As a reasonably long time buddhist, I can say that for the most part, I have been more hare than tortoise with my practice. Bursts of energy with focus to complete a particular commitment, then lulls when I seemed to just space out and lose focus, getting caught up in real life concerns. The passage of time brings all things into focus.
I remember when I first became connected to the dharma, the very first time I read the buddhas teachings and learned about the four noble truths. At the time I had been practicing under a different spiritual discipline, and literally as I read the words regarding the origin of suffering, I felt as if my mind just disintegrated into space. I felt as if a fire had been lit in my heart that had been but an ember for the 23 years of life preceding that very moment.
This connection to the 4 noble truths drove me to walk away from a music career that had been fraught with the realities of big business USA: the LA lifestyle, the constant maneuvering for position, the struggle to stay in the jealous god realm that fame really is. That fire of motivation propelled me to a buddhist summer camp where I lived and work amongst other like minded individuals, meditating every day and learning about the buddhas teachings, the dharma, soaking it all in. I met my teacher who made a brief visit there that year and then I proceeded to chase him half way round the world for a teacher/disciple reationship, which I was eventually and very fortunately granted.
I jumped into practice headlong, taking on all the external trappings of the new life I had chosen for myself. From there followed travels to India, Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, Sikkim, receiving teachings and empowerment, and living a very full buddhist life. Or so I thought.The blazing fire that burned within me at through sitting meditation retreats, preliminary practices, deities practices. All the time I was looking for something to make me feel whole.
Somewhere along the way, without realizing that it had already happened, I started to take on a superficial and shallow essence of the teachings, deluding myself that what I was living was “first thought, best thought” wisdom in action. I started believing “that something was happening” or was about to happen. In the process, I lost my way. The fire that burned inside me started to fade.
I became, over time, a Buddhist only in name. Practice became inconsistent, the dharma a justification system rather than a living practice that I embodied, regardless of all the blessings, practices and teachings I had received. It was as if I was outside of myself, looking in. Buddhism became bla bla bla. A stint in Darjeeling for a year and a half living as a monk provided many questions and not so many answers.
Life went on, I went back to school in Australia, moved to Japan for work, and life took its toll. 23 years went by in a blink of an eye. Several times I tried to get myself back on the buddhist practice wagon, each time I fell off, most probably because yet again, my view of what it means to be a buddhist and my understanding of the core teachings was superficial. All this time my teacher was patient with me. Meetings or phone calls were always met with a smiling face and voice, a patient nod, encouragement and much love, often words just telling me to trust myself.
The fire never went out completely. At times, it was merely a spark, as I searched for something outside myself to fill the void that I was feeling. But looking outside of myself I was, and in doing so I cleanly missed the point of practice.
Last year, in the beginning of March, an earthquake here in Japan shook up my life. From those massive rumblings and waves that washed away so many lives and hopes and fears, my life too was splashed with cold water. My teacher was there again, right away when I needed him, concerned for my safety and offering prayers and encouragement. But the fragility of this constructed world that we live in struck me deeply. My fast paced life suddenly screeched back down to moment by moment. I was not comfortable in that space.
Practice was the only time where I really had a chance to confront myself, and when I did, I didnt like what I saw. Restlessness, nervousness, lack of satisfaction, the wanting for something else other than this, the neediness of my existence.
But slowly slowly, inch by inch, moment by moment, I reclaimed my life and developed the habit of consistency in practice, and have started the long and arduous process of stripping away the mental trappings that were once real obstacles to me living a more full life.
We human beings waste an incredible portion of our daily lives just not being here, in the now, the present moment. With an aspiration to never forget that core truth, I vow live my life.