ZEN and the Power of Now - The Supreme Meal
Much of my life has been devoted to the study of consciousness and the mystery of life.
In my SoulArts life work in particular, is exploration and guidance in how to heal old wounds, overcome mental blocks, navigate challenging life crossroads, and live in every day reality from a place of spiritual connection to life.
In short: how to really be here in life with all of it’s earthly demands and constraints and duality …and yet abundant in spirit and alive to the artistry of our soul’s own unique genius and path of purpose.
If life is a feast — a splendid soup-making of “10,000 things” unfolding from their One Creator (as the Taoists express this world that we call life) — then how to understand and come to this great table called life?
How to participate in the feast? How to find and come to your place at the table? How to bring and share your own offering to this big “pot luck” feast?
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One of the lyrics I have become fond of quoting in my private and group retreats, is from the song called “Circle of Life” performed by Elton John with lyrics by Tim Rice. Have you listened to the lyrics in this song?
I don’t know about you, but to me, every time I listen to “Circle of Life” I feel swept up in a kind of awesome swelling of the heart’s deep recognition for the amazing humility and grace it takes to be a human in this world of ours! So much suffering and so much magnificence too. (…”some of sail through our troubles; some have to live with the scars”…) In my lifework as a spiritual teacher and on my own path, I’ve come to realize that all of it (“the good the bad the ugly”) is part of the mystery and miracle of consciousness on the move… And on the move, we’re called to know our true beingness as we ever-unfold, grow, combine and commingle with each new moment…
One of the lines that most stands out for me in this provocative song, is this: “You will find your place, on the path, unwinding…” Find. Your Place. On the Path. Unwinding…
What I specifically appreciate about this line in the song, is that it points to a profound and paradoxical truth I have come to deeply realize and understand about just HOW one actually steps into his or her own unique calling, meaningful vocation, and genius.
You may ask: “OK, just how does one discover or know his or her own unique path?”
This may not (initially) sound like the answer – but it is:
You find your special gift (HINT: that which is hidden under your wounds and struggles) and the unique genius of your life, only when you discover how to listen into and creatively engage in your life, as it is unfolding in every day real world situations — i.e., by learning the art of being aware, here, awake, seeing. Your unique genius is something you learn “on the job”, in real, ordinary life. You find your way on the path unwinding, by coming to the feast and nourishing your life with awareness.
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Many people (and in particular many women and men at mid-life who often find themselves suddenly faced with significant life changes, health challenges, and relationship crossroads) contact me for help. And what they say they are seeking is this: To truly love and be loved; to overcome fear and trust my own heart; to have the courage to live authentically and find meaningful direction, connection to soul, and life purpose.
What I help these courageous seekers find – in themselves – is this:
First, that the answer lies within the question.
And second, that the question can only ever reveal it’s hidden keys, to the one who consciously and boldly sets about to find his/her answer in the real world, every day living questioning of it.
When a question is taken on as a living quest within one’s every day life, the “holy” (healing) spark of insight, transformation and your special genius is very simply and naturally ignited. This is what enlightenment or awakening means: not a place to attain, but a love affair with the very process of conscious evolution and the artistry of being one of “10,000 things”
So even right now: the answers you seek, lie right smack dab in the center of the “problems” you are struggling with — and these answers are revealed through an artful process of consciously-engaging in your life, as it is unfolding!
Life is like skiing. You can’t stand at the top and experience the thrill of skiing. You have to be heading down the slope and on the move; aware as each new turn, bump, crossroad as it arrives – on the fly.
… Or, to put it another way: the answer to the most profound BIG LIFE questions lie in learning an artful process of being curiously engaged within life and the question at the same time. Not “analyzing, judging, comparing, trying to figure it out” …but curiously engaging the question itself. (Big difference! …Please reflect here a moment on what it takes inwardly to be and remain in a state of “curious” as you keep asking a question. If you did only that, you’d open all doors…)
Longing and curious, these are the gatekeepers for awakening your genius and inner wisdom way.
Step into the doorway of your soul’s longing, and discover the love affair with life that awaits you…. Let’s ski. Let’s live. Let’s awaken to what is only available this moment!
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It’s so that the “answers lie within”. But the real question has to be uncovered first, and it rarely is. We find the real question as we live in the quest. And as we live in the quest, the answers reveal themselves to our growing attuned level of awareness. (Pause here to consider what it really means to “be aware”…)
To be aware, is to learn to distinguish the difference between thinking and realizing. (Another good pause place…)
“Thinking” is not awareness. Thinking is bound to the conditioned ego-mind – “the thinker”. Thinking can only deduce, dissect, extract, based upon past conditions and experiences of the thinker (like a computer program).
“Awareness”, on the other hand, is a relationship with life as it is moving. Awareness is in the moment. Awareness isn’t “thinking about” anything; awareness is openly allowing new information to teach and reveal new possibilities to the curiously-engaged heart.
Awareness is how we grow in consciousness. Awareness is how we transform our lives. Awareness is a language of soul.
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So here’s the trick: We’re in life. We’re here — along with “10,000 things” (to the 10,000 power):
We can’t be aware of life when we’re not in life. Gotta be in it to be aware of it. …But in life we often find ourselves caught up and unaware!
To live, to engage, to grow and to transform our lives we have to learn how to engage in every day real world life, from the soul of awareness rather than merely as the thinker.
The thinker-mind in you and in me will keep trying to fix, avoid, overcome, surmount, deny, control, manage, negotiate with, or own the moment. This is NOT living!
To live is to be ignited and inspired by your questions as your “holy-healing” path unwinding! (…”you will find your way on the path unwinding” is another way of saying “seek only the truth and the truth will set you free”)
To find our way requires that we actually enter into life by putting down the thinker’s mistaken and seductive belief that it can fix, solve, control, manipulate and negotiate on your soul’s behalf. It can’t.
To truly live (or to live authentically) is to realize the limits of the thinker-mind (or ego self) and to dare to put what it thinks it knows and needs aside in order to enter into a true relationship of artistry with the mystery moment at hand.
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There is a saying in Zen Buddhism: “When we live our life fully, our life becomes the “supreme meal”.” Besides my abiding love of great food, and my hobby of culinary experimentation and presentation, I feel a very deep resonance with the profound message, paradoxical wisdom, and practical pathway that is pointed to in Zen Buddhism, and in this concept of approaching your life as “the Supreme Meal”.
In other of my articles, you’ve heard me talk of our life as a master-work-of-art — in process. To answer the BIG questions of life, one must learn how to take up all of the ingredients of one’s life (“the good, bad and ugly”) — and from these circumstances, see what most nourishing meal — what most sense delighting plate — may be brought to the table of life. What a challenging co-creative adventure! Choosing to pick up the ingredients of your life in this way, is the inner garden tending that will nourish and transform your life into the miracle of what it seeks to become.
There is a quote by M.C. Richards: “My life is my art”. I think this statement exemplifies the realization that life has the spark of magic and mystery to it; that there is a divine alchemy and art to it; and that it is a life-long art that never ceases. The One creating the many. We are that.
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Self is a moving target; a dance with circumstance that is ever-evolving in to “10,000 things”, while our Essence, or True Face is always the same; silent; fully empty and holy whole.
When we are called by our struggles and questions and problems, it is a holy summons. We are being called to join in the dance of life as art-making; as love-making; as the unification that occurs when authenticity is expressed as genius. The One (authentic) expressed as genius (the many).
Your True Authentic Nature can only be seen and expressed now. …And now, is ever becoming a new now (even right now!
Within the Zen concept of life as “The Supreme Meal”, is an understanding that all parts of meal-making are part of the wholly (holy – healed) and engaged life. There is a wonderful book called: Instructions to the Cook: A Zen Master’s Lessons in Living a Life that Matters. In it, are keys to finding, following, and expressing your life’s genius and unique purpose. When you read a book such as this one, or let yourself really “fall into” the lyrics of the song I have included in this article, you will find yourself naturally invited and easily escorted to the table of soul and to the true feast of your life.
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Everything you seek from the depths of your soul comes from this one profound “seeing” realization:
When I consciously enter into my daily life as a curious and artfully engaging quest, I am finally able to break free of old thought patterns and simply stand in the miracle of accepting and receiving life’s most precious true gift: That of my genius, expressed.
See this in your own life and you will know the real meaning of love-making and the state of unconditional love where all healing transformation very naturally and simply, is already. Glimpse this insight, and your pathway is opened for you.
May you come to the table, and know that the real master feast is you!
With Love ~ ronda
copyright ronda larue, 2006
zen and the power of now