Time for the truth.
As I hinted at earlier in the introduction to the Lojong – the Training the Mind post – my practice has deteriorated seriously over the past year.
As I haven’t gotten to the end of the story in the narrative section, I’ll not go into the details of my practice when I started this blog, but it was a very strong practice. At least I thought so. It was regular and deep. Perhaps not regular enough, or deep enough.
I still can’t sort out all the elements that got me off track, but it was complicated. As I mentioned earlier, my mother’s death, and three days later my wife’s father’s death, threw both of us into a cycle of anger, grief and depression that is still having an impact on our lives.
But I think the main problem came because I made the fatal mistake of taking a break from the cushion. A mistake that I know the warnings against, the dangers of, the difficulties of recovering from… yet out of weakness and selfishness I made the mistake.
I have been struggling for months now to get back into a solid practice. Depression is a great enemy of meditation practice, precisely because meditation practice is a great help in dealing with depression. Depression has a sleazy, insidious way of undermining anything that may help you get over it, so it really seems to hate meditation.
In taking a break from the cushion, I allowed the depression to move in and undermine my confidence in the practice itself, I allowed it to introduce doubts about my practice. Which in turn made it harder to get back on the cushion. It becomes a vicious cycle. I’ve almost had to start all over.
As I mentioned, I have returned to some of my earlier rituals and simple things like morning vows and chanting, as well as the Lojong, as a way to get back into practice. I’ve been practicing for some time in the Vipassana tradition, which teaches that such things are not likely to take you to the deeper levels of meditation… and that seems true to my experience, but it could be wrong. At any rate, I am finding them helpful in getting myself re-oriented.
I hope to use these Practice Notes as a way of sorting out how things are going for myself, and perhaps they’ll be helpful to readers as well.
I hope I will be able to be consistent and honest in my reports of how it goes.