I created this image about a week ago, and it's been sitting in my files all week, waiting like a small shy child for me to choose it; to take time to listen to what it has to say.
Yesterday I finished my read-through of the second volume of Mary Oliver's collected poems, so this morning I returned to John Welwood's Toward a Psychology of Awakening, which has been sitting on the kitchen counter unopened since I left for the Mary Oliver retreat.
Well, duh! This image is really about the question that kept cropping up at the retreat: how do we integrate our spiritual practice with everyday life?
It's not like we were the first people to ask this question. As Welwood says in his book, "Even among advanced spiritual practitioners who have developed a high degree of insight, power, even brilliance, certain islands -- unexamined complexes of personal and cultural conditioning, blind spots, or areas of self-deception -- often seem to remain intact within the pure stream of their realization... How is it possible for spiritual realization to remain compartmentalized, leaving whole areas of the psyche apparently untouched? Why is it so hard to bring the awareness developed in meditation into all the areas of one's life?
... These problems...since they are almost universal... also point to the general difficulty of integrating spiritual awakenings into the entire fabric of our human embodiment... Because problems with integration are so widespread, we need to consider more fully the relationship between realization (liberation) and transformation (complete integration of that liberation in all the different dimensions of one's life... drawing on this realization to penetrate the dense conditioned patterns of body and mind, so that the spiritual can be fully integrated into the personal and the interpersonal, so that the personal life can become a transparent vessel for ultimate truth or divine revelation."
No, I don't have an answer. But I do think it's important to ask -- and continue asking -- the question. However much we talk about oneness and unitive consciousness, no matter how well developed and rewarding our meditative practice, the egoic system still pretty much dominates the mechanics of day-to-day living, and has a tendency to clog the gears and prohibit forward movement. It just doesn't seem to work to simply "rise above it all." Sometimes you have to just get in there and poke around at the dirt and the sediment to loosen things up a bit...