Pray It Again . . . and Again

Cultivating a spiritual life requires a practice of repetition

| November-December 2010

Spiritual training involves scrubbing out deeply ingrained habits, which takes time and reiter­ation. It is like trying to flatten a scroll that has been coiled for thousands of years. One pass of our hands across the surface won’t do it. We have to press it out again and again.

Accomplishment in any discipline involves repetition. If we want to build muscles, we don’t lift ten thousand pounds at one time; we lift a few pounds thousands of times. Just as repetition is the source of necessary hardship for a piano student aspiring to be a concert pianist, it remains so for spiritual students aspiring to wake up. We hear the same teachings continuously, we practice the same mantras ceaselessly, we return to the meditation cushion, and then to our breath, incessantly. In the Tibetan tradition, one does one hundred thousand prostrations, one hundred thousand mantra recitations, one hundred thousand mandala offerings, one million guru yoga recitations—and that’s just for starters. These may seem like outrageous numbers, but they are nothing compared to the numbers we have already accumulated in our practice of materialism.

I have had selfish thoughts millions of times, bragged about myself, criticized others, gossiped, cheated, lied, and practiced self-centered actions millions upon millions of times. I have been mindless billions of time. I have forgotten the truth countless times. The numbers are astronomical, and so is the sphere of their influence.

Now when my teacher tells me I have to recite one million mantras that cultivate compassion, I know why. He is not torturing me, even though it sometimes feels that way. He is simply using the universal laws of reality, the same ones that I have unconsciously used to get me so stuck, to now consciously get me unstuck.

On the spiritual path we replace unconscious habits of confusion with conscious habits of wisdom. Instead of my unconscious practice of sloth, impatience, greed, anger, or any of the selfish habits that come so easily to me, I consciously practice discipline, patience, kindness, love, and many of the selfless habits that are still foreign to me. I am working to become familiar with good habits.

The spiritual path is hard because we are stopping old habits that come so easily and replacing them with difficult new ones. For example, mindlessness is natural to us. It is easy to space out and be distracted. Try to look at an object without wavering for a few seconds and you will see your talents for distraction. This is a bad habit, formulated over countless repetitions, and is a central unconscious practice on the worldly path. It is no longer even a practice, but a constant performance. We have accomplished mindlessness.

11/26/2010 10:13:58 AM

Occum, I checked out that site and it was the usual stuff all of which I am comfortable addressing. It is easy to take one verse and compare it to another and say these things dont match up. This is the oldest trick in the book. My favorite is the Old testament says this but Jesus said that. Many people like to think you can separate nice Jesus from the mean old testament God. But how do those people get around Matthew 5:17-20? Here Jesus pretty much says the old testament it true I am not going to spend my time rehashing that. Or "if you have scene the son you have scene the father" or in Genesis "make man in our image?" or the new testament in the beginning there was the word and the word was with god and was god and the word became flesh (paraphrase). Okay I am getting way off track I would be happy to address any questions on that site email two or three Feel free to email me any but I prefer not to go down creation etc. Not very productive and I dont have a firm stance on it any way, but I do get that a contradiction appears so if that is your burning question fine. I would just rather start some where else.

11/24/2010 4:11:11 PM

I fear showing my age by saying I love this episode of WKRP (one of my favorite shows of the time) and also wish you and all reading a Happy Thanksgiving. To the questions regarding the Bible I send this link as an example of the surface level confusion involved as people try to figure this out. Keep in mind this becomes exponentially disjunct if you start including other sources such as the Qu'ran, the Torah, the Vedes, the Book of Mormon etc. They are all based on a supposed spiritual tenent yet squelch spirituality in the same process. Sounds somewhat passive aggresive to me and we all know passive aggressiveness is based on keeping you off balance, guessing, shameful, guilty, loved, trusted, included and excluded. Here is the link:

11/24/2010 3:04:11 PM

First Occum and any other WKRP fans please watch this and have a great Thanksgiving. the first part of your question is very complicated. the second part I dont understand. lets talk about the first when you say write and rewrite it depends on what you mean. I mean there was no printing press when the original scriptures were written so sure I am guessing they had to be copied some how. When you say adjusted do you mean translation or the actual meaning has been adjusted because I would argue that it has not. Or if you mean why are some books included and some excluded that is another question. Or if the question is in regards to humans being fallable so we bunged it up somehow???? All are different.