When I was younger, I was always amused by professionals, such as lawyers and doctors, who have a practice. That’s usually what it’s called. They practice law, or medicine, according to their training. After all the years of training, it tickled my funny bone that these people still needed to practice. “Don’t they know it by now?” I’d ask mordantly.
“How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” goes an old joke…Practice, practice, practice!
Practice makes perfect is a maxim I’ve heard all my life.
Both of these were used in connection with tasks and skills I had no interest in completing or pursuing. Thus, the word weighed heavily on me.
When I first consciously embarked on my journey of delving into spiritual practices, I expected the experience to be somewhat like following a recipe in a cookbook: collecting all the necessary equipment, carefully measuring out all the ingredients, meticulously following instructions, and, voilà, Enlightenment would be achieved!
Perhaps. Not so easy.
The hard part for me was that I didn’t know how Enlightenment looked or felt. It sounded desirable, but the examples of Enlightened beings, were not examples I could relate to or wished to emulate. The Buddha? I don’t think he had to pay rent. Jesus Christ? Well, starving in the desert for 40 days and nights to then be crucified…no, thanks. The Dalai Lama? Amma, the hugging saint? Gurumayi Chidvilasananda? My own desire for Enlightenment was more like enlightenment, defined as a desire to live my human experience with more ease and joy, less drama and hardship.
One Gurupurnima celebration many years ago, as I sat in a glass-enclosed pavilion with hundreds of other celebrants, chanting mantras honoring the Guru – the one who leads from the darkness of ignorance into the Light of Knowledge – I remember thinking “This is fun! I want to do this all the time!” That experience felt like ease and joy to me and, as I was engulfed by that feeling, the drama and hardship I perceived in the circumstances of my life fell away.
Over the years, whenever drama and hardship seem too close for comfort, I turn to my practice of mantra repetition with renewed vigor. It is a practice I welcome with the ease of a long and beloved relationship. The word no longer weighs on me. It is now my ally, my comfort, my haven and respite from the drama and hardship of my human experience.