in the morning and once again before I went to sleep. I was good for about a week or more. Then something happened one morning and I couldn’t say it, I forget why, I suppose I had to be somewhere, Whatever the reason, I didn’t do it that morning and now it has been hard to get it back.

So, that brings me back to my original question. Is discipline the path to freedom? While I was doing my practice, I didn’t feel particularly connected to anything. I enjoyed the feel of the beads in my hand; I loved the smell of the sandalwood. I even enjoyed mouthing the words, but I didn’t feel closer to God. Isn’t that the purpose of spiritual practice – to feel a connection to God?

For me freedom comes when I look at the sky, or the ocean or a chipmunk running across the lawn with stuffed cheeks. Yesterday, I went to the park and parked my car in my usual spot. It was a beautiful fall day; the sun was warm with a slight chill in the air. The water of the pond was calm and reflecting the orange leaves of the surrounding trees. I did not walk around because I had gone there to read, and so, I just sat in the car and began to read. Of course, I was fast asleep in no time. I must have been a asleep for almost an hour. When I woke up and opened my eyes, there was the vista that I described above. That’s when I felt God’s presence.

Jon and I went to the beach last weekend and I did the same thing, I fell asleep and awoke with the ocean and the sky in my eyes, and God was there too.

For my friend, perhaps the “path to freedom” is discipline, maybe in the quietude of his apartment he feels God’s presence as he murmurs “Yes, my love, yes, my love.” I can understand it. But, I think for me my path to freedom lies not in repeating endless repetitious phrases, but in just falling asleep and waking up with God in my eyes.

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