I’ve been doing retreats recently with folks for whom “new to practice” doesn’t begin to capture how new they are. Most only know “Zen” from product names. True.
They arrive looking rather shell-shocked, convinced they’ve been brought to some very strange place in which unimaginable things are likely to happen to them. Little do they know as they read through the orientation booklet that they’re absolutely right. Unimaginable things are about to happen to them, they will never be the same, and they will be forever grateful.
Remember that time in practice? It is all new, exciting, thrilling. Mysteries are being revealed; possibilities opening up. The “ah ha” moments are arriving at a record clip, the world is a bright and shiny place, and you can’t wait for the next piece of clarity to drop in. In that honeymoon phase it’s impossible to imagine ever feeling differently. “All I want to do is practice, I love to meditate, and I want to do this for the rest of my life!”
But slowly, so slowly that the movement is not noticed, a change creeps in. The enthusiasm lessens; the lights aren’t quite so bright. Oh, I still love practice but I love other things, too. Now that so much has opened up for me I can finally enjoy all of my life. It’s wonderful! And, slowly, so slowly that the movement is not noticed, the change continues. I don’t realize the lights are dimming. “Life is busy. I’ve got a lot on my mind. I don’t meditate all that often, but practice is still really important to me. I’m going to get back to it soon, devote more time, sign up for a retreat…. Soon.”
I look at these folks in the first delight of the transformation awareness practice brings, their open, smiling faces and shining eyes, and I hope for them they won’t let ego slowly siphon away their joy as I’ve seen happen with so many others. But they likely will. Never even noticing, not realizing it’s a process as old as humans.
Don’t let that happen to you, please. Let your gratitude for the clarity and joy practice has brought you inspire you to continue to deepen your practice, allowing yourself to be an ever-brightening light for the world. It’s a perfect thank you for all we’ve received.