This week we continue our exploration of the triad “Three sources of comfort: knowledge of the Divine Origin of all Creation, inspiration in the teachings of mystics and sages, support in the fellowship of like-minded souls.” Last week we looked at the support community can offer us, today we’ll look at how teachings can guide and comfort us in these turbulent times.
Being inspired and uplifted by spiritual teachings may be incorrectly interpreted by some as taking a position of passivity: the teaching or teacher is ‘top dog’ and the taught is ‘underdog’ in Gestalt terms; or the teacher is the parent, the taught the child. While that may be the case in certain contexts, spiritual teachings – I believe – are designed to educate in the true sense of term, which derives from ‘e’ meaning ‘out’ and ‘ducere’ meaning to draw or lead. Education involves drawing out understanding, exitement, illumination from within us – so it is empowering not disempowering. The best teaching results in the student learning for themselves – in the depths of their experience rather than being simply told what to think. It becomes a conversation – that great art beloved of the American Transcendentalists Emerson and Thoreau. (Do look at this contemporary project that works with this: The Innermost House).
What are the vehicles for these conversations, these teachings? Here’s one list: texts, people, places. And you could say there are the obvious messages they can give us – the understanding texs can offer, the warmth people can give us, the beauty places offer, but their gifts can be subtle too.
To access the subtle levels of meaning in texts we can use a process similar to ‘Lectio Divina’: taking small sections of text, entering into the scene if described, entering meditation to let its meaning sink deeper, even using the words as mantra.
To access the subtle levels of learning that is possible when we are with one or more people we can share silence, and we can share our thoughts and feelings as deeply as we can. We can revive the art of conversation.
To access the subtle levels of teaching available in certain places – usually sacred places – we can think of the concept of ‘terma teachings’ – the magic mysteriously embedded in the land. In our meditation we travel to a sacred island to experience this for ourselves.