Cassandra wilde


There is no roadmap. The process of attaining awareness, understanding, balance, wisdom, and peace is not linear. You don’t just wake up one day full of watchfulness.

It’s a journey. An unfolding. An education. A gradual accumulation of experience and building of trust. And it takes time.

We find that obedience to disciplines is a critical tool for this work. Obedience taps into a deep, normative need to surrender and provides a structure for putting aside the ego and fear and connecting to something bigger and more powerful.

And although the idea is somewhat startling or even frightening, sexual disciplines are of particular interest and applicability to women. For some of us, they are central to our experience and an integral part of our effort to remain watchful. Disciplines in general, and sexual disciplines in particular, provide opportunities for obedience, which in turn allows us to foster deeper awareness, and allow us to embrace our vulnerability as a helpful metric. Often this manifests itself as arousal – which we view as an elevated state of spiritual, intellectual, sexual, emotional anticipation. But it is thoughtful sexual anticipation that we fear and need most.

After all, the world looks a little brighter, more vibrant, and more inviting when we are aroused. It also creates a circular progression that spirals upward but always returns us to more awareness, more watchfulness. Finally, arousal encourages a sense of openness to the possibilities of a life lived in complete awareness, and that sense helps us to remain watchful sisters.

For many of us, sex was the doorway that allowed us to pursue this path. In responding to that which made our hearts race, we found a portal leading to a new way of looking at the world.

But Watchfulness is not about sex and it is not dependent on sexual discipline. It can be practiced without adherence to any single proscribed set of disciplines. It is more about obedient surrender in general, leading to a greater sense of being awake and aware, to peace and centeredness, to satisfaction and joy. We are swaddled in obedience.

Discipline has a connotation for some of us of forcing ourselves to do something. But discipline is simply bringing all the light we can summon to bear on our practice, so that we can see a little bit more. Discipline can be formal, as in the zendo, or informal, as in our daily lives. Disciplined students are those who in their everyday activities constantly try to find means of waking themselves up.

– from Everyday Zen by Charlotte Joko Beck

Pages in this cluster:

a life lived in watchfulness

 journey | formation | surrender | reward | understanding