Having just completed a season of teaching and learning at my current workplace, the process and experience of these mutually related enterprises are more sparkling and sacred than ever. In the context of Spiritual Exploration, especially! Also, a short piece has come to me, by Adrienne Huber, who has run a “democratic school” in Australia. She calls it “The Getting of An-Education.” In her piece, she writes that the school is based on the principle that “regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, ability, background, people who are trusted with their own learning will learn what they need to learn when they need to learn it.”

This is what Spiritual Exploration entails! The learning of what we need to learn, when we need to learn it. But in our current cultural and political situation, real learning is rare, or often happens in a haphazard or even accidental way. The surrounding culture contributes to a scattered and unfocused cast of mind. We often jump from one external stimulus to the next, without intentionally claimed time and space for reflection, inner exploration, self-understanding, or growth.

To truly learn the Ways of the Spirit(s), in our time, does NOT mean ingesting and then repeating a set of information. Rather, we must learn how to watch, to be attentive to time and opportunity, to be ready both to move and be still. But always in a dance with what is within and without us. There is no prescription, no universal principle, no “right answer.” There are only experiences, discernments, deeds and their consequences. Learning the Spirit(s) Ways is to learn how to see, hear, respond, and be still, in an authentic rhythm. And, in a way that brings us Power.

Any school where students and teachers explore the Spirit would go in and out of form. People would gather, in groups small or larger, in pairs, or in solitary self-direction. Books can be read; stories can be told; practices can be learned and explored, honed and polished. Music would be heard and created, dances performed, songs and silence experienced. As the outer world we now know continues to change form, with even major economic enterprises undergoing constant transformation, appearing and disappearing rapidly, a School of Spiritual Exploration would be a “formless form,” with various people sharing skills, insights, experiences, opportunities, ideas.

The New World is Coming. In the hearts and dreams and desires and deeds of many of us, it is already taking shape. It is always and everywhere about SHARING. It is de-structured. But it is NOT about destruction! It is always creating, yet never holding onto a particular form. Responding, supple, attentive.

To live spiritually in and for the New World Coming, we need to engage in two things, it seems. First, all who wish to thrive will constantly gain skills of Spiritual Practice. Yes, there are certain ways to access and discover the Spirit(s). This takes time, care, focus. These things are learned, like the discipline of learning a musical instrument or the playing of a sport. We spend time with certain gestures, exercises, ways of breathing and moving and watching, activities of mind and body. We use our physical actions and the caressing pulse of our souls to shape the time and space where we find ourselves. As we continue in the path of practice, we carve out sacred temples in our lives: sources and locations of energy for making our own Way through the difficulties and uncertainties which are so often before us. A line from the Tao Te Ching puts this simply: “in meditation, go deep in the heart.” All the details of Spiritual Practice are this single admonition, lived out in various ways.

The second is the skill of Discernment. This entails learning how to see, to watch, to wait, to move wisely, to utilize energy rather than to be overwhelmed or troubled by what we encounter. Again, the Tao Te Ching speaks of this eloquently, yet only suggestively, when speaking of the knowledge and appearance of the ancient masters: “Watchful, like someone crossing a winter stream. Alert, like people aware of danger.” This also requires learning to see more than the surface. In both personal and social realities, what is apparent to the senses is only a portion of what is actually present. Discernment guides us to see by looking through the external, to the Inner, the Deep, the Real.

All this takes discipline. Not in the sense of the word’s verbal meaning, to “punish.” But in its original sense, of the ability to learn. Discipline means, for spiritual learners, to build rhythms, patterns, actions, stillness, into our lives, so our own spirit-power is nurtured, made conscious, and utilized, to bless and to heal, to protect and to build. A discipline is a field of learning; spiritual discipline means to plow the fields of the social world, the universe, and our own souls, and live from the deep connection between them. A disciple is a student; one who knows how to learn.

May we look for and listen to the Spirit(s). And find our way to greater learning, together, with the guidance of the Unseen. “Stand before it and there is no beginning. Follow it and there is no end. Stay with the ancient Tao. Move with the present.”

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