It's really easy to get lost. Some unsatisfactory things in life creep up, and threaten to (or actually) upset the equanimity you feel like you've worked so hard to achieve. Maybe it's a job you don't like, or your insomnia, or trouble with someone close to you, your loneliness, or the world's troubles on your doorstep. The world's troubles are always at our doorstep. Sometimes it might just be a bad day, or a spate of bad days. Sometimes, it's something really big - someone close to you dies, or you break up with a partner, or you lose a job, or you get really sick.
One of the great things about spiritual practice in general, and the path of life as practice in particular is that you actually really never go backwards, even though it might feel that way. You might feel knocked back into last month, or last year, in terms of practice, but that's actually an illusion. The Buddha said that practice is like drops of water into a bowl. Every effort you make adds more to the bowl, but none of it goes away (and no, it doesn't evaporate.)
We can always move forward, and know that the work we've done was never in vain. What we do need to do sometimes, is to re-dedicate ourselves when we get lost. Right now, I'm a little lost. But I've made a pact with myself - I'm re-dedicating myself to practice, again. For the forty-thousandth time. Really. I mean it. Maybe the forty-thousand three hundred and fifty-fourth time.
We have to do this over, and over, and over. But it's actually not an indication of failure. It's realizing, again, that practice is like that rope between the house and the barn in a blizzard (borrowed from Parker Palmer.) It can guide us, and help us to find our way home.
Since I promised a little detail on practice, and I haven't offered any yet, here's a taste of what I'll be re-dedicating myself to:
- Morning contemplative practice
- Mid-day break for short meditation and reading
- Evening Prayer of Examen (my own, somewhat less Ignatian version. I'll share it in a later post.)