Thursday, May 29, 2014

Meditation or Philosophy?

"The gate to spiritual practice begins with the visceral insight that everything is going to vanish, including me." ~ Lewis Richmond, Soto Zen Priest

I just finished reading a Tricycle magazine interview with Lewis Richmond about using spiritual practice to make the most, or, depending on how you look at it, the least of aging. Lewis contends that the older we get, the more we tend to experience physical deterioration and psychological awareness of our impermanence that opens a door to serious spiritual practice that may have been closed earlier in life, and that while meditation and other spiritual practices don't stop us from aging, thinking about our mortality, and dying, they can attune us more deeply to our moment-to-moment experience so that we see and accept it for what it is without wishing it were something else. He goes on to say that meditation and other spiritual practices won't necessarily make life wonderful, but they can still "make a big difference" in our life. In this way, aging can be welcomed as an opportunity for positive change instead of perceived and dreaded as a curse.

Two things came primarily to mind as I read this. First of all, I wonder if I wasn't right when I wrote years ago that spiritual practice may be vastly overrated in terms of the benefits it can deliver to the practitioner and to those in his or her orbit.

Second, I wondered if there aren't psychologically or philosophically oriented practices that might generate more fulfilling bang for the buck than would sitting countless hours on a mediation cushion. Of course, one could do both, and this multifaceted approach to personal development is, indeed, part of what has been variously called "integral transformative practice" and "integral life practice." But might one be better off spending the time one would have spent meditating reading about and practicing CBT or stoicism instead? Or would meditation make CBT and/or stoicism work better and vice versa?

My inclination is to think that, at my age and given my temperament, my time would be better spent psychologizing and philosophizing my way to wherever it is I want to go than trying to mediate myself there. But what do I really know of such things, and what can I realistically hope to accomplish with any approach?

1 comment:

Thomas Armstrong said...

While I worry a bit about my memory and mobility, I don't find aging a problem AS YET. I don't think I'm going to be afraid of dying, but I would be afraid of being very old, locked away in an institution of some sort.

I shouldn't bother to speculate. I will find out how I feel about these things all too soon!