Allow me to introduce myself - since I was a child, I have been asking myself questions and learning lessons, and working a lot of things out. I was raised a Catholic, but the whole thing never really made much sense to me, and after a LOT of detailed thought on the matter when I was young I realised that I wasn't going to be able to crack this particular nut through analysis - it seemed to ultimately require some leap of faith, and I could see no particular reason to take that leap, so I didn't - although I didn't rule out doing that for something in the future, should it seem appropriate. As I grew older, I started to notice that each of the different bits of progress I made seemed to have something
in common - something to do with a feeling of letting go, being in the present moment, compassion, etc.
At some point, I thought that I couldn't be the first person to have come across this, and that there might be some way of addressing these things directly, so I did a little research, decided that it sounded like a meditative practice might be worth exploring, and I ended up finding an excellent T'ai Chi teacher and school, whose approach resonated with me profoundly, and I have practiced this on and off for a few years, although I was always drawn to the spiritual more than the martial aspects of the art, and so I started to find out a little about Taoism.
Over the last year, my 'spiritual progress' (words are awful for this, sorry!) has seemed to accelerate somewhat, and what I now understand to be called mindfulness has become an ever-present feature of my day-to-day life to greater or lesser extents, whether I am alone, with others, sitting still or walking around. The world I walk around in now feels (and, in fact, looks!) quite different to how it felt a year ago, and many seemingly diverse aspects make a lot more sense.
Someone has since introduced me to recordings of Alan Watts, and I resonated very strongly with so much of what was presented, which in turn had a profound effect on me, and my relationship with the world around me. I have since been finding out more and more about existing traditions, philosophies and religions that seem to explicitly deal with the things that have been increasingly arising for me lately.
Some of the things that have by and large resonated with me in various ways:
- Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryu Suzuki
- Places That Scare You by Pema Chodron
- The Wisdom of No Escape and the Path of Loving-Kindness by Pema Chodron
- The Art of Happiness by Dalai Lama
- Be Here Now by Ram Dass
- I Am That by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
- The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
- Alan Watts (many various recordings)
- A few blogs, including http://lazyyogi.org
I have also now begin regularly meditating (generally sitting in a chair, eyes open, observing the breath and non-judgementally observing any thinking or anything else that might arise), and have been going to a local Tibetan Buddhist Centre to meditate in their shrine room, and I have started attending a meditation class they run.
I am starting to feel that, while my path has been pretty freeform for the last year, it would probably be a good thing to give it some structure, so I have been investigating the possibilities inherent in aligning myself with a tradition. Although my local Tibetan Buddhist Centre is very nice, and the people I have met there are also very nice, I am not sure that I have yet met anyone there who has inspired me that this particular tradition is what is going to help me. What I have read about Zen has resonated very strongly with me, but I have also read many wildly differing opinions about what is 'real Zen' or 'real Buddhism' and the effect of Westernisation on these traditions, and I remain unclear about how best to structure my path. I am also wondering about paths outside of Buddhist traditions - one example might be http://www.shivarudrabalayogi.org/
In the meantime, I am simply continuing to meditate and live in presently and compassionately as best I can, and use my own experience as my guide.
So my question is this:Do any of you have any advice on how I might develop and deepen my spiritual path, given my journey so far?
I would be grateful if you could also say something about how you found whatever path you have, even if it is not one that aligns exactly with specific traditions.
Many thanks for taking the time to read all of this - I really appreciate your help
PS On a practical note, I live and work in London, so any local knowledge/advice would also be very helpful to me.