It’s now been just over a year since I returned to Australia and came back to my ‘normal’ life. I arrived back with a whole lot of new learning, new perspectives and new goals about how I was going to live my life. I was happy, relaxed and excited about what lay ahead of me.
It didn’t take very long, however, for all my old habits to start taking control of my life again. Before I knew it, I was taking on too much work, trying to do everything yesterday, worrying about whether I was doing enough, doing it right, moving forward. One day I realised that I was right back on that roller coaster again… you know, the one that is exciting and fast paced, but goes around in circles in a kind of pointless way, and eventually makes you feel sick. I was complaining about how busy I was to my partner, and how being busy was keeping me from doing all the things I wanted to do. In reply she pointed out that being busy was a choice I made. I chose to be busy. I chose to fill my days with things that kept me from doing what I really wanted to do. She pointed out that if I REALLY wanted to do the other things, I could choose to do them. I was making excuses. She was so right!
The other thing that started to happen soon after my return was that I became more and more judgemental of others. I came back with my head full of Buddhist philosophy, with ideas of living a Boddhisattva way of life, and suddenly saw everyone around me was completely caught up in craving and aversion. I tried to tell people what they were doing wrong. I tried to tell them that there was a better way to be. I judged them, I criticised them, I became frustrated with them. I forgot that a fundamental part of being a Boddhisattva was compassion.
Once I realised what I was doing, I started to judge myself. How could I profess to be a changed person, to live a good life, and yet not be able to treat people with compassion? I started to notice how I had a habit of thinking negative thoughts, how I was full of destructive emotions, how I was caught up myself in craving and aversion. And worse still, my meditation was going terribly. I was still trying to meditate every day, but it was starting to feel like a chore. I was unable to concentrate, unable to relax, and I convinced myself that I was no longer able to meditate. I was a mess.
I was supposed to go to the Mind and Its Potential Conference in Sydney. I decided that I had to cut down on all my activities and tried to cancel my booking. I wasn’t able to do so, but decided that I would stay home anyway. In the end, I realised that I really wanted to go, and so off I went. I’m so glad I did. During the conference I had the great honour of participating in a workshop with Venerable Robina Courtin. She is amazing. She is a fast-talking, no-nonsense kind of woman, who is still very Australian, despite spending most of the last 30 years overseas. She said something in passing that really connected with me and where I am right now. She said something like:
“When you are really starting to get somewhere, you think you are getting worse. You see bad stuff everywhere, you see bad stuff in yourself, you think you are the worst meditator in the whole world. Lots of people give up at this point, it all seems too hard. But this is when you have to just sit there and get on with it. Be with where you are, and it will pass.”
So here I go, starting again, beginner’s mind, and just getting on with it.