I appreciate what Pema Chodron once wrote about choosing a spiritual practice and then seeing it all the way through.
She said that there was this tendency for people to work very hard at a particular spiritual practice and then, right about the time it became a bit inconvenient or uncomfortable, to back off to start some new endeavor.
She said that if we stick with one spiritual practice, whatever it is, and see it all the way through, that that’s going to take us on the journey of a lifetime where we truly learn everything we are yearning to know.
Hop Skip Jump
We’ve all met these people: One moment they’re raving about reiki, and the next moment moving meditation is where it’s at. A year later, they’ve decided to start an intensive yoga practice combined with a raw foods diet, and a year after that? They’ve found a spiritual community that fuses aboriginal chanting and shamanism, which then blends into a series of Law of Attraction workshops, books, and tapes…
Don’t get me wrong–I dig the dabbling. Whole earth festival coming to town? Let me clear room on my calendar and pull out the essential oils so that I can hang out with my New Age homies. Love it.
But there’s a difference between the person who has a firm commitment to the practice they’ve undertaken with an openness to see what supports that, versus the person who is perpetually bouncing from one book, life coach, or workshop to the next.
The difference is that when we see things through–when we are truly in for the long haul–we learn essential wisdom that we don’t get from chronic dabbling.
We actually get what we’re putting all of that money, time, and attention towards. We learn our OWN essential wisdom.
Signs: We see things shifting in our lives. We see more gentleness. We genuinely feel more prepared to deal with the challenges. We start to feel more alive in life, rather than like life is a series of days in which the very sound of the alarm clock is just the first in a series of shit-tastic experiences. We have a clearly defined personal truth, and all of the self-help books out there simply nourish that personal truth, rather than getting one off into the bushes with a set of rules and dogma to follow.
Doing it Right
I recognize a former self in the picture that I’ve just painted. I spent years bouncing from What the Bleep to the Law of Attraction to a moving meditation to reiki to acupuncture to “clean” diets to yoga to whatever.
All of it supported me and nourished me in some way, and I learned a lot. I regret none of it.
But I finally noticed the thread that ran through each endeavor, and I had to get really, really (really!) quiet to notice it. It was this little teensy tiny voice that whispered…
..I don’t know what the fuck to do and it’s scary. I’m hoping that if I [ meditate X minutes a day / only eat raw foods / recite affirmations / follow whatever YOUR program is] then I’ll stop feeling so terrified.
I think I was on, like, the 70-millionth self-help program when I realized that I was not, under any circumstances, going to stop feeling afraid.
Then came the a-ha around courage: that it’s feeling afraid, diving in anyway, and transforming.
Then came more a-ha’s: that in my search for a specific religion, spiritual practice, or “set of rules,” I was not creating life in my own vision.
Then came the realization that it was time to do that.
If You’re a Wiggler
Recognize yourself? If you do, there’s actually a pretty simple thing that you can do about it: stop moving so much. Quit wiggling.
Don’t buy another book, coaching session, workshop, retreat, or e-program (yes, that includes any of my own).
Instead, spend your time really deciding what you’re going to “go deep” with.
Maybe you’re going to go deep with yoga. Maybe you’re going to go deep with sitting quietly each morning. Maybe you’re going to go deep with not snapping at your partner.
These are all spiritual practices. You don’t need another workshop or a little spiritual altar. You just need to go deeply into whatever in life is already a challenge for you.
Make that your primary spiritual practice.
— Or dig out the last truly inspirational podcast you heard, or that e-book you purchased, and actually finish the thing, for cryin’ out loud–and let the finishing be your spiritual practice.
— Or revisit the work of someone who truly informed your life, and reconnect with that as your practice. I still, daily, work on tools my teacher Matthew Marzel ever taught me, even though I haven’t had a session with him in awhile. The work transcends the sessions, because I keep it alive in my life.
— Or decide to set up an intensive series of session with someone with whom you have a solid track record who has helped you be connected to yourself, and take back up the work that you had already claimed as your own but that you might have neglected.
Whatever you choose, go deep with it, and be willing to go all the way, to see it fully without constant wiggling.
Get quiet. Sit still. That will teach you everything you ever needed to know.