December 9, 2014

In this recent retreat entitled Conscripted But Not Bound, we spent the day confronting the inherent frustration of being constantly hemmed in by our bodies, our circumstances, and our limitations, and considering the deeper truth that it is these very restrictions which give rise to our experiences of happiness.  Here is an excerpt from the opening talk:

“We cannot feel free without first knowing what it is to feel confined, we only know the definition of flight because we know the definition of gravity, and we only experience revelation because it is preceded by confusion.  And so it is our very strictures which provide the possibility for our release from them and the experience of that weightless unboundedness.  And so, not only is it possible to be contented while still hopelessly limited, it is in fact only possible because of those very obstacles.

It is clear in our love, too:  we cannot really love unless the thing is confined into form.  Even when we believe that we love the formless, what we love is an experience or it is a current or it is an opening in the mind; it is not formlessness itself.  And everything else that we love has a body or a quality or a material form that draws us in and lets us access something that we feel a deep and abiding satisfaction when we touch.  And so it is those qualities, those bodies, that make even the love and the satisfaction possible, because they make the touching possible.  We can only reach things, limited as we are by form, through their form.

We are imprisoned here by these bodies and these circumstances; until we die, we are inexorably tied into characteristic, quality, and requirement.  But that becomes for us our bliss, and it is not in surmounting these things as if they were obstacles that we become, finally, happy; it is in happily embracing all of our bounds so we might have those experiences of freedom and of love that only they allow us.  You will never feel that you have surmounted the imprisonment here.  There are always walls we cannot walk through, rules we cannot break, qualities and impulses we cannot help but have; even at the point of full enlightenment the body must have food, the mind must have rest.  But that is our very blessing, our very opportunity.  We are made so beautifully for this chance at freedom and this chance at love.  We are made so beautifully bound so that we might be contented, so that we might know a kind of satisfaction not otherwise possible, and so that we might see the beautiful, almost endless variety of things in its true perfection, in its absolute holiness.  We would not have any of that if we were not so limited.  Let us have such gratitude that we are.”


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