If we have ideas about how our practice should unfold, these will often get in the way, preventing us from honouring the phase that is actually with us. Often we wish our emotional work was done so we could open to another level. Many times students have come to me at a retreat and said, “Why am I still grieving? I’ve grieved for months over this loss. It should be done now.” But grief too arises in waves and cycles, and it’s done in its own time. It is over when we have so deeply accepted it that it doesn’t matter if it arises again or not. Similarly students will complain, “I thought I’d come to terms with suffering, and yet now I discover in my practice there are levels of suffering in life that I’m only beginning to face and understand.”
Practice cannot follow our ideals; it can only follow the laws of life. In a naïve way we might imagine our hearts can stay open like a giant sunflower filled with loving-kindness, compassion, and connection day after day in an unchanging way, but our hearts and feelings have their rhythms and cycles too. Our heart breathes like the rest of us, and sometimes it opens and sometimes it closes like the blossoms of a flower that closes its petals on cool evenings.
Our bodies reflect the spirals and movement of the stars. We wake and sleep, the earth turns, the sun rises and sets, our hearts beat, our breath moves in and out, our cerebral spinal fluid washes our brain and spine, all in natural rhythms.
Like the heart, the cycles of our body present themselves, even if we hope to ‘transcend’ them. When we honour them, our practice opens.