I recently read two pieces written by Danielle LaPorte that really resonated with me. I have combined them into one. So many wonderful nuggets in this piece, I hope that you find it as intriguing as I do!
I travelled to Dharamshala, India with six friends to meet with The Dalai Lama. It was cell-altering and heart-expanding.
The week before our arrival, there had been a horrible event in which some monks were murdered -- most shockingly, by other monks. The story was on everyone's mind and in our small, private meeting with His Holiness, the first thing we did was offer our condolences. His response captivated me.
"Ah, yes, thank you for your thoughts," he said. "This is why we practice, for times like these when compassion is so necessary." He didn't nod in mutual disdain. He didn't show any drama. He was soft and ... practical.
This is why we practice.
For times like these.
You don't need to forgive until you need to forgive. You don't need nerves of steel until you need nerves of steel. You don't need to call on your reserves of compassion, or fortitude, or faith until you've used up everything else. This is why we practice.
This is why, even when life is ambling along nicely and there's food in our spiritual cupboard, we still make sure that we get to yoga, or the reading group, or Sunday services.
When we're healthy and happy we make sure to dance, we hit the court, we pick up the phone to check in, we drop by with something in hand.
When we're believing in the fairness and the glory of human nature and the so-called Fates, we keep seeking, and meditating on reality, and praying for healing even though nothing obvious ails us. We keep up with our spiritual practice.
We keep standing up to make our art even when we could be predictable pedestrians.
Because the day will most certainly come, as it does whether you are a whole-hearted Lover or in denial of Grace, that you will be struck down or ground down by life. It can come in tiny tearing heartbreaks five times a day, just walking through your neighborhood. It could come in the name of tragedy that could only happen once in a lifetime.
And you will need to withdraw the insights that you put into your heart's escrow. And you will need to call on your people -- the unseen and the ones right in front of you -- to help you meet the day.
You will be interrupted.
You will be called on to expand. You will be asked who you are and why you are here.
This is why we practice.
Spiritual practice won’t stop crappy things from happening. Here’s the truly holistic picture: Life is full of crappy things, circumstances, feelings, emotions, and people with crazy-mean motives.
You can still get your heart broken when you’re enlightened. Illumination doesn’t spare the body — pundit Jiddu Krishnamurti dealt with wretched migraines, the beloved Thich Nhat Hanh recently suffered a debilitating stroke. Tragedies strike. Tsunamis engulf. Life hits, heals, caresses, and batters every one of us — the saints, the do-gooder’s, in sun salutations, and in repose.
Here's what soul practice does: It helps you handle the hard stuff when it comes. Every conscious in-breath/out-breath you take carves out space in your being for the ineffable mystery. And you really need to leave room for mystery if you want to stay sane. All of your dancing, and asanas, and sweaty finish lines are making it much easier to unfold, rather than grip and grind. The prayers, the declarations, the incantations… they’re an IV drip of grace, streaming into your nervous system.
Spiritual practice won't make you super human. But it will help you fall in love with your humanity.
You get to choose your response to even the things you can’t prevent. When you’re down on yourself because you can’t get over it, when the Creepy Creepertons are on your very last nerve, when you’re tired of being tired, or your heart is in pieces…the best self-help is self-compassion.
As we are in the midst of a pandemic and we are "safer at home" and practicing "social distancing", it's more important than ever to practice self-compassion and to nourish our spirit, however that may look for each of us. To practice and expand, to have an IV drip of grace.
It's also a great time to reflect on life and discover what is working for us and what isn't. How has this new forced existence impacted each of our lives for the better? When the pandemic has passed, will we slip back into our old existence or take some of our new lessons forward with us? My hope is that we each move forward in life differently, with heartfelt intentionality as a result of this experience.