Balancing inward growth and outward growth is challenging. There are certainly benefits to shutting everything down for 10+ days to practice Vipassana. By slowly releasing agitating emotions, we become more open, peaceful, and compassionate. We start to understand ourselves more deeply while opening the door for deeper and more meaningful relationships. Unfortunately, just like when you start talking on Metta Day, engaging in relationships has risks. When I talk to someone with different life experiences who disagrees with me, it becomes difficult to stay on the cutting edge of internal growth. One solution is to shrink my social circles to serious Goenka meditators, but this level of isolation has always felt destructive to me. Social connections are too important to my life satisfaction.
I chose a different path. I started a family. Raising children demands social connection. Children flourish in the love and support of their parents, relatives, neighbors, teachers, and classmates, and even strangers. Kids don’t care if I’ve sat 2 hours a day. My son wants my love and attention as much as possible. But if the pendulum swings too far and I don’t create time to recharge my dhamma battery, I become grumpy and reactive, driving people away from me. My son becomes grumpy and reactive in response.
Life requires the delicate balance of internal and external growth. If I’m not growing in both areas, I don’t feel like I’m growing on the path of dhamma. It’s not about sitting 2 hours a day or having a certain number of friends. It’s about growing my capacity to love myself and love others simultaneously that feels like progress. Sitting and connecting are both important parts of my journey even though I struggle to consistently find the right balance.