Welcome to my first post for The Integral Dojo Blog. In this space, I will explore everything concerning the nature of a “Path” of practice. So it seems appropriate that here in our first post that we ask “What is a Path of practice”? So here are just a few of the many important elements.
What Is “Path”?
A Path can be defined as an inner developmental journey that leads to the realization of your highest potential. To gain this realization you would typically take on practices that would lead you to discover particular aspects of the true nature of reality. A Path of practice will gradually reveal a definite, and systematic order of development. Based on this “unfolding” a Path can generally be mapped out, certain experiences can be predicted, and the developmental indicators that mark progress on the Path can be understood. With progress, you will gradually develop the skills and competencies to navigate the inevitable ups and downs that arise in the practice until eventually reaching the goal.
Higher Path Discipline
My root meditation teacher, the Ven. Sayadaw U Pandita, constantly reminded me that meditation practice was a “Higher Path Of Mental Discipline.” Of course, as a Buddhist meditation master, his primary focus is on “Bhavana”, or “mental development”. But if I expand this into a more integral definition to include body, mind, heart and spirit, then Path means: “A higher Path of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual discipline”
Absolute, Unconditioned, or Universal By Nature
The goal of all authentic Paths of practice is nothing less than the realization of an absolute, unconditioned, and universal perspective. Looking at the traditions you will see that the realization of this “absolute” manifests in different ways, such as Emptiness, Oneness, Truth, Perfection, Harmony, Love, etc. Whatever the case, these state experiences are authentic perspectives that are true at all times, in all places, and in every circumstance. Even if you have not yet awakened these states, they are no less true. They are absolute perspectives that can be realized by each and everyone for the simple reason that they are your very own true nature.
The First Step Is Awareness (and every step after)
Taking on a “practice” is walking the Path. Regardless of the tradition, the first step on all authentic Paths of practice is a step of self-awareness. Inner growth happens only when you are fully conscious, mindful, and aware in the present moment. Sustaining this awareness will propel you forward along the Path of development.
When you commit to an “awareness” training then it will trigger a process that systematically leads you through purification, transmutation, integration, dissolution, and transformation of everything in yourself that is not part of your higher potential. Because to realize your absolute nature, everything that is relative in you must eventually be transcended.
Your Limitations And Beyond
Taking on a Path of practice will sooner or later (usually sooner) lead you directly to your own limitations. This is where the pull of the absolute runs into the boundaries of yourself. The clash between who you are, and who you can become will create stress on the system that can manifest as discomfort, irritation, annoyance, resistance, confusion, desire, fear, or any number of egoic reactions. These reactions are simply defense mechanisms that preserve the boundaries of the ego. If you identify with these reactions then the limited boundaries of the self will be preserved and inner development will stop. But if you want to move beyond these limitations to attain your greater potential, then you will need to navigate all challenges with skill, mindfulness, and patience.
The Path Challenges, The Path Supports
The primary challenge of walking a Path is the inevitable stress that arises when the boundary of who you are, meets the greater potential of who you can become. But the beautiful and amazing thing about an authentic Path is that no matter how big the challenges may seem, the support is always bigger. It may not always seem like it, but the support is always there. It holds you, guides you, and always leads you forward along the Path. Because ALL authentic Paths, are forward leading Paths.
Question: What is your experience of a Path, and what elements do you find essential? You can leave a comment by clicking here.