I just spent the better part of a summer in Georgia. There are a lot of peach stands down there. A lot of train whistles. And a lot of bugs I have no name for. My life had come to brief standstill between jobs and all I wanted to do was practice, so I signed up to sit and serve a couple of courses at Dhamma Patapa. The complete fulfillment I felt during those days was a result, I think, of their simplicity. All I did was practice and serve, practice and service, practice and serve. There was no such thing as superfluity. No such thing as grandiosity. I was able to focus entirely. And I was surrounded by folks who were similarly focused. We were, all of us, aimed shockingly well at priorities.
The day following the last course was the day I got jerked back into ordinary life. I drove to a new city, picked up the keys to a new apartment, and attended the orientation for my new job. Details started piling up. There was mindless chatter, meaningless tasks, and unnecessary drama. I felt nostalgic, immediately, for Dhamma Patapa and struggled, immediately, to maintain a continuity of practice. I’ve been back a little over three days now, and already feel compelled to stop in my own tracks. Eyes cloud back up so fast.
What if the real metric of progress on this path is not just an ability to maintain practice when everything around us is designed to ensure we can, but whether we can do so when everything around us is designed to ensure otherwise? Can I be the calm center of this storm? Can I remember to observe my breath while lugging impossibly heavy furniture up the stairs to my apartment? Can I remember to sweep through sensations while speaking in front of colleagues who feel like strangers? Can I still be fulfilled by something as simple as the breath, even though billboards along the highway are screaming more, more, more? It seems likely that the places where equanimity and awareness are the hardest to maintain, are also the places where equanimity and awareness are the most sorely needed. Here’s to cultivating gratitude for these places and the challenges they present.