Thursday, December 3, 2009


One of the biggest life lessons my husband and I both seem to face involves commitment. Paradoxically enough, committing to each other seems to be the one area in which we are able to commit most successfully!

Instead, we struggle with commitment in many other forms: work, friendships, parenting, exercise, healthy eating, art-making, inhabiting our home...

I'm not entirely sure why this is or from where it stems. We have separate histories with long stretches of restlessness and ennui - escapist tendencies and neurotic, emotional longing coupled with sometimes paralyzing self-doubt and continual existential questioning.

The good news: we seem to be moving in a positive direction. We each seem to be finding our way through our individual morass of wishy-washy, noncomittal leanings - and we work well as a team to mindfully notice and work to undo the collective apathy or downright stubborn opposition that can sometimes result in our combined indifference and/or doubt.

This issue of commitment has become especially highlighted this past week via two paths: 1) my role as a novice and my noncommital pursuit of Buddhist study and regular daily meditation practice, and 2) my tumultuous attempts to be an ideal parent (and yes - I am aware of the inherent contradiction and unhealthy attachment present in such terminology).

My little ah ha moment this week came when I connected my former practice of yoga (again, rather sporadic and casual) to both of these processes. You see... one thing I both loved and hated about yoga was the fact that there is no end point. No final destination whereupon you can deem your work successfully concluded or perfectly executed and happily check it off your list with a happy coo of accomplishment.

No... yoga is all about imperfection. The process of yoga - the commitment involved - is in recognizing you will never get it just right, but rather must wholeheartedly accept the task of pushing yourself to forever move infinitely closer to a perfect pose. Like those mathematical equations where the line moves toward the axis in incremental amounts, but will never actually intersect. Infinite striving toward an unreachable goal.

Such is the way of mindful practice, I am beginning to think. There is no right, or perfect, or done in meditation or Zen study. I may reach toward enlightenment with all my being and purpose - I may even reach it... touching briefly upon awareness like a dragonfly alighting upon a stone. But I will not stay there. I will not exist within that simple yet complex balance forever.

It's as if it just dawned on me that mistakes and failure are as much a part of life and authentic living as triumphs and success. I will not be a perfect parent. I will make errors of judgment; I will lose my temper and yell too loud; I will forget to be consistent; I will try too hard or not hard enough; I will forget myself and my love and my respect for the gift that is my child. I will forget she is a gift.

But perhaps the necessity in such a situation is committing to the journey rather than the destination. Accepting and embracing the futility and transience of "ideal," while mindfully and passionately committing to the pursuit of such an ending.

After all, perfection, happiness, and enlightenment are attainable. I think most of us experience these things more than we think... but because they are fleeting and impermanent we decide they must have been false, or they do not count because they did not last.

There is a beautiful teaching I recently read that essentially says: On a cloudy day, you may not see the sun. You may feel enveloped by the grey and gloomy sky and forget the warmth and light of a bright, clear day. But once the clouds clear, the sun is there. It has always been there... has always been shining - whether it was part of your awareness or not.

The perfection (the Buddha nature) of you is like that. It's always there. Sometimes we feel it, sometimes we do not. Sometimes we express it, and sometimes we fail miserably to be authentic, compassionate, and courageous. But it is always there. Always shining.

This week I realized I must commit to myself - to my possibility of an ideal me... my Buddha nature realized and lived: my ability to parent wisely and lovingly; my compassion as a wife, friend, relative, or stranger; my work and my art and my everything in between. But not as a goal... not in reaching a finish line or declaring myself done.

I must commit to the journey. The imperfect, rocky, mistake-laden journey with bright sunny days of hope and laughter... and dark, lonely times of fear and sadness. And one day, when I really understand this form of commitment, I will no longer attach my failures to my ability, thereby eliminating guilt, shame, and the desire to give up.

Instead, I will re-commit with an open heart and keep a form of faith, because I will understand the promise I make to myself to walk an endless path is the key to the truest expression of success.

May you commit to all stages of your journey. May your success lie in your courage to persist.

No comments:

Post a Comment