The Mogadao Practice of Inward Honing
Inward Honing is the MogaDao Daoist monastic practice of silence (abstaining from speaking) and simultaneously abstaining from communicative, audio, and information technologies for a certain amount of time. Initially, Zhenzan Dao practiced Inward Honing for 13 months, towards the latter part of 2014 and throughout 2015. The practice was instrumental in their decision to become a MogaDao Daoist monk, to emerge unequivocally as a “two-spirited” individual, and to reform the paradigm of MogaDao, which comprises many disciplines, into one unified practice tradition called MogaDao: The Way of Complete Harmony.
At the time of this first immersion, Zhenzan Dao did not have a name for the practice. They conceived the term Inward Honing in January of 2017, in order to codify the practice potentially for future MogaDao Daoist monks. In addition to many longer periods of Inward Honing which are often but not always associated with seasonal essences or transitions, or according to a MogaDao monk’s spiritual needs, at the end of every month a MogaDao monk practices a day of Inward Honing, during which time they rewrite their personal vows. They wear these vows in a cloth pocket on their chest called a mingjing, or a “clear, bright lens.” Initially, this day of Inward Honing was the last day of every month. But upon describing to their students a certain event that occurred in their own practice of Inward Honing, many students expressed the desire to join in the practice and to have a day of Inward Honing themselves, even though they had no intention of becoming monks.
The event was this: the turning of a page, between thumb and forefinger, of a 35-year-old thesaurus. The thesaurus had been a gift from Zhenzan Dao’s mother. The feel of the paper between their fingers, the whispery sound of the turning of the page, the faint aromas released from the book, some of which recalled memories of distant times and places, and even the slight “breeze” that the turning page “blew” on their fingers—all of these tactile, olfactory, and acoustic experiences combined with the impregnable silence of Inward Honing to create a sense of indescribable well-being, a faith in the continuity of life, and an overwhelming sense of what might be called “human-harmony,” which is the sense that the sensually awake and reverent person has a necessary place in the sacrament of Being. The description of this “event” touched a cord among Zhenzan Dao’s students, and it was clear from this response that the practice of Inward Honing might serve many people.
Because the last day of the month often falls on a work day, when it is exceptionally hard for people to practice Inward Honing, Zhenzan Dao switched the day of Inward Honing to the last Sunday of every month, even for themselves, and opened up the practice to the public, inviting anyone who felt the need for this practice to join in a group of practitioners who would practice Inward Honing on the same day. In this way, this very private practice would also be communal. Inward Honing practitioners are therefore in solitary togetherness, on the last Sunday of each month, as they engage in the practice of disengaging, and returning home to themselves, through silence and the inner listening that can only happen when the recourse to habitual distractions is consciously removed.
Each month, on the Friday before the last Sunday of the month, Zhenzan Dao “publishes” a chapter of the book they are writing on Inward Honing, which is sent out to those signed up for the Inward Honing mailings. Each of these chapters covers a spiritual and/or cultural topic that relates directly to the practice of Inward Honing.
One does not need to be a student of MogaDao: The Way of Complete Harmony in order practice Inward Honing, nor need one live in Santa Fe, USA, the location of the root school of the MogaDao practice tradition, or any place in particular, for that matter. Anyone, anywhere, is invited to practice. Needless to say, there is no cost to join.
If you wish to be on the mailing list for Inward Honing, please write to the Community Relations Director of MogaDao, Thomas Jaggers, at:
Inward Honing Protocols and Guidelines
- We are in silence from the moment of waking on Sunday morning (the last Sunday of each month) until the moment of waking on Monday morning. (On such a Sunday when you have some event or commitment that is unavoidable, you may choose to practice Inward Honing on the Saturday before, or, if your schedule allows, on the Monday afterward.)
- “Silence” means no speaking, including whispering. You may keep a small notepad near you or on your person to make a few notes of explanation or to communicate essentials as these needs arise, but it is best to plan for your Inward Honing practice carefully in advance such that these needs arise less and less.
- For this full day (including Sunday evening) we do not engage in any information or communicative technologies, including radios, televisions, computers and computer-driven devices, gaming devices, cellular phones and regular (landline) phones. Not engaging means not only not spending large amounts of time on these technologies but not even “checking in” with these technologies. For this day all of these technologies are in effect closed and made inaccessible, in order that we might reunite with other modes of being. This technological abstinence does not include utility devices and appliances (such as kitchen appliances, laundry machines, or lawn equipment), but it is interesting to imagine the spiritual and imaginative possibilities as a result of doing many normative tasks by hand and without electric or gasoline power (such as walking short distances rather than habitually driving, etc., or chopping vegetables slowly rather than food-processing them in an electric processor) on this day of Inward Honing.
Suggestions and Advice
- Let those who are important to you know what you are doing a good week in advance. (Obviously your Inward Honing practice will have to be explained to your immediate family members.)
- Try to engage your family in the practice, but obviously don’t force the practice on anyone, just because you are doing it. Instead, clearly describe what you are doing and why, and clearly express the needs that you have according to your commitment to Inward Honing practice. If you have children or a large family, you might make a list of what you won’t be doing on this day, and also what you will be doing, so that they understand what’s to come, and they feel secure and not abandoned by the self-concentration inherent to Inward Honing (and any profound inner world spiritual practice).
- Stay clear with your intention in relationship to your children. Most children growing up in this day and age will find your Inward Honing practice bemusing at best. But if you continue to gently insist on the importance of the practice for you, they will become habituated to experiencing you on this one day a month in a very different way, and this will be helpful to them, if not immediately then certainly in the future, when they reflect back on your commitment and spiritual focus from a perspective of greater maturity.
- Nominate someone close to you to be responsible for communicating to you any emergency information that might happen on this day (at which point you naturally would break your Inward Honing practice). This person should be able to access you physically, or access someone in your family who then will be able to access you physically.
- Do your grocery shopping beforehand so that you have all of your food items on hand for your day of Inward Honing.
- Keep some kind of a journal. Memory will sharpen, and ideas will visit you that you will not wish to forget or to lose.
- Be aware of your less resolved times (of the day). For instance, if you always listen to the news at 5:00pm, be aware that it will be good to be deeply engaged in something at that time; be in the garden, in other words, or on the hiking trail, or engrossed in letter writing, etc.
- Remember that it is perhaps most important not to “reward yourself” for “finishing” your day of Inward Honing by checking communicative technological devices before going to bed. At the end of the day is perhaps the greatest time of temptation to reengage with various communicative and information technologies, because one has such a sense of wholeness and accomplishment at that point. Carry this wholeness into sleep, where the progress you’ve made will redouble its power.
What to Do on a Day of Inward Honing?
There is no “right” way to spend your Inward Honing practice, other than following the 2 basic guidelines of silence and disengagement from technology. For some, being out in nature will be important. For others, sacred physical practices, such as qigong and yoga, and meditation will be central to their experience. For others, religious, philosophical, or academic study will be the way in which they return to their daemonic life (“daemonic” from the Greek: their life of inmost calling and purpose). Others will daydream (an extremely important all-but-forgotten human pastime), read novels or poetry, write long letters by hand, or garden. Artists may simply work in their medium, but knowing all the while that the space around them on this day grows vast, and that their concentration and listening is impregnable. Some practitioners will choose to stay home; others will wish to spend much of the day away from home. Some may even choose to rent a space closer to nature, or to camp. Some will choose utter solitude; others will be in the company of those they love, but in devout silence.
What If Inward Honing is Too Hard to Maintain for a Day?
First, don’t beat yourself up. All practices are variegated graphs of progress, not straight lines of achievement. So be easy on yourself, but at the same time you must lead yourself gently back to the “self” that made the decision to practice Inward Honing in the first place. That self is real; it is you. Habits are strong. But the soul is stronger. In fact, Inward Honing is a conscious step towards the life of the soul, whereas our habits are often unconscious strategies that cover up the truth of our inner life. So if you step off the path, don’t dive off the path in despair! Just step back on. Close the computer, or turn off the cellular phone, again, and sit quietly, reminding yourself why you are doing what you’re doing. Above all, don’t move into a self-punishing attitude which will move your practice—even if you “succeed” at it—into the realms of the ego. Instead, understand yourself gently, and guide yourself toward the self that is more self than the one governed by habit.