Spiritual Learning Edge


Rabbi Brian

A modern-day rabbi with John Lennon’s inclusivity and a Blues Brothers mission.

Classic Chess Openings

I need to refresh my chess openings. Emmett (entering fifth grade) and I like to play chess.
We are comparably matched. If I allow him to take back one klutzy move (and he does not allow me the same handicap), he wins sometimes, I win sometimes, but mainly we stalemate with a tie. 
I haven’t studied the classic openings since I was about his age. And I’m certain there is some room for my openings to improve.
Even without a teacher, I am old enough to know what I need to learn: improved openings.
I delight in that.
Learning edge
Isn’t that wonderful? I know where my learning edge is. We all do.

To the person who is aware enough, the learning scaffolding – while not always apparent at a distance – is always right there, at hand, directly in front of you.

And if you don’t see it, it’s just a matter of opening your eyes anew, seeing, and then doing the next step in front of you – for example – right now, your next step is to continue to read and contemplate this article.
I don’t always need someone to tell me what step to take next. Most of the time, it’s just what is right in front of me My own analysis of my experience indicates my most likely places for growth.

  • To quote a song I grew up singing: You just put one foot in front of the other.
  • In Zen stories, it’s the answer the master gives when the novice, having finished the meal, is told is the next thing to do: wash your bowl.

A monk said to Chao Chou, “I have just entered this monastery. Please teach me.” Chao Chou said, “Have you eaten your rice gruel?” The monk said, “Yes, I have.” Chao Chou said, “Wash your bowl.”

You probably know the next thing you need to work on in your life.
I would bet you $1000 you know what it is.
And, the most amazing thing is – and I’ll up my bet by another $1000 – that it isn’t that hard.
That it is not hard to do is usually a shock. But still, it’s true.
The next thing for you to do is not that hard. It couldn’t be. Everything you have been doing in your life up until this point has led you to here. It’s just the next thing to do.
I’m not asking you to change a light bulb that is 10 feet off the ground – I’m asking you to change a light bulb that is 10 feel off the ground when you are already standing on 9.5 foot ladder that is in the right place. (If you are scared of heights, come up with another analogy.)
It’s not that hard. It’s just the thing that is right in front of you to do.
What doing the next right thing entails is that you surrender some of the angst and your narcissism that you are precious and beleaguered.  

For most folk with whom I interact, the next thing facing them is not focusing more on the problems facing them, but rather on mastering NOT-doing. 

These are the twin spiritual-religious notions of “surrender” and “acceptance.”
Surrendering doesn’t mean giving up. It means letting go.
It means halting the ridiculous charade that we are in control – that we are so important.
Here is a poem by Hafiz that speaks to both surrender and acceptance. And chess:

What is the difference between your experience of existence and that of a saint? The saint knows that the spiritual path is a sublime chess game with God and that the Beloved has just made such a fantastic move that the saint is now continually tripping over joy and bursting out in laughter and saying, ’I surrender!’ Whereas, my dear, I am afraid you still think you have a thousand serious moves.

What’s next for you? 
I’d bet you know exactly what is next for you in your spiritual-religious life.
I bet you know the next thing you need to work on in your life.
Perhaps it’s about surrender, acceptance, and laughing. Maybe it’s something else.
Please tell me about the spiritual learning edge you are facing. I would love to hear.
If you want some help with it, let me know that too; that’s what teachers do, after all, help people to get to the point of being self-sufficient.
With so much love, so much,
Rabbi Brian
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