It took me years to have clarity on this.
It’s true. Wherever we assume we are in our practice of meditation or in the spiritual/emotional growth we claim to have “achieved,” none of these will actually spare us from all that can hurt us in this life.
There is no guarantee; there is no assurance that when we dive deep into teachings of being “awakened” life henceforth will be pain-free.
Maybe we started to enter into this new realm of “paying attention,” coming from a desire to set things right in our chaotic lives. Somehow we knew we got there. And then life has its way of making us realize that whatever path we have chosen none of that will shield us from all that we were hoping we will stop having.
When we were younger and is new in the path, it is excusable to assume that once we have read all the mindfulness books and is extra-faithful and generous in our “practice,” we’re in for a steady and a peaceful journey.
But later in life we cannot insist on this anymore.
Life has its own way of surprising us and letting us know that there is nothing to hold on to. Not even our utmost faithfulness in whatever life of prayer we have committed to.
Issues get recycled or we may encounter new ones that we never thought we’ll ever have or experience. Themes vary but there is a common touch of suffering: of having no one or nothing to hold on to. It could be terminal illness, separation, conflicts with others, financial problem, senseless war and killings, an addicted son, mental illness or even the death of a beloved cat or dog.
It’s a movement which we see in our lives in its varied stages. So we continue on. We begin to gradually see that none of whatever “practice” we commit ourselves to, will make us invincible. Lights and shadows continue to dance around us and we still stumble and get trapped. The darkness prevails, light sets in, transition come, peacetime. And then another cycle.
And slowly we see that all along it’s not about making our lives without an issue, problem, conflict, darkness. Because no matter what we do life is both light and shadow, war and peace, life and death, death and resurrection. It’s always a mixture of everything that makes us human and divine.
Our prayer practice is meant to make us pay attention but not to escape. We are guided to step back from needless, avoidable stupid choices as much as we can but ultimately we can never be fully shielded. Our prayer practice is never meant to shield us from ourselves and our neighbor’s vulnerable humanity but it can draw us to hope and trust, beyond words and concepts, to keep believing that within us is our only peace and security.