The Five Practice Mirrors (FPM), also referred to as the Five Training Elements, are the organizing principle of Hollow Bones Zen practice, and are a unique formulation of a holistic spiritual path. 

To open what will be a longer discussion in subsequent posts, we will look at how each of the five mirrors is described in the Sutra Book and Mondo Manual. To jumpstart your inquiry, I will share my current reflections on:

  • The difference between practice mirrors or training elements.
  • The relationship between the five elements/mirrors.

 Look for in-depth discussion of each in upcoming blog posts.

Sacred Stewardship
Sutra Book (Training Element)Mondo Manual (Practice Mirror) 
What is sacred stewardship? What does this stewardship include? How am I as an individual fulfilling my commitment to stewardship, and am I acting with integrity in this chosen responsibility? How do the patterns of my consumption affect the earth and environment I live within? On what do I spend my energy and money? How does stewardship relate to community? Does a good steward have an organic standard?
Do I take a stand? If so, where?
We accept our intimate interdependency, our oneness with the environment, the universe and all sentient and non-sentient beings. We embody this realization and lovingly choose to not create any more suffering in the world. We recognize our responsibility (read: response-ability; literally our ability to respond) to be conscious of what we eat, what we buy, what we drive, who makes our clothes … how we use the earth’s resources, starting first with everything within our arm’s reach and then expanding globally.

Philosophical and Cognitive Re-indoctrination / Reorientation
Sutra Book (Training Element)Mondo Manual (Practice Mirror) 
How do I, as a contemplative being who seeks to understand and walk in conscious spirituality, think differently? What are the core statements about spirit and consciousness that I base my thinking upon? What story do I tell myself and others about the deepest qualities of spirit, and how does this story influence behavior in my life? Do I choose the clarity of wisdom and non-judgmental awareness and the warmth of compassion over self-righteousness and selfishness? 
Am I willing to change my mind?
Through study, dialogue, and practice, we develop a broader and more inclusive philosophy. We become more insightful, and our thinking continues to become more flexible, comprehensive, and clear. We open our minds and hearts. We command a new language, accepting and including the truth of the empty nature of our spirit and deep mind as well as the real intention and meaning of our emotions. This new view is seen and felt in our daily behaviors. We change our perspective from ego-centric to Buddh-centric. 

Emotional Maturity and Integrity
Sutra Book (Training Element)Mondo Manual (Practice Mirror) 
Am I capable of experiencing the deeper feelings of fear, sadness, grief and compassion which underlie my normal conditioned reactions of anger and shame? Am I then willing to choose to respond from the truth of compassion that this deeper realization brings forth? Do I realize that I choose my reactions to feelings, and am I willing to make other choices? Am I willing to stay mindful and watch a negative reaction like anger or shame manifest, and then skillfully and compassionately choose another response? Do I realize the angst of negative emotional reactions as liberating Emotional Koans, and embrace these opportunities for Mondo Zen transformational practice?With new understanding and experience of the true nature and real meaning and mechanics of emotion, we are no longer bound to subconscious reactions. We recognize the energy arising in anger as focused clarity and deep caring not a violent reaction. We experience shame as a false introjected belief, not as a threat to self-value, and hear it as a question challenging our integrity. Instead of subconsciously reacting, we respond consciously and skillfully. We experience disconnection as a confused choice and turn back to relate and communicate. We transform our painful emotional reactions into conscious, compassionate responses. Our angst becomes our liberation! Mature emotional responses emerge in the same relationships where immature emotional reactions were once the rule. All violent anger, shame or disconnection are now experienced as rich opportunities for transformation and eventually become inconceivable. 

Conscious Embodiment
Sutra Book (Training Element)Mondo Manual (Practice Mirror) 
Am I comfortable and at ease in my body? Am I fit and ready to respond as a warrior who might need to defend their  family? Do I delight in this body enough to give a dance performance at the drop of a hat?
Is it necessary to have a conscious embodiment practice to remain physically aware and fit?
Through Qigong, Yoga (pranayama and asana), Tai Chi, dance (preferably Argentinian Tango), and other mindfully practiced physical disciplines, we investigate and become more aware of our embodiment. We locate and release the physical contractions associated with psychological tension, including tension resulting from our unconscious shadows and prior traumatic experiences. We become more sensitive, healthy, and conscious. We delight in the discovery that Enlightenment is also visceral!

Genuine Insight
Sutra Book (Training Element)Mondo Manual (Practice Mirror) 
Have I tasted the pure, sweet truth of the Divinity within myself? Do I consider my personal insight and self-realization adequate? Have I experienced the freedom that is promised and offered by all of the contemplative traditions? 
Where could the kingdom of heaven really lie if not within me?
Concentration-meditation practice is essential. Have I tasted the pure, sweet truth of Buddh-consciousness within myself? Do I consider my personal insight and self-realization adequate? Have I experienced the freedom that is promised and offered by all of the contemplative traditions? Where could the kingdom of heaven really lie if not within me?

What is the difference between the idea of “training element”  (TE) vs. “practice mirror” (PM)?

When I look at the training element angle and the practice mirror angle side-by-side, I notice three main things:

  • TE promote inquiry, PM provide alignment.
  • TE enable me to discover the skills to cultivate, PM suggest where to look for them. 
  • TE inspire me to practice, PM tell me what it’s like once I’ve adequately trained the elemnt.. 

Together, we have the training elements pointing to the faith-understanding of awakening while the practice mirrors provide the method of practice to follow in order to embody this new view. 

What is the relationship between the mirrors?

There are 3 main relationships that I’ve found to be most impactful to me:

  1. Pyramidal Relationship

There are four elements we can consciously practice, making a square foundation. These four elements are Sacred Stewardship, Philosophical Reorientation, Emotional Maturity and Integrity and Conscious Embodiment. Together these active practices support the fifth, Genuine Insight, which represents awakening. Each element has a distinct position and role to play in the relationship – awakening and practice are pieces of the whole, neither the same nor different. 

  1. Indra’s Net 

The elements are like Indra’s Net – a web of multi-faceted jewels where each jewel is reflected in every other. In Sacred Stewardship we can see the other four, as with Philosophical Reorientation, Emotional Maturity and so on. No single element can be understood, awakened to, or practiced separately from the others. When one element is missing or underdeveloped, all of the others miss its influence. 

As a brief example, Conscious Embodiment is expressed as a combination of the other elements. 

  • Sacred Stewardship fuels the body/heart/mind with healthy habits, a positive mental attitude, and harmonious relationships.
  • Philosophical Reorientation is required to learn the techniques and benefits of various embodiment practices, the values that underpin embodied awakening and the way the body/heart/mind interact. 
  • Emotional Maturity is required to persevere through the challenges of conscious embodiment training, overcoming the various ways that resistance and shadow manifest to prevent us from stepping into growth.
  • Genuine Insight fuels and motivates practice through our understanding of interdependence and the sacredness of life. As our insight deepens, so does our understanding of the body/heart/mind interaction. 
  1. Center of Gravity

The elements each work on a so-called “line of intelligence.” Together, providing a comprehensive, integrally informed way of advancing our being through both vertical and horizontal growth. The lines are as follows:

  • Sacred Stewardship develops our interpersonal intelligence (relating to values and needs)
  • Philosophical Reorientation develops our cognitive intelligence.
  • Conscious Embodiment develops our somatic intelligence
  • Emotional Maturity and Integrity develops our emotional intelligence
  • Genuine Insight develops our spiritual intelligence (state of consciousness & sense of self). 

Practiced together, they are a way of living that can shift the fundamental lenses we use to relate to the human experience. 

Of course, there are many other ways to consider the relationships between the elements and what is expressed here is only cursory. It is an important point of inquiry for each of us to determine how we relate to each element and how each element relates to the others. As you reflect, please share your thoughts or continue your inquiry  in the community forum!

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