How we look at something creates how we see it; a perspective. Perspective creates perception. Perception creates experience, affecting how we engage, and live, life. Therein we find the value I see in this column, which I've had the opportunity and enjoyment of coordinating for Interfaith Works and The Olympian over these past (almost) two years. Doing so has allowed me to practice my Practice, an essential and core aspect of Zen, my current path to spiritual development.
What, one might ask, do I mean by “current,” and what is the relationship between that and this column? I view Perspective as allowing each contributing author, while expressing their own personal perspective on a given subject, to expose the rest of us to that perspective, which can only be beneficial to creating greater spiritual understanding and tolerance. I say that from personal experience, for in reading certain articles submitted to the column, I’ve had to recognize and confront my own attitudes and judgments concerning the beliefs and practices expounded upon by the authors. And, as uncomfortable as that can be, I accept that it is also necessary if I am to experience vertical, as opposed to simply horizontal, spiritual development.
For most of us, just having the idea that we are on a spiritual path is enough for us to assume that we’re living the human experience at a higher level, when this is often not the case. In the words of Andrew Cohen, “Spiritual development is just like any other kind of development. It’s about moving to a higher level, raising our center of gravity, getting to someplace new within ourselves.” And that requires us to make the effort to look, and move, beyond what we already know. For some, the thought of that brings up fear; for others, the opportunity for adventure.
I mentioned tolerance, and the opportunity to practice my Practice, which is built on the practice of tolerance and compassion. And, allowing grace. In my role as coordinator, I’ve had to extend that to others and ask that it also be extended to me. From authors who may have missed a deadline for submission, to Olympian staff members responsible for making sure the articles get published when scheduled and, for one reason or another, couldn’t make that happen, they’ve all been a part of my practice; my teachers. Things happen. Life gets in the way. And, that’s OK. Because, in the end, it is as it is. At least, that’s my perspective.
Dan Ryan is a member of the Board Of Directors for Interfaith Works, a member of South Sound Buddhist Peace Fellowship and Open Gate Zendo, and a member of the US Committee for the Vietnam Friendship Village Project.