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What Is Most Important Now?

By Jerilyn Munyon

The Joining of Inquiry and Practice

As I look out into 2022, there is such a strange feeling: What am I looking towards? For the past two years, it seems every thought or plan for the future has been written in disappearing ink. Adjust, cancel, pivot, rearrange, scale down, there is no word-of-the-day that really captures the experience. As always, the layers are infinite in our service of truth. So, the question arises, what is most important now?

For many years, I have had the tradition of choosing a word/principle to be both my inquiry and practice for the year. In my study of Aikido, the martial art of peace, understanding principle and practice are interchangeable. To be honest, rather than something that I choose, these words seem to assert themselves into my life and demand that I consider them; much like a koan in Zen.

My inquiries from the past several years have included peace, love, harmony, regeneration, and connection. Each year I have found these guiding my practice and my life. The year of 2020 was regeneration and once the pandemic hit, there was no end of opportunity or need to find ways to give and receive. It was essential to see these two as one full circle, to conserve and build energy, rather than deplete and waste my efforts or anyone else’s. The metaphor of allowing every experience, inside or out, to be brought back to ground and to become a regenerative source of nourishment became my practice for the year. I can tell you the smell of my own compost was an acquired taste—there was so much I did not want to be true that year, and yet . . . 

On a deeper level, there is a kind of love that is not something you receive, but something that you are. The love that you are isn’t something that can be given or taken away; it’s an aspect of the truth of your being. It’s a love that is innate to you. ~ Adyashanti

In 2021, I approached the year with a sense of renewal, my inquiry for the year was connection. The possibility of being together physically, moved me forward and helped me to imagine a world where familiar ways of connecting would return. I began to look at every single person I met in the eyes and find a word or action that would acknowledge our shared moment. I looked more deeply into the ways we are connected beyond appearance, in the realm of spirit or our interconnection within this world. There were moments of great joy as the Sangha gathered for our Sunday Community Practices and the doors of my Aikido dojo opened for the first time in well over a year. 

There were also moments of great concern as I watched the growing polarization around me, the emerging variants of COVID-19, and the strain on us all. In Aikido, we draw upon the sense of “loving protection for all” as we meet adversity. This does mean “all”; others, ourselves, and nature. My experience is that loving protection is an expression of our true nature, connecting us at the deepest level. I bow to this practice again and again, as new challenges face us. 

I Choose the Practice of Gratitude for 2022

The heart of gratitude is essential. What is the foundation of our lives? What allows us to live? It’s not enough to consider only human beings, or to think only of visible, material things. We must remember the source. The essentials of life are things like water, air, and sunlight. Kami (gods)—Great Nature—is the center of everything.
~ Anno Sensei, translated by Linda Holiday Sensei from Journey to the Heart of Aikido

As I read this quote at the start of teaching an Aikido class near the end of 2021, I was reminded how my teacher in Japan, Anno Sensei, seems to be filled with gratitude at every moment. It isn’t that he doesn’t experience the same challenges that we each may face, he has taken it upon himself to commit to gratitude as a practice and a subject of deep reflection. At 90 years old, he has spent a lifetime engaged in this flow of reflection, practice, action as it turns again and again, full circle. The quote fell deeply into my heart and the practice of gratitude arrived a month early, just in time for 2022.

The quote goes on to say:

There is a gratitude that goes beyond the level of ordinary gratitude. It is the understanding that our lives are sustained by nature, by other people—by everything around us. With that understanding, the meaning of “gratitude” undergoes a profound shift.

“Undergoes a profound shift” . . . I can see this is not the easy low-hanging-fruit feelings of gratitude that he is talking about, where open hearts are flowing between friends, or an unexpected check arrives in the mail. He’s talking about being part of a larger whole, a sense of oneness with everything around us.

I remember as a young child, growing up in the Santa Cruz mountains, my backyard was a small and safe patch of the beautiful redwood forest. I must have been around five or six, before I started school, when I began my first meditation practice: Looking at every large and small aspect of the forest, staring into leaves, spider webs, tiny blue flowers, or slimy salamanders. I remember light filtering through the trees illuminating dust, the leaves in my hands, and the aura of mystery in my mind. I did not delineate between like or don’t like, want or don’t want. It was simply looking.

Sitting with gratitude now, I can feel resistance as it dawns on me that everything includes what I am grateful for and what I am not. I can see the practice isn’t to find gratitude in everything, but to bring gratitude to everything, looking deeply into just what is.

Please join me this year in our inquiry, practice, and gratitude. I offer us all this blessing:

May our resistance become the disappearing ink and our true hearts stay open.

Love, Jerilyn