I’ve had a very busy month with lots of excuses to avoid my spiritual practice. They’re all legitimate, my sons needed help with life transitions, I babysat my granddaughter, I’m looking for a new way to make a living, as in a ‘job’ and my aging dog has been having problems. My husband, a teacher, has been home for the summer and while he is very respectful of my alone time, he seemed to be under foot. So with a deep breath and an empty house on the first day of school, I reclaimed my space and my god.
To my surprise, all was as I left it. Standing directly beside me was all the grace and wonder and deep essence of spirit. How easy to slip back into a beauty of mindfulness and awe. How easy to rest in this place that is only mine. But it wasn’t always this way; I often resisted going back to my practice. I would spend time and energy wondering why I left. What was wrong with me that I couldn’t keep this going? Thinking that I should engage in ‘prayer’ even when I didn’t feel like it, you know kind of like exercising and eating right! In some bizarre twist my recrimination became my practice. I tended to my soul by giving myself a hard time. Ok, so that doesn’t work.
It was my spiritual director who said, “You have to get to neutral.” He meant rather than seeing my adherence to a spiritual practice as good or bad, merely accept is as part of living, sort of like breathing. I don’t judge myself on the quality of my breathing. If I hold my breath, I’m pretty sure I will breathe again soon. I don’t rant at myself for breathing too quickly or too slowly, I trust myself when it comes to breathing. It’s not that I don’t believe that it is important to commit to a daily spiritual practice, but I have to pay attention to what pulls me away. If ranting and judging myself in my internal conversation takes the place of sitting in quiet meditation, well that’s something to note. As my wise director said, get to neutral. Know that life will pull you away, that some days you would rather rage at the moon than sit in prayer. But if I’m really at neutral, then it is what it is, and patience with myself is the best lesson. With a quiet, open and forgiving heart you can slip back into your practice like a beloved pair of cozy slippers.
Two resources to help you find your way back to a UU spiritual practice can be found at the UUA Bookstore.