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Solitude and Communion

At critical moments in his life, Jesus was in solitude, but was solitary with his close disciples. When he knew he was a marked man waiting for the midnight knock on the door, or in his case the betrayer’s kiss in the garden, his instinct was to go near to the desert—a place associated both with solitude and with the deepest of all relationships, in the ground of being. And he went there with those human beings whom he understood best and who, for all their failings, understood him best. Solitude is truthful and often delightful, even when painful.

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The Spiritual Path Is a Work of Love

Raising a family may be exhausting and seem to leave little time for specific “spiritual practice,” but it is all about other-centeredness. It is a good preparation for meditation. Conversely, monastic life may give us time for prayer but may also keep us in a shallow state of dissatisfaction, repeating the same unproductive cycles of thought and behavior. But it can be a good preparation for serving the world. We are attracted to the other-centered option because we crave relationship and connection, which, combined, deliver us into the experience of meaning.

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In, But Not of, the World

Perhaps we never truly feel we belong to this world, even if we cling to it, make it serve us, and try to get it to accept us. A necessary detachment from the market forces of power and egotism can be cultivated even while engaging with those forces. We call this cultivation of detachment, which allows us to see and relate to the world as it is, “regular meditation.” Learning how to meditate regularly is what we call the asceticism, spiritual practice or discipline.

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Strive for Clarity and Compassion

Clarity grows with the spirit of acceptance and the purifying of the mind. With this vision that is the result of a pure heart, we can see with clarity through all the illusions and self-deceptions, all the games the ego plays. But this clarity separates the one who sees with it from the crowd. Don’t we like to feel that we are right and better and then to feel our little ego magnified by the self-righteous people around us? We reinforce and flatter each other by targeting someone weaker who may be innocent or who has been caught doing something wrong.

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Choose How to Respond

The human mind can be very reactive. We don’t get what we want and we rage, complain, or attack whatever we can blame for the disappointment. It is astonishing how cruel and irrational we can be even over relatively minor things, when things don’t go our way. Pain and sadness usually separate and isolate us. Sometimes they even sever us from the very hand that stretches out offering to save us by connecting us again to a source of compassion and healing. To another. Even in the midst of loss and confusion and fear, we can learn to choose another way.

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The Truth Will Set You Free

You have only to be truthful to cause trouble. But it’s a different kind of trouble when you are untruthful. You have to decide what kind of troublemaker you will be. Perhaps most people want to avoid causing any trouble because they are frightened of a backlash; but eventually we all have to decide. Are we going to tell the truth, to live the truth or to hide behind platitudes and half-truths? A heightened level of awareness through meditation can  allow us to be truthful even when this carries a high cost.

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