When we do retreat or intensive periods of practice, we will often have very deep and profound realizations that are sometimes earth-shattering. This is, of course, a wonderful thing. But sometimes what can happen after we have had such experiences is we can grow bored or dissatisfied when progress is being made little by little with small increases in our understanding. It is kind of like the trap of taking your kids to Disneyland – once they have been there, then the old smaller parks you used to go to no longer seem as great. This is a mistake because the reality of our spiritual path is cummulatively speaking we make far more progress with the drop by drop than we do with the occasional spiritual breakthrough. So we should learn to appreciate and highly value these mini-realizations as the bread and butter of the spiritual path. This is why I periodically publish posts that contain a list of some small insights.
So here we go:
- If you knew you were going to die very soon, would you spend your day in the same way? I think if we realized death, we would. We normally assume this means we would quit everything and go into retreat, but I am not so sure that this is what it would imply.
- We should get in the habit of always bringing our “A-game” to whatever we do. As my grandma always said, “a job worth doing is a job worth doing right.” While simultaneously making this our habit, we should strive to always do more and more meaningful things. If we adopt these two life habits, how can we not make swift progress along the path?
- I sometimes make the big mistake of thinking that I will not eventually have to pay for my negative actions. We cannot escape our karma. We know what we have done wrong. If we don’t purify, it is just a question of time before we will have to face the music. The fact that the negative consequences are not ripening now does not mean “we got away with it.”
- Life is full of very hard trade-offs. I am working harder now than I ever have in my life, both at work and at home. I am really pushing things to the limit, and if I don’t take the time to rest and relax and do nothing (which yes, often times me vegging for about an hour in front of the TV every night) I run the risk of burning out and then being less effective at everything I do. But this comes at a cost – I could be spending more quality time with my kids. Sometimes they feel I push them away when I am having my veg time. It is difficult for me to watch TV with them because they ask all sorts of questions and their goal is not to watch the show, but to hang out with me – which is then more work for me and then I can’t veg. Difficult to balance these two. I think I need to take the time to explain to them why I need my veg time and make it up by blocking some real quality time in other contexts.
- I think the biggest enemy of my spiritual practice is distraction. I have very little time for formal practice, but I do make a point of doing about an hour every day. But very often what happens is my mind is so busy that when I do find time to sit down and do my practice, I quickly get distracted and start thinking about other things going on in my life. The more deeply and single-pointedly we mix our mind with virtue, the more healing effect we will enjoy in terms of it making our mind peaceful and clear. It is because I am so busy that I simply can’t afford to not set aside my distractions. It is hard not because I want to think about these other things, but just I have so much mental habit and intertia of doing so, I am easily swept away by my distractions.
Your turn: What are some small insights that you are working with now?