The Nature of Practice
Autumn in full bloom sets the ideal stage for us to view uncertainty through the lens of nature.
In the fall everything sort of comes apart. The trees shed their leaves, the grass stops growing, the birds fly south and the temperature changes. All of what we reveled in all summer is ending. We can’t stop it, it’s totally natural. It’s the cycle of earth and life on earth.
The second noble truth of Buddhism is that we suffer because we don’t understand the nature of reality. Our suffering is that we keep trying to get it right so that our life will be just what we want and then boom-something happens that messes with our plan.
That’s the hook. The place where we still believe that if we do it all right, nothing bad will happen. We may intellectually know that’s not possible but somewhere inside of us we still believe it’s that we haven’t quite done the right things to get life right.
This is reinforced in our culture, media, messaging and capitalistic idealism.
Essentially we can’t quite wrap our heads around the fact that we can’t control things and so therefore we suffer. And since life contains suffering we’re all in a bit of pickle right?
As a teacher of loving kindness I witness up close how the basic principle of being with reality can be a deep struggle.
That we’re all in it together even though we need help understanding that through community and connection.
So what can we do when we get a bit lost and can’t feel our center?
I find that it helps to look at the basic nature of practice.
The nature of practice is expansive not contracted. You know that feeling when you say yes to something but you really wanted to say no. Contraction. Or conversely when you say yes to a beautiful thing that’s just right for you.
Many of us start practicing meditation, loving kindness or waking up to reality with great enthusiasm. We go at it for a couple weeks, tell everyone we know and feel like we’re really changing our life for the better.
Then we get distracted, off track or revert to old patterns and practice becomes almost like an enemy.
Or it becomes heavy and cumbersome. Something on the to-do list that we’re not getting right. Then shame and more loathing.
I call this the on/off switch of loving kindness.
Today I’m good and tomorrow I’m bad.
In reality what happens is that anytime we embark on a loving kindness practice we’re going to meet ourself right where we are which is a real human being. And real human beings are very messy and imperfect.
That’s the best part. You can rest assured that all of the people who’ve ever stepped onto the path will start and stop and go through all sorts of iterations within their practice.
Because this is the nature of practice.
That we’re all beginners and we’re going to stumble.
In fact I often name my stumbles. Fear, worry, distraction, etc. I talk to them and let them know I’m not going anywhere. That when they show up I have the choice to just see them.
Then I usually decide that I don’t have to make it a big deal. Like big deal joy or big deal sorrow.
I just keep going.
Just the nature of practice. Simple, organic and human.