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A Path With Heart: Wakefully Making Mistakes Along the Way

APathWithHeartAfter returning from my Warrior Monk retreat, I started re-reading "A Path With Heart: A Guide through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life", a book written by Jack Kornfield, co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society and Spirit Rock Meditation Center, that offers a path to greater mindfulness and integrity through meditation and other spiritual practices.  The central premise of the book is "Whatever we choose, the creations of our lives must be grounded in our hearts."  Kornfield's writing strikes many chords with me, particularly his invocation of warrior spirit, analogy between meditation and puppy training, and allusion to the art of making mistakes wakefully.

Opening ourselves to a more spiritual life requires "tremendous courage and strength, a kind of warrior spirit."  Kornfield quotes from Don Juan (via Carlos Castanada's book, "Tales of Power"):

Only as a [spiritual] warrior can one withstand the path of knowledge. A warrior cannot complain or regret anything. His life is an endless challenge and challenges cannot possibly be good or bad. Challenges are simply challenges. The basic difference between an ordinary man and a warrior is that a warrior takes everything as a challenge, while an ordinary man takes everything as a blessing or curse.

In Kornfield's description of meditation, he draws an analogy between training the mind and training a puppy, requiring gentleness, "an ocean of patience" and "heartfelt perseverance and dedication":

Meditation is very much like training a puppy. You put the puppy down and say, "Stay." Does the puppy listen? It gets up and it runs away. You sit the puppy back down again. "Stay." And the puppy runs away over and over again. Sometimes the puppy jumps up, runs over, and pees in the corner or makes some other mess. Our minds are much the same as the puppy, only they create even bigger messes. In training the mind, or the puppy, we have to start over and over again.

Finally (well, for now ... I'm only on Chapter 6), I feel ecouraged and empowered by his notion of a spiritual path as learning "the art of making mistakes wakefully":

In a spiritual informed life ... inevitable difficulties can be the source of our awakening, of deepening wisdom, patience, balance, and compassion ... our problems become the very place to discover wisdom and love. ...

Very often, what nourishes our spirit most is what brings us face to face with our greatest limitations and difficulties. ...

The place where we can most directly open to the mystery of life is in what we don't do well, in the places of our struggles and vulnerability. These places always require surrender and letting go: When we let ourselves become vulnerable, new things can be born in us. In risking the unknown, we gain a sense of life itself. And most remarkably, that which we have sought is often just here, buried under the problem and the weakness itself.

As I continue down my path, I want to accept and embrace my vulnerability, become more willing to take risks and make mistakes, and be open to whatever lies ahead.

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