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Shopping Advice for the Spiritual Supermarket Part 4 : Labels are Overrated

by Patrick Groneman

Two years ago I set out on a quest: To sift through the myriad of practice opportunities available to a 21st century American Buddhist and find a spiritual path that I could call home.

I've since attended weeklong and weekend retreats in the zen, insight and shambhala Buddhist communities.  (You can read about them here: zen, insight, shambhala.) Though I've yet to declare myself a part of a particular school or lineage, I've learned a great deal about myself and my expectations for spiritual practice along the way, which I thought would be helpful to share here.

I'll be breaking them down into five different posts, one each Wednesday, while I'm away on retreat.  Feel free to comment and share, I hope the thoughts bring a sense of connection to the search.

Part Four - Labels are Overrated

In the same way that residents of New York State wouldn't actually call themselves "New York State", but also couldn't logically be removed from any description of what comprises New York State, so too are individuals within a spiritual school.   A Soto Zen practitioner who studies the writings of Jaques Derrida in her spare time operates very different from one who studies experimental Pottery.  Though their paths may be linked and both labled under the title "Zen practitioner," their day to practices and manifestations of the path will be unique and their own. 

More to the point:  No one in a corporate boardroom is contemplating how best to brand your spiritual practice for you.  Your practice will be custom fit to you.   In fact, the spiritual path that you eventually find yourself on may not even have a label yet.

(image of artworks by Katya Metzhiboveskaya)

More on how it's all worth it in the final installment.

Check out Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3

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