Photo by Jack Moreh
As we amble along our chosen path, we encounter many distractions. One of the most insidious is the notion that to pursue a path is sufficient, that pursuit is an end in itself.
A few years ago, we were invited to do a two-day retreat sponsored by a wealthy organization that once a year invited some individual or group to edify them. In their invitation they made a point of characterizing themselves as “seekers of truth.” That should have been a red flag, because we had run across organizations with similar aims, but this one paid awfully well.
From Ego Mind to Connected Mind
We opened the first day with the invitation to interrupt us at any time with comments or questions. We then proceeded to talk about our spiritual beliefs and practices, and we demonstrated with a volunteer couple just how easily an issue can be resolved when the couple switched from their ego minds to their connected mind.
We walked the couple through the steps and, sure enough, it worked just as we had said it would.
So, there we were, talking about the difference between the chattering mind and the quiet mind and demonstrating fairly dramatically the practical implications of being aware of both, when the questions and comments started coming. The remarks were all over the place, comparing our philosophy to past speakers’ beliefs, questioning that we had made certain basic assumptions, disagreeing with how we had worded certain points, and all in all rejecting anything we had said with certainty. One person commented, “You aren’t very dynamic. We’ve heard all of this before.” Although he did add that the demonstration with the couple was “interesting.”
What Truths Do You Try to Live By?
The second day we had the group sit in a circle, and we asked each person: “What do you think is true? What are the basic truths that you can always rely on? What truths do you try to live by?”
This spurred numerous questions about what we meant by “truth.” We tried to answer as simply and in as few words as we could, saying things like “We just want to know what you think is real and lasting, the facts about reality that you know you can rely on.” This then brought on questions about what was “reality,” but eventually we were able to get answers from all but two people in the circle.
Out of a group of about forty, only five people said that they believed in a lasting reality or truth, and they mentioned God, Spirit, inner guidance, time, life, conscience, and death. The other comments were mostly expressions of political and social responsibility, with a few continuing to argue against the worth of the exercise.
Naturally, each of us has our own individual process or path, and Gayle’s and mine clearly are not a good fit for many people. However, what this long-standing and apparently sated group was challenging was not the merit of our answers but the fact that we had answers.
With a few exceptions, the individual members had convinced themselves that it is better to seek than to find. They were offended that we had settled on a way that was best for us. If your purpose is to “seek the truth,” finding the truth pulls the meaning of your life out from under you.
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Practicing What You Already Know
The beliefs that Gayle and I try to live by are quite simple. In fact, we have noticed that they become simpler the longer we work at practicing them. Our prayers now are often only two or three words long. Sometimes only one. Sometimes just stillness. But we find that we stop and calm our minds several times a day. Aside from starting each day with a meditation, we don’t follow a set schedule but simply pause whenever we get caught up in something trivial, which happens remarkably often.
In our opinion, it is not how many ways you have of stating the truth but how committed you are to carrying it out moment by moment that determines progress. Many people become obsessed with looking for ever better statements of truth rather than practicing what they already know.
And we all know enough. We know enough to get us through today. Whether it’s the Sermon on the Mount, the Golden Rule, the Twelve Steps, or simply the desire to be kind to those we encounter and think of, any of those approaches — plus thousands of others that are simple, familiar, and much used — is sufficient.
What Do You Believe?
Sit quietly and ask yourself what you believe. Do you want to be a better person today than you were yesterday? Then that is enough. Do you notice that you are happier when you are kind rather than controlling? Then that is enough. Do you find that the harsh circumstances of the world soften a little when you meditate? Then that is enough.
Anything that comes up today, anything at all, cannot block you from having a degree of peace if you will simply look into your heart, see what you believe, and practice it. That is a path based on truth. And the beauty it leads you toward becomes increasingly apparent the longer you walk it.
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Reprinted with permission from New World Library.
BOOK: Gently Down This Dream
Gently Down This Dream: Notes on My Sudden Departure
by Hugh and Gayle Prather
Gently Down This Dream is a book for those who are tired of striving and suffering and want to awaken to the peace and love that are within us all.
When bestselling author Hugh Prather completed this book in 2010, he gave it to his wife and writing partner, Gayle, to shape and edit. He died the next day. The book’s essays, poems, and aphorisms are bravely self-revelatory, relentlessly compassionate, and born out of a lifetime of contemplative practice and counseling work.
The Prathers’ authentic humor, comfort, and spiritual insights are perfect for the divisive times we live in, offering a way through what can often seem the prison of the self, a reliable means for navigating a world that sometimes feels out of control, and a path to love.
Click here for more info and/or to order this paperback book. Also available as a Kindle edition.
About the Authors
In 1970, Hugh Prather turned his diary into self-help guide called Notes to Myself, which went on to sell nearly 8 million copies worldwide. His work inspired thousands of people to become diarists and start examining their own loves.
Hugh and his wife, Gayle Prather, later cowrote a series of advice books for couples. Hugh died in 2010 at age 72.
More Books by the authors.