Yesterday, I took vows. Other than with Eric, I have always been reluctant to take vows, become a member of anything, to be contained or defined and responsible in that way. My spiritual path, as I have mentioned before, is meditation, yoga, writing, and dog. There isn’t a single church for this, and yet, I do feel as if I “belong,” feel like I have a sangha: an association or assembly, company or community with common goal, vision or purpose–it’s just that I don’t typically find them all gathered in one place. Some are at my yoga studio, some in my writing group, some are my friends, some practice meditation with me in various locations, some are walking the trails I walk, some are online, and some are even where I work.
And yet, when I read the Shambhala Vow and the Enlightened Society Vow, there was nothing there I disagreed with–plenty of things that would be difficult, but nothing that I didn’t already wholeheartedly believe, nothing I wasn’t already committing my life and practice to, so why not vow? Make a solemn promise, take an oath, speak the words in a ceremony with witnesses, swear it, make a pledge to it. These were the socks I wore, and while it is a brand name they are marked by, it was true–no nonsense. This was me, speaking the truth and making a promise.
These vows solidified, stated and celebrated what I am doing in this year of retreat, this life-rehab. In the first, the Shambhala Vow, one section says: “From now on, I will honor my vow of basic goodness by being gentle with myself, kind to others, and courageous in my life.” If you’ve been reading this blog for very long, you know this is what I am trying to do, exactly. “Having compassion for others and kindness toward the world, I will regard my entire life as a journey of deepening and training” — a year long retreat, a life-rehab, yes. “I will share humor, sadness, and delight with my fellow warriors. I will reflect on the profound wisdom of humanity daily, never losing enthusiasm for human potential.” That’s you, kind and gentle reader, fellow warrior, and what I am doing here is a reflection of my gratitude for, my awe in the face of our potential, the tender and open-hearted vulnerability and bravery, the sadness and love I have for all of it, the chance we have to heal ourselves and heal the world.
My favorite part of the second vow, the Enlightened Society Vow, is this:
This brave and fearless mind will constantly strive, day and night, to create enlightened society on this earth. This is the warrior I will be. May creating enlightened society be my first thought in the morning, my last thought in the evening, and even accompany me in my dreams.
Knowing that such courage intimidates others, through enlightened reflection and deep contemplation, I have come to this conclusion: if humanity and all beings who suffer at the hands of their own doubt are to be truly happy, they must discover their own basic goodness.
A society of such great and courageous beings can change the tide of humanity from a force of environmental and self-destruction to one of personal confidence, self-liberation, and environmental harmony.
Yesterday was a long and beautiful day. And today I rested. I am bound by these vows, as I am by the vows I spoke when I married Eric, but in both cases, the connection, the obligation, this statement of faith and love is a path to freedom.