Is Your Practice Working For You?
I was a dutiful Buddhist. I meditated daily, followed my teacher’s instructions and attended retreats whenever I could. After ten years of prostrating, chanting, bowing, singing, and ringing, I began to question: Is my practice helping me? Am I happier, less hot headed, and broken hearted? What is the point of all of this? My sitting practice felt ritualized and monotonous. I was blindly going through the motions and spacing out. I looked at my shrine, books and pictures, and felt like a big phony. What does all this stuff really mean?
While considering going on a long retreat, I noticed that my motivation had more to do with getting away. I knew something had gone awry and it was time to shift gears. I cancelled the retreat and privately committed myself more deeply to my life and all of its mundane confusion. Isn’t the point of our practice to embrace the fullness of life with the same openness and peaceful curiosity that we experience on retreat? My mind was caught in duality, splitting the two realities into polarities. In the midst of my questioning someone said to me, “If you want to see if your practice is working for you, take a look at your intimate relationships.”
I’m starting over and going back to the beginning of my dharma journey. I want to do it right this time, fresh and alive. Here are 5 things I know now that I wished I’d known then. They might be helpful to you.