Then life happened, and I drifted away from that practice. Some really tough situations showed up in my life that shook my faith to the core.
Someone close to me died.
Someone even closer to me nearly died.
Family connections frayed and snapped.
Friends both turned on me and disappeared from my life.
The company I worked for underwent radical restructuring, and I “moved on to other opportunities,” changing jobs every year or so for a number of years.
When I left that stable job, my sitting practice — in meetings and in my personal life — stayed behind. As did my faith. As did my willingness to trust again. All the peace I had found before… well, it simply evaporated, and I went into the kind of survival mode that scoffs at any kind of spiritual practice.
180 degree turn. In a completely different direction.
It’s taken me years to get back to it… in an ongoing process of fits and starts, of beginning and interrupting, and really questioning if this is what I want, if it’s what I want to be doing, and if I actually have what it takes to sustain a regular practice.
I’m back now. At least for today. And I can’t help wondering — just about every time I sit, or think about sitting — if I will be able to continue this with as much commitment as I had, 20-some years ago.
Looking back, I’m tempted to tell myself that I failed somehow, when I left my regular practice. I’m tempted to believe that I abandoned my practice and abandoned myself in the process… That I was a fair weather friend to sitting, and I didn’t have what it took to stay firm in my commitment.
I’m tempted to suspect everything I say and think and write about sitting, meditating, zazen… you name it. After my abandonment, and derision, who am I to even approach these things again?
And yet, here’s the thing — we all do it. At least, those of us who are fully involved in everything life throws our way. We all need to test our faith and our practice in the real world, in order to prove it out. To see if it’s really “a thing”, or if it’s just something we do to pass the time and get our minds off our troubles.
Looking back, I can see how I once used my sitting as a way to escape the discomforts of my life on a regular basis. I was present to some things, yes, but I was also getting high as a kite and skating past a lot of really grimy human experiences that I didn’t feel like dealing with. Coming out of those sessions with a buzz on, convinced me that all was well and dealt with
But that was far from the truth.
Many, many times, my sitting was far more of an escape, than a way to fully engage with my life. And that was a practice I needed to leave behind me. I needed to abandon the old way, and then really test it. Somehow I knew it wouldn’t survive, if I didn’t push it up against the truly unpleasant facts of life-as-it-happens, to see if it had what it took to just deal.
And what I learned was… It does. My practice, my sitting, my unitive experiences and connection with the unbroken wholeness of ALL… it’s a thing. It’s real, it has substance, it’s still a part of me. It’s very different now, than it was all those years ago, but it’s still there.
And test it though I may, it truly never leaves.
Which is good.