Zen, Stoicism, and The Four Fold Way

These are the philosophies that guide my life. Using a cooking metaphor, my “religion” is atheistic religious naturalism and my spiritual practice is primarily Zen Buddhism with a mix of Stoicism and Native American spirituality thrown in for seasoning. I am going to expand on this a little here.

My foundation is Zen Buddhism with its emphasis on Buddha’s basic teachings about impermanence, acceptance, and letting go of desires in his Four Noble Truths, coupled with Zen’s emphasis on enlightenment via zazen samadhi (intense sitting meditation) and Taoist’s Tao (the Way).

From Stoicism, I add courage… and value. Let us begin with a very Stoic prayer, the Serenity Prayer, which goes something like this (my secular version):

The acceptance of those things I cannot change. The courage to change those things I can.  And the wisdom to know the difference. (Couln’t figure out how to get this in poetry form.)

Stoicism was guided by values. Values are those things that matter to us. Which brings me to Angeles Arrien’s Four-Fold Way, and that I have discussed extensively in my books, WindWalker and Guru, for short.

Arrien’s Four Fold Way is a Jungian archetypal, American Indian medicine wheel, laid out conceptually in the four cardinal directions, North, East, South, and West. I have modified it to better accommodate my perspective. North is the direction of the Teacher archetype whose credo is about doing your best and letting go: being open to outcome. East is the direction of the Visionary and its credo of seeing the truth without judgement or blame. West is about Warrior and courage, of stepping up and being present. Finally, South is about values: pay attention to what has heart and meaning. It is this latter I would add to the Serenity Prayer above. A fourth line about paying attention to what has heart and meaning. Something like this,

The acceptance of those things I cannot change. The courage to change those things I can.  The wisdom to know the difference. And, the guidance of what has heart and meaning.

Gassho

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