January 19, 2012

The importance of spiritual friends

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Roshi Bodhin KjolhedeToo often, January is a time for breaking vows and letting ourselves down, and with the gloomy weather on top of it all, we can find ourselves feeling down in the dumps. To remedy this, and to keep ourselves and our practices on track in 2012, we enlisted Roshi Bodhin Kjolhede of the Rochester Zen Center—sometimes called the Boot Camp of American Zen—to keep us on course.

If you've followed his Tricycle Retreat The Precepts as Practice, now finishing its third week, you'll agree that his teachings have been a strong counterweight to the January gloom. In this week's teaching—a preview clip of which appears below—he speaks about the Five Grave Precepts and engaged in some inspiring exchanges with Tricycle Members in the discussion. One member wrote a moving account of her solitary life among people who do not support her life choices. Roshi replied:

My heart goes out to you, Linda. It can be disheartening to feel as though your values are different from those of your coworkers, friends, and acquaintances. Hence the value of being part of a Sangha, either local or remote (e.g., this Tricycle online retreat!).
As for your "denial," you said it--"Who knows?" Of course if you're copping to your denial, you're not in full denial. And since denial, as i understand it, is unconscious, I wouldn't see it as a form of lying; lying implies a conscious intent to deceive. But there's no denying that denial describes a state of less than full self-awareness.

Buddhist texts speak of the importance of having a "spiritual friend," which may mean either a teacher or a fellow non-teaching practitioner. It's so hard to maintain a daily practice, we need the support of others--a community.

Hang in there, Dharma sister, and stay connected.

Thank you to Roshi Kjolhede for brightening up our January, and thank you to the Tricycle Members who have joined us to start off 2012 on the right note!

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