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Close to the Ground: The Great and Mighty Ango

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The first thing about spiritual practice is that, for it to work, we have to do it. An obvious truth. The second thing about spiritual practice is that we need to do it regularly—mostly daily, if we can. Again, a no-brainer. The third thing isn’t as obvious. For our spiritual practice to really kick in, it helps to put some energetic effort into it—sort of like that extra oomph we use to open a stuck jar of peanut butter. Without this third component, our practice can get stuck in the land of calm. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with this; it’s just that there is much more to be gained from the practice if we help it to flower.Long retreats are all about this third component, energetic effort. Whenever I settle in for a ninety-day ango, or practice period, such effort is reflected in longer meditation periods, chanting, and daily sutra study. Because I know that the retreat will be worth it, but also hard to do—at least in the beginning—I inevitably find myself turning to one of South Korea’s great teachers of the twentieth century, Zen Master Kusan Sunim, for words of encouragement. I know from …

Geri Larkin spent this fall studying the Lankavatara Sutra when she wasn’t meditating, cooking, or taking care of the hermitage.


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