The container and the five principles
One of the most overlooked reasons for why people and organizations get stuck is what’s called we call the “container.” The container includes all the supporting outer conditions needed for learning and growth.
Although it’s an ancient concept, it’s mostly been lost in modern times. Even most modern spiritual teachers don’t speak about the container, but it’s critically important, and everything you do and hope for depends on it.
After many years of running a retreat center, and after studying through ancient teachings, we have identified five core principles that are needed to create a powerful container.
The five principles to create a container of success:
1. Honor your space
Have you noticed how you feel when you enter an environment that’s beautiful, spacious and well-cared for? Think of the sense of uncluttered space and harmony you experience in a beautiful Zen garden. There, it’s no accident that your mind naturally moves towards calm, curiosity and joy. Right there, in that ‘aah’ moment, you’re feeling the aliveness and focus of attention to detail. By learning how to create this for yourself you’ll build a strong foundation for your explorations and practice.
2. Freedom arises from structure and routine
Consciously chosen structures and routines – though at first this may sound counter-intuitive – give you a tremendous amount of freedom and creativity. They also give you the ability to form new, healthy habits. Without a healthy outer structure, you won’t have the container that’s needed for sustained breakthrough. Instead, accept structure and routine as your allies, and you’ll gain the strength to change habits that are keeping you from clarity and joy.
3. To do what you must do alone, it’s easier when you travel with others
That whole independence thing – it’s an illusion. Yes, it may be true that the spiritual path is an inner journey, and as such one that you must do alone. Yet with others, your container for practice becomes more loving, strong and rich. Especially when it comes to major shifts in your life, you need the honesty and support of good spiritual friends. Your community also gives you strength to practise when you don’t want to. It connects you to a deeper joy and vibrancy that comes with learning together, and it gives you compassionate feedback to strengthen your personal vision. And when you need courage to meet your shadow, the shared vision and support of others helps get you through.
4. Cleaning up large areas of your life frees up energy
Each time you bring outer clarity to a major aspect of your life, you free up enormous amounts of energy. Without outer clarity, this energy is otherwise is locked up in anxiety or leaking away through distraction. Need some examples? Cleaning up your blocks and views around money frees up energy. Learning to prioritize and manage your time well – including time for playfulness – frees up energy. Improving your eating habits frees up energy. Gaining clarity of why you are here – uncovering your unique life’s purpose – frees up energy. It’s by bringing clarity into these core aspects of your life that you’ll create a strong container for bringing awareness and presence to every moment.
5. Words are powerful and our conversations shape the space where we meet
What comes out of our mouths, or doesn’t, has a powerful effect on the space we share with others. Do we listen, for example, and create a safe space where others can be vulnerable speaking from the heart? Or do we fill the space with unnecessary words? Do our words open up a space for inquiry and creative conversations, or close things down by defending a fixed view? Do we speak when our compassionate voice needs to be heard? Or is that when we hold back? With conscious and skillful speech – and by being aware of our effect on the space – we can co-create a loving, honest and open container for deep connections to happen.
If this resonates
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